Interview with Dr. Oktay Vural (Part I): Being a Nationalist in Turkey: The Past and Present of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Idealist Movement

Interview with Dr. Oktay Vural (Part I): Being a Nationalist in Turkey: The Past and Present of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Idealist Movement

As Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey), we conducted an interview – to be published in two parts – with Dr. Oktay Vural, MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) deputy from İzmir and the Group Deputy Chairman in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM). Mr Vural has held offices as a politician and a legist, as well as a bureaucrat and an academician; he served he served as Turkish Minister of Transportation from August 2001 onwards at the coalition government, consisting of Democratic Left Party (DSP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and Motherland Party (ANAP) that lasted between 1999 and 2002. He began his bureaucratic career at State Planning Organization of Turkey (DPT) in 1980, and proceeded as a high-ranking official in various departments. Vural completed his Bachelor’s in the Department of Law at Istanbul University, received his Ph.D. in Economics at Izmir Dokuz Eylül University in 1987, and later served as an Assistant Professor at these universities. Once elected as a MHP member of the TBMM at the 1999 General Election, Vural has taken on several important tasks within his party, and still fiercely advocates for MHP’s policies to this date as the Group Deputy Chairman. In the first part of this interview, we have discussed the worldwide debate about nationalism and nationalistic movement. Based on the views of a former Minister and a current Group Deputy Chairman of MHP, we labour to investigate and share at first hand and uncensored account of the past and the present of MHP, the idealist movement, and the meaning of nationalism in Turkey.

Synopsis of the interview:

 “You cannot take part in politics like entering KPSS Exam (Public Personnel Exam) or choosing a public occupation after it. You need to take part in politics by having a political stance in this world… I have had a political opinion but I did not take a step into politics immediately; I thought to myself, ‘I should first improve myself since I could contribute to politics only as a well-developed person.’”

“I was first invited to political arena by Mr Türkeş in 1987… I had always served the political movement, the systems of thought, but as for a party, I entered politics in 1999 as the member of the parliament.”

“I have not done politics for greed; I have taken part in politics to remunerate every step and do it better. I have never cared for the ultimate goal. I thought I should first do it well and do it better.”

“Self-esteem is important in politics… It is not possible for those with low self-esteem to contribute much to politics. It is important to provide that confidence. Ideas cannot exist without knowledge; politics cannot exist without ideas.”

“Politics is not an occupation. Politics is to be at a decision-making post… People enter political life in Turkey only to be a parliamentarian and this in return reduces the quality of politics, shortens the life of a quality person.”

 “Trust in politics and politicians have diminished… Politics is indeed a relationship between the elected and the electorate. The connection between the elected and the electorate is almost broken nowadays.”

 “Turkish nationalism is all-inclusive; it refers to unity at the national level…Turkish nationalism embraces a sociological make-up that cannot be reduced to one ethnic identity.”

 “Today, the biggest injustice against MHP is the label of racism. Turkish nationalism indeed refers to a mind of civilization.”

 “There is a tendency towards localization in Turkey due to either the problem of quality of national institutions or effect of internal/external forces…There are ties at the national level, which tend to grow and change over the centuries, but these ties are disregarded all of a sudden.”

 “Kurdish ethnic identity is moving towards a separatist rather than a nationally unifying, connecting structure… The current government, which claims to be conservative democrats, restrains and ostracizes the establishment or adoption of ethnicity-based politics in Eastern and South-eastern Anatolia.”

 “National ties are being raptured with an emphasis on localization; Turkey is being separated by ethnic identity, and its competitive power is being reduced.”

 “From a political viewpoint; a uniform political system is being constructed in Eastern and South-eastern Anatolia. While there is a need to strengthen national ties by expanding individual rights and freedoms, loyalty to ethnic ties is foregrounded. This in turn cultivates a new Kurdish feudalism similar to old feudal understanding.”

 “MHP proposes to guarantee a social structure where individuals feel connected to fundamental national institutions through the ties of individual rights and freedoms, as well as improve their skills and capabilities, and express themselves.”

 “The current government’s mental map indeed embraces a world view that disregards nationalism and the concept of nation. Therefore, it is not important for them to separate the nation.”

 “Calling Atatürk racist is like saying there was no democracy in Ottoman era. We need to evaluate every era within its own context.”

 “The real intention behind calling Atatürk or that whole era as racist is to question and undermine fundamental structures and understandings of Republic of Turkey.”

 “You cannot question the ethnic identity of people within the Nationalist movement; it is unknown; people accept that it exists but do not question. There is some sort of polarization along the axis of Kurdish or Alewife identity. There are many Kurdish and Alewife people who have lost their lives within our own movement; none of them has been excluded; their ideals have been accepted, and they have been considered as fellow idealists.”

 “Therefore, we are against reducing Puckishness to ethnic identity; dissociating our civilization from its historic and cultural ties, and forcing our citizens to question their national-cultural values this way. This is indeed to separate a nation.”

 “The idea of nationalism is in a way, strength to prevent certain policies from advancing self-interests and hegemonic ideals of some; thus, it should be excluded… Nationalism, at the same time, cultivates competitiveness.”

 “Nationalism is associated with racism especially in the West. We are not a racist nation, however; we practice nationalism of this nation. MHP aims to support national interests, and since this is against the interest of some, Turkish nationalism is being condemned.”

 “The Prime Minister Erdoğan says that they are against three kinds of nationalism, yet he does not even know them. First of all, there is no such thing as regional nationalism; this indeed refers to regionalism. There is also no such thing as religious nationalism. Still, the Prime Minister is trying to preclude our social unity by adhering negative phenomena to nationalism.”

 “Our duty is to generate competitiveness that will contribute to enhancement of humanity without enabling conflict of values. The purpose of nationalist movement is not only to create a nationalist Turkey but also to unite around our values that are by-products of our modern civilization.”

 “Political dynamics keep changing in MHP. Today is different from the Cold War era. Conflict and separation which were then implicated in the concepts of left and right now reappeared in ethnic identity. Thus, our problems even changed today. Nationalist idea, as a result, grows different.”

 “’Ülkü Ocakları’ (Grey Wolves) is a mechanism to deliver our political view to young people within our youth branches. We too have learned our lessons. I think that Turkey suffered immensely from pulling young people into conflict during a polarized political atmosphere of pre-1980. It is important to not scale back Turkey to that atmosphere again.”

 “We suspect that there is a plan nowadays to especially create an ethnic conflict. We think this is the biggest trap against living and looking ahead together as a society. Therefore, we should not fall into this trap. We should also not let the society fall.”

 “Our conflict was due to reflection and resistance, taking place within that context.”

 “’Ülkü Ocakları’ continue providing cultural and educational events and activities, and this way values creating an environment where young people can improve themselves. We want young people to rule the country; thus, we think we need to keep them away from clash and conflict.”

