On Sunday (Dec. 14) the police raided the Zaman daily and Samanyolu TV and detained some of their top executives. They also detained former police chiefs. They were accused of belonging to a terrorist network conspiring to overthrow the incumbent government, among other charges.
The events that led to this dramatic outcome started with investigations of graft and abuses of office by members of the Cabinet and the inner circle of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan one year ago (Dec. 17).
Since then the government has developed a counter-defense strategy of demonizing an illegal “parallel state” structure affiliated with Fethullah Gülen, a cleric who has been living in self-imposed exile in the US since 1999. As part of this strategy the government changed laws, twisted judicial institutions and tightened control of the judiciary. Most recently it passed a law restructuring two of the highest courts in the country. It dismissed or reassigned thousands of police chiefs, prosecutors and judges, the end result of which was the closure of the corruption cases.
Part of their strategy was to subdue the press and support businesspeople to buy off media organs to build a firewall around the government. As a consequence, voices of opposition have faded and senior media figures have been laid off. New arrests indicate that efforts to silence the remaining opposition media will continue.
In recent years -- especially in the third term of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government -- observers claim that Turkey has evolved from an example of a successful Muslim democracy to an authoritarian country with intolerance for dissent. What is odd is the declaration of war on a Muslim civic organization by a self-declared pious government. Needless to say, this is an asymmetrical fight because the AKP is in total control of state organs.
This infighting among “believers” obscures the years of cooperation between the AKP and the Gülen movement, which had forged a successful partnership in ending military tutelage and bringing the government closer to the people.
This author has witnessed three-and-a-half military coups, curfews, systematic torture, times of “extraordinary law,” murder sprees by “unidentified (official) assassins.” Turkey missed the 20th century and remained a mediocre economy and democracy. The question that stands before us is whether the 21st century will become another missed opportunity.
Every citizen of Turkey ought to ask why the security of the state, the government or the regime comes before the rights and freedoms of the citizens. Is it really that hard to understand that these are all pretexts to obscure the continuity of authoritarian governments and a lack of fundamental rights?
It is obvious that all of those traitors, terrorist outfits, enemies of the nation/state have been fabricated to cover up this truth. That is why we have so far failed to be a country of the rule of law or a fully fledged democracy.
How can a society that harbors enemies within be called a nation?
Unfortunately we do not trust each other and hardly believe in the same values. That is why we cannot change the military-made Constitution and come up with a new one reflecting a popular consensus. This makes it virtually impossible to imagine a common future in this volatile part of the world, which makes it even more difficult with the Kurdish problem still unresolved.
The operation that is unfolding has been characterized as a “revenge operation” by the press. There cannot be revenge in a polity where the rule of law is in effect. There can only be crime and punishment, both legal concepts shaped by international legal standards.
Recent arrests have once again revealed that the rule of law is the cement that holds society together and maintains confidence in the system. All of us need the protection of the law. Even the soldiers who once believed that they could fix the ills of society with brute force realized this truth when they faced irregular procedures during their prosecution and litigation.
It is up to us, the writers and the thinkers who have access to the public's attention, to say what is good for all and how suicidal it is to subvert the path to justice for all. However, we can only do it if we have the freedom to do so. More than governments, the real guardians of the rights and freedoms are the people. Now is the time for the Turkish people to prove whether they deserve freedom and democracy over daily gains and ideological allegiances.
Published on Today's Zaman, 16 December 2014, Tuesday