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The hidden idol of Turkish society

The state is an organization that is invented to meet some basic needs of people, like security, justice, and public works. But it has become an arbitrary power used by the ruling elite for autarchy rather than meeting common needs and protecting the common interests of the society.

Kings were like gods in some cultures and divine meanings were attributed to them. Throughout human history, the state apparatus, which should serve the society, had been under the absolute authority of the king. The ruling elite seized the state to make it their own property and used people as masses to recruit or impose taxes.

The state has always been vital for Turkish society. Sultans or emperors were not seen as God, but the concept of the state has been perceived as divine, all-seeing, all-hearing and it has always been glorified. Opposing or criticizing the state or the individuals that exercise state authority has taken as supporting anarchy or chaos.

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Before the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, this had been applied with religious reasons and although secularized, it is still alive. The state always has been more important than the society in Turkey. We cannot even compare the individual by the state. If they happen to be at the opposite sites, it is clear whom to support. The state is superior, powerful, and right.

Sometimes, this is tried to be legitimized with some religious or Islamic explanations, but I think this is wrong. Quran does not define or impose any type of regime. The most fundamental earthly teachings of the Quran are justice, peace, and social tranquility. Islam focuses on what is beneficial for people and it focuses on protecting human life.

I also disagree with the idea that “Sunni Islam glorifies the state”. Of course, Sunni scholars’ fatwas, conflicting interests of scholars concerning the state played a role for a religious culture that prioritized state in the tradition of Sunni-Islam-dominated states. On the other hand, imams and prominent representatives of the 4 main schools of Sunni Islam were the targets of heavy persecution and many of them were killed by torture for not paying homage to or obeying to the states they were citizens of.

Moreover, an homage to the head of state that is Shia is more important in Shiism than it is in Sunni Islam. Today, the religious leader of Iran, who is above the head of state, uses all apparatus of the state and he is unaccountable and innocent.

Sometimes, polytheistic societies attributed divine meanings to people or events that they were benefited or got harmed, and based on these ideas, they created their own gods. When primitive communities could not cope with some problems related to real or speculative powers, they chose to consecrate and idolize these powers and unconditionally surrender them.

Most Muslims and especially Turkish Muslims accept the state as their biggest idol. They claim that they believe in Islam and they have the maximum sensitivity for accepting Allah as the only God. But Islam says that the biggest religious struggle is to oppose the tyrant. Like primitive people, they idolize the state because they suffer under this agonizing power. In their eyes, the state is sacred, invincible, and always right.

Psychologists call this “Stockholm syndrome.” But some people benefit from the state and they also iconize the state that they owe to they get by the short hairs for their power and means.

This attitude has been turned into proverbs in Anatolia. It is possible to encounter phrases like “It is not possible to challenge (or fight with) the state”, “The state is always right”, “You need to get along with the state”, “The state knows everything” and so on. You say that you are not opposed to the state, but the government. Nobody understands this. You say that the state will be more powerful if we oppose lawlessness and cruelty. They also do not get the point.


They parrot this: “If you had committed a crime, go and surrender to the state!”, “There is justice, there are courts”, “Why would the state fiddle with you out of the blue? You surely did something bad!” You cannot explain to them that you are innocent. You cannot convince them that it is the injustice and cruelty of the people using the power of the state. Because they attribute sacredness-rightfulness to the state and ruling elite just like pagan communities do for some objects.

Because of this, a guardian or a watchman feels himself like the state because of his uniform. Public servers start to think that they perform a sacred duty and they are unaccountable and immune. Because society sees and treats the state and its public servers in this way.

I want to give some examples of idolization of the state in Turkish society. I heard the first two examples from the people who experienced them. I was told the third example as a real-life story.

A Turkish citizen, who was tagged as terrorist overnight, dismissed from his duties, and searched to put in jail, chose to protect himself from judges and not to surrender to injustice. Because torture and cruelty were waiting for him. Men of justice became gears of the oppressive machine. He lived as a fugitive in the country for two years, but it was more difficult for him than being jailed.

