November 21, 2015

Presidential confession

Sevgi Akarçeşme

If you try to form an opinion of how the G-20 summit went from Turkey's perspective based on the government-controlled media's reporting, you could easily believe that Turkey's narrative dominated the agenda of the summit that was held in Antalya last week.

Even though debates behind closed doors determine the real tone of such high-level meetings, sometimes the reflections in the media are telling as well. Just like the goodbye ceremony of the summit, in which almost all the leaders clearly ignored President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and treated US President Barack Obama as if he was the host of the summit.

From Erdoğan's perspective it must have been a “success” that none of the speakers, and particularly Obama, uttered even a word about the suffocation of the remaining independent media in Turkey. As far as the US is concerned, Turkey's decision to cancel the lucrative missile deal with China and choose the US instead seemed to have worked as a reason to keep quiet about the deteriorating media freedoms in Turkey. In any case, Western countries once again proved that their primary concern is sheer interest rather than democratic values. The forces of democracy in Turkey yet again realized that they are left to their own devices.

A major blow, however, came from an unexpected front, from Russia with love. Vladimir Putin covertly, but leaving almost nothing to the imagination, accused a G-20 country of supporting ISIL and trading oil with the evil terrorist network.

Although Turkey rode a possible storm at the G-20 summit relatively without much political damage, things at home are bleaker than ever. On the eve of the G-20 summit, 13 TV channels of the critical Samanyolu Broadcasting Group were removed from the stete-owned satellite carrier Türksat, effectively shutting down the network and taking the state-led discrimination and witch-hunt against the Gülen movement to a new level. Although almost no vocal opposition is left, Erdogan continues to be his worst enemy by means of his own confessions.

Since investigations of corruption went public on Dec. 17 and 25, 2013, Erdoğan has been claiming that the Gülen movement orchestrated a “coup attempt” to overthrow him. In addition, he has been accusing the movement of being traitors and even spies, along with other things, in the absence of any evidence.

On Wednesday night, during a speech televised live, Erdoğan said the following in reference to the Gülen movement: “They know me well and I know them well. They betrayed Tayyip Erdoğan, I do not betray them. I am only fighting to take what people deserve back from them. We have been following this struggle within the confines of the law.”

Even this very statement itself is a confession at the presidential level that the relentless campaign against the Gülen movement is unlawful, arbitrary and based on a feeling of personal vendetta. Is there a crime in law defined as betraying Recep Tayyip Erdoğan? If not, how is this unprecedented witch-hunt being conducted within the parameters of the rule of law? More importantly, Erdoğan himself confesses that what he labeled a “coup attempt,” “treason” and “spying for foreign forces” is baseless.

Under normal conditions, such a huge confession should make headlines and lead people -- especially his supporters – to have some doubts about the defamation campaign against the Gülen movement. However, the Turkish political landscape is so poisoned with partisanship and fanaticism that it will not be truly heard among die-hard Erdoğanists.

It seems that the proponents of rule of law and democracy in Turkey have to come to terms with the fact that the Western world will appease Erdoğan as long as their interests are not hurt while his fanatics at home will remain deaf until their lives are directly affected by a policy of his regime.

In the meantime, various social groups within Turkey, including but not limited to the Gülen movement, will suffer from an oppressive regime and an indifferent society.

Published on Today's Zaman, 21 November 2015, Saturday