The famous politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit, also known as Red Danny, who has played a crucial role in the history of human rights activism, held high expectations about our country a decade ago. He was one of the most ardent supporters of Turkey's membership in the European Union, describing Turkey as the “Bosporus miracle.”
He viewed the moves by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) administration as a silent revolution and supported President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan against his staunch opponents in both Europe and Turkey. He once stated that it was not a dream to fulfill the Bosporus miracle and that hopefully the two sides would one day work together. So where are we now after 10 years? The same figure made the best statement on the current situation in Turkey. In a statement a few months ago, Cohn-Bendit -- noting that everybody who does not support Erdoğan is declared a traitor in Turkey -- said: “If you are not declared a traitor by Erdoğan, then you are not a democrat.”
When the police raided our building to take Editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanlı to the police station on Sunday, I thought much like every democrat in the world and in Turkey. We, as the Zaman family, had been pretty excited about the possibility that Turkey would become a democracy along European standards. For this reason, we have always supported Erdoğan's moves towards democratization and expressed our commitment to the protection of democratic principles. People were chanting “free media cannot be silenced” in our building when the raid took place, and I remembered the columns I wrote to defend Erdoğan against the accusations by the world 10 years ago, that he would not actually change and that he had a secret agenda.
Do I regret supporting the democratic moves of Erdoğan or standing against the dissolution case filed against the AKP because I found it an antidemocratic move? No. Back then, this was the requirement of being a democrat. Red Danny, Hasan Cemal, Şahin Alpay, Ergun Özbudun, Haşim Kılıç, Ahmet Altan, Bülent Keneş, Hasan Cemal, Şahin Alpay, Hidayet Karaca, Murat Belge and Ekrem Dumanlı all did the same. We did what being a democrat required us to do back then; how could we know that Erdoğan, when seizing power, would suspend freedoms and liberties, change Turkey's direction from the EU to authoritarianism, declare all who criticize him as traitors, rely on oppressive measures to silence the media, sponsor police raids against media workers, make all inspection mechanisms dysfunctional and defy the EU, which has criticized the antidemocratic moves that have come despite Erdoğan pledging to introduce EU standards in Turkey? What could we do? We were all deceived.
I regret criticizing Nuray Mert, who warned of civilian oppression five years ago, instead of trying to understand her. I apologize to her and all others that I failed to be empathetic in my statements and columns.
In recent months, we have been subjected to inhumane treatment and insults; those can be tolerated to some extent. But what makes us really sad is that our country has been disgraced due to unreasonable and illegal practices that are not compatible with law and democracy. Nobody believes the arguments and allegations raised by the pro-government media that there is a parallel state in Turkey responsible for all the evil developments. What is happening is not about a disagreement between the AKP and the Gülen movement. Turkey is moving away from the rule of law and democracy, and unfortunately this will affect everyone. The most recent report by Freedom House -- which rates countries' democratic development -- reveals that the media is “not free” in Turkey.
Our greatest consolation is the huge support, even from people who do not hold our views, expressed for us in the aftermath of the police raid of our building. If the fearless stance of the Zaman, İpek and Samanyolu groups encourages other media to do the same and contributes to our understanding of democracy, I hope that this crisis turns into a golden opportunity.
Published on Today's Zaman, 19 December 2014, Friday