It’s time for a change in Turkey, but not the kind of change that’s underway. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has unilaterally decided to change Turkey’s time zone. CNN reported:
Turkey is breaking step with Europe and keeping summer time through the winter. Instead of turning clocks back an hour as they do in the European Union in the autumn, Turkey will keep the clocks as they are and effectively change the country’s time zone. Commenting on Twitter, Turkey’s Energy Minister Berat Albayrak said the move was to “benefit better from the daylight.” He added: “In office hours and school hours the dark will be less and we will avoid the inconveniences of the transition periods.” By maintaining its summer time settings, Turkey will be two hours in front of the rest of the Europe Union.
In the current issue of COMMENTARY, I speculate about what Erdoğan’s true motivations are in the wake of the failed coup. Herein, CNN misses a big part of the picture. While it is correct to say that the time change created a break with Europe, that’s only half of Erdoğan’s motivation. Rather, what Erdoğan has done is to put Turkey in the same time zone as Saudi Arabia and more specifically Mecca, further reorienting Turkey toward the Middle East, and setting the stage for Erdoğan to assert a greater claim to pan-Islamic leadership.
Erdoğan’s time zone-shift also exacerbates the long-simmering Cyprus conflict. Turkey continues to occupy northern Cyprus, for 40 years perpetuating Europe’s last occupation. Now, the relatively tiny island will be bifurcated not only by barbed wires, but also by time, as Turkey is having its puppet “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” follow the new Turkish time rather than European time.
Turkey will go its own way, not as a democracy but rather as a religiously oriented dictatorship. Erdoğan is in the driver’s seat; there’s not much anyone can do. Still, it’s important not to deny the change or allow Erdoğan to mute diplomatic criticism by dangling the prospect of counter-terror cooperation.