Turks between a rock and a hard place

Turks between a rock and a hard place

On the one hand, more details are emerging in the ongoing investigation about the bloody military coup attempt of July 15 that are increasing the reaction among Turkish people.

For example, the security footage in the press on Nov. 3 showing the Akıncılar Air Base commander, Brig.-Gen. Hakan Evrim, saluting a civilian, Kemal Batmaz, the general manager of a paper company who was allegedly one of the operatives, or “imams” of the coup that night, in the base where Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and other top commanders were kidnapped has caused widespread outrage. 

The paper company that he used to manage was confiscated by the court in March 2016 on accusations that it transferred money to the secret network of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher.

It was the base commander who told the Chief of Staff that he could establish phone contact with Gülen, something Akar reportedly rejected.

The majority of people want those responsible for the coup attempt to be punished severely, and some even want death penalty to be reinstated – something that has been supported by President Tayyip Erdoğan.

On the other hand, there are the extraordinary measures that have been taken by the government under the state of emergency declared in wake of the coup attempt that caused widespread reactions inside and outside of Turkey.

The mass detentions and mass dismissals of public servants under suspicion of links to the Gülen network has started to turn into a major political row.

Those believe that they have been accused in vain go to opposition parties and when opposition parties, mostly the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP), voice those complaints, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) accuses the CHP of helping the putschists by behaving too softhearted.

But the number of journalists and writers put in jail and prosecuted and the number of media outlets that have been closed down by the government are dangerously on the rise, threatening freedom of expression in the country.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ admitted in Parliament on Nov. 3 that prosecutor Murat İnam, who opened the investigation against Cumhuriyet newspaper on accusations of links to the Gülen network and at the same time the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), was actually under prosecution himself on suspicions of being a Gülenist. The minister regretted that he was appointed as the prosecutor of the Cumhuriyet file.

On one hand, Turkish government has been complaining that “the West” failed to show empathy and credit the Turks for thwarting a military coup; on the other hand, the government fails to see that it is almost impossible to draw any sympathy with vows to bring back the death penalty, jailing journalists and generally painting a picture of trying to put down all dissident voices.

On one hand, the Turkish people are aware that if the coup had not been defeated, the country would have been in a terrible civil war by now. On the other hand, the political tension has started to increase once again. And there is also the gradual isolation of Turkey in the democratic world, which doesn’t help the situation of the Turkish people. It’s not an easy situation.