He chose to go abroad to live a secure and decent life instead of living in fear in his home country. He was ready to go but wanted to say a last goodbye to his father lying in a sickbed. He went to his family home with caution. He explained the situation to his father and asked for his blessing. Meanwhile, he realized that his full sisters and brothers were trying to call the police to turn him in. He came here by taking the risk to look for the blessing of God via the blessing of his parents, but his brothers and sisters took it as a duty to turn their brother in.
He left his family home and then his country with a deep disappointment for his brothers, relatives, and the whole society. He referred them to God. Of course, he should be feeling homesickness now, but he does not want to talk about Turkey anymore.

One of my friends’ wife had a similar experience. She took refuge at her family home when her husband had to escape from injustice. Her father is an attorney from the National Vision Movement of Necmettin Erbakan, and he has a clear understanding of justice, rights, and law. The family accepted their daughter to their home reluctantly. But her full brothers and sisters said that “We do not want the wife of a terrorist in our home” and pushed their father for kicking her out. She was hurt by her family’s attitude towards herself and her husband since the family had always received kindness from this couple. She found another place to live.

Unfortunately, we witnessed so many heartbreaking stories recently. Parents tagged their own children as terrorists parroting a politician although they know children very well and they see this politician only on the TV screens. Families, siblings, relatives sacrificed innocent people to the state idol. But not too long ago they were children, sisters, brothers, and uncles that everybody admired, trusted them for the education of their children, asked for advice and, took pride in.

They were tagged as terrorists when their sacred state idol gave the signal. Like pre-Islamic period Arab pagans who buried their daughters alive, many parents kicked their children out without mercy. Because their idols wanted this.

The last one is a tragic anecdote showing the situation of our country and society. A child of an old couple was hiding from AK Party cruelty in a safe place. He also maintained contact with his parents.

His parents were ordinary Anatolian Muslims and the state idol diffused into their cells. They intended to go to Mecca for pilgrimage. They started preparations for the journey. Meanwhile, somebody aroused suspicion if their pilgrimage would be accepted by God if they do not turn their children in.

They called the office of the ‘mufti ‘(religious authority of the Government in a district) and asked. The religious authorities have always been highly engaged with the state, regime, and intelligence institutions. So, it is not difficult to guess what the answer was: “If you do not turn your son in, your pilgrimage will not be accepted!” Poor Anatolian Muslims, who believe that the path to God goes through the state, reported their son and he was jailed.

The death of police officer, Mustafa Kabakcioglu in solitary confinement, caused indignation for many people who still have a conscience. Because, public servants, who should protect someone at their hands, intentionally paved the way for his death. A young man, married with three children, was dismissed with Decree-Law for sending 5 Turkish Liras to a humanitarian aid association, declared terrorist, and sent to jail.

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He was healthy before being sent to jail, but the state demolished him. He suffered various illnesses stemming from grief and negligence. He wrote petitions repeatedly for his treatment, but monks of the idolized state were determined to sacrifice him. Although he was innocent, he would complete his sentence 4 months later and join his family. But instead, his dead body was sent.

As we were mourning with this death, another Mustafa died similarly. He screamed “I am dying!” but no one heard or treated him. This time, Staff Colonel Mustafa Avialan was killed. Servants of the state might be expecting to acquire merits or win the favor of their idol by sacrificing lives.

Does Turkish society that idolized the state sorrow Mustafas’ death?

If their conscience is still alive, they sorrow. But they will be taking sides with the state by saying, “What a pity! He passed out at a noticeably young age survived by a wife and children. I wish he had not challenged the state.” The idol of the state should be broken into pieces in the minds to save consciences from slavery and minds from hypothec. Society should be monotheist in its fullest sense and people should learn not to pay importance to the powers other than Allah.

When I visited Mongolia, the pagan culture of shamanism is still alive in the Turkish society. Superstitious beliefs and many rituals shamanism like tying cloth pieces to trees, using incense, and evil-eye talismans are still popular in Anatolia. I think Turks have not completely left paganism after accepting Islam.


Now, paganism is living in Turkish society in the form of a state. These people perceive the state as sacred. It is the entity that they are always beaten up by and they see as powerful and unbreakable. Turkish Muslims cannot understand that this is an idol and they practice polytheism by accepting the state as a god. The state has always used religious symbols and discourse and hidden behind them. And it has imposed its holiness sometimes with a carrot and sometimes with a stick.

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Mahmut Akpinar
Mahmut Akpinar
Dr. Mahmut Akpinar is a political scientist focusing on international relations and Turkish politics.

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