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SEMİH İDİZ

SEMİH İDİZ >Paranoia and vengeance rule the roost in Turkey

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Turkey faces increasingly difficult times, and matters are set to get worse before they get better. This is not scaremongering but an assessment based on objective events - based on what is taking place in this deeply and dangerously divided country. 

The fact that the ruling elite is the principal force driving these divisions for the sake of its political interests or ideological outlook makes it even more difficult to be optimistic. The “glass is half-full” argument is not valid in this case either. The “half-empty” part of the glass is so bad that it overshadows the other half.

The sentencing of Enis Berberoğlu, a former editor-in-chief of daily Hürriyet who is currently a main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy, to 25 years in jail is just the latest episode in a string of negative developments which show no sign of abating. Even some Islamist supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are questioning the fairness of this particular case. 

What’s more, the trials of journalist Nazlı Ilıcak and journalist/academic brothers Ahmet and Mehmet Altan also recently began. They are also accused of trying to undermine the constitutional order. Legal experts say the evidence against them, like the evidence against Berberoğlu or the journalists from Cumhuriyet, as well as most of the other journalists in prison at this time, would not stand up in a truly independent court.

Given the sentence that Berberoğlu has received, it is likely that Ilıcak and the Altan brothers will receive even tougher sentences. After all, this is the rule of vengeance not of justice. Promulgating laws that suit an interested party does not make them just.

Everyone is now asking who is next. If the leader of the main opposition party in a country has decided on a long march in support of justice, it can hardly be said that things are normal in that country. 

Those who are running the country - and who after the latest constitutional changes adopted by a slim margin in a referendum whose fairness remains disputed - are effectively inviolable, and appear to have no intention to cool things down. 

The Qatar crisis has merely fueled their fear that there are forces out there bent on undermining their administration. The anniversary of last year’s failed military coup attempt is also around the corner. It is clear that this is not the moment for them to try and unify a deeply divided country, to increase the severely depleted confidence in the Turkish legal system, and - most important of all - to return Turkey to the democratic path.

From their perspective, the job is not done yet. Despite the hundreds of thousands who have lost their jobs and the thousands who are in prison, they still see enemies all around. This is the rule of paranoia, which by its very nature is irrational.

Time, however, is the ultimate leveler. How they hope to maintain this current trend and come out on top, given the turmoil they have contributed to in the vessel where they too live is a mystery. 

Tables have a habit of turning over time in Turkey. A simple look at who was being hounded by a coopted judiciary five years ago, and comparing this with who is being hounded by today’s coopted judiciary, proves this. 

Because of this historic fact - which has proven itself in other cases too over the decades - those who rule us today should be wise, especially considering their hope to enter the history books as having done great services to Turkey. 

However, that wisdom is clearly going to take more time to prevail, if it does at all. In the meantime, matters will continue to get progressively worse as social unease increases and as the republic’s familiar and established institutions continue to be dismantled one by one.

June/20/2017

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