First, let me introduce to you the key players in this story:
Angelina Jolie: As you most probably already know, she is a beautiful, famous, successful and Oscar-winning American actress. But she is also a humanitarian activist and has been working as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Syrian refugees in Turkey: These are the people who have fled from the brutal regime of the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, to save their lives. Numbering around 100,000, they are now living in the camps that the Turkish government has provided for them.
CHP: “Republican People’s Party,” or the main opposition party in Turkey, founded by none other than Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and has been hailed for long as the pillar of “secularism.”
Now, what brought these seemingly unrelated characters together was the visit that Jolie paid to Turkey about a week ago. Her mission was to visit the Syrian refugee camps and bring more global attention to this severe crisis.
So, Jolie visited the camps, mingled with the refugees, and declared that she had never seen camps as good as these. “The refugees are extremely grateful to the Turkish government,” she said to the press. “I would like to express my gratitude as well.”
Quite understandably, the members of the Turkish government were very happy about this visit, not only because they received praise from Jolie, but also because she helped bring more media attention to a crisis in which Turkey has been very much left alone. Hence Jolie was welcomed personally by President Abdullah Gül, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, and Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin.
And that is where the CHP came into the scene. It was likely that this party would not enjoy Jolie’s remarks, for it has been too critical of the government’s anti-al-Assad stance and its welcoming of Syrian refugees. The very camps Jolie praised were recently condemned by some CHP spokesmen as “terrorist” bases.
But one of the CHP faces, Mehmet Kesimoğlu, deputy from the northwestern province of Kırklareli, went further and somewhat more creative: He gave a petition to the Turkish Parliament questioning “the secret meeting” between Jolie and the interior minister and probing whether the American actress was actually a “CIA agent.” He rhetorically asked:
“Does Jolie’s visit complete the visits that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and CIA head David Petraeus made to Turkey? Is Angelina Jolie an agent of the CIA, and is there any intelligence report about Angelina Jolie that indicates she is used as the face of CIA’s war politics?”
I probably do not need to explain how silly this remark is. But let me try to explain what it says about the CHP.
This political party, which has always venerated itself as Turkey’s “progressive” force, is actually the home of some of its most parochial and bigoted minds. In domestic issues, they subscribe to an anti-liberal mix of secularism and nationalism, whereas in global issues they abide by a hollow “anti-imperialism.” They are simply outdated, and that is why they can never become a promising opponent that makes the incumbent AKP feel challenged. The better news is that CHP’s new leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, is trying to bring some change to his party. I trust his sincerity and wish him success. But I also know that his task is not easy, for the CHP needs a lot of soul-searching to enter the 21st century.