The recent circular that reassigned more than 2,000 judges and prosecutors brought the "witch hunt" issue to the agenda once again, but it was quickly eclipsed by other pressing issues.
Given the fact that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been continuously parroting this story over the last six months, the witch hunt will become more widespread in the coming months. From the way it is being implemented as well as its broad scope, we can understand that it was planned a long time ago. We can assume that this "coup" and "parallel" talk has been maintained with an increasing intensity for two reasons.
The first inferable purpose is to cover up the graft and bribery investigations that surfaced on Dec. 17, 2013 and exert total government control over them. It is very likely that these investigations may lead to a process similar to that of the Deniz Feneri (Lighthouse) case, in which a Turkish charity based in Germany was found to have inappropriately acquired and misused millions of euros. But it is clear that the witch hunt-associated reassignments as well as the efforts to pass bills that violate the very spirit of the Constitution, such as the bill reorganizing the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), the bill giving extensive powers to the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and the bill introducing increased censorship of the Internet, all seek to give the impression that the government is "not corrupt." The course of the corruption investigations will indicate whether Turkey's institutions can resist this process that makes the country seem like a banana republic.
Another problem that is as crucial as corruption has also become visible with the witch hunt. The first reassignments of judges, prosecutors and police chiefs that started with the corruption investigations of Dec. 17 were not just part of the witch hunt. The reassignments, including those of members of the Judges and Prosecutors Association (YARSAV), were made based on some "reliability" criteria.
But the witch hunt that has been affecting virtually all state institutions as well as private sector companies in recent months has a specific target: a social group, namely the Hizmet movement. Thousands of innocent people are being victimized solely because of their affiliation with or sympathy toward a social group, and no one can raise an objection to this profound injustice. This silence is no coincidence and it has understandable -- but worrisome -- justifications.
It is understandable, as the people who were arrested in the Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) cases and who have now been released rushed to make it clear that they would support the prime minister in his witch hunt efforts. The prime minister told these people that these investigations were being pursued by the Hizmet movement, not by the prosecutors or judges of the Turkish Republic. These people will be acting with a sense of revenge.
There are groups within the Turkish left and the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) who are angry with the Hizmet movement for its extended support of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). These groups will use this as an opportunity to settle accounts with the Hizmet movement. They don't bother to do anything about the tension between the AKP and the Hizmet movement because they believe this plays into their hands, but they are turning a blind eye to the fact that what's really at stake in this conflict is democracy.
But why do the leftist, liberal or AKP democrats choose to keep silent?
CHP Tunceli deputy Hüseyin Aygün submitted a parliamentary motion asking if Alevis had been profiled by the state, and Interior Minister Efkan Ala gave an interesting and indirect answer to this question. Stressing that profiling as a practice started in 1999 and was not designed to specifically target Alevis, Ala indicated that "all citizens" were/are profiled based on their social, political or cultural characteristics. Thus, he indirectly acknowledged that decisions resulting from the Feb. 28, 1997 postmodern coup were maintained by the ruling AKP.
We must understand that there is a witch hunt currently targeting the Hizmet movement and keeping silent about it will endorse future witch hunts targeting other groups. A state's practice of collecting unlimited information is prone to abuse and, therefore, democracy introduces restrictions on this practice, urging the state to be transparent and accountable. Secret profiling practices may pave the way for injustice or misuse of the information, making individuals vulnerable. For this reason, raising objections to witch hunts conducted against any social group is part of the effort to promote the rule of law and democracy.
I am sure that leftist intellectuals and democrats -- including those in the AKP ranks -- know this very well, but they are silent. This silence about the witch hunt is proof that our political culture shaped by military coups is still intact, isn't it? Or is it that this silence is another manifestation of our secular education that taught us to be skeptical of religious communities?
Published on Sunday's Zaman, 22 June 2014, Sunday