100 years have passed waiting for justice in Turkey

100 years have passed waiting for justice in Turkey

When the second Ottoman constitution was declared in 1908, it was celebrated with street demonstrations in all corners of the empire. It was perceived as the end of Sultan Abdülhamid II’s oppression and Ottomans of all ethnicities took to the streets to welcome freedom. 

In one of the posters widely used in these demonstrations, the Ottomans added “justice” to the French Revolution’s famous motto of “Freedom, Equality, Fraternity.” 

This concept of justice is one that has been longed for since 1908. Those who pledge justice are carried to power.

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is the second party to come to power in Turkey containing the word “justice.” The first was the Justice Party (AP), which came to power based on the notion that the coup against the Democrat Party on May 27, 1960 was an injustice against the whole nation. The AP had a mission to bring justice. 

The AK Party was also formed to eliminate injustices brought about by the “covert coup” of Feb. 28, 1997, and it has been in power since the end of 2002.  

So, has justice arrived? 

In fact, the AK Party did just what the AP tried to do: It did not pay enough attention to injustices apart from the ones that it had experienced itself.

When AK Party members and supporters step back and look at their 13-year governing period, they will see that when the party tried to bring justice to everyone, it was unifying. When it tried to bring justice only to certain elected segments, it was polarizing. 

Today we are again caught in a spiral of polarization. Even though elections were held just two months ago, if certain segments of society dare to question the legitimacy of the government, and if the perception abroad is that Turkey is going back to the pre-AK Party era, then I guess it is necessary for the AK Party to take a hard look at itself. 

The simplest and the most fundamental example is the debate for the past two weeks on freedom of expression. 

We should also discuss the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, and the position of prosecutors. In Turkey, eras and governments change but the existence of prosecutors who open cases according to political winds blowing from the government never change.  

Today, investigations into academics accused of “supporting terrorism and terrorist propaganda,” and into others who simply express their ideas, are easily opened. How many times have the laws been amended during the AK Party era? How many times have “democratization” reforms been introduced? I cannot keep count. 

Despite dozens of amendments and “reforms,” because the accountability of prosecutors is not introduced, we keep experiencing today what we experienced in the 80s, 90s and 2000s.  

How many times were “reform” laws processed during the AK Party era to stop arrests being used as punishment in advance and to allow trials without arrest? 

Even though it is obvious they will be acquitted, is keeping journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül in prison for a crime they never committed not punishing them in advance?

It was only yesterday that certain segments were complaining about university administrations and ultranationalists at the Higher Education Board (YÖK) not hiring people like them for university positions. Today, not only are they blocked at the gates of universities, they are also being fired from various universities.  

Are we forgetting that concepts like “traitor,” “terrorist,” and “supporter of terrorism” are used differently at each different government era in Turkey, targeting all kinds of different people? 

Either the AK Party organizes itself to serve justice for everyone, or one day another party with “justice” in its name will be formed and come to power.

Turkey’s political history tells us this, because unfortunately history constantly repeats itself in this country.