Compromising democracy to save democracy
The political party and politicians that incited people to violence using the attacks of the Islamist terrorists on the Syrian town of Kobane as a pretext should be brought to justice. They should be condemned and adequately punished so that they give up stoning security forces, wearing masks on their faces, and calling on people to take to the streets to burn down public buildings and assets.
A politician hurling stones at security forces is unacceptable. A parliamentarian covering her face with a mask and leading a violent group of protestors attacking public buildings with Molotov cocktails, tearing down pavements and smashing bank kiosks is unacceptable. A political party ought to offer remedies to problems, ideas to overcome hurdles, and work within the limits of the law to legislate solutions to the troubles of the people and thus contribute to the wellbeing and prosperity of the nation. If a political party starts inciting people to violence, the political party has been replaced at that moment with a terrorist organization that should not have any place in civilian politics.
Some figures of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) have publicly admitted the grave mistake that some of its top executives have made over the past few weeks. Many, however, remain as adamant as ever. As is often said, some good might emerge from every evil. If from the deaths of almost 40 people - in violence produced by calls from top HDP executives to take to the streets to demand that Turkey unilaterally save Kobane - an understanding emerges that such calls were indeed wrong, those people will not have lost their lives for nothing.
The punishment of a political party should not include the option of closure. It has repeatedly been proven in this country that such a penalty is not applicable. Parties closed by the Constitutional Court have kept reappearing under new names. Anyhow, such a penalty was not a corrective one. However, this should not be taken as if parties might undertake every oddity and escape with it. The HDP and those top executives of the party must be made to pay for the incitement to violence, the crime it committed.
Should the government then take rigid measures further restricting the already crippled freedom of expression, freedom to demonstrate or introduce tougher penalties and turn the country into a police state? That’s exactly what is in the pipeline nowadays. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, under the instructions of his mentor President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is in a bid not only to increase “anti-terrorism” penalties, but also to reintroduce “special courts” with “extraordinary powers.” Has this country not suffered enough from special courts of all kinds?
Is it compatible with the notion of supremacy of law if, rather than concrete evidence, “reasonable doubt” is enough for a court to issue a search warrant? Is it sane to give police the right to detain people for up to 24 hours without a court order? Is it compatible with free society if courts are decorated with the power of confiscating all assets, order arrests or order eavesdropping if there is “reasonable doubt” that a person or group of people were involved in crimes against the state or the constitutional order of the country?
Enforcing the citizens’ security, taking measures to consolidate public order, or thinking on a web of measures to prevent similar troubles that we have experienced for the past few weeks and claimed the lives of at least 40 people are of course what governments are paid for. Yet, all these should be done without crippling democracy.
If someone throws a Molotov cocktail at the police, other groups, a bus, s/he must be captured by security forces and brought to court. If throwing a Molotov cocktail becomes a crime punishable with five years behind bars, such a penalty, rather than being a corrective move, is itself an act of torture incompatible with the notion of democracy, is it not?
If street violence and challenges to public order are not answered with democratic means and within democracy and supremacy of law or if democracy is compromised in answering the challenges of democracy, can that be acceptable?