I recently ran into one of Turkey's leading businessmen in a crowded place. I wouldn't have been offended if he had ignored me. I would have thought that he feared government pressure. He did not do so.
He approached me and made the following statement: “I will never approve of what is being done to you. But I would like you to know that everybody faces pressure. We are afraid even inside our house. Whenever I want to talk about the problems in our country, we leave the phone in the living room. We often go to the basement in such cases. Even there, we talk whisperingly.” I was shocked by what I heard.
Unfortunately, the concerns of a businessman who once supported the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) present an overall sketch of what is happening in Turkey. Those who supported the AK Party thanks to its economic and democratic reforms are now aware that even the slightest objection is being repressed by profiling and police raids. Is it possible to sustain this horrible repression forever?
I just recalled the incident I referred to above when hearing that main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu recently met some businessmen. Press reports indicate that almost all businessmen who attended that meeting were supportive of the AK Party. They told Kılıçdaroğlu that they once supported the AK Party but now they hold serious concerns. And they asked him to keep the meeting confidential. But in the end, it was leaked to the media. Subsequently, CHP Deputy Chair Gürsel Tekin said the businessmen asked for confidentiality and they complied with this request. What does this mean? Everybody knows that the government intimidates its critics? But how long can this last?
Eventually Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç reacted strongly to what has been happening. He raised objections to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's insistence to wield powers not defined by the Constitution. He was right. Arınç made the points that should have been made by Ahmet Davutoğlu, as prime minister. I do not think that he did so to raise a polemic because the government was unable to make a move because of Erdoğan's attitudes. His most recent statements were hurting the settlement process, which was about to cause a social schism. The presidential palace was expected to respond to Arınç; but interestingly, Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek accused Arınç in a tweet of being part of the so-called parallel state. He must have realized that such an accusation would become useful in this country.
Arınç, defining Gökçek as a dishonorable man, accused him of irregularities in his service as mayor. He even said that he would disclose some files after the elections on June 8. This is a grave situation. This means that a number of corruption incidents are likely to have been committed in Ankara. And Arınç, aware of these perceived corruption cases, objected to Gökçek's nomination in the local elections in 2009 and 2014. Do others not know about this? If so, why did they remain silent? Besides, this is not limited to Ankara alone.
Some 50 AK Party deputies voted against the predefined stance of the party in the voting session on corruption. This reflected the discomfort of some deputies in the party on corruption charges. Do the people not know the truth even if there are attempts to cover up the Dec. 17 file? How long can they hide the truth given that things are pretty clear now?
You will see the same even if you move to another issue. Turkey is falling apart; the allegations over a KPSS exam five years ago were covered up back then because of the government's attitude. All legal measures have been exhausted in that case. In the meantime, the exam was cancelled; so nobody was employed in relation to that exam. Now the government is offering another KPSS scenario in which it is blaming the Hizmet movement, also known as the Gülen movement.
A person, Baki S., who, appearing on TV channel TRT, said he did not cheat in that exam, is being used as an informant and forced to make slanderous remarks. Besides, the judge handling the case was replaced two weeks ago and the new judge has made a number of arrests. Would you look at the changes of positions of judges and prosecutors in recent months? Project courts, solicited cases, prosecutors and judges who might have been deliberately appointed in these cases … I really wonder from where those who declared even Fethullah Gülen as the number one suspect received their law degree. Can this last forever? Never.
Is the case different in foreign policy? Up until recently, Turkey had been working on the principle of zero-problems with its neighbors; but now what we have is a Turkey experiencing problems with all its neighbors. Syria turned into a quagmire; relations with Egypt were cut off. Erdoğan, trying to align himself with Saudi Arabia in Yemen, criticized Iran, which responded harshly to his remarks. What is the reason for the daring attitude about Iran, which threatens Turkey?
Turkey has been traveling down the wrong path in all areas including the economy, politics, foreign policy and social life. Unfortunately, it insists on these mistakes. This state of stubbornness will be detrimental to the politicians involved but also to the whole of Turkey.
The gravest outcome of dirty business is this: Those who commit a crime want to cause chaos to cover up their mistakes; they even make plans to achieve their goal. The internal security bill raises concerns over chaos. The excessive authority bestowed to the police, the measures that will be taken without a court order cause serious concerns and raise doubts that this might be because of some dirty businesses. These concerns are legitimate given that thousands of murders in Turkey still remain unsolved.
Over the last few years this country has become a center for radical groups. Al-Qaeda is influential and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is conducting illegal activities on the streets. Hezbollah has revived its presence. The Great Eastern Islamic Raiders' Front (IBDA-C) is ready to commit violence. The general staff is concerned about the readiness of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C) committed violent attacks in recent months.
While all these developments have been taking place, some have been offering unfounded arguments to establish a link between these terror organizations and the Hizmet movement. But nobody makes this analysis: “This structure, the Hizmet movement, has distanced itself to violence and terrorism through its activities and heavy investment on education. You are so unreasonable that you dare trying to maintain linkage between these groups and the Hizmet movement."
Those who relied on an adventurous approach in foreign policy seem to have decided to preserve their personal interests -- but they are desperately doing so; the relevant parties and figures are aware of what they have done. Those who maintained contacts with terror organizations and those who attempted to slander innocent people will not be able to attain their goals; they will be held responsible for their dirty businesses and vicious plans.
Bülent Arınç made an important statement when he brought up former Prosecutor Vural Savaş as an example. He noted that the prosecutor presented them as vampires and that they are doing the same for others. It is true; but unfortunately, he is pretty late in making this criticism. Some grave insults were made, but AK Party figures just remained silent. The leading figures did not make any statements back then. But what they did was pretty grave. So those who remained bystanders are responsible for what happened.
We now see lawsuits filed against those who criticized Erdoğan every day. Here I would like to ask two questions: 1- Why did people not insult former President Abdullah Gül despite the fact that he is the founder of the AK Party and why do people insult Erdoğan? 2- Would there be so many lawsuits if Erdoğan relied on a more relaxed approach and language? In fact, everything should be normalized. A president should not insult people and he should not be insulted. For this reason, we need mutual respect and recognition of our rights.
The security package was passed into law. The deliberations over this law caused serious tension in Parliament. Now it has been referred to Erdoğan, who will endorse it. It is obvious that this law is a sign of martial law, that some of its provisions are against the Constitution and that they will turn Turkey into an intelligence state. Unfortunately, pressure is growing in Turkey. And as tension and pressure grows, social reconciliation becomes more unlikely. It is really unfortunate to see that a country referred to as a rising star because of democratization moves up until recently is now being restricted by an internal security package. It is a shame.
Published on Sunday's Zaman, 29 March 2015, Sunday