Turkey had never been a safe place for those opposing the military tutelage system.
Democratically elected governments were unable to both rule and govern the nation, as they were obliged to share the power with the politically meddlesome military. Yet, those who were fiercely secular were safe as long as they got along well with the establishment led by the military. Conservative and Islam-sensitive Turks were also relatively safe under the governments of those times since they were mostly ideologically rightist and conservative. Hence, many Turks found sanctuary in return for their alliances with either the military or with the conservative governments.
The exceptions, those who were not safe or secure in Turkey, were mostly Turkish Kurds, leftists as well as minority groups such as Greeks who always felt pressure from either the military establishment or the conservative governments. Many Turkish Kurds and leftists became refugees in Scandinavian or European countries to escape prison sentences they received purely due to the fact that their ideology differed from that of the state. Many Turkish Greeks, meanwhile, returned to their homeland, Greece, to escape state pressure. Therefore, these groups also found a kind of a secure life in different countries.
However, since conservatives have been going after conservatives lately, it would not be an exaggeration if I said no one is safe in Turkey anymore.
It is the first time in Turkish history that a conservative party has declared its animosity for a conservative group, i.e., the Hizmet movement. The conservative and Islam-based Justice and Development Party (AKP) -- in power since 2002 -- has initiated a war against its one-time ally, the Hizmet movement, headed by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.
Presidential candidate and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has personally initiated a smear campaign against Hizmet supporters since the disclosure of a high-profile corruption and bribery scandal on Dec. 17 last year, blaming the movement for undermining him and his government by orchestrating the graft probe by exploiting alleged police and judiciary sympathy with the movement. As part of the ongoing smear campaign, over 30 policemen alleged to be pro-Hizmet were recently detained on charges of spying against the government, among other things.
The government has recently forged a de facto alliance with the military, whose political power has been curbed through several reforms, against its former ally Hizmet by putting the blame on the latter for allegedly being responsible for initiating coup plot trials such as Balyoz (Sledgehammer). The movement allegedly did so through judges and policemen the government claimed were loyal to the religious movement. This is despite the fact that courts produced hundreds of pages of evidence during the coup plot trials, evidence that provided proof of unconstitutional attempts to unseat the current government.
The witch hunt that the government has initiated within the police and the judiciary as well as in other state institutions since the disclosure of the graft probe -- in which Prime Minister Erdoğan and some of his family members were implicated -- has become possible by destroying the rule of law and instead resorting to unlawful acts. The government has not allowed the judiciary to continue with the graft investigations and, on the contrary, it has been taking every step possible to create the illusion that corruption never took place at all.
For that reason, a serious suspicion has emerged among opposition groups that the government has been acting out of revenge instead of following legal procedures in the steps it has taken against those who are either being purged within their institutions or being detained on the grounds that they belong to the Hizmet movement.
The government's strategy of silencing the opposition as a whole through the violation of the rule of law reminds us of a quote from a biblical parable, which says, “If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword.” In other words, if you use violence or other harsh means against other people, you can expect to have those same means used against you.
Erdoğan has to realize that today's detainers can become tomorrow's detainees.
I hope that once (or rather if) Erdoğan wins the presidential election -- whose first round will take place this coming Sunday -- his party, with or without him, will reset its policies, reinstall the rule of law and correct Turkey's negative image in the world.
Published on Today's Zaman, 04 August 2014, Monday