May 24, 2016

Terrorist: The catch-all term for all who oppose Erdoğan

Ahmet Sarmis

Terrorism is one of the greatest threats of our time. There is no justification for murdering innocent people without discrimination. That is why harsh laws are made and the most severe measures are taken in order to stop terrorists. Although they limit our freedom, we have to put up with these legal and technical measures; however, the fight against terrorism also offers dictators and authoritarian governments a good excuse to suppress their legitimate opposition.

Authoritarian administrations label their opponents as “terrorists,” exploiting the threat of terrorism and giving the most severe sentences to members of the legitimate opposition. For instance, we have seen the obvious abuse of terrorism laws in Egypt: President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who came to rule with a military coup, declared most dissident groups, especially members of the Muslim Brotherhood, as terrorists, although they were unarmed and peaceful – he exploited terrorism laws to suppress the opposition.

Human rights violations in Egypt came to reached such a level that even the pragmatic governments of the West were disturbed. French President Hollande, who visited Egypt last week, complained about human rights violations in the country. Sisi, in reply, said that Egypt and the West are different and the human rights and democracy criteria of Europe should not be applied to countries going through turbulence like Egypt.

Anarchy and chaos are the common excuses of non-democratic governments. They try to normalize violations of rights and freedoms by using extraordinary conditions as an excuse. As noted above, the latest excuse used by these governments is terrorism. They label all oppositional movements, armed or unarmed, as terrorists to get the world’s support, knowing the West has a great fear of terrorism.

Another leader following Sisi’s example is Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. When faced with charges of corruption and bribery in the scandal of 17 and 25 December 2013, Mr. Erdoğan silence the opposition with accusations of terrorism (and plotting a coup against the government). Declaring that the so-called “parallel structure,” who he believed had submitted the corruption and bribery files as evidence against him, were “unarmed terrorists,” its members were subsequently either sent to jail or sued on charges of terrorism by President Erdoğan. There were no acts of violence in the history of this group.

Erdoğan, who later accepted that he had started a “witch-hunt” against the group associated with Fetullah Gülen, carried out a similar campaign against leftist-nationalist, or ulusalcilar, and accused them of both attempting a coup and founding a terrorist organization.

Erdoğan’s accusations against his opponents, that they are terrorists, traitors and coup attempters, increasingly persist today, too. Erdoğan, in order to protect his power and to dominate Turkish politics, has clearly abused terror laws and he has renewed his focus on the Gülen group. Kurds are also a target, not only PKK militants, but all Kurds who refuse to cooperate with the government on the Kurdish Issue are labeled as terrorists. Even signing a peace declaration is enough to be labeled as a terrorist. Likewise, leftist groups asking for more democracy and human rights, who criticize Erdoğan strongly, are being declared terrorists.

Terrorism is a great danger, it is true. Yet, in some countries, the so-called fight against terrorism risks becoming an even greater danger than terrorism itself.

Published on The Turkish Sun, 27 April 2016, Wednesday