November 20, 2015

Past: Bank Asya and Koza İpek Holding. Present: Kaynak Holding. Who tomorrow?

Murat Aksoy

The social and economic discrimination the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been waging against the Hizmet movement has turned into a witch hunt in Turkey and around the World. In this process, not only the Hizmet movement but also anyone who is a political or ideological opponent of the AKP suffers his share of this "genocide."

The confines of media freedoms, as well as the freedom of thought and expression, are constricted with legal actions being brought against journalists, writers and ordinary people one after another.

Unfortunately, certain groups in Turkey opt to treat the matter merely as strife between the AKP and the community and turn their gazes from the truth. The AKP has stepped its efforts by converting the social genocide on dissident groups into an economic one. If you have been adopting a middle-of-the-road approach to the developments so far, you will realize that it is too late when you are left alone.

Modern version of Independence Courts

The AKP's economic genocide started when it confiscated the private Bank Asya in February this year. It continued with the seizure of Koza İpek Holding last week. A few days ago, trustees were assigned to Kaynak Holding.

The confiscation decisions are court decisions in appearance, but we know that these courts rely on Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, not on the law, for their legitimacy. These courts are actually single-sitting judges named Criminal Judges of the Peace and they are reminiscent of the infamous Independence Courts (İstiklal Mahkemeleri) of our past.

Lengthy searches and investigations were conducted on these confiscated entities, but the ruling party tries to justify the confiscations by linking them to some fuzzy terrorist organization.

Instead of independent trustees, who work in the interests of these institutions, pro-government trustees are appointed to siphon them.

Continuity of authoritarianism

All these developments indicate that the government mentality remains the same, even though the political and cultural identities of the rulers change in Turkey. Moreover, this observation applies not only to the 90 years of the Turkish Republic, but also to the Ottoman era.

The authoritarian mentality that relied on the single identity and the only truth since the Ottoman time maintains its ideological continuity independently of the identity. Thus, the very authoritarian essence of the state re-cast everyone, be it secular or conservative, as authoritarian. It is not that we failed to become more democratic or liberal just because the country was governed by conservatives. Rather, the ruling AKP integrates authoritarianism with patriarchy and otherizes everyone except its own ideological base.

Moreover, not only the mentality but also the tools used are virtually the same.

Disease of statism

Nation states are, in essence, authoritarian and this is the case everywhere in the world. If civil society and politics are powerful and can use that power to supervise and restrict the state, the country will be democratic. In state-centric countries like Turkey, this authoritarianism has always been more salient.

This authoritarian state or the asymmetrical structure of the relationship between the state and the society relies on economic opportunities, not on a powerful ideology. This is the economic power of statism.

This power consists of creating lucre via ownership tools and legal mechanisms controlled by the state/government and arbitrarily distributing this lucre to social groups who support the ruling party.

Outside economic concerns or requirements, the state/government creates this lucre by: (i) introducing new taxes, (ii) raising prices of certain goods or services, and (iii) by confiscating private property.

What makes statism functional is how this lucre is used, i.e. to whom it is distributed and for what purposes.

Statism means this lucre is distributed not in accordance with the economic requirements but to the pro-government groups who are dedicated to extend the lifespan and legitimacy of the ruling party.

A monthly salary of TL 105,000

What happened to Bank Asya, Koza İpek Holding and Kaynak Holding is the AKP's creating and distributing of the lucre using the third method above.

Even a cursory look at the trustees who are paid monthly salaries of TL 105,000, as well as at those who are recruited in place of these staff members who were laid off, is enough to prove that this is the case.

Here it should also be noted that the confiscation of Bank Asya, Koza İpek Holding and Kaynak Holding differs from the past practice in one important aspect. In the past, particularly during the Ottoman era, but also after the republic was established, the confiscation tool was used unfairly against those who were labeled as “others” by the state, even if they were citizens like non-Muslim minorities.

The AKP's Muslim 'others'

In the current practice, confiscation is extended to Muslims as well. This also implies that the AKP treats the Hizmet movement as the "other."

Given the recent developments, it is not surprising to notice that the AKP defines its voters as the nation and treats everyone else as "others."

For this hardcore mentality that treats anyone other than its core supporters as “others,” the confiscation of Bank Asya, Koza İpek Holding and Kaynak Holding is a political act. Whether these confiscations are legal or not is a secondary issue.

Those who refrain from raising their objections to these practices today will be alone when they face the same treatment.

Published on Today's Zaman, 20 November 2015, Friday