October 15, 2014

‘Red Book’ to now serve as Erdoğan’s unlimited authority

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has signaled a change in his strategy in the fight against dissidents and all segments of society -- especially the faith-based Hizmet movement -- who question his and the government's ill-managed domestic and foreign policies, hinting that the National Security Council (MGK) might declare the Hizmet a terrorist group in its "National Security Strategy Concept Paper" (MGSB) often referred to as the "Red Book."

Speaking in Trabzon on Monday, Erdoğan, who does not refrain from labeling anyone, on every possible occasion, who does not support the AK Party and its short-sighted policies, as “'traitors,” this time threatened Hizmet with taking the discussion of the movement into the MGK meeting and including it in the Red Book as a top national domestic threat to Turkey. The Red Book is also known for being the “secret constitution” of the country.

"My personal agenda at this month's [on Oct. 30] MGK meeting is to revise the National Security Strategy Concept Paper in terms of the [domestic] elements that pose a threat to our country," Erdoğan said.

The book was last revised in 2010 after the expression “fundamentalism” was excluded from the critical document for the first time in the republic's history. For many years, the term fundamentalism has been used as a tool by the military authorities to smear and put pressure on religious parts of the society, as seen when a coalition government led by a now-defunct conservative party was forced to step down by the military on Feb. 28, 1997, an event which was defined as a post-modern coup.

Hasan Celal Güzel, who served as a minister during then-Prime Minister Turgut Özal government in the 1980s, defined the Red Book as the state's secret constitution during an interview in 2003, and argued that no political authority could act in contradiction with the document, adding, "If a planned change or amendment to a law was thought to be contradictory to the document, then all proposals [regarding it] would be withdrawn."

Until 2010, the Red Book was revised in accordance with the "threat perception" given by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) during the MGK meetings. Israel was reportedly included in the book in that same year as a foreign threat to Turkey's security, after Israeli troops raided the Mavi Marmara ship which was carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American.

Concepts such as fundamentalism, ultra-nationalism, communism and terrorism were frequently put in the book from time to time based on the change in the threat perception. The document, after defining the scope and the priority of the threat, details the methods in fighting and eliminating the listed threat.

Nazlı Ilıcak, a prominent columnist with the Bugün daily, recalled the cruel methods of the past which were resorted to following decisions reached in MGK meetings, which targeted certain groups, like Kurds and believers in Islam, by considering wearing headscarves and enrolling in imam-hatip [religious education] schools as a threat to the existence of the state, adding, "If a similar stance is adopted again, then Turkey may once more encounter a period of pressure."

Although Erdoğan accused Hizmet as being behind the recent Kobani protests engulfing Turkey, Ilıcak lashed out at him, saying: "The process of intimidation started after the corruption scandal erupted [on Dec. 17, 2013]. Erdoğan's associates and relatives were involved in the scandal. After it was revealed, he [Erdoğan] has created an imaginary enemy to exonerate himself. He is afraid… greatly afraid. It is a fear of accounting for what he did. This fear has now turned into anger directed at the Hizmet movement and all dissidents," Ilıcak pointed out.

Baskın Oran, a professor of international relations and columnist for Radikal daily, told Today's Zaman that the Red Book has for many decades served long to stamp out dissidents and those defined as “enemies” by the military authorities, adding, "The threat perception accompanied by paranoia and dirty politics is multifaceted, in accordance with the priorities defined by any kind of authority which dominates the country."

According to Oran, if civil society groups are included in the book as “terrorist groups and threats” then the outcome may devastate Turkey, further saying, "Turkey has already turned into a hell for thinking and writing people, now they are getting prepared to deal the last blow or final straw."

The Red Book, as a method of crushing anyone considered a threat by the state, was a tool widely adopted by the military tutelage of the 1990s and early 2000s. Oran argued that despite the fact that military tutelage over political authority was eliminated by the AK Party after it came to power, Erdoğan and the government's attempts to revive the old Turkey, remembered for oppression and dark practices, might only speed up the process of the AK Party's dissolution.

"Every dissident is labeled as 'parallel' [a term coined by Erdoğan to describe the Hizmet movement]. Anyone convicted in the past clings to the term 'parallel' term in the hope of being acquitted. This is entirely a witch hunt resembling the practices of the Middle Ages or the Cold War, as well as McCarthyism," Oran noted.

Thus, many civil society groups, media outlets and businesspeople have been accused of disloyalty, subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence by means of the term "parallel."

Further commenting that the government and Erdoğan are now using the dirty methods that military tutelage once used, Oran accused the Erdoğan-led political program of being based on political Islam and violence, adding: "It is like ISIL [the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which operates in Iraq and Syria]. Both have a similar agenda. ISIL beheads and Erdoğan eliminates a firm, a bank, such as Bank Asya, or a bureaucrat who does not declare support for him."

Opposition worries Turkey returning to 1980s

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) İstanbul deputy Umut Oran also slammed Erdoğan on Tuesday for his declared intention to instruct the MGK to include certain groups on the threat list.

Oran underscored that Erdoğan and Davutoğlu have returned Turkey to the dark days of the 1980s, when a military coup ousted the democratically elected government and the new regime engaged in massive cruelty against the people, executing some and imprisoning many.

"Erdoğan is exceeding his authority as defined in the Constitution. Article 104 says that the president represents the whole of Turkey and looks after the proper and harmonious functioning of state institutions. It does not instruct the president to threaten, instruct or interfere. He instructed the MGK. It will finish a community [the Hizmet movement]. You have no authority to instruct the MGK. Erdoğan is committing a crime by doing so," Oran added.

Maya Arakon, an international relations associate professor at Süleyman Şah University, made an analogy between Erdoğan's repressive methods of intimidating anyone who opposes the AK Party's policies and Kemalism's limitation of freedoms in the country.

"All of us should be concerned about Erdoğan's remarks and intention to revise the Red Book. If the changes are made, then the state will able to pursue a secret agenda to eliminate all dissidents. We are in an undeclared state of emergency in which Erdoğan has immediately linked any dissident movement to the "parallels" or the Kurdistan Workers' Party [PKK]. So, will the planned revision to the Red Book allow all dissident voices to be eliminated easily?" Arakon emphasized.

According to the academic, today's AK Party is repeating all the mistakes it accuses Kemalism of having committed in the past. "It is reproducing the pressure on the masses by its project to homogenize society, silence pluralism and push for one-man rule in the country. Everyone, such as Kurds, the Hizmet movement, the CHP and all civil movements are regularly targeted in Erdoğan's 'New Turkey,' [a term coined by Erdoğan to describe his political vision]," Arakon added.

Published on Today's Zaman, 14 October 2014, Tuesday