Thursday, March 17, 2011

'Let us make our future common' : Ahmet Davutoglu

The change and transformation that we are witnessing in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain and everywhere in our region is aptly called as political tsunami. What do we do when tsunami or earthquake strike us? Whether the recent one in Japan or the one we had in Turkey in 1996 the response usuually is to clamp emergency to save the lives. Next priority is given to normalisation of life. Then we focus on reconstruction and restoration. And we start rebuilding and restoring our homes and cities.

Now, if this transformation is a political tsunami, then how should we respond? First, we need an emergency plan to save people's lives, to prevent disaster. Second, we need to normalise life. And finally, we need to reconstruct and restore the political systems in our region, just as we would rebuild our houses after a tsunami.
But in order to undertake that restoration, we need a plan, a vision. And we need the self-confidence to do it – the self-confidence to say: this region is ours, and we will be the rebuilders of it. But for all this to happen, we must be clear about the basic principles that we have to follow.

The wave of revolutions in the Arab world was spontaneous. But it also had to happen. They were necessary in order to restore the natural flow of history. In our region – west Asia and the south Mediterranean – there were two abnormalities in the last century: first, colonialism in the 1930s, 40s and 50s that divided the region into colonial entities, and severed the natural links between peoples and communities. For example, Syria was a French colony and Iraq a British one, so the historical and economic links between Damascus and Baghdad were cut.

The second abnormality was the cold war, which added a further division: countries that had lived together for centuries became enemies, like Turkey and Syria. We were in Nato; Syria was pro-Soviet. Our border became not a border between two nation states, but the border between two blocs. Yemen was likewise divided.

Now it is time to naturalise the flow of history. I see all these revolutions as a delayed process that should have happened in the late 80s and 90s as in eastern Europe. It did not because some argued that Arab societies didn't deserve democracy, and needed authoritarian regimes to preserve the status quo and prevent Islamist radicalism. Some countries and leaders who were proud of their own democracy, insisted that democracy in the Middle East would threaten security in our region.

Now we are saying all together: no. An ordinary Turk, an ordinary Arab, an ordinary Tunisian can change history. We believe that democracy is good, and that our people deserve it. This is a natural flow of history. Everybody must respect this will of the people.

If we fail to understand that there is a need to reconnect societies, communities, tribes and ethnicities in our region, we will lose the momentum of history. Our future is our sense of common destiny. All of us in the region have a common destiny. Nobody can ignore this sense of common destiny.
Ahmet Davutoglu with Tayyip Erdogan

Last week I visited Cairo. I met all the leaders - of various political groups there. Most important of all these meetings was the one I had with the youth leaders. After listening to these young leaders I became much more optimistic. I said to myself: this is the generation that will decide the future. Infact they have already decided. They were decisive. They know what to want. What they want is one simple thing. Dignity.
I salute those young leaders. They are our future and we have to listen to them to plan for our future.
We don't want a silent youth. We want active, vocal youth. We want a critical youth. They should criticise us and we should be patient to listen them. Because actually we are working for their future. Not our future.
This is a new momentum in our region. It is like 1968 in Europe from that perspective. Or it is like the Eastern Europe of late 1980s. If those youth movements were respected, these youth movement too deserve respect.

When I was in Tunisia, I had meetings with leaders of several political formations and parties. Change and transformation is a socio political necessity.
I told them: 'You are all grand sons of Ibn Khaldun. He was the best political administrator. So be confident to change your political system'. 
Change and transformation are a necessity, not a choice. If history flows and you try to resist it, you will lose. No leader, however charismatic, can stop the flow of history. Now it is time for change. Nobody should cling to the old cold war logic. Nobody should argue that only a particular regime or person can guarantee a country's stability. The only guarantee of stability is the people.

Next, there should be balance between security and freedom. Security and freedom are not alternatives; we need both. In this region we are fed up with conflicts, foreign invasions, and tension. We have to change the scenario and strike a balance between freedom and security. We can afford to lose security to safeguard freedom. But we cannot lose our freedom to gain security.

Next, we need transparency, accountability, human rights and the rule of law, and to protect our social and state institutions. Revolution does not mean destruction. The Egyptian case is a good example: the army acted very wisely not to confront the people. But if there is no clear separation between the military and civilian roles of the political institutions, you may face problems. I am impressed by Field Marshal Tantawi's decision to deliver power to the civilian authority as soon as possible.

Finally, the territorial integrity of our countries and the region must be protected. The legal status and territorial integrity of states including Libya and Yemen should be protected. During colonialism and cold war we had enough divisions, enough separations.

This is our region. Intellectuals, opinion-makers, politicians of this region should come together more frequently in order to decide what should happen in our region in the future. We are linked to each other for the past two millenniums. Not a single city in this region is less than two thousand years old. We have common goals. We have common belief. We have common aspirations. We have everything in common. Let us make our future common.
Ahmet Davutoglu with Lula De Silva

Now it is time to make historic reassessments in order to transform our region into one of stability, freedom, prosperity, cultural revival and co-existence. In this new regional order there should be less violence and fewer barriers between countries, societies and sects. But there should be more economic interdependency, more political dialogue and more cultural interaction.

Today the search for a new global order is under way. After the international financial crisis, we need to develop an economic order based on justice, and a social order based on respect and dignity. And this region – our region – can contribute to the formation of this emerging new order: a global, political, economic and cultural new order.

Our responsibility is to open the way for this new generation, and to build a new region over the coming decade that will be specified by the will of its people.

Ahmet Davutoglu, Foreign Minister Turkey in Al Jazeera. More Here

Listen to his speech here:


T Azeez Luthfullah said...

It was the most wonderful speech. The choice of his words and phrases is amazing. He stumbled for right word in two occasions but the flow was good and he succeeded in captivating the audiences. But the way he avoided mentioning the situation in Libya is worth mentioning. He was also very particular not to give the developments 'Arab' colour. He changed the texture and gave it a broader outlook 'This region' .. 'Our region'. The most telling statement in his speech was : " Some countries and leaders who were proud of their own democracy, insisted that democracy in the Middle East would threaten security in our region.Now we are saying all together: no."

I had transcripted only a portion of his speech. Parts of it excluding his comments on youth power, Ibn Khaldun, Al Farabi etc are available in Al Jazeera site.

He was giving messages, hints subtle and direct to every one. At one stage he encourages the youth of the Middle East. At another stage he gives a subtle message to all concerned that Uncle Sam is not welcome here.

Umair said...

Dear Azeez bhai,
Indeed, it is one of the very few thought provoking and enlightening speeches which come from politicians these days especially from the Muslim world.
The heading of this article stands tall amongst all the things Davutoglu said. Lets make our future common. Lets make our aspirations common. And these common aims cannot be realised by greed driven political forums like UNO or EU or economic forums like IMF. It can be driven only by system driven by justice and a social order based on respect and dignity. These are the foundations of the healthy society and specifically is the aim of a Muslim individual and Ummah as a whole to strive for a just system.

One of the other point is about the youth. He said that we need a vocal and critical youth. In addition, we need patient elders as well to them and don't regard them as ignorant and an arrogant group. I think this is a very important point which is not just required on a socio-political level but it should be the essence of our family values and organisational characteristics. The critical but respectful, vocal yet humble youth needs to be heard.

A final thought which I have is about "delayed process that should have happened in the late 80s and 90s". I think the big turning point in not letting this happen was the loss of Allied Arab forces by the hands of small Israel in 1967 which I feel to some extent led to a sense of the inferiority complex soaked with a sense of fear. This prevented the majority to stand up against the authoritarian rulers who milked those sentiments in making their regimes stronger.



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