The most popular topic on Turkish social media platforms nowadays is the “March for Justice” launched by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
However, on national media outlets, there seems to be very little airtime on TV for both the march and Kılıçdaroğlu’s bold statements defying the arrogant and much-accustomed statements of the president, government and ruling party members. Was this because of a hastilyarranged “quick meeting” the Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had with media bosses?
Naturally, nobody would expect media bosses to become “mujahedeen” of any cause since they neither control the tax auditors who might run after them nor the prosecutors. Could it be enough to distract the attention of the Turkish public away from the march? If in a society over 100,000 people have been kicked out of their jobs, tens of thousands were summarily punished and while over 50,000 have been deprived of their freedom for maybe being part of a gang, no one can turn a deaf ear and blind eye to those marching and crying for justice.
The late Süleyman Demirel, among many other things, was famous for his “Roads won’t wear off by walking on it” quote. It was a sentence supporting the right to demonstrate, though at the time when Demirel was in office the police was not that gentle when using their truncheons on the back of this writer.
Now, demonstrations have become an act of terrorism, even if undertaken by an opposition politician. The right to demonstrate, under the Turkish constitution and the penal code, is within the scope of the fundamental right to freedom of expression. The recognition of a right and executing it, however, might be two different worlds, as Turkey – and many other countries – show.
The constitution says no one should feel the need to get permission to use the right to demonstrate, regulations say measures should be taken for public security and governments, but local governors prefer to ban all demonstrations. Ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes, a native of the present day Black Sea city of Sinop, walked down the streets with a lamp in daylight, looking for an honest man. Did he find an honest man? We have no idea, but he was expelled from his hometown and died in Corinth.
Kılıçdaroğlu was not that demanding, he did not search for an honest man, but instead demanded justice. Jokes aside, stories are rampant in Turkey that the elected sultan was running out of patience and might take some rigid measures. More rigid measures than state of emergency decrees? Well, hopefully not that much, but as he is the sole legislator, decision maker, the judge and the sole executive, who knows what actions he might undertake. Justice was, is and will be needed for everyone.
Including the sole powerful president, everyone will one day need justice. It is divine, honorable and definitely praiseworthy to demand justice not only for ourselves, but for everyone. It was unjust when Mustafa Balbay, Mehmet Haberal, military generals and academics were deprived of freedom for years because of some concocted documents that alleged they were part of a coup attempt. It is unjust now for people to serve lengthy periods in prison, without receiving sentences being deprived of freedom on grounds they might be members of an Islamist gang that failed in the July 15 coup attempt.
The judicial leg of the gang… the media leg of the gang… the academic leg of the gang… It is rather easy and rather cheap to brand people with some smears and place them behind bars. Our dear friend Barbaros Muratoğlu, the administrative head of daily Hürriyet, was deprived of his freedom for so many months. He was released pending trial this week. He was accused of being a member of the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization” because some several years ago he visited the mansion of Fethullah Gülen in Pennsylvania together with a group of journalists and posed for the cameras.
Who were the premiers, deputy prime ministers, ministers, senior politicians and advisors of the president who made similar trips to Pennsylvania? Were they all members of the gang?
Scaring and forcing people to obey are not democratic tools to use. Instilling fear into a society might help sustain anti-democratic governance for some time. But, people will eventually start demanding justice, and when that day comes, no floodgates might hold back the nation from taking over the helms of the state through a democratic and just process, which might be painful for the oppressors. Kılıçdaroğlu’s “Justice March” might be the beginning of a new hope. And believe me hope is the start of everything.