 “We do not attend to issues from the right-left axis but from the axis of National Unity.”

 “We are confronted by serious provocations ignited by external forces. There are some provocations to demonstrate the nationalist movement among some marginalized groups. At the same time, some political parties have used our emblem within our own dynamics.”

“The Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s use of our emblems (‘Ülkü Ocakları’ emblems) during his various activities and rallies is an example of these provocations. The purpose is to distort the national strength. The party that resists to such distortion is indeed MHP; thus, they are trying to create internal problems and destabilize the party.”

Full Text of the Interview

“Self-esteem is really important in politics. Ideas cannot exist without knowledge; politics cannot exist without ideas” 

Mr Vural, as the Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey, we would like to thank you for sparing your time for this interview. We have prepared so many questions for you. We will publish this interview in two parts. During the first part of the interview today, we would like to talk about your personal journey, as well as the development of Turkish nationalism, the past and the present of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the idealist movement, and the codes of being a nationalist in Turkey. In the aftermath of 1950, nationalist movements have been associated with National Socialism and fascism in Germany; hence it has been subject to criticism. It has also been ostracised, dispraised with the establishment of the new world order in 1990s, and at times, some countries have considered it among political movements or ideas that should be constrained. This was partly due to the perceived association between racism and nationalism. We also observe that a societal perception is being cultivated whereby MHP appears to some, including young people, as it advocates for an outdated opinion which should stay in the past, and if we borrow the Prime Minister Erdoğan’s own words: MHP is “racist”. We would like to hear your own opinions on this very issue. You have taken active role in MHP, and you now serve as the MHP’s Group Deputy Chairman at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM). You actively advocate for your party politics in public. If you wish, we shall start with your personal journey. When did you decide to take part in politics? Was there an individual or an incident that motivated your decision?

First of all, you are welcome; I am also pleased to be a part of this interview. I actually constructed my world view in a political struggle around my senior year in secondary school to freshman year in high school. In the aftermath of that period, I read pieces related to nationalist thought, developed relationships, and shaped my worldview. I think it was during my senior year in secondary school; there was a debate in school. We were going to discuss, “Who have contributed more to the advancement of society? Men or Women?” There were two sides to the debate; I was tasked to defend women. Obviously, we needed to refute the other side by doing research and all. While I was conducting my research, I examined many research studies by which I realize effective, male leaders around the world like Hitler, Stalin or Lenin did not contribute to advancement but rather to conflict. I read about such ideologies as fascism and communism to better support my thesis. In the meantime, I read resources about nationalist thought; my political opinion started to evolve at that point. You cannot take part in like you are preparing for or deciding what job to do after the KPSS (Public Personnel Exam).Your political stance in this world is shaped by several factors; you need to identify how you can serve at political parties with this stance. Therefore, I started taking an active political role in nationalist movement, idealist (ülkücü) movement.

Did you start working at the party when you were still in high school?

No, I rather participated in the political thought struggle only in high school. I rather tried to improve myself. I finished university, and started working at the State Planning Organization. I developed relationships with high-ranking government officials in line with my political view. Then September 12 happened; I decided to enter academia due to lack of opportunities in political arena, and moved to İzmir. The reason why I am describing this in detail is because I had always thought that, yes I have a political opinion but I can contribute to politics only as a well-developed and effective person. I cared about gaining experience and improving myself so that I could contribute to politics this way; thus, I worked in that direction.

In general, we observe people who fantasized about being someone’s confidant and then move up the political ladder quickly. We often do not encounter such people who work to improve themselves in every way or they are not given chances in politics to do so?

In fact, politics should not be like that because politics is a profession whose benefits and costs for the society are extremely high; citizens pay for your mistakes or they benefit from your work. Thus, I thought I needed to improve myself.

You also have an academic career?

Yes, I had a Master’s degree in Finance, and then completed my doctorate in Economics. When I was in Izmir, Mr Türkeş got out of prison, and came to Izmir. I got involved with him through several evaluations; he later on invited me to Ankara, and asked me to do politics with him. I said, “I will improve myself, finish my doctorate, and then I am thinking about it, if God willing.” This chat of mine with Mr Türkeş took place in 1987, the year in which his political suspension ended. I then wanted to gain some experience working in public sector/administration. I started at the Prime Ministry, and then served in roles such as the CEO of BOTAŞ (Transportation of Petroleum through Pipelines Co.), member of State Supervisory Council and consultant to the minister. During this period, my connection with people who share same political views like my (R.I.P) ‘Başbuğ’ (informal title of Alpaslan Türkeş as supreme leader of ‘Ülkü Ocakları’) and other people who are members of our party.  Later, he (Mr. Türkeş) invited me once again when I was in Ankara in 1995. I became a candidate, but our party could not exceed the nationwide election threshold. I returned to bureaucracy. After I had returned to bureaucracy, Mr Türkeş passed away in 1997. Mr Devlet Bahçeli became the chairman of our party. We already knew each other. I was going to find an opportunity to do politics in the party. Meanwhile, I was expecting the board decision appointing me to the CEO and chairman position of the Turkish Fertilizer Industry of which board I was already a member. This time, Mr Bahçeli invited me for politics in the party. I said, “…someone with a decent personal record in the fertilizer industry could instil confidence in politics even more. Thus, I should finish my task here, and then come join you.” As a result, when duty ended, I became a candidate for the 1999 General Election, and entered active politics as a deputy from my party. Politics cannot be done with politicians only. External actors also serve politics. These external actors could come from NGOs or other occupational communities as well as from within the ideological community itself. I have always served political movement and thought, but as a party, I entered politics as a deputy in 1999.

What did you think when you became a deputy? Has your political opinion changed?

I first thought that “I have improved myself and now I know about governance of state”; thus, I could contribute to governmental life in line with my experience and political opinion. I had worked in high-ranking offices in bureaucracy and the state; my only aim was to utilize this experience for public service. The period of politics and the ministerial duty followed; I would like to point out that I had a nice period at the Ministry. I cared to remunerate every step and do it better. I have never cared for the ultimate goal. I thought I should first do it well and do it better. As a result, I completed all of my tasks properly, and improved myself at every post I took. I considered politics as ‘serving the national’, hence I have not done anything different in politics than I have in bureaucracy, in both my goal was to serve my national and therefore I am very content that I have been in politics.

Indeed, your experiences include important messages for young people. You stepped into politics by first improving yourself, then evaluating how you could serve and contribute to the country without making politics greed or an ultimate purpose. It is really important to enter politics with self-esteem, and this perhaps helps deputies fight for the right thing, and stand against injustice even within their own parties. What do you think about this?

