December 25, 2014

This burden is too much for Turkey

Cafer Solgun

Nothing would attest more clearly and strikingly to the country President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are dreaming of establishing than Hidayet Karaca, the head of the Samanyolu Broadcasting Group, and three police officers being arrested with frivolous and fictitious evidence on charges of “being a leader or member of an armed terrorist organization.”

The Western countries issued high-level reactions. Reactions also came from human rights organizations and reputable media outlets. The police operation of Dec. 14 was etched into history as a worrisome development for the sake of freedom of thought and expression as well as press freedom. In the meantime, President Erdoğan's arbitrary and authoritarian rule was severely criticized.

"Mind your own business," was all Erdoğan could say to the Western countries which express concern and warnings. This attitude did nothing but demonstrate the appropriateness of these criticisms and warnings. Indeed, no leader who has the minimal democratic upbringing and responsibilities can adopt such a style or wording.

If the European Union does not express its opinion about the developments that made many people questioned the very existence of democracy in Turkey, this would be surprising. This is because Turkey expresses its intention to become a member of the EU. It follows that, whether we like it or not, the EU is obliged to closely monitor the developments that directly concern democratization in our country. The attitude exhibited in the face of criticism by those who like to use positive assessments from the EU as election propaganda is thought-provoking.

It must never be forgotten that the country's EU bid is not a personal, arbitrary decision of any political party or leader, but the strategic decision of Turkey. The current crisis has come to the point of toying with Turkey's strategic preferences…

Who opposed the idea of making Turkey a member of the EU five years ago? Neo-nationalists, sympathizers of Ergenekon, supporters of military tutelage… They maintain their position. But where do the AKP and Erdoğan stand? They knowingly paved the way for boosting the anti-EU sentiments by saying that the EU should mind its own business and or referring to the EU as "outside circles." Where does this attitude drive them? The answer to this question is quite obvious.

International reactions aside, the important bit, of course, was the level of reaction Turkish society would show to the dangerously high levels of the AKP's unrestrained and arbitrary practices.

Indeed, the public did not remain silent to the developments, but demonstrated its reactions, recognizing the danger. Thousands of people waited day and night outside police departments and courthouses for several days, and this was what dictatorship hopefuls would fear the most, and their fears proved to be true.

Although its members used to refrain from taking to the streets in protest in the past, the Hizmet movement attended legitimate and peaceful street demonstrations, carrying the Quran, flags and placards reading "Free media cannot be silenced," and this certainly spiked the guns of the forces behind the Dec. 14 investigation. This most probably made it impossible for the operation to be carried out so as to spread to other people and organizations.

Concerns for democracy brought together people and groups that would not come together under normal conditions. This was another important development that should be noted.

The investigation launched with the strongly worded but baseless accusations such as "parallel state" and "terrorist organization" will turn into platforms where the AKP's and Erdoğan's arbitrary, unfair and unlawful rule is tried.

The AKP and Erdoğan have become the burden Turkey finds increasingly impossible to carry. There are probably certain members of the ruling party who are aware of this fact and we will witness a high level of dissent that is hard to conceal in the run-up to the elections.

Published on Today's Zaman, 25 December 2014, Thursday