The West should also listen to the CHP on FETÖ
Barçın Yinanç - email@example.comCriticizing the West’s attitude towards the coup as a humiliating one, a member of Turkey’s main opposition party has also blamed the government for the lack of support shown to Turkey. “The government has lost credibility in the world,” said Oğuz Kaan Salıcı, an Istanbul parliamentarian from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), when commenting on Western suspicion about the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) being behind the coup. “The West should ask why the CHP, which has been at odds with the government on almost everything, has the same view about FETÖ being behind the coup,” said Salıcı, who is the CHP’s representative in parliament’s foreign relations commission.
As some are unconvinced by the government’s narrative, it seems your views about the coup and especially the aftermath have gained more importance than ever.
We had very strong and legitimate criticisms against the Justice and Development Party (AKP) on July 14, a day before the coup. We thought the government was taking Turkey in a very negative direction. On July 15, we said, “We are not supporting (President) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or the government, but we are supporting Turkey, without forgetting our criticisms.” Turkey has suffered a tremendous trauma and the reaction shown by the opposition both within and outside of parliament proves that democracy has taken root in Turkey.
How do you evaluate the Western approach?
There was a condescending, humiliating attitude. It was like, “A coup can happen frequently in this geography, it happened to you, too.” One would have expected a more appreciative stance toward all the people who prevented the coup.
Right after the coup, as the members of the foreign affairs commission, both from the government and the opposition, we went abroad to explain the coup process. That we felt the need to explain shows the problematic stance of the West. But we were told that the fact we were representative of at least 90 percent of the nation was as important as our messages. And I think some of the attitudes started to change afterwards. We gave the same message: If the government takes the country towards more democracy, we will support those steps; if it is the other way around, then we will go back to our previous position and Turkey will lose a lot.
Why do you think the West has endorsed such an attitude?
We have a long history of democracy but we also have coups in our history. So anyone familiar with Turkey’s political past would think history repeats itself.
That’s one point. But on the other hand the AKP has alienated so many in the West and in the Middle East that it lost credibility. We clearly saw this in our meetings. Turkey’s policies do not inspire confidence in Western democracies.
So do you think they were in a way right to show that kind of reaction?
I am not saying that. We always said the AKP was doing wrong but we never said it was illegitimate. There is a legitimate government in Turkey and we criticize what this legitimate government is doing wrong. The West was sharing some of our criticism. What was missing with the West is that it should encourage Turkey to take a democratic path. I don’t want to generalize it; Great Britain were quick to show a reaction but the general attitude was that they would not care so much whether conditions in Turkey were to change via a coup or not.
Does that mean they would not mind continuing relations with a military regime in Turkey?
Their reaction makes me think they might not have had an objection. But we need to underline the fact that while the West did not pass the test, the same is true for Middle Eastern countries. Journalist Femhi Koru has gone through the Arab press. It seems had there been a successful coup, the AKP’s many Arab friends would have been happy about it. The AKP has put strains on its relations with the whole world.
What are your observations from your talks abroad?
One of the reasons why some are not convinced is the fact that 50-60,000 people were suspended right after the coup. So for those who live in an environment where there is an independent judiciary and meritocracy, the first thing they ask is whether the lists (of suspensions) were prepared beforehand. Another point they made was this: Gülenists were an ally of the government, so how come this alliance broke so suddenly? And they were trying to understand how come they (FETÖ) succeeded in infiltrating the state so much. In their world a religious brotherhood and state affairs are two separate things. We tried to explain that this is not a new phenomenon, that their way was opened during the AKP (terms in government) via political alliance. They understand a bit better when we talk about Opus Dei. They are asking how we know that FETÖ is behind the coup. Those we met who are in official positions seem to have a better analysis than the think tanks and the press.
But what the West needs to ask is this: How come political parties like the CHP, which have been opposing the AKP, were convinced within a day or two that FETÖ was behind the coup? How is it that we who always differed and criticized the government were sharing the same view this time?
