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Does Turkey use Turkish Diaspora as Party constituent or human shield?

Turkey has been at the geopolitical crossroads since ancient times. As new populations are absorbed into hegemonies as foreign subjects, they influence the larger host state. In a world of interdependence, political, economic, and cultural affairs are no longer the exclusive concern of any one nation.

Migrants are politically organizing as expatriates in hopes of influencing trends back in their home countries. As new populations are absorbed into hegemonies as foreign subjects, influences to the larger homestead state occurs.  In a world of intersectionality, political, economic, and cultural affairs are no longer the exclusive concern of one national locality. Migrants are politically organizing as expatriates as way of extraterritorial power in hopes of influencing political trends in their home countries. Also, Globalization is generally associated as a socio-economic phenomenon of a world driven by comparative advantages of interchange. Minimal interest has been directed toward globalization as an extension of migratory geopolitics from one nation to the next.

Vast waves of immigration are recognized as diasporic migrations which achieve significant political clout in due time or as a strong instrumental to achieve some home country polices. It is therefore most appropriate to introduce a new trend in the expropriation of geopolitics. For the purpose of this, the term trans-populationism will be introduced and defined as the mass movement of populations by means of political displacement, socio-economic immigration, and diasporic migration. When harnessed as a geopolitical force, culture inspires a new impetus of identity which reintroduces an expatriated population as an integral part of their adopted nation.

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Emerging and undemocratic governments seeking to solidify their power turn to expatriates in hopes of leveraging the popular vote in their favor.  One general example is most appropriately demonstrated in Europe, specifically thriving community of Turkish expatriates. Following the end of World War Two, Turks migrated to Germany in droves for socio-economic opportunity. Millions remained after the migration and currently form 5% of Germany’s national population.

Turkey is increasingly becoming a republic centered on strong presidential leadership. That began as a proposition spearheaded by Erdogan to stimulate a new form of transnational nationalism to garner the expats votes and further transform diaspora into “his party diaspora and transfer the strength of the diaspora to its own interests. In Turkish diaspora history, AKP is the only party to effects its émigré and systematically utilized through loyalist association’s non-governmental organizations religious groups and lay leaders in Europe to streamline the activities to effect diaspora. Erdogan’s loyalist Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD) organization functions as a long arm in EU, it has thirteen chapter; branches in thirteen countries in EU.  With also state organizations such as The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), AKP intends to do grassroots activities for the upcoming elections, in mosques in EU countries, Imams will give centralized sermons to mosque goers about the importance of the vote to AKP.

Political participation and voting for their home countries during elections is completely a democratic requirement and merit however, it creates a paradoxical understanding of voting, if diaspora is stratified and polarized through the political mobilization that is led by ruling party of home country.  As it is crucial debate in Turkey’s foreign policy structure toward the diaspora for upcoming election whether Erdogan uses diaspora as human shield for its own gains in Europe and mobilize them during the elections to canvass votes. AKP government began considering Turkish and kin communities in Europe and elsewhere as overseas constituency. 

In previous elections, the majority of Turkish expats voted in favor of the resolution granting Erdogan greater powers ending the ceremonial role of the presidency. Turkey’s political landscape drastically changed when the vote passed with the help of politically active expats abroad. Critics of absentee voting have accused Erdogan of exploiting a democratic advantage from citizens far removed from political realities effecting Turkey. On the other hand, support for absentee voting is argued to afford a voice to people that remain politically, economically, and culturally connected to their home country. By that means, the political fight that Erdogan and his ministers made in many EU countries helped him to have more expats votes. Rejecting to form a political rally in EU countries to address expats and diaspora gave him a chance to speculate in every events and use it for further political gain over and with expats. The question of why diaspora especially Turkish are not in favor of their host countries but can be easily mobilized, as it is out of touch of many experts should be a focus area of study in future. EU countries helped him to consolidate his engagement with diaspora because Turkish diaspora policy is domestically driven constitute a sort of reciprocal principal.

As far as Germany’s Turkish expat community is concerned, ambitions areas more cultural than political with affinities reserved exclusively for Turkey. Turkish-Germans are in a unique position to influence foreign relations between Turkey and Western Europe as Near-Eastern ambassadors. The practice of absentee voting has brought offshore politics to the doorstep of host nations effectively making practices of foreign relations into standing national issues.

In effect, a beachhead has long been established affording a larger representational voice to Turks specifically and as a direct implication, Muslims generally. Trends supporting this development can be utilized as a resource to reverse narratives that support a general clash of civilizations threatening further alienation between East and West. As a prime mover of the European Union, it will prove to be in Germany’s best interests to observe the results of Turkey’s absentee voting practices with greater due diligence to stay in step and in some cases ahead of impending changes to Turkish foreign policy. But also cautiously follow up the policies of Turkey’s AKP to institutionalize the diaspora in Germany and other EU countries, The evidence lies in Turkish Politicians rhetoric changes in defining and calling the expats from the labor expats Gurbetci to my countrymen- my people- benim halkim  to make the expat populations as party constituents, because Erdogan sees himself the natural protector of the diaspora community, in his perspective they are no longer dual citizen or representative of Turkey but to his party at his disposal.

There is no conclusion for this article as the diasporic studies is dynamic and diaspora communities are vulnerable to ruling authoritarian parties, easily galvanized and mobilized. But, a strong recommendation to both parties, instead of blindly be loyal to party, members of diaspora community should be loyal to their host countries, party policies should not be equating home countries best interests. On the other hand, host countries should take care of diaspora community, for example Germany should protect its own Turks, Kurds and as well as faith minorities residing.

An advanced appreciation of trans-populationism will bring expatriates closer to their adopted hosts through practices of civic embracement. To achieve this, expats must partake in political processes where they can effectively achieve political representation through shared stakes in geopolitical interests between old and new worlds respectively. Expatriated electoral colleges will introduce a new dynamic to representative democracy with foreign affairs at its center defining the underlying basis of trans-populationism.

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Abdulmelik Alkan
Abdulmelik Alkan
Abdulmelik Alkan is a doctoral researcher focusing on Foreign Policy Analysis, South Caucus, diaspora and ethnic minorities.

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