When the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power, the result took even its leadership by surprise. AKP leaders did not have the cadres to rule the country, as they were rather anti-establishment; they joined hands with the Gülenists.
In order to consolidate their stay in power, they realized they had to be accepted as a legitimate and workable partner by the West, especially the European Union.
While maintaining good relations with the EU, they realized that the bloc was critical of the state establishment in Turkey. In the eyes of the Europeans, the military-judicial bloc was obstructing democratic reforms in the country. This bloc was against a democratic opening to solve the Kurdish issue, improvements in the rights of the country’s non-Muslim minorities and the full endorsement of fundamental freedoms like freedom of expression, while it was also blocking judicial reform. In short, it was this blockage that was obstructing Turkey’s capacity to fulfill the democratic criteria that would open membership talks.
It was the same military-judicial bloc that had made life difficult for political Islam in Turkey. The Gülenists had suffered a lot from the wrath of this bloc, especially that of the military, which had blocked their penetration of the armed forces.
Turkey’s new ruling elites soon realized that EU reforms also meant the eradication of military influence from civilian life. So along with other reforms, steps to diminish the military’s role in civilian life began being put in force.
By 2007, the military’s arch enemies, the Gülenists, had succeeded in penetrating and fully exerting control over the judicial system and the police apparatus, but, in their eyes, the demilitarization of Turkish politics would not be wholly successful with some democratic reforms alone. As such, they pushed the button in 2007 for their huge vengeance operation, which came to be known as the Ergenekon trials.
The military-judicial bloc was a coalition of die-hard secularists/Kemalists and ultranationalists. The liberals and the democrats in the country had also suffered from that bloc and had long been suspicious of the bloc’s possible illegal activity. That’s why some endorsed these trials as a revolutionary step to finally demilitarize politics and consolidate real democracy.
But the Gülenists aimed solely at the secularist/Kemalist leg of the coalition, and it soon became clear that the legal case called Ergenekon, (the name given to the allegedly shadowy organization within the state) followed by the “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) case, was a farce. They aimed at getting back at the soldiers and totally penetrating the army after the judiciary.
Liberal hopes that those with dirty hands within the state would be held accountable for past crimes were dashed.
After the breakup of the alliance between the AKP and the Gülenists, followed by the purges within the state, the ruling party needed to cultivate new cadres, especially among the security apparatus.
Guess who they opted for: the ultranationalists who are usually close to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). For this group, the arch enemy is the liberals, democrats and left-wing intellectuals. Unable to cast aside its Cold War ideology, they are targeting the intellectuals, profiting from the dust created during the cleansing of the Gülenists.
A group that is loyal to a former interior minister who even served jail time is said to be very influential within the Interior Ministry and is believed to be behind the purge against the left-wing liberal intellectuals, who are losing their jobs even though they have no linkages to FETÖ.
The forces who blocked Turkey’s democratization process in the 1980s and 1990s are back again with their archaic mentality and are unfortunately proceeding full steam ahead in an effort to crush Turkey’s democrats.