June 15, 2014

Losing direction

Orhan Oğuz Gürbüz

How much progress can be made by undermining such notions as justice and law in Turkey? This is the fundamental question. A state where legal mechanisms are not properly operated cannot possibly offer something to its people or to the international community.

Let us review what has been happening in Turkey in recent days. Nearly 5,500 people were sued because of their participation in the Taksim Gezi protests. This simply eliminates the right to protest. Strong censorship is imposed upon the media.

There are serious concerns among the people that social media is being monitored more secretly. It is argued that the interior minister is holding talks with a Swedish company to install a system that would block content the ministry finds harmful in Turkey. The system operates on the premise of blocking Internet content based on some keywords previously introduced into the software.

The government also relies on tools and methods of pressure in an effort to intimidate media organs. A huge operation is being carried out to ensure that the papers are unable to criticize or question government actions. It is now impossible to follow the lies being told by the pro-government media outlets. Their allegations that hundreds of state officials were illegally wiretapped by the Hizmet movement are no longer credible.

It recently became evident that even the phone numbers they published were fake. Those who have been trying to blame the Hizmet movement by fabricating evidence are violating the law. Days have passed since the prime minister's accusation that a police legal motion referred to him as “former prime minister.” This document, which the prime minister argued he had in his possession, was never published, not even by the pro-government media.

Because it has been useful, the government will still carry out witch-hunts and polarization by relying on fabricated evidence and documents. But those who think that these illegal moves and authoritarian acts are welcomed or overlooked by the international community are just wrong.

Because of the heated discussions in international politics, such injustices may at least partially go unattended. But the actors in international politics and its memory will eventually recall these pressures and undemocratic moves.

In her recently published book, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised serious criticisms of Erdoğan and the future of Turkey: Despite positive developments under Erdoğan's leadership, she wrote, his government's harsh treatment of political opponents and journalists was alarming. The restriction of the sphere of action of the opposition raised serious doubts on where Erdoğan was taking his country and on his responsibilities vis-à-vis democracy.

She noted that, in his third term, Erdoğan harshly responded to the protesters who questioned some of his decisions. Corruption remained a huge problem; and the government failed to address the expectations of the middle class citizens, according to Clinton. The efforts to transform Turkey into a country deprived of fundamental rights and freedoms cannot succeed.

Some people may retain this illusion thanks to the government's control over part of the media. But the international community as well as people sensitive to democracy will not consent to the actions of those who have lost their direction.

Published on Today's Zaman, 14 June 2014, Saturday