There are three states now, not two

There are three states now, not two

In the past decade, political analysts who interpreted Turkey often spoke about “two states” in Ankara. The first one was the longstanding Kemalist establishment, which used to dominate the military, the judiciary and much of the bureaucracy. The second one was a new cadre of religious conservatives spearheaded by the Justice and Development Party (AKP). 

Since 2002, the AKP has won every election and thus steadily increased its power. Besides, criminal cases into the Ergenekon or “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) organizations have pursued coup attempts against the new state, saving it from the wrath of the old.

These cases have become growingly controversial as more and more people have been arrested, and some began to claim that the charges were totally bogus. However, the recent decision by the European Court of Human Rights on the case Tuncay Özkan, one of the “journalists in jail,” refutes that claim. The ECHR stated that there is “strong evidence” supporting the existence of the Ergenekon as a criminal organization, and that Özkan may have been receiving orders from Ergenekon.

In other words, despite some excesses, the crack down on the “deep state” was justified.

Meanwhile, a second front was opened, this time between the “new state” and the PKK, the armed and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Here, too, cases were opened against the KCK, the PKK’s urban network, as thousands of Kurdish activists were arrested for allegedly taking part in terrorist activities. And here again, some apparent excesses took place, as “taking part in terrorist activity” could be as simple as giving a lecture on the “self-determination of the Kurds,” as professor Büşra Ersanlı or writer Ragıp Zarakolu has discovered.

As time went by, though, differences of opinion emerged within the “new state” on how to proceed. There emerged, in a very rough definition, hawks and doves. According to the hawks, not only were all the arrests in the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases justified; more were necessary to “cleanse the state.” (They seemed to want something like “de-Baathification” in post-Saddam Iraq.) At times, they blamed the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for not being steadfast enough in this much-needed “cleansing.” 

According to the same hawks, the PKK and the KCK, too, had to be cracked down on with force before a “solution” could be sought. The Erdoğan government, too, came to this conclusion in the past year, after a period of “opening” and negotiation with the PKK. But the Erdoğan government also wanted to keep the option of negotiations on the table, which was carried out by none other than Hakan Fidan, the head of the Turkish National Intelligence Service (MİT), a trusted aide of Erdoğan.

Now, this tension was out there for a while, but it turned into an overt crisis last week, as a prosecutor with “special powers” wanted to interrogate Fidan and other top names at MİT for “collaborating with the PKK.” (The “evidence” was the MİT spies within PKK, which could be explained by the organization’s legitimate job to infiltrate the terrorist group.) The government responded with fury, and quickly drafted a law which give legal immunity to MİT executives.

Since then, everybody is speaking about a silent war between the “police intelligence and the new judiciary” and MİT, which represent the hawkish and dovish positions on the Kurdish question, respectively. But, on a deeper level, this is interpreted as a tension between the Gülen Movement, a popular Islamic community that is believed to be strong in the police and the new judiciary, and the AKP government. 

Where things will go from here is unknown. But what seems to be known now is that there are not just two states in Turkey – the old and the new. As the new state is divided into two factions, there are now actually three states.

power struggle,