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Reimagining Minorities in Turkey: Before and After the AKP

This article analyzes the changing concept of “minority” in today’s Turkey. Minorities have been historically conceived as a “problem” by the Republican regime and a threat to the “purity” of the nation. For a long time, the term “minority” was commonly associated with the non-Muslim communities of Lausanne. Still now, non-Muslim communities are seen as passive elements in nation-centric conspiracy theories. However, the age-old definition of minority in Turkey is being challenged by a transformation on a global scale. Within this process, not only are political regimes, bureaucratic structures and nation-states being re-shaped, but social and cultural perceptions, and values and norms are also transforming. Given this context, it is insightful to focus on the AKP to understand the changing face of Turkey and vice versa. In this new setting, to what extent can the AKP, so far a reluctant reformer, satisfy the demands of non-Muslim citizens and address the problem of democracy? Turkey, it seems, is on the brink of another wave of change and the non-Muslim minorities are located at its center.

Reimagining Minorities in Turkey Before and After the AKP
From Lausanne onwards, one can claim that minorities have been commonly perceived as the “symbols of Ottoman dependence to the West”, “abnormal elements endangering the purity of the nation” or “the pre-modern reminiscent of a forgotten past”.
 

What makes some plants into ‘weeds’ which we mercilessly poison and uproot, is their horrifying tendency to obliterate the boundary between our garden and wilderness. The ‘weeds’ are often quite nice looking, fragrant and pleasing; we would certainly admire them as adorable specimens of wildlife if we found them while walking through woods or a meadow. Their ‘fault’ is that they have come, uninvited, to a place which ought to be neatly cut into lawns, rose garden, vegetable plot and flower borders. They spoil the harmony we envisaged, they play havoc with our design.

Zygmunt Bauman1

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