In the 1990s, the redefinition of the international order following the collapse of the Soviet bloc saw Turkey located in a crucial position: a geographical, political and cultural meeting point between East and West, it found itself in the need to rethink both its role within of Europe and towards Islamic countries both its national identity and the domestic political scenario. Forces of Islamic inspiration, removed from national political life by the military coup of 1980, had returned to the scene at the beginning of the following decade, giving life to the Prosperity Party. Its leader Necmettin Erbakan, former president of the National Party of Order, playing on the divisions and rivalries between the leaders of the conservative parties, he was the main architect of the surprising success of the Islamic-inspired formation in the 1995 elections, after which Erbakan himself assumed the post of prime minister in a coalition government with Tansu Ciller’s Right Way Party. The coexistence in power of secular and religious formations aroused not a few concerns in the international community due to the fear of a shift by Turkey towards a form of state dominated by Islamic law. Inside, where the Erbakan government favored the start of a process of Islamization of the education and justice sectors, its action was hampered by the military leaders who had maintained a strong interference in political life, also attributing the role of guarantors of the secular state. In the first months of 1997, opposition parties, supported by the National Security Council, tried several times to put the government in the minority. Erbakan was forced to resign, but the advent of a new government, chaired by Mesut Yilmaz, of the center-right Motherland Party, did not help calm the waters; in January 1998 the Constitutional Court decreed the dissolution of the Prosperity Party for violation of the Constitution, accusing it of having attacked the foundation of the secular state. The veterans of the formation were largely welcomed by the Party of Virtue, itself declared unconstitutional in 1999. The resignation of Yilmaz, accused of corruption, was followed by a short provisional government led by Ecevit, who remained in office until the April elections. 1999. In the aftermath of the consultation, Ecevit led a heterogeneous three-party coalition, made up of the Left Democratic Party, which he headed, the Motherland Party and the far-right Nationalist Action Movement, the so-called Gray Wolves. Despite ideological differences, the leaders of the coalition shared profound nationalism and opposition to any compromise with the Kurdish rebels. The Kurdish question was increasingly placed at the center of Turkey’s internal problems: the military repression against the independence rebels, who were headed by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), had assumed the proportions of a real war in recent years. with numerous casualties on both sides. In November 1998, PKK leader Abdullah ‘Apo’ Ocalan was arrested in Italy, where he asked for political asylum. The Italian government, not wanting to grant the extradition requested by Turkey, since it was a country where the death penalty was in force, nor to interrupt diplomatic relations with an important economic partner that threatened heavy commercial retaliation, in January 1999 imposed on Ocalan to leave Italy. The following month, the Turkish secret services arrested him at the Greek embassy in Nairobi. His capture had important repercussions: internally, there was a strengthening of those parties that had shown greater inflexibility on the Kurdish question; on the international level, however, relations with the countries of the European Union entered into crisis, exerting pressure for the Kurdish leader to be subjected to a fair trial. On June 29, the State Security Court sentenced Ocalan to hang. The decision was enthusiastically welcomed in the country, but the European Union intervened in favor of the condemned: the government thus found itself in the embarrassing situation of having to find a balance between internal consensus and international approval. In January 2000, Turkey announced its decision to suspend Ocalan’s execution, upholding the request of the European Court of Human Rights. Turkey’s yielding to Europe’s demands came at the end of a troubled path to gain admission to the European Union, in which the general question of human rights was one of the key points. The harshest criticisms of European countries of Turkey in fact concerned in particular the conditions of the prisoners, the lack of freedom of expression and the use of torture. Humanitarian reasons were then accompanied by economic reasons: the low level of industrialization and development, combined with the high unemployment rate and rapid population growth, led to fears of an uncontrolled exodus of Turkish workers towards countries with a more stable economy. On a political level, he worried about the profound interference of military power in the Turkish reality. All these factors, combined with the veto opposed by Greece over the Cyprus question, had contributed to making Turkey’s path towards European integration bumpy and only in December 1999 was it granted the formal status of candidate country for accession. For Turkey culture and traditions, please check animalerts.com.
Between 2000 and 2001, in an international context that was always very critical due to the lack of respect for the rights of minorities and the excessive weight of the military in political life, the crisis factors worsened in the country. On the economic front, galloping inflation, the failure of large public enterprises and the national banking system imposed drastic reorganization measures that no ruling party, now dominated by patronage, seemed capable of dealing with. The associations in defense of human rights simultaneously called the attention of the international community to the extremely harsh prison conditions and the hunger strike carried out by many prisoners and families, which at the end of 2001 had already caused the death of 42 people. In this scenario, relations between Prime Minister Ecevit and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, former president of the Constitutional Court and elected to the highest office of the state in May 2000, deteriorated dangerously, who repeatedly reproached the head of government for his delays and its shortcomings in the fight against corruption. In the 2002 elections, the Left Democratic Party collapsed and the following year Ecevit, already seriously ill, left its leadership. Winning the elections, managing to become the spokesperson for popular discontent, was the Justice and Development Party, heir to the dissolved Parties of Prosperity and Virtue. The electoral success of the Islamic organization was also due to the more moderate character compared to the previous formations given to the new party by Recep Tayyp Erdogan. A prominent figure in the Prosperity Party, Erdogan had gained considerable popularity by demonstrating good administrative skills as the mayor of Istanbul, a position he assumed in 1994 after his party’s victory in the local elections which had seen for the first time a Islamic formation become the first party of Turkey. Prosecuted in 1998 for inciting religious hatred, Erdogan served four of the ten months in prison to which he was sentenced in 1999, while the Islamic political organization underwent new transformations. The sentence, which had earned him temporary ineligibility, prevented Erdogan.