Pity the ‘democrats’ of Turkey
I always thought that supporting the demands for freedom from Turkey’s Islamists and standing up against the rigid regime of secularism was the right thing to do. This regime tried to resist even after the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power with a majority of the votes in 2002 – that’s why it was the right thing to stand by the AKP, against all sorts of intrusions, military as well as civilian ones.
Nevertheless, the AKP chose to fight against the rigid secularist regime by accumulating and monopolizing power. Besides, the fight was thought only to be against the rigid secularist regime rather than against the authoritarian political system and culture altogether. The result has been bitter revenge and a takeover of the authoritarian regime rather than democratization. The tragedy of many democrats in Turkey started at that point.
Most of the democrats chose to delude themselves into thinking that democratization at the hands of the AKP was on its way despite all the odds rather than scrutinizing the shortcomings of the AKP’s policies in terms of democratization. The basic reason was to support the Ergenekon trial, which aimed to expose and punish those who were involved in various attempts at military intervention. All democrats welcomed the trial case for good reasons since it was thought to have central importance for “civilizing” politics and the process of democratization in Turkey.
Nevertheless, after a while, the Ergenekon trial case turned into the “Ergenekon plot,” and various figures and activities related to political dissent started to be included as members and parts of “The Plot,” respectively.
Most Turkish democrats failed to acknowledge the fact that all authoritarian regimes base their suppressive politics on some sort of “plot.” The “Ergenekon plot” is no exception. On the contrary, most democrats and liberal intellectuals have accused those who are critical of the authoritarian tendencies of the government of playing into the hands of the plotters. When I mentioned my concern about the risk of “civil tyranny” a few years ago, I was severely condemned not only by the government but also by intellectual circles. The same people started to come up with their own concerns of authoritarianism only after the last general election.
Meanwhile, even those whose connection with the “plot” cannot be identified started to be labeled as those who were “unaware of the plot” but were “being used as its tools.”
The Kurdish issue has started to be presented as an aspect of “The Grand Plot” rather than a complex political and social problem. One famous democrat even blamed the disappointing end to the Hrant Dink trial on radical Kurdish politics, which have prevented the government from fighting against “the deep state.” This perspective seems to accept implicitly that the government needs the “deep state” to fight the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and radical Kurdish politics. The same democrat recently accused journalist Ece Temelkuran (who was recently fired from the daily she previously wrote for) of being connected to Ergenekon circles and “manipulating perceptions outside Turkey” because she mentioned the Hrant Dink case along with her case in an article she penned for the Guardian.
In fact, nowadays, most democrats have started to criticize the government due to the curbing of liberties of speech, expression and political activity. I hope not, but it is probably too late to be concerned. Because the idea of democratization as a struggle against the ancien regime still prevails – hindering the perception that sees beyond “plots.” The fight with the ghosts of the ancien regime overshadows the fight against the bitter realities of today.
Pity the democrats of Turkey: they opted to delude themselves, rather than playing a role in democratization and not only degraded themselves, but also encouraged authoritarian politics.