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Nathan Shahar: Kavala is not just a prisoner - he's a symbol

Nathan Shahar: Kavala is not just a prisoner – he’s a symbol

Kavala supported environmental demonstrations in the spring of 2013 in central Istanbul. The protests concern the small Gezi park north of TaksimTurget, which hungry building financiers with links to the ruling Justice and Development Party wanted to use to build a shopping centre. The unrest, which spread to other cities, was the beginning of the rift between the AKP and the city’s liberals, which until then had given Erdogan many votes.

The demonstrations were initially a spontaneous youth uprising that attracted more and more people from different camps. No one accused Kavala of plotting it. Not until 2017, when he was arrested. In addition to the Gezi riots, he was accused – like almost all political prisoners – of participating in the military coup in the summer of 2016.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Kavala hit several times in recent years, among other things he was dubbed “Red Soros” – Kavala’s collaboration and Hungarian-American financier. But Erdogan understands that Kavala and imprisoned Kurdish party leader Selahattin Demirtaş are key to improving relations with the European Union and the United States.

This spring, Erdogan’s longtime partner, presidential advisor Bulent Arinc, recommended the release of Demirtaş and Kavala. Arinch, one of the founders of the AKP, may have acted on his own initiative. But there are many indications that his words were a sonic balloon that released Erdoğan’s cherished memory.

The reaction was fierce. Erdogan’s partner in power, Devlet Bahceli of the ultranationalist Nationalist Movement Party, exploded in anger and forced Erdogan to get rid of his adviser.

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Bahceli and Erdogan are divided On points more than Kavala. Erdogan wants to start approaching the Kurds and repairing relations with them. They were pivotal when the AKP came to power and voted for it for 13 years, until the summer of 2015. Erdogan needs to win them back for a chance in the 2023 elections. Bahceli refuses to hear any concessions to the Kurds.

Our view of the pillars and pillars of Turkish power is so incomplete that it cannot be proven with certainty. It is not certain that the radical Turkish reaction to European countries’ support for Kavala originated with Erdogan. He may have been forced to play a more extreme role in this drama which is what he really wants.