Experience is important in politics. Yet, as you pointed out, self-esteem is much more important. Young people should first trust themselves in politics; those with low self-esteem cannot contribute much to politics. It is important to provide that confidence. Ideas cannot exist without knowledge; politics cannot exist without ideas. These are very important, the more important thing here is that you need to manifest your political opinion, and show your difference and impact in your network, and also improve your relationships. Politics, by nature, does not embrace objective results. It absolutely depends on the person and his/her connections. Therefore, you need to make yourself known to civil society organizations that feed such political opinions, and create connections. Politics today needs to endorse this. For instance, you should not think about whether to pick Ahmet or Mehmet but rather consider how the person you pick will contribute, and meet a need. Politics is a matter of staffing. Undoubtedly, self-esteem that is built this way would prevent in-party unfair treatments as well. IF your staff is effective and contribute to the movement and evaluations are made on struggle, experience and effectiveness ‘unfairness’ is not even spoken of. For the good of your party and ideology, you have to make sure that the people who preferred you also trust you. The people who preferred you trust you only if they can conceive that you believe their needs and interests wholeheartedly and you are fully able and effective in serving them. The concept of ‘unfairness’ stays away from places where this trust is established.

Is there a place in today’s politics for young people who have such tendencies? Do parties prefer such people?

In today’s politics, we need more and more qualified human force, experienced human force, human force that wishes to contribute. People sometimes use politics as a means to an end. It should not be like this in today’s society; politics with its staff should make a difference in service and administration but I recommend young people climbing this ladder step by step, and engaging in social and political networks. For instance, they sometimes come to me and indicate that they want to be a deputy. It is not like becoming a teacher or a lawyer. Politics is not an occupation. Politics is occupying a decision-making post. For this reason, a person who wants to enter political life should improve himself/herself, follow political movements, create networks and engage in the political climate. For instance, in many of the foreign countries there is a pre-parliamentarian environment in which politicians improve themselves. In Turkish politics, unfortunately, people take part in politics just to become a deputy. This in return reduces the quality of politics, shortens the political life of a quality person. Indeed, you cannot do without knowledge, experience and responsibility because in politics you will be side by side with decision-makers. If you contribute accurate information and right guidance, then the whole society wins. If you are someone who chose this career just to become a deputy then this would make both your party and the society lose.

“You cannot do politics without knowledge, experience and responsibility. We shall increase the level of quality in politics”

Recently there is a trend of digression from politics both in the world and Turkey, people hate politics, and they want to stay away from it. There are an increasing number of publications on “why we hate politics”. Apart from the ones who aspire to become an MP, young people are also keeping away from party politics. People do not like politicians. The perception of politicians’ always lying and having to bend their ideas a lot for politics is quite common. Even the motto of “Ok they may be corrupt as long as they really work” has become pre-election motto that has been repeated as a political value. Party politics are also hurt by the same perception. Hence if you would like to gain votes and come to power, you have to constantly change, transform and be friendly to everyone etc. In the earlier times, the fact that politics represent a common cause and some principles was mentioned more frequently.  In this sense, is it not possible to do politics with principles and with a decent sense of character without bending the thoughts in order to gain a public right?

Yes, unfortunately, there is a common perception of decreasing trust in politics. Politics is actually a relationship between the decision takers and the ones who have been decided on; a relationship between the electorate and the elected. The relationship between the electorate and the elected is almost broken nowadays. I define this relationship as a relationship based on trust. Well, people have to trust the governing people but how will they after all these events? All the stumbling in politics, in other words people without principles; when the voter sees them he does not trust them automatically. One of the most important issues that I have realised is that the people would like to walk aside the honest people, in other words they want to trust their honesty but nowadays there is huge problem with honesty as there are contradictions between what is told and what is done. Therefore honesty is very important. Second issue is having a past of authority and capability, in other words experience is also an element behind trustworthiness. The more experience someone has, the more trust one will receive. The third element is “vision”. Similar to what you have just said, people should be able to see that the politicians are people that have a vision, goals, cause and they should be able to say that “I believe in this target” and this target, if I can reach it, will take me to ‘serving my nation’. Undoubtedly, it is important to have a character that would encourage people for working towards these goals and targets.

People’s trust in the government and the administrators of the market is diminishing because people are the ones who always lose. In this sense, this crisis of trust is very significant. Once Max Weber said ‘well-informed bureaucrats will produce and apply information well and the others will win’. However, now the information is more available and common, people have started to become very well-informed. It is not easy to govern well-informed people within a hierarchy or via bureaucratic structure. Now you should display leadership. We need people that can become leaders at each level. Politics shall be conducted by such people. This crisis of trust should be overcome because the lack of trust pushes the public further away from politics; and when this happens some other elite groups begin directing the politics. When people move away from politics, other groups start deciding on people’s lives, which is one of the greatest dangers for democracy. In this sense politics should rely on people and open to public; we shall not let the people being moved away. This also means people are “shooting oneself on the foot”. Because the politics will decide on them but they do not trust politics. We have to raise the quality level in politics. How are we going to do this, well we have to work on the things that I have just mentioned and struggle for this?

“Today, the biggest injustice against MHP is the label of racism. Turkish nationalism indeed refers to a mind of civilisation”

The nationalist movement is one of the most attacked thoughts in Turkey, all the time it is exposed to many right or wrong accusations. You were born in Diyarbakır. Now in the hegemonic discourse created for the young born in the last 20-30 years, Diyarbakır and even east of Sivas are presented as places that are unreachable for the parties that are not engaged in Kurdish nationalism or Pan-Islamism. In this context, what I want to ask to you about is Turkish nationalism. How does it feel to be a Turkish nationalist who was born in Diyarbakır? Starting from this point, can you explain what nationalist movement in Turkey is?

This is a very good question, thank you. It feels really good to be a Turkish nationalist who was born in Diyarbakır. I was born in Diyarbakır. I lived there until 1974-75. We had a society there; people from all ethnicities came and joined it. There existed a wise grasp and understanding as sentences like “I am Zaza but I am from Turkish nation” and “I am Kurdish but I am from Turkish nation” showed us. Unfortunately, the ethnic or sectarian separations created by politics i.e. internal and external factors increase the separations on the basis of nationality. Of course, if one does not increase the quality of the national system, unfortunately, it is impossible to prevent such currents. I mean, it is not correct to name “Kurdish nationalism” as nationalism. It is only on ethnic level. However, Turkish nationalism is comprehensive; it refers to a unity on the national level. Sociologically, nationally, Turkish nationalism defends the commonness of those who turned this land into a country; the culture it created as to language, culture has created a richness with all other cultures that it has interacted with. Therefore, this nationality, the richness on this level, shows that Turkish nationalism is a sociological structure that cannot be reduced to ethnic identification. There is a process of turning Anatolia into a ‘No Man’s Land’ by constraining Turkish identity, which is the dominant culture in Anatolia, into an ethnicity corridor.

