A group of water-firing vehicles are facing a protesters in İzmir on May 1. (Photo: DHA)
The conventional formula for the acceptable citizen is a combination of secular, Sunni and Turkish identity. Pious people, Kurds and Alevis are welcomed by the state as long as they act within the framework that the state has determined for them.
Turkish high school history books include a list of forbidden words that were introduced in 1888 during the authoritarian years of Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II. Some of the censored words that acceptable citizens of the Ottoman Empire refrained from using are the following: Yıldız (the residence of the Sultan), justice, public, society, republic, Darwinism, discipline, democrat, dictator, spy, dethrone, bomb, freedom, revolution, explosion, oppression, equality, censorship and oligarchy.
Today, under the AK Party government, new words have emerged about which the government is sensitive, such as corruption, shoe box, bribery, theft, tapes, Gezi Park, Labor Day, Taksim, demonstration, rule of law and justice. Those who use these words are easily categorized as traitors.
The government has been seeking to create a new model of the acceptable citizen in the wake of the Dec. 17 corruption probe. New targets of hatred are being marked out, as demonstrated in the tweets of AK Party politician Professor Mazhar Bağlı, who encouraged AK Party members to report on fellow members who send their kids to schools affiliated with the Hizmet movement. Before the March 30 elections, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asked on live TV the editor-in-chief of the Star daily, Mustafa Karaalioğlu, to call the Hizmet movement a terrorist organization. There is a growing tendency within government circles to hold the so-called parallel structure responsible for all the wrongdoings of the state. The need for acceptable citizens became more pressing as the government faced serious corruption allegations.
Turkey, whose authorities have traditionally instructed citizens on how to serve the best interests of the state, is unable to raise generations that have an understanding of citizenship based on individualism. In this model, citizens are divided into the categories of acceptable and unacceptable and discrimination becomes inevitable. Citizens are expected to pay their taxes and complete their military service without asking for any kind of accountability from the state. Those who dare to speak up are immediately labeled a threat to the system.
In her 2004 book titled “In Search of the Acceptable Citizen,” Füsun Üstel explains how the education system in Turkey took on the task of building “militant” citizens who are assigned specific tasks instead of civilians. According to her, citizenship is understood as loyalty and sacrifice in the Turkish system, which emphasizes the idea of the “national citizen.” Üstel calls attention to the “Information on Citizenship” textbook in schools, which was introduced in the wake of the 1980 military coup and aimed to teach students how to become acceptable citizens.
How to behave like an acceptable citizen
If you are an Alevi:
Never desire a “cemevi” instead of a mosque for a place of prayer. Do not oppose religion courses at schools or the Directorate of Religious Affairs (DİB), which is a Sunni institution.
If you are Kurdish:
Do not promote the Kurdish language as a native tongue, but content yourself with elective Kurdish courses at schools and Kurdish TV stations.
If you are an Armenian:
For now, you have to settle for the prime minister’s message of condolences issued in nine languages, including Armenian.
If you are a leftist:
You have the biggest duty because your first goal should be accusing the main opposition CHP of supporting military coups.
If you are an Islamist:
You are supposed to see the AK Party as a gift from God for giving you the freedom to wear a headscarf and not expect the ruling party’s leaders to lead humble lives.
If you are a democrat:
You have to forget “civilian tutelage” and focus on military tutelage all the time. You are supposed to speak about what the military regimes did and say that the horrible old days will return if the national will is damaged.
If you are a member of the parallel structure:
First of all, you are not supposed to ride the Marmaray. You should leave the country if necessary in accordance with the wishes of the government.
If you are a student:
You will stay away from any kind of protest. If must protest, you are supposed to protest fellow students who protest the government.
If you are an imam:
You will abuse religion for political ends and provide religious justifications for the policies of the leader.
If you are a regular citizen:
You will do whatever the government asks you to do. You will believe that foreign forces are trying to take over the country.