October 24, 2015

Respect for society

Orhan Oğuz Gürbüz

A pro-government paper recently made a headline.

It called for tolerance, dialogue and respect for ideas. Of course, nobody paid attention to this call by a media outlet which never cared about rule of law and individual rights and freedoms.

Respect for society cannot be achieved and ensured by a witch hunt and the declaring of opponents as traitors. The first and inevitable condition in respect for society is law. If you do not respect rights and freedoms, then you have no respect for society.

The government has taken action before the Nov. 1 election to intimidate the dissident media. Kanaltürk and Bugün TV are no longer carried by Türksat, a move that comes on the initiative of the Ministry of Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications. This attempt at censorship was made to seize the right of the people to access to information.

Constitutional lawyer Mustafa Erdoğan describes this as a non-constitutional regime. Even some excerpts from his speech are sufficient to show the dire situation. A non-constitutional regime was established; a witch hunt is being carried out; a parallel structure is just a pretext. All dissenters are being targeted.

The government's decision on prep schools, also known as dershanes, is a political step. The seizing of Bank Asya is a grave breach. We have an intelligence state. And, most importantly, every civilian initiative may be declared illegal at any time. Former Constitutional Court President Haşim Kılıç depicted the grave situation in a speech which underlined that the judiciary has been transformed into a tool for vengeance.

The silence of intellectuals is embarrassing; the state was transformed into a means of intimidation. We are facing new types of guardianship. The brutality inflicted in the past under Article 163 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) is now being inflicted again in different forms. The greatest harm is being observed in the field of law. Despite all sincere and rational warnings, there is no sign that the government and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) will be more careful. Reasonable people can see that Turkey will become more authoritarian. But the political administration, relying on the advantages associated with controlling the state, is able to present this as a war between traitors and patriots.

We see that the future of Turkey is being destroyed. The government tries to rely on internal disagreements and polarization. The political parties try to benefit from brutality and tragedies. The Pew Research Center, an American polling company, carried out a survey on Turkey. The results are frightening. Only 34 percent of young people aged 18-29 hold hope for the future. And 54 percent do not like the course of developments in the country. Only 39 percent of respondents believe President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is successful.

Turkey expects something from the political opposition. Only a new energy can mend the ongoing political, economic and moral destruction. The people want to become hopeful by the statements of Republican People's Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. What does he say? He says: “The opposition is being silenced by media censorship. We could lead a campaign against censorship. Our people should rest assured of this. Everybody will be free to observe their religious beliefs. There will be no restrictions to the practice of religious rituals under a CHP administration.”

Turkey will use such a democratic approach based on the recognition of the rights of all under a social democratic vision because reconciliation is the best option for the betterment of the opposites. Turkey needs democracy and law. A party that will achieve this will become more influential. And respect for society requires this.

Published on Today's Zaman, 24 October 2015, Saturday