January 2, 2015

A declaration of treason is imminent

Abdülhamit Bilici

When certain circles of the guardian authority opened court cases aiming to see the Justice and Development Party (AKP) -- which had come to power by the vote of the Turkish people -- shut down, I tried to depict just how low those who defended these moves had stooped by telling the following Temel joke:
When Temel set out in the wrong direction one day on the freeway, a policeman tried to warn the cars going in the right direction by announcing “Warning, warning! A car has entered the freeway heading in the wrong direction!” Temel, hearing this, says to himself, “Not just one, all of them!”
Unfortunately, today we could tell the same joke, but apply it to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan -- who declares anyone issuing even the slightest criticism of him a "traitor" and who apparently thinks he has authority on issues that range all the way from birth control to which journalist should be imprisoned next -- and to the narrow oligarchic structure that is currently dragging the AKP towards suicide.

After all, what we are witnessing these days -- the long arm of the state trying to shape society and the media, the intentional creation of domestic enemies, intervention in what journalists should or shouldn't be writing about, the protection of thieves (while those who catch them are tossed unceremoniously into prison), the shaking of hands with terrorists (while those who fight terrorism are declared terrorists), the purposeful passage of laws that are anathema to the Constitution and so on -- is really no different than the absurd situation described in the Temel joke.

As a result, there's really nothing left to say to those who still fail to grasp that this country's democracy and laws have slipped off their tracks, and who still see what is unfolding as being some manifestation of a fight between the AKP and the Hizmet movement. Take a moment to think about all that has happened to those who don't even have the slightest connection to the Hizmet movement, but who have voiced their opinions on these realities; this is enough to show you that the situation runs much deeper than the Hizmet-AKP conflict.

Recently, respected businessman and Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TÜSİAD) President Muharrem Yılmaz had these gentle words of warning for Erdoğan, who -- like Temel -- is clearly driving his vehicle in the wrong direction: “It is simply not possible for foreign capital to flow into a country where the supremacy of the law is not respected, where the justice system does not function according to EU norms, where the independence of the institutions that balance the economy has been overshadowed, where tax penalties and other types of penalties are used to put pressure on companies, and where the bidding tender rules have been changed over and over again.”

Now take a moment to recall Erdoğan's response to these words from Yılmaz: “The TÜSİAD president cannot just come forward and tell us that ‘global capital is not going to come here.' If he uses these words, it is tantamount to treason against the country.”

So what we see here is that, apparently, when a businessman tells us, “If we stop being a state of law, the economy will be seriously damaged,” it is now enough for him to be marked as a “traitor.” And that's not all. The pro-government media then turned on Yılmaz with a vengeance, so much so in fact that he wound up having to resign from his position as TÜSİAD president in order not to lose his grasp on his other affairs.

Though it was difficult finding someone else willing to take over the helm of TÜSİAD -- which has become akin to wearing a shirt of fire -- in the end, Haluk Dinçer from Sabancı Holding stepped forward to shoulder the job. But in an interview published on Monday in the Hürriyet daily, he repeated words akin to those we have heard so recently, telling those at the rudder of the country, “You are heading the wrong way into traffic.” Here are some outtakes from his interview:
“For the business world, there was nothing surprising about Dec. 17. Turkey has headed 11 steps backwards when it comes to transparency. In a poll we carried out with 800 businesspeople, 37 percent said that their sectors had heavy amounts of corruption, while 48 percent expressed the view that corruption is on the rise.”

“The Gezi protests were, unlike what has been alleged by some, not a coup at all, but rather a negative reaction to authoritarianism. And if, at some later point, those who really did want to see a coup happen got involved in Gezi, well, it's the job of the justice system to deal with this.”

“Our addressee is not the president, but rather the prime minister. ... A business world under the guidance and control of a state is completely anachronistic; it is not something you can explain to the West... But the European Union is not going to give up on Turkey because of Erdoğan's words.”
In response to the question, “Is the Hizmet movement a criminal organization?” Yılmaz said this: “First of all, crimes are personal matters, and punishment is one of the basic principles of the justice system. So that even if a few people in the Hizmet movement had committed crimes -- let's even suppose the leader had committed a crime -- you still cannot call the entire movement guilty, or indicate that it is a criminal organization.”

Again, in response to the question, “Might Fethullah Gülen be the leader of a terror organization?” Yılmaz replied: “This does not concern me. Of course, based on the presumption of innocence, everyone is innocent until proven otherwise. Fethullah Gülen is also innocent.”

He also added these words: “We are unable to comprehend how it is that the head of the Samanyolu Media Group was arrested because of a series shot in 2009, or how the editor-in-chief of the Zaman daily could have been arrested, how any of this could be linked to some sort of parallel state. There might well be some conflict between two differing groups here, but I do not see any parallel state.”

It does appear that Haluk Dinçer might be declared, at any moment now, a “traitor,” much as Muharrem Yılmaz was. But in an atmosphere in which even distinguished old professors are declaring, “Corruption is not thievery,” perhaps it's not even appropriate to fear being accused of being a “traitor,” or part of a “parallel state.”

Let's not forget these recent words from European politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit, or "Danny the Red," who used to be one of Erdoğan's strongest supporters during some of his most difficult days in the past: “If perchance you are not declared a traitor by Erdoğan these days, it means you are not a democrat.”

Published on Today's Zaman, 02 January 2014, Friday