Alternative to the Eurocentric lens: Turkey and the region

Secular European colonization coincided with the spread of “Eurocentrism”, which describes the world from a purely European or Western perspective. Placing Europe at the heart of the world map by considerably enlarging the continent, Eurocentrism is based on dualities between “the West and the rest”. Presenting itself as a universalist phenomenon, Eurocentrism overestimates Western values, minimizing the achievements and contributions of other cultures.

In this regard, the Arab Spring, one of the greatest events of our century, is interpreted from a biased point of view. However, it is also a mistake to view the Arab Spring from an exclusively Turkish point of view. In this column, I intend to analyze this great event by taking into account the indigenous dynamics of the Arab world.

Western colonization

Even though the Arab countries began to shake off the yoke of Western colonization during and after the interwar period, they were unable to achieve full economic independence. As Western colonization shifted from military to economic domination, the welfare of Arab countries remained extremely low compared to European countries. In Egypt, Sudan or Tunisia, dictators remained in power for decades, ensuring the maintenance of Western hegemony over their economic resources.

Turkey as an inspiration

The rapid spread of social media has made it possible for ordinary citizens of Arab countries to compare their standard of living with the rest of the world, especially with the economic prosperity and political freedom of European countries. Nevertheless, the peoples of the Arab world have taken inspiration from Turkey. As a Muslim country ruled by a conservative government, Turkey had become the role model for Arab youth due to its combination of economic growth and democratic rule.

Even though it is not an oil or gas rich country like Iran or Saudi Arabia, Turkey has managed to increase its per capita income to $ 10,000. In this sense, Turkey served as the inspiration for the eruption of Arab riots against longtime dictators.

Before the Arab Spring upset regional policy, Turkey enjoyed exceptional relations not only with the European Union but also with Arab countries. Turkish businessmen are investing heavily in the Gulf countries, while Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon are considering establishing a common market. The integration of the Turkish economy with such a rapidly growing market would certainly create unprecedented economic prosperity in the region. In addition, Turkey’s rapprochement with Egypt, in which the long-standing dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak was replaced by a democratic government, has worried a number of regional and world powers, such as Israel.

The Syrian scene

As the riots in Syria have turned into a full-fledged civil war, the regional and global balance of power has changed dramatically. Russia’s return to the world stage in the post-Cold War era coincided with the Syrian crisis. Turkey’s relations with the United States have deteriorated, while the traditional system of alliances of the Cold War period has collapsed. Due to its active involvement in the war in Syria, Turkey has also become the target of three terrorist organizations, namely the PKK, Daesh and the Gülenist Terrorist Group (FETÖ).

As the Egyptian revolution ended in a coup, Turkey was rocked by a failed coup attempted by FETÖ. Due to security threats coming from across its Syrian borders, Turkey appealed to its hard power, waging a war against Daesh on Syrian lands. After having reconsolidated its power in Syria, Turkey reversed the trend in the Eastern Mediterranean by supporting the legitimate government of Libya, the Government of National Accord (GNA), against the putschist forces of General Khalifa Haftar. By using its navy and diplomacy, Turkey has also gained significant advantages in terms of maritime jurisdiction. Finally, Turkey changed the course of the Nagorno-Karabakh war by providing Azerbaijan with military and diplomatic support. As a result of all these struggles, Turkey has earned well-deserved respect on the international stage.

Having become a regional power, Turkey began to restructure its foreign relations with regional and world powers. After establishing good relations with Qatar and Kuwait, Turkey has started a new constructive dialogue with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This trend will continue with Turkey’s rapprochement with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. When a country proves its worth as a power to be reckoned with, its diplomatic channels with other countries will be wide open.

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Sharon P. Juarez