A Turkish policeman test with the EU’s acquis communautaire
“I was promoting Turkey joining the EU, and that whole project fell apart, so the nasty energy against its proponents disappeared,” Orhan Pamuk recently told the Independent newspaper.
Is Turkey joining the EU? Has that project - which is not only about the end result, (Turkey becoming the 28th member of the union), but also about a transformation process that aims to reach standards that are deemed better for the wellbeing of Turks - really fallen apart?
I do not think so, and a book that I recently read has strengthened my view. “Behzat Ç: An Ankara Detective Story” is a book less known to the Turkish public than the T.V. series of the same name that became incredibly popular last year. At a time when there is talk of a whole police corps dominated by the pious Gülen community, how a heavy drinking police chief who advises his colleagues to take a vodka shot every two hours when they feel unwell became an iconic figure among Turks is also a dilemma to me.
I must remind you, however, that the broadcasting station got an official warning from the regulatory body because of its use of slang language and alcohol.
In contrast to sterilized Istanbul series - where handsome and well-behaved police officers work in exemplary police stations - the not-so-handsome, anti-hero Behzat Ç, who can hardly control his or his team’s urge to use violence to make everyone speak, is probably closer to the real picture. What is extremely striking to me in the book version, which was first published in 2006, is the reference to the EU.
On page 119, Behzat Ç. and Harun, one of his most violent team members, are questioning a suspect. “This guy keeps lying to us, what should I do?” asks Harun. Behzat Ç. answers: “Throw him down.” (Prior to the accession talks we indeed had numerous cases of ‘falling down’ from police stations, which were labeled as suicide.) “What about the EU?” asks Harun. “I f*** the EU,” says Behzat Ç.
On page 130, Aybars, an officer in the department of the fight against terrorism says: “The state gave me a gun and told me to protect it. But I can’t use the gun against those who are trying to destroy the state. Each day we get an instruction not to shoot. If I am not going to use it, why are you giving me the gun? I told my superior, the new [EU] harmonization laws are worse than the CMUK.” (The CMUK was the code for criminal procedure that was previously in place, which also aimed to adapt to EU regulation.)
On page 235, Behzat Ç. asks Harun to send the suspects to the prosecutor before 6 p.m., adding that the prosecutor has called several times about the whereabouts of the suspects. “Is this prosecutor a maniac or what?” asks Harun. “He’s not a maniac. This is the new regulation. Get used to it, work fast, with this mentality the f*** you will enter the EU.”
Nobody needs to remind me of the ongoing legal cases, whose democratic credentials are controversial, or the Turkish police’s excessive brutality, which is becoming increasingly widespread. Nevertheless, we are far from the tragicomic cases such as when a man confessed under torture to having killed his missing father, who then reappeared a few days later, very much alive!
I can’t say the EU project is alive and kicking, but it is not a patient in a coma waiting to die.