On the other hand, nation and nationality are concepts that are intertwined. There is no nationality or nationalism of ethnicity but nationality has nationalism. It is absolutely not right to mention nationality with ethnicity; therefore it is not right to speak of ethnicity using nationalism.

When one examines Turkish nationalism taking Nationalist Movement Party as the centre, after the institutionalization of the party in 1960s, being Turkish, at least officially, was defined as “having the consciousness of Turkishness”. However, ideologues that support racism such as Nihal Atsız were affiliated with the party and had grave influence on the nationalists. Was there an understanding that highlighted race? Was embracing other ethnic identities achieved by emphasis on consciousness?

Today, the biggest injustice against MHP is the label of racism. Turkish nationalism indeed refers to a mind of civilization. The word and identity of ‘Turkish’ is not ethnicity or belongingness; it is the name of the nation in Turkey and name of the nation based on nationality. ‘Turk’ is not an ethnic group in Anatolia because it does not fit the definition of an ethnic group. Ethnic group is defined as a social group which differs from the dominant culture in a country in terms of life style. The Turkish nation is not structurally racist indeed. This has been rejected in our concept of civilisation. Hence saying that ‘conducting Turkish nationalism’ is racism is itself a display of a racist school of thought and an effort for attacking and diverting people’s minds. The ultimate goal is reducing Turkish nation into racism and destroying the national presence.

In that sense, making the ethnic identity politics of the government which has been effective especially in the last decade function or legitimizing it, destroys the superstructures we created about national society structures and compels people to establish different social networks among themselves. This might be on the ethnic level or other levels. This leads to exclusion, erosion of the concepts we constructed on the national axis and the mechanisms that help us understand each other. With a centrifugal effect, this leads masses away from the centre. As you would appreciate, in such an environment people are estranged from the feeling you created for them, the most basic link that bonds them and there starts an enforced localization. This is the most vital part of the problem; this is an operation of localization.

“With the emphasis on localization, the bonds created on the national level are broken. There are attempts to divide Turkey up and make it lose its competitive power”

Can this be a surfacing of already existing bonds and identities? Do you mean localization in the sense of recognition of local identities or localization of the administrative organization?

These can exist and it is richness. The problem here is about the basis of being a society, there are bonds created on the national level; they advance, change over the centuries as well but they are ignored all together at once. This is what Turkish nationalism stands for. While we want to achieve the power to compete internationally, on the level of nationality, due to the quality of our institutions or with some internal or external effects, all of a sudden there emerges a tendency towards localization. However, while standing for integration on the global basis, excluding the demands of the culture, understanding, all needs, necessities, economy that we have constituted on the national level and evaluating according to ethnicity, sect or region are the elements that weaken us in the global competition. This is actually one of the administrative models of globalization. Kurdish ethnic identity nationalism is going towards a point where there is no unification or common national values but only discrimination; and the government who calls itself conservative democrat, provides the ground for such ethnic identity politics and competes in this realm. Undoubtedly this climate and pressure hinders the process of embracing policies which are not amplifying ethnic identity, especially in Eastern and South-eastern Anatolia.

Do you assert that what is done here is ethnicity nationalism under the name of localization or putting ethnic identities forward with the anterior purpose of taking the unitary state down by localization and this is an attempt to end the ‘nation state’? In East and Southeast, there is an actuality of different languages, different communities, peoples that express themselves differently through localization or ethnicity nationalism, whatever we name it. What does Nationalist Movement Party suggest regarding this situation?

We call this richness but the emphasis of which is done with an understanding that leads to division. Our differences, this richness are unfortunately always used to serve the discrimination thought and politics is made likewise. The main purpose is to divide the administration of the country and the people who live fraternally under the name of localization. This government is producing a uniform political scene in Eastern and South-eastern Anatolia. While it is necessary to advance individual rights and freedoms to form a powerful bond with national social structures; bonds based on ethnic identities are highlighted. This leads to feudal understanding to come into existence as new Kurdish feudalism on that area. We suggest to be connected to the basic institutions that we constituted on the national level with a link of individual rights and freedoms while at the same time providing a structure that will allow individuals to express, cultivate themselves and their skills and capabilities. In that regard, we, the Nationalist Movement Party, see the existing policies as processes that politically exclude nationality since the mentality of the government is constituted by a world vision that excludes nationality, the concept of nation. Therefore, division of the people is of no importance for them. Hence separating the nation, localization, conducting ethnicity politics is serving this political concept and world view. In real terms, the nation structure has its culture, song, love, pain, needs, necessities, social distance of the national structure. The nation is a whole with all of these. Because the thought system of the government and some other circles is a thought system that excludes nationality, the people have fallen into such ethnic trap. The political consequence of this will be an environment where social gap increasingly grows and is especially excluded from the domain of nationality.

“Language groups are not ethnicity. Multi-culturalism and ethnic nationalism are traps for weakening national states”

In Turkey many people should be careful about this point: I would like to underline this: Language groups are ethnic groups. In other words, if you are trying to draw the ethnic picture of a society only based on language groups, you are making a huge mistake. Because ethnicity is a concept tied to cultural values, being tied to cultural values means that it is tied to all elements ıf culture. In other words, a separate cultural identity means that differing in every area of life-style. In other words, if we understand ‘life-style’ as culture, if there are differences in every area of culture, then we can talk about a difference in cultural identity. There are different definitions of ethnicity but in most of them it can be taken as differentiated life-style in all or most elements. However, for our Kurdish descent people, there is not a differentiation in every element from the dominant culture.

Multi-culturalism is the ideology of globalization. It is our century’s problem and most discussed issue. Because in order to weaken the nation states that are stronger today, an ethnicity trap is needed. If you would like to be dominant on geography, you cannot come out with classical ideologies. Hence multi-culturalism is a concept with a definition; it is not something that just came to be. For example one of the definitions is as follows: Multi-culturalism cannot be understood as variety or richness. According to this, citizenship is moving away from belonging to a nation.

On the other hand, the problem is not ethnic identity politics but the efforts for forming a political structure in the state’s power sharing and national sovereignty by implementing these politics and trying to loosen nation state and unitary structure.

