Walk the line

Walk the line

“I find myself alone when each day is through / Because you’re mine, I walk the line” (Johnny Cash)

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu recently started the most ambitious attempt of his political life. His “march for justice,” which began in the Turkish capital Ankara is about to enter its second week and it has already drawn various reactions. Even members of his own party were skeptical when Kılıçdaroğlu first threw out the idea. Many CHP heavyweights shrugged that it would not change anything, and indeed perhaps it won’t. But it is certainly a major change in the dynamics of the “No” front.

Kılıçdaroğlu has been under heavy fire after the contested constitutional referendum, with critics saying he was not harsh enough against the Supreme Electoral Board (YSK) or the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). There is still criticism in Ankara even after his march started. “He should have done this back in April. He could have organized mass protests, sit-ins, anything,” said one respected journalist from daily Sozcu.” 

The critics may have a point, but after a long campaign and a tiring referendum process, people were exhausted. We at CNN Türk saw this even in the ratings. The overall ratings of news stations dropped radically after the referendum because everyone was so fed up with politics. Three months later, it is a different story.

A couple of things have happened to create this change. The trials of high-ranking soldiers who took place in the July 2016 coup attempt started, while parliament’s ad-hoc commission investigating the coup attempt released its initial report. What’s more, the sons-in-law of some very senior figures were arrested (and then released) over their ties to what prosecutors call the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ). 

So Kılıçdaroğlu did not even have to say a word or do anything for ordinary people on the street to start questioning the practices of the AK Party government and lose their respect for the judiciary. The problems are not limited to political court cases. The presidential palace’s lavish Ramadan fast-breaking iftar meals and the unfair tax fines against ordinary people have started to bite. Even some pro-AK Party newspaper columnists have started to express concern. 

On top of all this came the jailing of Enis Berberoglu, the former editor-in-chief of Hürriyet and current CHP Istanbul deputy. 

Rumors are now spreading that Kılıçdaroğlu will abandon his march “due to health reasons” after 10 days. Other rumors say the state will decline to provide security around Bolu and Adapazarı, both known for being home to some hard-line AK Party supporters. Some say there “provocations,” while others say the 69-year-old Kılıçdaroğlu will never be able to complete such a long march. 

People saying such things have probably never even walked from the posh neighborhood of Bebek to Taksim in their lives. The “white Turks” who always find Kılıcdaroğlu inadequate are probably currently basking in the Bodrum sun or on the beaches of Antalya. He should not take these voices seriously.

But if people like Fatma Bostan Unsal, a woman who was among the founding leaders of the AK Party movement, or Cihangir Islam, a respected conservative academic who was kicked out of university during the post-coup attempt purges, have decided to walk the line with Kılıçdaroğlu in support of the cause he is defending, it may means that the message has struck a chord in small neighborhoods.

As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, the moral arch of the universe is long but it bends towards justice.