Hospitality in Turkey’s Public Diplomacy

Turkey began to employ public diplomacy as the government policy too late compared to Western countries, from 2010’s and onwards. By establishing Prime Ministry Public Diplomacy Office in January 2010 under the coordination of now presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın, Turkey started to generate and implement public diplomacy that is integrated and coordinated with Turkish foreign policy. After the elections in 24th June, as Turkey shifted to Presidential System, mentioned office was abolished and Presidential Communications Office, under the appointed director Fahrettin Altun, undertook its role. This suggests that as a governmental policy, maintaining its highest level of importance public diplomacy continues to be pursued.

Initially, Turkey realized public diplomacy to tell the country’s new story to the world since AK Party government had set a policy of making Turkey a model country. In this context, the government aimed to be the model for the Middle East by using its Muslim democracy identity as soft power. Turkey really did captured a ‘Turkey/Ottoman momentum’ in the world, especially in the Middle East between 2003 and 2013 with a diversified multidimensional foreign policy of public diplomacy, cultural diplomacy, diaspora diplomacy, foreign aid and humanitarian diplomacy which conducted in this context. So much so that, the new actor of Muslim Middle Eastern countries during the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ of uprisings started at the end of 2010, began to take AK Party’s Turkey as a model. However, these uprisings did not bring Arab Spring as expected and instead started civil wars. Especially the Syrian civil war did not only interrupt Turkey’s soft power diplomacy, which was implemented since 2003, it also led Turkey to employ hard power and security based military and defence policy.

Thus, this made Turkey ‘the most hospitable country which hosts the most refugees in the world’ with nearly 4 million Syrian refugees as of 2018. Additionally, while Western countries were turning a blind eye to Syrian refugees, pursuing an open door policy led Turkey to raise the country’s image to the hospitable country for the international community and global public opinion.

With the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the Syrian refugees who fled the war in their country began to arrive in Turkey taking advantage of its open-door policy. Thus, this made Turkey ‘the most hospitable country which hosts the most refugees in the world’ with nearly 4 million Syrian refugees as of 2018. Additionally, while Western countries were turning a blind eye to Syrian refugees, pursuing an open door policy led Turkey to raise the country’s image to the hospitable country for the international community and global public opinion. Since has spent around 31 million euros for refugees needs such as shelter, education and food Turkey has begun to appear as model of hospitality for the world. In this context, Turkey has also gained the appreciation of the world community as the most generous country among the aiding refugees. In this way, with its approach towards the Syrian refugees, once again Turkey has been appreciated both by international community and especially oppressed peoples as the country, which is fulfilling the humanity’s responsibility.

In this sense, Turkey’s policy towards Syrian refugees has become the story of the new public diplomacy. Turkey has made its generosity and hospitality towards Syrian refugees its public diplomacy and has defined its foreign policy as ‘humanitarian foreign policy’. In this way, its policy of becoming a model country for the Middle East with its Muslim democracy identity, which was interrupted by the Arab spring, has transformed into this new foreign policy and public diplomacy over the Syrian refugees.

Turkey has started to gain hearts and minds by using the metaphor of immigrant (muhacir-ensar) in conformity with the rhetoric in the history of Islam on the one hand and to implement public diplomacy politics for becoming a model again on the other. In this sense, Turkey has succeeded to put the policy of becoming a model to different place by showing to Muslim societies that Turkey maintains the tradition of being a safe haven (âlempenâh) for battered and persecuted people since Ottoman period.

Turkey has started to gain hearts and minds by using the metaphor of immigrant (muhacir-ensar) in conformity with the rhetoric in the history of Islam on the one hand and to implement public diplomacy politics for becoming a model again on the other. In this sense, Turkey has succeeded to put the policy of becoming a model to different place by showing to Muslim societies that Turkey maintains the tradition of being a safe haven (âlempenâh) for battered and persecuted people since Ottoman period. Thus Turkey is keeping the feature of being a “safe haven” in the Ottoman period as a result of public diplomacy about the Syrian refugees. Moreover, the Syrian refugees ensured that Turkish public diplomacy meets hospitality and so Turkish type hospitable public diplomacy model has been introduced to the world.

In the recent years, by following a global peace themed diplomacy in a large geography from Sudan to Somalia, in Palestine and Myanmar Turkey has brought a humanitarian oriented, hospitality and generosity based Turkish type of new approach to public diplomacy. In this way, Turkey has succeeded to stand out as the country that can generate norms that focus on human with its new diplomacy principles. Especially, the President Erdoğan’s rhetoric of ‘the world is greater than five’ involves a major criticism of the international community’s failure at solving the great humanitarian crises, and particularly the UN system. In the last analysis, the dysfunction of the current international system due to the transformation of current global politics into chaos politics increases the number of humanitarian crises globally and makes them permanent. This increases the chances of Turkey’s humanitarian-driven and prioritizing global peace foreign policy to become a model.