Turkey is effectively governed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in violation of all the constitutional provisions that define a parliamentary system and a presidential oath that obliges him to maintain political neutrality. Claiming that serious corruption allegations against members of his Cabinet and family were fabricated in a conspiracy to topple his government by what he calls the “parallel state,” meaning the faith-based social movement inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, he has introduced legislation that has emasculated the rule of law and crippled the independence of the judiciary in order to stifle the graft probe.
Erdoğan is leading the country toward a one-man, one-party rule, building (or believing himself to build) not-so-veiled alliances with those implicated in the Balyoz and Ergenekon military coup attempts on the one hand and with pro-Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) elements charged with organizing a true parallel state in the Kurdish-majority region on the other, both of whom also claim to simply be victims of evidence fabricated by Gülenist prosecutors and police, having done no wrong.
Opposition parties, civil society groups, media and intellectuals committed to a liberal democracy do not, however, bow before Erdoğan. Voices against the direction he is leading the country in are getting even louder. Let me give examples from just the last two weeks.
A number of prominent writers and journalists issued a statement calling on the government to reverse course on the dangerous road it is leading the country down. At least 10,000 citizens have co-signed that statement, so far. Last week, Haluk Dinçer, chairman of the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TÜSİAD), the country's most powerful civil society organization, said in an interview that he does not see any “parallel structure” within the state, was not at all surprised by the corruption allegations against the government, is against the adoption of a “Turkish-style” presidential system as desired by Erdoğan, and that his interlocutor is not the constitutionally neutral president but the prime minister. Erdoğan was infuriated.
Sedef Kabaş, a journalist who was detained because she protested against the dismissal of the corruption charges on Twitter, said: “There is nothing to be afraid of. Why should we be afraid? Those who lie and steal are the ones who should fear…” The Journalists Association of Turkey (TGC) objected to her detention and stated that not less than 70 journalists were currently on trial for reporting on the corruption allegations.
Salih Memecan, a well-known cartoonist of the pro-government newspaper Sabah, surprised with his new year's cartoon that criticized the government on issues ranging from the Gezi Park protests, the corruption allegations and pressure on journalists to the detention of a 16-year-old student last week for insulting the president. Professor Eser Karakaş, a columnist for the pro-government newspaper Star, said in an interview: “The Justice and Development Party [AKP] is not a conservative but an opportunistic party… It sees Turkey as a country to be saved from non-Muslim domination.”
There are also voices raised against the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democracy Party's (HDP) not-so-veiled appeasement of the AKP. When Hatip Dicle, an HDP deputy, parroting Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, claimed that the recent clashes between pro-PKK and pro-Hizbullah (Turkey) militants were a provocation by the “parallel state” to derail the peace talks between the government and the PKK, Altan Tan, another deputy from the same party retorted: “Even a stone that drops from the sky is blamed on the ‘parallel state.' … Some people are doing this just to please the government. This is not right.”
But the most remarkable criticism directed against the HDP came from a former pro-Kurdish parliament member, Mahmut Alınak, who said: “While the AKP is deceiving the people by functioning as a matchless lying machine … you are helping it to maintain the status quo. It is well known that holders of power often encourage their harmless opponents to use the harshest of words against them, even engage in polemics with them. They manage to rein in the raging discontent of the people by taking advantage of sharp-tongued but congenial politicians.” What harsh words!
Published on Sunday's Zaman, 04 January 2015, Sunday