Oktay Vural 2

“The real intention behind calling Atatürk or that whole era as racist is to question and undermine fundamental structures and understandings of Republic of Turkey”

Prime Minister Erdoğan, from time to time, states that the Nationalist Movement Party is racist. Even he defined the Nationalist Movement Party as “a marginal party/group” when the party supported the campaign Mr Denktaş organized against Annan Plan in Cyprus. Mr Bahçeli reacted harshly and stated that the Nationalist Movement Party is the party of Turkey, and the Justice and Development Party should look for marginality in its own history. Also, it is claimed that in the last periods the Nationalist Movement Party is getting closer to “Atatürk nationalism”, the meaning of which is highly debated. On the other hand, there are some scientists who claim that Atatürk was racist on the bases of skull examinations and identity studies conducted in Atatürk’s period. There are also some scientists, who claim that those scientists are anachronists since they evaluate reality of the past based on the understanding of today, and the results they deducted are wrong correspondingly; and those were the popular sciences of the day. Where does the Nationalist Movement Party stand in this picture? Where does it see itself now?

Of course, some of our scientists do not evaluate according to the conditions of the past. Now, for some reason, these research were conducted as scientific studies at that time, now our professors misplace ethnicity, which came to the foreground in the last 30 years,  as if existed in the beginnings of 1900s and claim that those scientists were racists. This accusation is similar to saying that democracy did not existed in the Ottoman Empire. Every period should be evaluated in its own terms. In that regard, it is obvious and clear that Atatürk was not racist. Atatürk constituted the state with a nationalist perspective because he would always say: ‘Except the individuals, except the interest of the people which is the main constituent, the people always pay the price for the politics led by the desires and ambitions of individuals’ He made such definition. Therefore, the understanding that puts sovereignty of the people forward is civil and gravely important. For this reason, there is another motive to call Atatürk or that period racist; the main purpose is to question and destroy the main structures and understanding the Republic built. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is a leader who knows the struggle but who also can negotiate and compromise. In other words, they want to question the Republic with such accusations.

“Nationalism is resistance; it also refers to a competitive regime”

In Turkey, even the name of the state is a matter of controversy. The concept “Turkish” represents a race; however, many people, community who are not from this race live in this country and are citizens of this country. Some circles utter that this state should not be called “Turkey” or more importantly the people of this country should not be called “Turkish”. Correspondingly, the phrase “how happy is the one who says ‘I am Turkish’” is criticized on the grounds that it is racist. Others claim that the concept “Turkish” refers to citizenship and it includes all in this context. Atatürk nationalism points out such understanding. The Nationalist Movement Party used to emphasize Turkish race more, but now we notice that it recognizes other ethnic groups in its discourse. Even when Mr Bahçeli said “Turkishness” is supra-identity, he accepts the existence of other identities. However, the emphasis on “nation” still means there is one nation. Is there a new perspective in the Nationalist Movement Party in this sense? How does the Nationalist Movement Party consider the concept “nation”, how is it defined?

I am involved in the nationalist movement for forty years. I must say that, in this political movement the ethnic identities of people involved are not questioned, not known. They are accepted as existent but never asked.

Is not this actually a problem? Not asking what these identities are enough to understand them, to accept their existence?

We already can understand each other. Common understanding is formed with in the axes of common belief, culture, values and needs. What really matter are the common values that help us understand each other. What really matters is not separating those but think of them as parts of the whole and richness of it. Turkishness is a super-identity and undoubtedly there are varieties which enrich this identity and constitute it.

As MHP, we see the concept of nation as a sociological asset. What I want to say is that we never had the understanding of those who try to divide us; we did not question people due to their identities. We struggled for the unity and wellbeing of our nation. What really mattered was to share one common ideal; this is the meaning of not questioning who is what. In our country we have polarizations on the axes of Kurdish and Alawite, and so forth. There are Alawite people, people with Kurdish origin, who involved our movement, lost their lives. None of them were excluded, their ideals were accepted, and they were considered to be sharing the same ideal. I am from Diyarbakır, and my origins are from Siirt. I have never considered the nationalist movement as a movement questioning this fact. We are a political movement that believes in the concept we call “nation” which we are influential with our opinions and thoughts, and we try to strengthen it. We deem to defend the culture, economy, interests that are created by this political movement, by the national level as the primary duty. Nation is this unity.

An interesting example, from 1989 to 1999, Argentine President Carlos Menem’s nickname was ‘El Turco (Turkish)’. He was born in 1930 in Argentina. His family had migrated from Syria. In those years, they called the people from Syria ‘El Turco’ because they came from Turkey. Most of them answered the questions like ‘where are you from, which nationality are you from’ saying ‘we are Turkish’. Hence they are called as ‘Los Turcos’. If the word ‘Turk’ meant a race could these people be called like this? Since they came from a civilization that emerged in Ottoman geography, Turkishness represented them as well. It should not be forgotten that it is the Turkish nation who set up Seljuk, Ottoman Empires as well as the Republic of Turkey.

Hence to reduce the concept “Turkish” to an ethnical identity is to dissociate the historical and cultural roots of understanding of civilization we created and having the citizen question the understanding we call national culture. We are against this; this is dividing the country up. To discuss who owns dances called ‘horon, zeybek, çepik, delilo, çayda çıra, or sama (regional folk dances)’ makes them not ours but theirs. I define this as weakening the resistance of the body, the immune system which leads to some diseases to emerge. In this sense, nationalism refers to a competitive regime. However, we live in a world where the competitive understandings are orientated to become submissive understandings.

You have made an interesting point. You say that nationalism essentially carries a competitive understanding, in this context it is also a resistance. Can you explain this more?

I mean, when one considers unified markets, areas of domination and interests of different parties; the idea of nationalism, in a sense, may be an obstacle against interests of some and hegemonic structures; that is why it is resistance and needs to be excluded. However, when we regard globalization process, we see that concepts of nationalism and national state are gaining importance. This is so because one has to increase the quality of the institutions and provide power to compete in the national level to earn more. How to do that? One has to create a function for national welfare, increase the quality of structures about economic decisions, judiciary, and democracy. These all should be reflecting a national approach. I think, the basic thing is that nations compete, they do. How? They compete with their brains; they compete with their cultures because it is very important to do this. There may be some who want the sycamore we nationally grew against the erosion created by globalization to be chopped down. In this sense, there is no need to contravene on this matter; we in the same way want to create a system that brings about welfare and peace by increasing the quality of our national system in which we make our own level.

So, do you mean that with an approach that highlights nationalism and national state the institutions, structures, mechanisms of nation state are better established; nation states compete with each other regarding this matter; consequently, this competition results in healthier structures and developments in the global level, and everyone wins?

Yes, absolutely. For example on this matter there are two developments: First, economic developments are gravely important nowadays, competitive environment etc., developments called convergence, the things nations compete about, these all showed that the institutions of the national states built on the national level are required. Second, information became more important. In this environment where information is so important one should consider persons not only as individuals, single units but individuals in a social compromise system by taking the cultural system they live in into account; only then one can achieve efficiency. This, actually, increased the importance of nationalism.

