The country of recurrent nightmares
The Turkey of 2014 is very reminiscent of the Turkey of 2010. Again, the government, especially President Tayyip Erdoğan, is slamming a “treacherous” power that has allegedly conspired to overthrow his government. Again, a certain segment of the media is carrying out a bitter propaganda campaign against this evil cabal, in a language that borders on hate speech. Again, the judiciary is launching a series of investigations against the evil cabal. And again, these investigations include the arrests of journalists who are accused of being members of an “armed terrorist organization,” while the “evidence” against them is nothing other than what they wrote.
However, there is still a big difference between 2010 and 2014. In 2010, the crusade against “the coup makers” was led by both Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Gülen movement together, which were at the time the best of allies. Today, the AKP is still in the same place, but the Gülen movement is the target of the hunt of “coup makers.” That is why journalists from the movement now find themselves defending the very arguments that they tried to refute four years ago — such as that journalists cannot be accused simply for what they wrote, or that they should not be held in jail while their trial is ongoing.
Moreover, it is quite possible that even the AKP and its cronies may change places in the future, to find themselves not as the witch hunters but the hunted witches. If there ever will be a post-AKP era, some journalists of today, too, may end up connected to a criminal cabal, interrogated by prosecutors about whose orders they wrote their headlines on.
This is the case because of a fundamental flaw with Turkey. Here, neither the laws nor the justice system are really designed to protect justice. Rather, they are designed, or at least continually manipulated, to protect whoever is in power.
The Kemalists initiated this doomed tradition, by making the judiciary a handmaiden of their “revolution.” When the Kemalist generals launched a coup in 1960 against the government of Adnan Menderes, the judge who decided upon Menderes’ cruel execution notoriously told him: “This is the will of the power that put you here.” When the religious conservatives launched their “democratic” counter-revolution in the first decade of the 21st century, they only continued the tradition by using the judiciary as a tool for revenge. That is why so many innocent people, who simply got in their way, have been imprisoned with overblown accusations of “coups” or “terrorism.”
Yet this triumph, which was built not on justice but on revenge, was destined to bring doom to the victors. This is what has happened over the past year. The AKP was exposed with regard to its shameful corruption. The Gülen movement was exposed with regard to its network within the bureaucracy and its numerous wrongdoings. Both sides depicted each other as the ultimate evil. But for an outside observer, they were both similarly unclean.
Now the AKP has the upper hand, and the sword is swinging towards the Gülen movement. They should be defended in the face of the kind of possible injustices that they themselves had spearheaded against others in the recent past. But deep down all Turks must understand why, for decades, they are really going through these recurrent nightmares. It is not because there are evildoers out there that must be found and crushed. It is rather because the evil is in all of us.