Suppose I asked you that question.
Every political party, every politician, anyone in Turkey coming from a low income family, or anyone trying to enter military schools or anyone in official positions seeking to get promoted has a personal experience. If not himself, then an acquaintance has an experience. That’s why it was not a surprise. There was something which we talked about, there were personal experiences, but it was something that could not be proven, in the form of an organizational network. Once the testimonies of the coup plotters were revealed, these overlapped with what they had been hearing here and there. All this was also supported by the statements of former soldiers who were victim of the Gülenists plots. We were not convinced just because Erdoğan told us so.
What do you think about the accusations that the U.S. could have been behind the coup or behind the Gülenist network?
It would not be to the interest of Turkey if a politician was to accuse an ally without concrete evidence. But we need to see that it is not normal for someone like that to live for 19 years there (in the United States) and that he has been receiving plane loads of people and that the U.S. was not aware of that.
But what do you think is the problem in the extradition process?
One of the issues is that I doubt the government has the political maturity to secure Gülen’s extradition, in terms of using the right methods, rhetoric and managing the right process. The press publishes pictures of those who were claimed to have plotted the coup with bruises on their bodies. The president speaks in favor of the death penalty. If the AKP were to continue like this, it is highly probable that the extradition process will not produce the desired outcome. And I have to underline that Fethullah Gülen should be extradited.
What is the right method then?
If you can secure the independence of the judiciary and if the decisions of Turkey’s courts are accepted as the decisions of independent courts not just by the AKP government but by the whole world and if you were to make a genuine effort to consolidate democracy as well as fundamental freedoms, then Turkey would come nearer to the conditions that need to be fulfilled to secure extradition. If Turkey would not leave any pretext to its interlocutors that it can use to avoid extradition, then it can exert political pressure to get Gülen sent to Turkey. If the U.S. wanted to find some pretext not to extradite Gülen, it can find plenty currently.
Don’t you feel awkward that you seem to support a government that is accused of undertaking a purge that many claim is anti-democratic?
We are against both a military coup and a dictatorship. We put up a struggle against the government but the government is not our enemy. It’s our political rival. The coup plotters are the enemy of parliamentary democracy. We said we need to get rid of this immediate threat. All those enemies of democracy need to be revealed.
There are concerns that the AKP’s strategy is to include all dissidents in the purge.
Indeed we do see the signs of such a strategy. But we say punish the coup plotters, we are not saying go and arrest those who have no relationship to the coup. We do criticize the fact that people who have dedicated their life to the democratic struggle have been fired from official positions creating an impression that they are part of the FETÖ purge. We are talking about 90,000 people. Are all of them implicated in the coup? Of course not. And when we ask about it they say, “We fired them not because of FETÖ links but due to poor job performance.”
We have not given a blank check to the government. We have formed a commission where those who believe an injustice have been done to them can apply. We examine the applications and if the government has good intentions, it should correct it. Currently we are receiving mixed signals from the government. It can either go the wrong way, which would be a disaster, or the right way, which will be stronger democracy.
WHO IS OĞUZ KAAN SALICI?
Born in Gaziantep in 1972, Oğuz Kaan Salıcı was graduated from the political science and international relations department of Boğaziçi University.
While in university, he participated in the founding of the Social Democrat Universities Platform and Youth Platform for Democracy.
He is a founding member of the Social Democracy Foundation (SODEV) and a member of the Turkey Foundation of Social Economic and Political Research (TÜSES).
He was appointed as head of the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) provincial Istanbul organization in September 2011. In May 2012 he was elected to this position, but subsequently resigned to present his candidacy to become a parliamentarian. He was elected as an MP for Istanbul in the general elections of June and November 2015.
Salıcı is a member of parliament’s foreign affairs commission, along with the Turkey-US and Turkey-Cambodia parliamentary friendship groups.