“The Nationalist Movement Party stands for national interests; and because this is against others’ interests, nationalism is blamed in Turkey”

It seems like the reason why nationalism is criticized and excluded is that nationalism tends to become racist, and it carries a potential to exclude the elements in nation state rather than the global competitiveness, do you consider this differently?

You are right but this is a case that usually exists in the West, there the concept of nationalism has an emphasis of racism, also there is paranoia due to past experience. However, our perception is not as such because we as people are not racists, we stand for the nationalism of this nation. This racism issue stems from the West. In this sense, when the Nationalist Movement Party stands for national interests; and because this opposes others’ interests, nationalism is blamed in Turkey.

National interests should include, embrace all people who live in that society.

Yes. In a society with such migration and that is created by marriages, racism or exclusionism is not a model to administer the society, it is a model for division. We want a model to administer not to divide. In that regard, nationalism on this axis is made perceived wrongly. Prime Minister sees this feature of nationalism as an enemy and questions nationalism with the titles he does not own, and tries to ascribe things to the Nationalist Movement Party that are not fit. This is slander, an endeavour to make it look bad.

Prime Minister says that they are against three types of nationalism: regional nationalism, ethnic nationalism, and religious nationalism.

He says so but I am not sure if he understands correctly. First, there is no such thing as regional nationalism; it is regionalism which is irrelevant to the concept of nationalism. There exists no religious nationalism either. However, the Prime Minister tries to connect all negative things to nationalism to prevent unity of the society. As far as I see, the well-off countries do not reject nationalism, they all want to bring welfare to their countries and increase the power to compete. Therefore, we should do the same. Beyond this point I also think that as to the civilizations, there are many values to be gained from Eastern civilization or Islamic civilization. In that sense, I think that our understanding of civilization would contribute to the composition of humanity. We have to stop polarizing and start producing. Why there are always blood and tears in Eastern or Islamic civilizations? Why there are problems about democracy and human rights? This is the result of fighting over the thoughts originating from the West. I have additional values to Western civilization, can the West recognize values of neighbourhood; can the West define kinship relation? I mean these are values. What we have to do is to form a competitive power that will contribute to the composition of humanity without conflicting over the values we have. What we, the nationalist movement, really have to do on the axis of values is not only to create a nationalist Turkey but also is to embrace the values we already have and unite around them as a move of civilization. Turkish nation is and has always been a nation capable of leading.

You acknowledge the importance of democracy and human rights, is that so? You also emphasize the necessity to embrace the values created on this geography in the historical process. Is the leadership you mean on this regard?

Of course, we say that we already have these values. Indeed, these lie in the value system and concept that constitute the basis of our nation. Let’s not forget that what makes democracy stronger is a set of values that take tolerance as the central element. Tolerance can only foster in an environment where we understand each other. A national identity’s values can form this environment.

As MHP, the values we defend would form the environment that would provide the protection of human rights and democracy. In this framework, national identity and national state have important roles. Nowadays national identity is tried to be substituted by ‘From Turkey’ concept. A nation’s identity comes from its historical and cultural roots. ‘From Turkey’ concept is a way to avoid national stance. By this, the political and geographical unity is tried to be loosened. When there is no national identity, ‘who, for what, for which target are going to form a nation’ questions’ answers become vague. In such an environment a democracy that respects individual rights and freedoms is structuralised.

Furthermore, the intention is to substitute nation state with country state. However, democratic state is not up for auction, it is not a state uniformity of which is open for discussion. Here democracy is also weakened. If there is no national state in a country, if there is no belongingness consciousness, no common will then democracy would be like feeding a starving person with cake. In other words, there is only one base for groups and individuals to express themselves and that base is national state, democracy and human rights, but this base is, before any other, national agreements. Because a society is not just crowds, it is continuous, meaningful; it just does not come to be. Hence when mentioning these concepts, one has to be careful.

What are your thoughts regarding human rights? We are always talking about the state but the real subject of politics is “people”. In addition to your statements regarding national state and country state, we should maybe talk about human rights in light of globalisation. People are not only protecting human rights in their own countries but are now standing against human rights violations around the world.

Regarding human rights, it is not possible to claim that there is a standardised, uniform global cultural concept. Here the fundamental point is to be able to grasp the differentiation between theory and application. Human rights are seen as the subject of a political discussion by many liberals. If rights become “political discourses”, then one should conceive that “human rights” policies of certain political movements differ from each other. These nuances did not come to be through cultural notion. “Approach to rights” which is western rooted and wanted to be made “universal” constitutes the focus of discussions and conflict.

 The main problem here is the fact that human rights are intended to be used for gaining political power. In the New World Order, as the discussion and enlargement of globalisation, “human rights” is an important political issue. The “human rights” concept that has become an element of a political system and power struggle is aims to see the people as “citizens of the world”. Therefore, “human rights” is a vocal element of not human beings but a political power beyond them. Goal of ‘world citizen’ regarding ‘human rights’ as a uniform and standard for everyone is an effort to corrode nation, culture and national state. It is put forward as a political discourse that there would not be a need for a ‘nation’ or a ‘state’ in the universal ‘person’ approach.

These ‘rights’ discussions that have become the centre of political power, the fact that these disregard nations, culture and national state and lean towards the goal of turning people into the citizens of a global government, are politicising the ‘human rights’ and turns them into tools for obtaining power. In this sense the concept of human rights shall not lean towards the goal of ‘a world citizen’ which corrodes nation, state and nation state. As globalisation works towards obtaining power based on human rights concept and tries to destroy concepts of sovereignty, nationalism and patriotism, the resistance against it will grow.

How should the ‘human rights’ be? 

Human rights should be seen as an element of social compromise on a national level which is formed with land, culture, institutional structure, economic relations, values, goals and pain. In this sense human rights shall not be a tool of universal power politics but rather should lean towards a goal that would constitute the quality and deepness of the belief system that forms the social compromise which is needed for national systems to function healthily.

Human rights, democracy should not be imposed from, led by, enforced with bombs outside. We have to build and develop it on its own. We have to make this happen and advance it.  We have to constitute democracy on an axis of values without instrumentalising it at the same time. In this sense, we, the Nationalist Movement Party, defend that we keep the values our people have as thoughts and opinions alive, and that, on a larger perspective, Turkish nation can lead such civil understanding and such civilization move; we say that we can do this. We do not have to necessarily become Westerners or Middle Easterners. With the values we have, Turkey with a strong competitive power can lead this civilization, present the perspective for it; and there would be a chance for her to put forth why this perspective does not exist and is not spoken of.

