Messages to Erdoğan from a European friend
The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) had won the November 3, 2002 general elections but the party’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was deprived of being elected as a deputy and thus becoming the prime minister because he was banned from politics.
Erdoğan has never forgotten how, in those days, Norwegian parliamentarian Thorbjorn Jagland got on a plane from Oslo to Ankara just to say he was in solidarity with Erdoğan.
The same Jagland told Erdoğan the other day, when he walked into the Office of the Prime Ministry, in his capacity as the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, that the police firing pepper gas inside a hotel lobby during the Taksim Gezi Park incidents was a wrongful practice.
The significance of Jagland’s polite reminder of the violation is this: It is impossible to see him as a part of an external conspiracy. On the contrary, he is probably at the top of the list of leaders sympathetic to Erdoğan in Europe. Jagland is a politician who has defended that Erdoğan has “actually made a silent revolution in Turkey.” In a 2011 interview, he said, “AK Party has brought a new energy to Turkey. Turkey has modernized so fast that even Europe was not able to understand that…”
If a European statesman who has this opinion about Erdoğan feels the need to come to Ankara on behalf of the Council of Europe upon concerns over the Gezi Park resistance and makes some warnings in good will about freedom of expression and assembly, then his messages should also be listened to with good will.
The meeting with Erdoğan, because of their past, was conducted in a warm atmosphere. However, despite all the warmth, the messages Jagland gave to Erdoğan surely did not appreciate the methods the government used against the demonstrators.
The film that was prepared for foreign delegations and which depicts the violence demonstrators were engaged in during the incidents was also shown to Jagland and the prime minister based on this insisted on the argument that the demonstrators were not innocent.
Jagland told me the reply he gave to Erdoğan: “I agree that these images are a part of the problem. But there are several things in the picture. I have seen other photographs where the police use excessive force against demonstrators…”
Jagland conveyed to the prime minister the expectation that the police should absolutely make a distinction between demonstrators who want to stage a peaceful demonstration and the groups that are engaged in violence. More importantly, he gave this message about the European Court on Human Rights (ECHR) practices: “There are certain standards on the usage of tear gas. They have been set by ECHR court practices. This gas should definitely not be used indoors. Also, people should not be targeted when tear gas is being used. Likewise, when responding to demonstrators, the ECHR’s practices regulating the freedom of assembly should be taken into account.”
Even only these words of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe very clearly reveal that, including the case when police used pepper gas in Divan Hotel’s lobby, the indoor use of the pepper gas and also directly targeting people while firing the bombs are against the European legal acquis, contrary to Erdoğan’s discourse of “The practice is in accordance with the European acquis.”
The Council of Europe is expecting new directives to be prepared in accordance with ECHR practices regulating topics such as at which threshold the police intervene in demonstrations, and which principles should be followed while using pepper gas.
Has Erdoğan pledged that necessary arrangements will be made? Jagland said, “I cannot say any such thing but I have explained the ECHR principles to him. I can say that the conversation was carried out in a constructive manner.” On their official website, Jagland was quoted as saying, “I have been assured that excessive use of police power which raised international concern in recent weeks will be fully investigated.”
The entire problem is that Jagland’s expectations and the prime minister’s “Police was epic,” statement do not quite match up with each other.
Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on June 27. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.