August 27, 2014

Erdoğan uses aggressive, discriminatory rhetoric in farewell speech

In a speech delivered on Wednesday to bid farewell to his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) members and supporters, President-elect Recep Tayyip Erdoğan once again used aggressive and insulting language when speaking of his critics.

He used a relatively mild and peaceful tone as he expressed his wishes for a stronger and democratic Turkey. He praised his AK Party government for its contributions to that end. He said he was ready to extend his hand to all 77 million citizens of Turkey in order to restore peace, but apparently his opponents will be left out of that mass.

While targeting his opponents, Erdoğan took a harsher tone consisting of slander, insults and bellicose language.

Referring to some deputies who parted ways with the AK Party in the past couple of months -- especially after the Dec. 17, 2013 anti-corruption investigation became public, Erdoğan said those deputies are “doomed to be forgotten by the public.” “No one remembers or will remember those deputies' slander. Those who resigned [from the AK Party] upon [receiving] phone calls from across the ocean are not and will not be remembered by anyone,” he said. With “across the ocean,” Erdoğan was referring to Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who inspires the faith-based Hizmet movement and currently lives in the US.

Erdoğan has accused the Hizmet movement of being behind the allegations of corruption as part of an effort to overturn his government. Gülen has denied the claims repeatedly and the government has failed to present any evidence of such activity.

“Those who have become toys for others have already been forgotten by the people. There are also some people who have not been forgotten yet. But they should beware; they will be thrown into the trash of history soon,” Erdoğan stated.

The graft and bribery investigation that came to public attention on Dec. 17, 2013 included lawfully obtained voice recordings and substantial evidence indicating that Erdoğan, his family and his Cabinet ministers engaged in corrupt practices, received bribes and unlawfully meddled with the judiciary, the business world and sports.

However, Erdoğan tries to give the impression of being innocent by parroting that the corruption claims that implicate him, his relatives and his government are manipulations created by the Hizmet movement. In this context, he uses very harsh language of hatred and violence that aim to discredit certain segments of society in religious and moral terms and to economically undermine them.

The Hizmet movement denies the accusations.

On Wednesday, Erdoğan increasingly sharpened his tone against the Hizmet movement and its members, dropping strong hints that he was not planning to bury the hatchet. Again referring to the movement as the “parallel structure,” Erdoğan said the movement has been “condemned” in terms of politics and that now it is time to condemn the structure in legal terms.

Since Dec. 17 of last year, the AK Party government has reassigned more than 40,000 police officers, civil servants, judges and prosecutors for no official reason other than their suspected links to the Hizmet movement. Critics have described the arbitrary reassignments as a “witch hunt.”

Erdoğan described the reassignments as part of the effort to fight the parallel structure and redesign public institutions and the judiciary.

“We cannot leave the justice system to the blackmail of a handful of hashashins,” he said. The Hashashin is a shadowy group that carried out politically motivated assassinations during the time of the Seljuk Empire. Erdoğan often refers to Hizmet members as the Hashashin. “Pennsylvania [a reference to Gülen] cannot give orders to the Turkish justice system. We will eliminate hashashins from among the judges and prosecutors and lift the shadow from over the justice system,” he stated.

Addressing Gülen, Erdoğan asked if the scholar loves his country. “If you love your country, why are you living in Pennsylvania and not in Turkey? Why don't you come to Turkey? Why don't you come to Erzurum [Gülen's hometown] or Ankara or Konya?” he asked.

In addition, Erdoğan claimed that the Hizmet movement has sought to “finish off” the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and that the movement cooperated with the Republican People's Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the People's Democratic Party (HDP) to this end.

He also confessed to having picked Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to succeed him as prime minister due to Davutoğlu's clear stance against the parallel structure. He said he believes Davutoğlu will carry out a very effective struggle against the parallel structure. “Our people have given us the authority. And those who betrayed our country are now being called to account. Treason will be punished. It will be one of my duties to punish treason. No one should expect me to remain silent on this [parallel] issue during my time in the president's office,” Erdoğan remarked.

Since late July, many police officers have been targeted in government-backed operations. The government believes the officers are members of the Hizmet movement. A total of 55 policemen have been placed under arrest pending trial so far on accusations of illegal wiretapping and spying -- despite a lack of evidence.

Erdoğan also said on Wednesday that Davutoğlu is not a “caretaker” for the AK Party and government. Many believe Davutoğlu's nomination as the new AK Party chair and prime minister was imposed on the party by Erdoğan, who has indicated that he wants to rule the government with a low-key figure in the prime ministry serving by his side as head of state.

“I will extend my helping hand to Davutoğlu. I'd like to clearly state one point: Mr. Davutoğlu is not a caretaker. The AK Party has never been a one-man party and it will never be so. It has always been a party where decisions are taken through consensus,” he noted, and added that the AK Party will remain a party of principles under Davutoğlu's rule.

Criticism of opposition

The opposition CHP, MHP and HDP also received their share of criticism from Erdoğan.

Erdoğan targeted CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for his earlier remarks that he will not attend Erdoğan's inauguration ceremony as the new Turkish president on Thursday (today). “What will we lose if the chairman of the main opposition party does not attend our [presidential swearing-in] ceremony? Nothing. But he will absolutely lose many things,” Erdoğan said.

He noted that it is time the CHP began questioning its policies.

“The CHP should confront history. A CHP that defends the status quo cannot bring any benefit [to Turkey]. A CHP that stands opposed to the settlement process cannot reconcile with the people,” he said.

Targeting the MHP, Erdoğan said the party “feeds on terror.” “The party has not dealt with any of the problems of the country since it entered Parliament in 2007, but instead, it abused martyrs [those killed by the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)]. It will lose its reason for existence due to the settlement process. This is why the MHP is opposed to the process,” he stated.

Regarding the pro-Kurdish HDP, Erdoğan said the party grows thanks to terror. “The HDP preferred to engage in politics in the shadow of politics instead of engaging in independent and democratic politics. It hides behind children who are carrying stones in their hands [to throw at security forces]. It turns a deaf ear to mothers whose children have been kidnapped [by the terrorist PKK]. The HDP should stop abusing [people's suffering] and become a political party of Turkey.”

Published on Today's Zaman, 27 August 2014, Wednesday