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Embrace the World with Humanitarian Activities: An Alternative Strategic Approach of Turkish Soft Power

Turkish Soft Power

– Md. Nazmul ISLAM[1] and Esra Eymen CANSU[2]

The main theorist of soft power policy, Joseph S. Nye, Jr. coined that “soft power” is the ability of attraction and persuasion which can be achieved through the cultural, economic, diplomatic, political values, foreign policies and personal relations. In the world, while most of the influential countries such as China, Germany, France, Russia and India spend a lot of time and money to manufacture national narratives in a top-down manner, some other, such as the U.S. do it in a bottom-up manner through the agency of non-governmental organizations and civil society. Fascinatingly, Turkey is forthcoming their soft power policies both in top-down and bottom-up approaches such as top-down approaches by Turkey’s government institutions through their governmental institutions for example TIKA, AFAD, Yunus Emre Institute (YEE), Diyanet Foundation, Presidency of Religious Affairs, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, State Hydraulic Works, State Airport Authority, Ministry of Health, The Presidency of Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB), Anadolu Agency, and TRT World as well the bottom-up approaches through the Turkey’s non-governmental organizations as like Turkish Red Crescent Society (Turk Kizilay), IHH Turkey, Bashir Association, Cansuyu, Deniz Feneri, The Africa Brotherhood and Solidarity Association (AFKAD), The Charity Stone and Arakan Platform working in different parts of the world.

Nevertheless, in comparatively; the worldwide approach of USA’s soft power policy through the participation with civil society groups while Turkey’s policies and strategies are low volume approach from the measurement of civil society impacts in other countries. For instances, the approaches of Turkish Aid Agency, TIKA seems very temporary, short-term basis and aid oriented while they need long-term, goal-oriented and effective projects where they can prioritize Turkey’s national interest, historical legacy & cultural cooperation for maintaining their old and historical allies in which way they can be part with those countries policy-making process. As it can be argued that Turkish institutions already get the trustable leadership position in all over the world by their enormous humanitarian activities particularly Turkey’s assistance which increased Turkey’s soft and positive image to all over the world including Turkish assistance for Syrian Refugees since 2013, aid for Qatar in the blockade by Saudi led coalitions, earthquake in Iraq-Iran on 14th November 2017, Rohingya refugee crisis since August 25, 2017, Afterwards the bombing in Somalia where Turkey assisted 40 people for their health support in Ankara, Flood disaster in Pakistan in 2010, Japan earthquake in 2011, Typhoon in Philippines, Floods in the Balkans, Attacks to Gaza in 2014, Earthquake in Nepal, Humanitarian crisis in Yemen & Libya, Flood in Macedonia in 2016 which brands the ‘Turkey as the world second generous humanitarian assistance country as percentage to their GNI, according to the 2017 report by UK based Development Initiatives’ (Daily Sabah, 21 June 2017). Additionally, the cultural impacts of Turkish soft power institutions played through their drama series and movies which is now the second highest exporter of TV series globally after the United States where ‘nearly 150 Turkish television series have been sold to over 100 countries’ (William Armstrong, New York Times, 4 November 2017). Most interestingly, Turkish charismatic leadership roles throughout the world give them emerging power position, as like recent political moves of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against USA’s decision on ‘Jerusalem issue’ and the speech in UN as ‘the world is bigger than five’ have been the instrumental model of soft power impacts of Turkey to the world particularly in the Muslim world. Additionally, the political and economic success of AK party influence to MENA region countries to think their own political and economic system which is generated the new soft power model by Turkey.

In terms of persuasion of power, “having power” is the deeply responsible actor where Turkey can be a successful diplomatic capable country by their own narratives, choices, objectives, goals and behaviors. The effective communication of soft power policy and strategy indicates that the new “Turkish story” is rising and emerging trust-able leadership position in the world which can be only possible through the public, private and non-governmental sectors of Turkish soft power institutions where both soft and smart power policies and strategies can be used in terms to achieve the realpolitik domestic and foreign policy interest of Turkey for their own and global peace and security. Though, this kind of leadership position gives Turkey huge responsibilities where they can be part of any countries policy-making and policy implementation process like other powerful countries are doing to ensure their national interest.  Now, the world is facing a leadership vacuum from Trump’s regime to upcoming right-wing party challenges in Europe which demands the new world order and new leadership from economically, politically and culturally where Turkey may fill up that leadership vacuum and write a new history for tomorrows world.

[1] ERASMUS Research Fellow, Europa Institute, Saarland University, Germany and Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Ankara Yildirim Beyazit University, Turkey, Email: nazmulraihan42du@gmail.com.

[2] Postgraduate Researcher, International Relations, Ankara Social Science University, Ankara, Turkey, Email: eeymen.cansu@gmail.com.

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