November 18, 2015

A glimmer of light

Ibrahim Turkmen

I was planning to make an assessment of the latest G-20 meeting in Antalya last weekend, along with an analysis about possible consequences of the decisions reached there.

But the seizure of Kaynak Holding on Wednesday morning loomed like a dark cloud, making everything else extremely insignificant.

Kaynak Holding, consisting of 23 companies in 16 sectors, was seized by the state through the appointment of trustees. This is the latest in a series of unlawful acts to silence dissident voices in the country. Less than a month ago, trustees were assigned to take over control of the Koza İpek Holding, despite the fact that a series of investigations by inspectors from both the Finance Ministry and Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) found no tangible proof to substantiate any crime defined by current laws. The decision was based on an expert report assessing the financial records of the company, which had to confess that not a single misdeed was spotted and that this faultlessness may be seen as a deliberate act of covering up unlawful transactions.

Both holdings were affiliated with Hizmet, a volunteer-based education movement. The government has been desperately trying to label Hizmet as a terrorist organization ever since Hizmet-related media took up a strict opposition to the government when serious charges in two corruption investigations became public in December 2013. Hizmet, meaning service in English, embraces the principles of peace and dialogue and has always maintained a stance against violence and terrorism. But it's now being described as a terrorist organization by the same government that has been criticized for being too lenient against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Hizmet's members share the spirit of Tagore's poem, which goes as follows: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy/ I awoke and saw that life was service/I acted and, behold, service was joy.”

You will most likely find it superfluous if I claim that rights of property ownership and free expression are inalienable components of any democracy. If these basic rights are in peril, naming a system as a democracy is impossible. In Turkey, they are blatantly violated. The appointment of trustees through the usurpation of the assets of businessmen to choke the already feeble voice of the opposition in Turkey is a premeditated murder of democracy.

You may wonder what kind of a reaction such high-handed actions are stirring in the public opinion. Unfortunately, not much. A majority of people are unaware of what is going on. They don't know, don't care. They can't know, actually, since the media is already controlled by the government or is afraid that the next turn will be theirs if they speak up to stand by the oppressed. Others, including even the supporters of the opposition, find nothing wrong with accusing the Hizmet movement of deserving such treatment in for their solidarity with the government in the past. Hizmet is claiming that their former support for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) was due its pro-business, reform-oriented, anti-tutelage policies and its apparent commitment to become a full member of the EU, not for unlawfulness or transgression of basic rights. But these explanations find no way through to their ears.

A survey released on Wednesday by the market research firm BAREM, in collaboration with WIN / Gallup International, showed that 86 percent of Turks consider democracy the most appropriate system of government despite its flaws. It also revealed that 48 percent believed democracy works in the country. I am not that positive. The number should be even less than this. I think they don't know what democracy really means. Otherwise, the voices of this 48 percent would be so great that the political will would be deterred from restricting the realm of fundamental rights.

But it goes unquestioned, even applauded, when newspapers are shut down, journalists are fired, companies of dissidents are seized or intimidated with financial audits, opposition groups are accused of terrorism and even treason, etc. This is not a good run for the government. It is running amok, and I am afraid that its anti-democratic acts will bring the entire country to a loss. It destroys the peace and confidence investors need to have in the first place.

Paulo Coelho's “A Manuel for the Warrior of the Light” is a great collection of wisdom, although I am a bit unconvinced of its associating light to war. In this book, a line says, “A warrior cannot lower his head - otherwise he loses sight of the horizon of his dreams.” An erudite aphorism… Democracy and fundamental rights are like light in essence. So those who value democracy and humanity must never lose heart, no matter how hard the persecution gets. It is an incontrovertible rule of nature that light exists in and of itself and darkness is expressed as a relative absence of light and is hence extrinsic. Light is invincible and persists no matter how depressing the darkness is. So, blessed are the beset rights, for they will eventually rise victorious and inherit the proper dignity they were denied by force.

Published on Today's Zaman, 18 November 2015, Wednesday