December 31, 2016

My Fears for Turkey

Cemal Yiğit

“President Erdogan is on the brink of ultimate power, but Turkey is falling apart.” Any country that is laced with injustice cannot experience meaningful and sustainable development. It’s more like building a house without foundation. In the words of Malcolm X, he said our objective is complete justice, total freedom, and full equality”. In whatever system that we run or operate and these three fundamental principles are absent, then you will have general cases of injustice, marginalization and more dangerously, pockets of violent eruptions here and there.

And this is worse if such crime is perpetrated by tyrants and oppressors’ who are hell bent on pursuing their agenda, not minding whose ox is gored and ironically at the expense of the country. President Erdogan is a perfect example of such a leader, and Turkey is also the prime example of such a society where injustice is thriving unabatedly with the clampdown, purges, and violation of fundamental rights of citizens.

There are always consequences for our actions and inactions in all spheres of life. And in my opinion, one of the effects of President Erdogan despotic posture would be his inability to contain the worms he is feeding the population with when they eventually grow into cankerworms. And this has started happening with the unfortunate assassination of the Russian Ambassador to Turkey. Mr. Andrew Karlov, by no other than a police officer who was thoroughly screened and recruited alongside thousand others recently after purging the revered Turkish police of qualified hands. Are we sensing danger?

On 20 May 2016, the immunity of several dozen MPs was suspended by a temporary amendment to the constitution at the behest of President Erdogan because he was targeting the 59 members of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), who were a significant opposition force in the Turkish parliament. What were their offenses? There were allegations about speeches they delivered at public gatherings. Funny as it sounds, they were indicted for the simple fact that they exercised their rights to freedom of speech and expression as recognized under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

In an article authored by Noah Feldman, a professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard University in his article “Turkey’s Judicial Purge Threatens the Rule of Law” Feldman states that “In the wake of the coup attempt, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can hardly be blamed for purging the military. But firing 2,745 judges without any investigation or demonstrated connection to the coup is another matter. The action threatens the rule of law in Turkey going forward. And the way it was done signals some of the methods Erdogan can be expected to use in the weeks and months ahead.”

The article by Noah Feldman was published July 18, 2016. Fast-forward to five months later, what do you see? Crimes against humanity? I will give three examples. A three-year-old child with a high fever was denied treatment at a hospital since his father was arrested over alleged links to the Hizmet movement, leading a suspension in the kid’s subscription to the nation-wide social security system. The father of former Turkish football legend Hakan Şükür, Selmet Şükür, who was arrested on Aug. 12, was denied food and water, therefore losing 40 kilograms in three months. Turkish Finance Minister Naci Ağbal ordered tax offices to exclude people linked to the Hizmet movement from the recently-announced debt restructuring program. He also ordered tax offices to deny tax clearance certificates to any opposition member. The list is inexhaustible.

Any discerning mind would agree with me that Turkey under Erdogan is on the brink with the level of injustice, witch-hunting, demonization and persecution of innocent people. It is an unfortunate situation with Erdogan’s continued tyrannical posture that is denting the image of the country which was once a model for democracy in the Middle East.

Erik C. Nisbet, an Associate Professor of Communication, Political Science, and Environmental Policy and Faculty Associate with the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, The Ohio State University recently stated that “Though Turkey had been making steady progress toward becoming a fully-fledged democracy, it has backslid in recent years. Turkey may be best described as a hybrid regime that is a mix of democracy and authoritarianism. The governing Justice & Development (AKP) Party and President Erdogan have been at the center of this democratic backslide. With control of both parliament and the presidency, they have worked to reshape Turkey’s political and societal institutions to preserve their power permanently.”

This is apt and captures the state of affairs in Turkey under Erdogan. Ironically, the media that is meant to speak out against these atrocities have been battered and bruised by the Erdogan regime. So much so that the Committee to Protect Journalists, a media advocacy group in New York, and Freedom House, a research-and-advocacy outfit in Washington, recently voiced concern about the arrests of more than 145 Turkish journalists, and the closure of 195 media outlets, including Cumhuriyet and Todays Zaman newspapers. In my opinion, Erdogan identified that the press has to be subjugated if he must succeed in his quest for life presidency.

He has also gone a step further by seeking to amend the constitution in a move that would see him remain in office till 2029. How would this be possible you may want to ask. This is the game plan. Call for a National referendum to amend the constitution to grant more powers to the president, abolish the post of prime minister and the president would have two deputies as well as the authority to enact administrative policies. And what would be the outcome? A single person administration.

These are extremely dangerous trends for Turkey; it would mean that the social cohesion that we have built over decades would be gone. And that is what Erdogan wants. To use the divide and rule strategy to consolidate his grip on the country. Nothing should stand in his way because he is the Sultan. And any form of advice is always a plot against him. In 2011, he was advised to use diplomacy in the Syrian conflict, and he refused because he considered such advice as undermining his powers and a plot against him. And today, weapons from Turkey have entered the wrong hands in the Syrian conflict.

And the norm now in Turkey is for Erdogan to label the Hizmet movement as the mastermind of virtually every negative happening in Turkey. And he is doing this not because the Hizmet movement is associated with terrorism because there has been no evidence to support his wild goose chase. But for just refusing to associate with him in his quest to subjugate the people and take Turkey back donkey years.

These and much more are my fears for Turkey. I am scared, just like millions of others, especially as we watch Turkey disintegrate under Erdogan. According to Martin Luther King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere.”

Published on Abusidiqu, 31 December 2016, Saturday