It has been a shamefully long time since my last post. My new book, Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks – to my great delight — has been very well received. As a result, I’ve been on the road almost every week giving talks and interviews on top of my usual busy schedule. Now that classes are over, I can breathe a bit and come home to KamilPasha, who I have missed! (Just before heading off on another insane travel jaunt to give talks in Istanbul, Israel, Sweden, then Istanbul again. I promise to blog from the road, internet connectivity permitting.)
One of the interesting tidbits that have been piling up beside my computer:
In early April, the Turkish Republic Health Ministry decided to drop the ‘Turkish Republic’ part of its name that usually appears as “TC” in front of the names of ministries and their related institutions. Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu explained that adding TC was unnecessary. He noted that if you have a sign that says “Istanbul Umraniye Official Health Hospital”, it makes no sense to add “Turkish Republic” as well.
Having just been in Washington DC, I was imagining “US” on signs all over town: “US Department of State” instead of just “Department of State” as it is now. Or US Environmental Protection Agency, US Congress. Where ELSE would a Washington agency be but in the US. It made me wonder why Turkey has all those “TC’s” on their ministries. In Turkey, TC refers not to the national name, but to the state. TC tells the citizen where the authority lies. Enter here and you will be subject to the authority (and guidance and care) of the state. Removing “TC” makes sense as part of the process of reuniting the state with the nation and citizen that has been ongoing in Turkey over the past two decades.
MPs from MHP and CHP immediately requested an inquiry in parliament. MHP Aydin representative Ali Uzunirmak asked whether this was the beginning of a slippery road that would lead to accusations of racism if a company used the word “Turk” in its name. What was equally interesting was the reaction on social media. According to the Turkish press and eye witness of some of my students, people on a number of social media sites, including Facebook, have changed their image to “TC”. TC came up as the leading name of Turkey’s 9 million social media users.
This is an example of clicktivism, a term I only recently learned (again from my students). Clicktivism means feeling that you are politically active by forwarding something on Facebook or following a social media trend to express support or disapproval (like changing your picture to TC in Turkey– or as in the US recently when 2.7 million people changed their image to a red = to voice support for same sex marriage in a case being heard before the [U.S.!] Supreme Court). There is a debate about whether clicktivism is effective in initiating change, whether its symbolic force has an impact, or whether it’s a lazy way for people to feel they are politically active even though they’re not. Well, the TC social media campaign in Turkey seems to have worked and TC is back on the Health Ministry’s door.
And predictably, in the comments section of one of the Turkish news articles about the elimination of TC, someone vehemently argued that this was a CIA plot. That’s the U.S. CIA.