As any Turkey watcher would easily confirm, hostility to the West has increasingly marked the rhetoric of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his ruling Justice and Development (AKP) and pro-government media in the past two years. Especially since the Gezi Park protests in June 2013, the narrative of Erdogan and his entourage has revolved around Western “conspiracies” and a “national will” that is bravely fighting them.
Yet for those familiar with the AKP’s 14-year history, this may have come as a surprising turn. When the AKP was created in 2001, hostility to the West was not something with which it identified itself. On the contrary, party founders claimed to have disowned the Islamist, anti-Western “National View” tradition from which they came. Likewise, in the first years after the AKP came to power in 2002, Westernization (i.e., integration with the European Union) was the party’s prime objective. Back then, Europe was the source not of treacherous conspiracies that had to be thwarted, but of democratic criteria that had to be embraced.