“The Nationalist Movement Party advances without metamorphosis”

Defending for nationalism, national state, and national interests are not usually seen to be on the same ground. There are those who say other dynamics are involved, and also those who say ‘you have an immense prejudice’ when you talk about them. For example, all political parties in the UK take on oath on defending the national interests in the Parliament. The recent slogan of the leader of ‘Labour Party’, who is thought to be too leftist, is “one nation”. A party, which has been constantly bringing forth the differences, following policies that prioritize a cosmopolitan society, is now getting ready to come forward with an emphasis on how they are all united under one nation. In Turkey, when these terms are used, there suddenly can appear some mechanisms of accusation. In this context, we, especially in this chapter, wanted to question nationalism in Turkey and viewpoint of the Nationalist Movement Party. We consider it to be important that the Nationalist Movement Party to explain itself. When you consider the past and present of the Nationalist Movement Party, are there changes in the last 20-30 years in its understanding and general policies?

There are. I mean, I think so. Because the period that the Nationalist Movement Party was struggling was the period of Cold War and polarization which shapes one’s viewpoint on matters gravely. Therefore, today there is no polarization political activities change accordingly, instead of being a side in a polarized world in a world with one pole. In the Cold War period there was a fight between the axes of left and right. Today there emerged the concepts of national interest, integration, ethnicity; and dynamics of politics have changed. The conflict hidden inside the concepts of left and right is now emerging out of ethnicity. So, in that sense, the problems are different today. So, nationalist thought, in that sense of course, is advancing without metamorphosis.

This term was used a lot as a response to the questions such as is the Nationalist Movement Party changing posed to Mr Bahçeli. What is ‘advancing without metamorphosis’?

The areas of struggle may change but spirit of time does not. For the Nationalist Movement Party there is its nation in the spirit of time, and nationalism is the ideal to strengthen that nation. For me, what is important is the concern regarding how to make that real nation, beyond metaphysical conceptualization, stronger in today’s conditions. Having the nation exist and be strong required different sets of decisions in the models established in closed societies of yesterday; now they require different decisions in today’s open societies. To protect this society today building walls against the outside, outside culture is useless, so what you need to is to protect yourself by strengthening.  I mean, winds are coming from outside, there is erosion. Instead of being destroyed due to erosion build up sycamores here to prevent erosion. In this sense, on the cultural basis, I think that Hollywood culture is invading us. You can protect your culture by strengthening it; not by putting up walls like it was done in the past, or forbidding. Are these possible in our age? They are not. It is the age of information. It is now harder to have an economic protectionism today, for example. Even further than that; people’s demands, even minds are being shaped with globalization. In this kind of an environment you cannot put up walls, we have to protect ourselves differently.

In this regard, is the MHP nationalism evolving to cultural nationalism? This is interesting, because especially after 1980, left-wingers also talk about struggling with cultural imperialism. According to nationalist conception, how will this preservation be in our day?

The root of both Turkish nation and Turkish nationalism is culture. If today’s problem is different, then its policy and struggle will also be different. Cultural attack is obvious. Nowadays this is seen as the most effective tool to break down the unity of nations. To be preserved, you need to compete with external actors without fighting. We’ll increase our production, give prominence to our values. In this respect, nationalist thought is different than the past. For example, in the past we said communists go to Moscow, they went to Moscow, they said ‘damn, was it like this’ and they came to Turkey. Today, we can easily develop relations with Russia and other countries in accordance with our own benefits or criticise the policies that USA generated in the region; because they pose risk and threat for Turkey. In this regard, there was a balance of forces, polarization. In our day, in an environment that is consisted of one power, the problem of how to save the balance arose. So we make evaluations according to this. In the open society structure the way to protect culture passes through forming culture industry by saving cultural richness.

As the world changes, the Nationalist Movement Party also changes, adapts its policies in order to defend Turkey’s interests in the new balance of power. In this regard, can we explain this as improving without alteration; having the same ideal but changing the techniques, tools and areas of struggle?

Precisely. In this respect, you can’t use perspectives that are scholastic, out of date, because you cannot protect the society from external risks and threats with past fears and the things you formed in the past. In that regard, of course the nationalist thought is developing, and it needs to change in terms of its regime as well, I mean it’s changing. In the past there was the chain of command, it had authoritarian structure. Those were things that were in the spirit of that time. Today, there is an understanding which is softer, based on governance and mutual interaction. Therefore, the nationalist thought is also developing itself from past to today. This is not giving up nationalist thought but thinking about how we can make nationalist thought more in line with today’s understanding.

 “We do not attend to issues from the right-left axis but from the axis of National Unity”

Lastly, I want to ask about ‘Ülkü Ocakları (the youth organization of the Idealist Movement)’. ‘Ülkü Ocakları’, as aggressive, militant groups, used to become the issue of conflict. However, after 1990s we don’t see them in the streets that much. Especially recently there are many developments in Turkey that nationalists would never approve and regard as separatist. Yet the idealists do not show up in the streets as a part of the fight. Also there are people who question the disappearance of ‘Ülkü Ocakları’. We also know that MHP does not want the idealists in the streets according to its policy since 1990s. Do ‘Ülkü Ocakları’ also change? How is the relation between ‘Ülkü Ocakları’ and MHP; is there a change in the relationship? Are more rational policies being pursued or did the effectiveness of ‘Ülkü Ocakları’ diminished?

Yes, it’s a good question. ‘Ülkü Ocakları’ is a mechanism that conveys our political thought to the youth in our youth organisation. We also took lessons. I think that Turkey was damaged by the youth that was led to conflict environment in political polarization of the time before 1980. We mustn’t put Turkey into that situation again. In this respect, also about the new understanding of our party, our Chairman said ‘Youth must have computers, they must educate themselves better. They must learn Turkish, one western language and besides that one oriental language.’ Therefore, when we take the price we paid, in a chaotic order that is created by the conditions of that time, in a self-defensive system, into consideration, we express that we mustn’t fall into these traps today. We can solve the problems by using the legitimate powers of the government. There are people who want to exclude us from being the centre of public opposition by instrumentalizing us as a part of their political engineering. In this respect, we are very careful about this trap.  Yes, we have different ideas, there are harmful things but against these harmful things we will continue our debate, we will take necessary measures against the corruptive ones by using a power that comes to power democratically. In this regard, we also think that in today’s conditions, it is planned to create a social unrest with ethnic conflicts by forming a conflict environment with nationalism in the level of ethnic identity and separatism. We also think that this is the biggest trap that blocks the society look to future together and live together. We mustn’t fall into this trap and we mustn’t let the society to fall into this trap. In that regard, some operational things are no longer in our agenda. Moreover, we don’t have a literature of violence or street; nationalist movement also doesn’t have these terms. These terms were developed by extreme ends; these are the methods that are developed by especially Marxist and Leninist sides. Therefore, when we look at the nationalist movement, terms like violence are not the methods that we adopt. Our conflict occurred with reflex and resistance, and in that term’s environment.

