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YUSUF KANLI

yusuf.kanli@hurriyet.com.tr

YUSUF KANLI >Turkey, adze and the West

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Dictionaries describe adze as a cutting tool shaped somewhat like an axe that dates back to the Stone Age. They are used for smoothing or carving wood by hand, similar to an axe but with cutting edge perpendicular to the handle – a peculiarity because of which it is often used in only self-serving attitudes.

In the Turkish political jargon an adze-democrat or self-catering democrat, is someone who talks about democratic ideals, norms and values as long as he benefits from them, but when it comes to talking about rights and liberties of other people he is as deaf as a post. Most of the political parties in Turkey and eminent politicians of this age are peculiar examples to the special “adze-democrat” term of Turkish politics. For example, a politician might brand the presidential governance model as treason, a move that will pave the way for federalism and thus to Turkey’s eventual disintegration and spare no effort in condemning it as a treacherous proposal. The same leader, with his party’s or his personal interests changed, might argue that for the integrity, the wellbeing of the country and the nation, and for the creation of a stronger Turkey, supporting the presidential governance system should become a must.

Or just a few years ago, inviting the leader of a Syrian Kurdish political party, meeting with him at various levels, including hours of discussions in Istanbul and Ankara might not be obscured with the rampant claims of organic links between that party and Turkey’s separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist gang.

 Such links have not barred a senior executive of the same group from very recently attending a workshop in Istanbul, where he explained the perceptions of his party regarding what would be done the day after the end of the Syrian quagmire. But the group is considered by Turkey as a terrorist one that is not tolerated in Syria.

 Why? If it was an extension of the PKK, was it not when its leader was thrown a red carpet welcome in Ankara a few years ago or when the number two of that group attended an Istanbul meeting? Or, does Turkey consider that group as terrorist if it is in Syria but a partner, when its top executives visit Turkey? As is obvious, just like an adze, the friendship understanding of this country is a self-catering one.

Nowadays the country is undergoing a campaign period for the upcoming April 16 referendum with constitutional amendments supporters who believe it will open an era of stability, fast progress and a stronger Turkey, while opponents decry it as a tool that will land Turkey in an autocracy and a one-man rule. Talking publicly in support of a “yes” vote is most welcome everywhere. Municipalities might decorate buses with slogans supportive of the “Yes” campaign. Writers are freely expressing the merits of voting “Yes” in the referendum. While, buses covered with slogans supportive of the “No” vote, or billboard adds campaigning for the “No” vote are unwelcome in most places in the country, including its largest one, Istanbul. All discussion programs on TV are overwhelmingly dominated by “Yes” campaigners and on official places, there are no traces of people defending why the citizens should vote “No.”

If for the “No” campaigners the TRT allocates about one third of the time it gives to the president and the “yes” campaigners, and if the government uses its emergency rule power to lift the punitive powers of the Supreme Electoral Board regarding enforcement of “equality” on screen time on private channels for the “yes and “no” campaigners, no one can say a game is being played with rules, let alone the universal ones.

In public opinion polls, the number of “yes” and “no” supporters are very close. Whatever the result is, if the race was not democratic and if the “no” campaigns were not allowed or hindered, can it still be possible to claim that the nation is made up with free choice?

Respecting the right of expression must be fundamental. Nowadays, the Turkish government is in fumes against Germany and the Netherlands because some propaganda meetings scheduled to be attended by some ministers were not given permission and Ankara was told such meetings were unwelcome. Turkish ministers are condemning European hypocrisy and lamenting that those who were constantly talking about the right of expression were denying the ruling party of Turkey to express its opinion to fellow countrymen living in those countries.

Turkey is as well condemning a recent human rights report by the U.S. that prepared 75 very critical pages on Turkey’s worsening rights situation, particularly impunity, freedom of expression violations, inconsistent access to due process, and of course mass arrests. As expected, Turkey immediately condemned the report, labelling it biased because it excluded the fact that the head of the July 15 coup attempt is still living in the U.S.

The adze is believed to have been used by men ever since the Stone Age and definitely, today’s political clan of Turkey deserves to be given the title of “Golden adze” because of its peculiar performance.

March/06/2017

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