Immunity to civilians thwarting coup stirs debate in Turkey
A new state of emergency decree released on Dec. 24 providing immunity to civilians who fought against last year’s coup attempt and terrorist acts that followed it has triggered a fresh debate in Turkey.
The latest decree includes only incidents that happened on the night of the coup attempt and the following morning, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Spokesperson Mahir Ünal said at a press conference on Dec. 25.
“Let’s clarify something. [The decree] is about the attempt on July 15, 2016 and the morning of July 16,” he said.
“It was declared to avoid any legal responsibility over the brave people who held their country with their bare hands and protected the country at the cost of their lives that night and the following morning,” the spokesperson said, adding that claiming the item in the decree would cover actions against current terror acts is “only disinformation.”
Meral Akşener, the leader of the İYİ Party (Good Party), on Twitter warned a “civil war” could be unleashed with the decree.
“Granting civilians the right to use guns, while attributing it to [defense] against a coup attempt, with a government decree means pushing the country into civil war. Avoiding parliament for such a crucial law despite a majority and introducing a government decree instead may have even more serious consequences,” Akşener said on Dec. 25.
The government has been publishing decree laws under an authority granted by the state of emergency declared in the aftermath of the July 15, 2016, coup attempt, which was foiled after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called on supporters to hit the streets against the plotters.
The deputy chairs of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) group in parliament said the government is bidding to suppress opposition with decree laws.
“The government sees the end of the road and thinks it can prevent democratic opposition, the peoples’ objection to current economic conditions, strikes and resistance through this way,” they said.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy leader Bülent Tezcan described the latest decrees as “new coup memoranda.”
“The state of emergency decrees number 695 and 696 are the new coup memoranda for the July 20  coup,” he said, referring to the date the state of emergency was first declared.
“Military coups rule the country with martial law and civil coups rule the country with state of emergency decrees,” Tezcan said in a written statement on Dec. 24.
While responding to criticism against the decrees, ruling AKPdeputy chair Cevdet Yılmaz said the decree laws are open to inspection by parliament.
Metin Feylzioğlu, the head of the Bar Associations in Turkey, said such a law granting immunity to civilians who confronted the July 15 coup attempt and terrorist acts that followed it would result in “people shooting each other in the head on the streets.”
“I was terrified when I inspected the decree law no. 696. I was very sad,” Feyzioğlu said.
“I have always thought that the fight against reason would have a limit. I hope they will be brought to reason at some point. I really do not understand what they are doing,” he said.
“What does parliament exist for? Why did this nation protect the parliament on July 15?” he said, addressing the president, the prime minister and the ministers who signed the decree.