EU likes Kurds, moderate Islamists and leftists but not Kemalists?

EU likes Kurds, moderate Islamists and leftists but not Kemalists?

I have to admit, I do agree with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan!

He was surprised by the European Union’s critical statement about the arrests of journalists and media representatives that took place Sunday, Dec. 14.

I was surprised too!

He was not only intrigued about the substance, but also the timing. Exactly my feeling!

Federica Mogherini, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the Commission and Johannes Hahn, the Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations issued their statement on Sunday, the very day of the arrests!

The statement said the raids and arrests were incompatible with the freedom of the media, voiced their expectation that “the principle of presumption of innocence will prevail” and recalled “the inalienable right for an independent and transparent investigation in cases of any alleged wrongdoing, with full respect of the rights of the defendants.”

“We recall that any further step toward EU accession by any candidate country depends on the full respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights.”

Erdoğan found all of this very interesting!

Not only the timing, but the strong rhetoric is also quite interesting indeed!

I’d like to congratulate everyone in the Zaman group for having spent all moral and material efforts to forge important links with the EU; they received the support that was deprived from their predecessors, who were victims of the same type of treatment.

I don’t recall any such mobilization when hundreds of journalists, soldiers and members of associations, including a cancer patient, were subject to police raids in the early hours of the day, and most went to prison. Pity daily Cumhuriyet did not have enough means and presence in Brussels!

But one would have thought human rights to be universal; that EU is critical of all human rights violations independent of who the perpetrators and victims are.

This is what Erdoğan said about the statement:

“It is very interesting. The EU is making a statement about these [arrests] on the off day. Look how sensitive they are,” he said adding, “Look at how they know so much about what’s going on and they are so passionate for Turkey that they immediately issued a statement. Those who made us wait on their doorstep for the past 50 years, where did they get this sensitivity?”

I might answer this question.

When I heard of the EU statement, I was indeed surprised, but I also had a sense of deja vu!
I spent a decade in Ankara in the 1990’s reporting about such statements. It was only natural for high-level EU officials to issue such statements when anti-democratic developments of a similar magnitude took place in Turkey, and believe me, we had lots of them. Hundreds of intellectuals, human rights activists, Kurds and even parliamentarians were sentenced to prison for having only expressed their views, which was considered a threat to the “national unity and territorial integrity” of the state by the then military-judiciary tutelage system of the time.

Such “bitter nostalgia” I am feeling when I write this sacred concept of “national unity and territorial integrity!” Today this concept has been replaced by “a coup attempt to the democratically-elected government.” I confess this has a more legitimizing effect when you hear it.

I cannot recall the number of statements issued, letters written and visits held to convince government officials that what the judiciary was doing was anti-democratic. “The judiciary is independent in Turkey,” government officials used to snap back, saying Europeans were not aware of the “threats” against national unity and territorial integrity of the country.

The EU was so convinced of the anti-democratic nature of the military-judiciary tutelage system that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) did not need to convince them about the legal cases leveled against their representatives in the 2000’s. The EU had forgotten the principle that even the perpetrators of a crime need a fair trial and are assumed innocent until proven otherwise.

“The EU can’t give democracy lessons to Turkey,” roars Erdoğan. It looks difficult to disagree with him!