‘Ülkü Ocakları’ is trying to improve both individual capabilities and continue its struggle of ideas with democratic tools with respect to occurring events.

Do you see the steps about recognition of ethnic identities as a trap of creating a conflict environment more than a struggle for rights?

On an individual level, various ethnic identities live together within a social compromise system. Giving this a collective functionality on the other hand could be dangerous for the state and nation structure. We care about the underlying separation intentions more than the recognition, we see it as an injustice to this nation, and we see it as a trap. Also we believe that if an identity based separation in the society and it to create a social unrest in the society, and this to lead the society into a separation by generating a tension is planned then we mustn’t take a side in this tension with the youth in streets. We need to break the trap. This is a trap, in this regard, ‘Ülkü Ocakları’ are carrying on the activity as an educational and cultural foundation and with this aspect it values to create the environment that will enable the youth to improve themselves. Now we are effective in student councils, student councils of universities, in the Student Council of Turkey, in this democratic environment people are trying to find the ways to be more effective within the students. Improving one’s self is important, I mean we do not want the rising generation to be wasted. We want the youth to govern Turkey, in this respect we think that we must keep the youth away from any kind of violence and conflict environment. Some are bothered because there is no environment that is related to violence anymore. We care about the youth to think and take a stand about the situation democratically. The youth must interpret the things that are happening without conflicting and be able to express their reaction but this can happen in a democratic environment, in social media, conferences and through similar organizations. This must be a debate, we cared about this in the past and also today we prioritise this.

This policy is also very important for Turkey. We are aware that you are criticized and oppressed about this. There are people who want to draw MHP and idealists to the streets; MHP’s rational politics was criticized a lot by the opponents. Because of this policy there are people who say ‘MHP is losing but Turkey is gaining’. A point you mentioned draw my attention, you said in the past we were in ‘self-defence’. Does this mean that in the Cold War period, idealist movement never had intent of violation, it was self-defensive?

Yes, our ‘ideal’ is our nation’s interest, to struggle with the ones who want to destroy the unity. Therefore, we will preserve our nation, state in long term by avoiding the traps. MHP is Turkey’s party and is at Turkey’s service. What we mean with self-defence is that national movement appeared with defensive intentions; it remained democratic and came up as a resistance point. It became defensive because of the attacks from the sides who saw it as a resistance. Therefore, it has a legitimate protection motivation; we looked at issues from this protection motivation perspective. We have never seen violence as a method in nationalist system of thought. It was like this in 1944, and it still is today. In 1944 we proceeded democratically, in Ulus, Mr. Türkeş and others expressed that implementations of that day’s government weren’t right. Back then, where there was single-party system, there weren’t democratic protests, for the first time in 1944 we did it. Similarly today, we express that the implementations of a party that shows itself as a conservative-democrat and in the right wing, are wrong. Was it like this yesterday? It wasn’t. We saw it differently in the past, but today we don’t say it’s a right-winger, it can rule Turkey; we also criticize a right-wing party democratically. This proves that we don’t base our perspective on left or right wing. We have a perspective of National Unity, and it always has been this way.

What are the lessons you’ve learnt? Do you say that there were provocations?

Yes, these happened. The youth was set against each other. These couldn’t be fought against efficiently, the youth couldn’t be saved. We must save each youth who became an instrument of sowing the seeds of discord to the society. In this respect, we pay more attention to the youth as the national movement. We work for finding solutions to the youth’s problems as ‘Ülkü Ocakları’, idealist movement. They have education, job and housing problems. Therefore, we developed projects such as “Ülkü Evleri” (the project that will provide housing to ‘idealist’ university students and meet their social needs and raise them as individuals who have nationalist world view). Efforts of raising staffs which are more civil with less conflict and have intellectual primacy are prioritized.

“The Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s use of our emblems (Ülkü Ocakları emblems) during his various activities and rallies is an example of these provocations. The purpose is to distort the national strength”

It is a truth that today the youth is being made a part of several conflicts. You mentioned the struggle that Kurdish youth get drawn into, in the context of ethnic conflict environment. By the way, for example Hrant Dink Murder and subsequent scandals also have been discussed a lot. ‘Alperen Ocakları’ came up; it’s seen that the youth who go there are used as hit man and informant. On questions about this subject, BBP’s decedent leader Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu reproached by saying that they weren’t aware of their party’s youth section’s actions. Were ‘Ülkü Ocakları’ exposed to similar attacks and misguidance? Do you have precautions against this?

Of course there are many provocations, we identify those. There are some social events where people use our logo as if they are a member of our political thought, we investigate them and find out that they have nothing to do with us. We encounter a lot of serious external provocations. A similar provocation is the use of our ‘ocak’ flags in rallies and events of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The aim is to break the national resistance. The party that tries to resist against breaking the national resistance is MHP, so the goal is to destabilize it and create a problem inside of it and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the agent of this goal. As decedent Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu stated, to deepen the social polarization and problems in regions that have a higher level of national vulnerability, instrumentalizing operations are performed. Recently, these became clear as extensive AKP operations but thanks to god we isolated these and showed that we have nothing to do with these. I can say that our Chairman contributed effectively and took the lead.

We conclude the first part of our interview here. We talked about nationalist movement, idealist movement, and MHP with its past and today. We touched upon delicate subjects. It was very important to discuss much-debated nationalism with you and framing it from your perspective. Thank you for your sincere answers.

Thank you for your questions.

© 2013 Research Turkey. All rights reserved. This publication cannot be printed, reproduced, or copied without referencing the original source.

Please cite this publication as follows:

Research Turkey (October, 2013), “Interview with Dr. Oktay Vural (Part I): Being a Nationalist in Turkey: The Past and Present of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Idealist Movement”, Vol. II, Issue 8, pp.42-62, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, Research Turkey. (


2 thoughts on “Interview with Dr. Oktay Vural (Part I): Being a Nationalist in Turkey: The Past and Present of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Idealist Movement

  1. Nancy G.

    Thanks to you for this priceless interview. As far as I know MHP is the top voted racist political party in Europe, I remember 18% in 1999. However, the picture drawn here indicates we should change some of our reserves. Mr. Vural’s nationalism description is quite different and it should be accepted as a progress. Hopefully racism will be a bad story of the past, and the emphasis on cultural nationalism is very much appreciated! One shortcoming is Kurdish movement cannot be ignored as well as Kurdish nationalists, some of which still seem to be very racist, though Mr. Vural does not even accept them as a legitimate ethnic group!

    1. Selim Yılmaz

      I dont think you really understand the context of this interview. Because you blame MHP for being racist without regard to Mr. Vural’s statement. I also want you to know that being a Kurdish nationalist requires to justify terror.
      That was a great interview thank you for this work


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