Murphy’s law in Turkey

Murphy’s law in Turkey

Since July 15, we have been living in a post-coup Turkey - and there is little doubt that it is getting more depressing every week. It is not depressing because the coup failed, of course. Had the coup attempt succeeded, everything would be much worse. We would probably be in the midst of a bloody civil war between the junta and its dissidents, most significantly the supporters of the current government. So we should all be happy that the coup failed. But that is still not enough to be really happy; it is not enough, in fact, to not be depressed.

The problem must be obvious to anyone other than the hardcore supporters of the government: The post-coup crackdown has turned into a major trauma in itself. More than 30,000 people have been jailed, more than 100,000 people have lost their jobs, and hundreds of companies have been confiscated. Dozens of media outlets — typically leftist or pro-Kurdish ones — have been closed down with exaggerated connections to terrorism. Moreover, the government has enjoyed its newfound powers, recently extending its state of emergency - perhaps to extend it again and again. 

As I have continued to say throughout this process, a part of this crackdown is legitimate. The coup attempt proved that there is indeed a “parallel state” within the state, operated by the Gülen community, that must be “cleansed.” But it is also clear that this “cleansing” is proceeding with fury, ferocity and political opportunism. People with innocent links to the Gülen community are being targeted as “terror supporters,” while people with no connection at all, but who merely happen to be dissidents, can also be targeted. If this is not a witch hunt then nothing is. 

Did it have to be this way? Could the government and its supporters have handled things differently?
Yes, they could. There was even some slight hope in the beginning that they would do so. I pointed that out in my columns written immediately after the coup attempt. In a New York Times piece dated Aug. 23 I wrote the following:

“To move forward, Mr. Erdoğan, who has given some positive signals for national reconciliation since the coup, must curb his supporters, who seem prone to escalate this purge into a paranoid dictatorship’s mindless witch hunt. He should also keep working with the main opposition, which understands the severity of the problem posed by the Gülenists but rightly warns about the excesses of the crackdown.”

Did I really believe that this would be the course of action? Not really. But in this desperate country of ours, you want to support the faintest hope you see. If you see grounds for national reconciliation in the moment of post-coup national unity, you give it a chance.

But you also know about Murphy’s law in Turkey: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Over the past three months, those “who seem prone to escalate this purge into a paranoid dictatorship’s mindless witch hunt” are becoming increasingly definitive. Instead of listening to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which “rightly warns about the excesses of the crackdown,” they have begun to accuse it of being part of the coup-plot conspiracy. 

An ugly fact lies behind Murphy’s law in Turkey: In this nation, whoever achieves power big enough to establish a new system does this only in a self-serving way. Kemalists did that in the early 20th century, Gülenists attempted to do the same thing at the turn of the first decade of this century with nasty tactics, and now Erdoğanists are doing it again. This is a vicious cycle that will probably go on, until someone establishes a new system with enough virtue, morality and wisdom to make it not self-serving, but rather serving everyone.