A dangerous game of ‘musical chairs’

A dangerous game of ‘musical chairs’

Ahmet Altan, editor-in-chief of daily Taraf and one of the few insightful columnists at the moment, says that political change in Turkey has proven to be a game of “musical chairs.” When the music stops, people sit in different chairs but the game is still the same (Taraf, Aug. 5). The only difference is that the generals are more devout since there is a conservative government in office.

It was military hegemony that previously hindered inquiries concerning human rights abuses, and now it is the civilian government. It was the Republican People’s Party (CHP) which used to attempt to hinder democratic laws by applying to the Constitutional Court for their annulment, and now it is the CHP that is preparing to apply to the U.N. Human Rights Commission and the EU Council of Ministers Committee.
Then, Altan warns that a strong storm is approaching as the tension is intensifying in the Middle East and that Turkey is especially prepared in terms of the Kurdish issue (Taraf, Aug. 16). He suggests that the only way to tackle the storm is to implement more democratization in order to avoid severe complications which appear to be approaching under warlike conditions in the region. Indeed this is the case!

It was a real political crisis situation when CHP MP Hüseyin Aygün was kidnapped by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) last week, yet the governing party refused to hold an extraordinary meeting in Parliament and refused to recognize its responsibility concerning the security of the roads. Moreover, governmental circles directly and/or indirectly accused the kidnapped MP for his “soft” remarks about the group after he was released.

In fact, Aygün is known for his harsh criticism of the PKK, and he only needed to acknowledge the extent of the problem and used humanistic language concerning the need for peace rather than repeating clichés of patriotism and of hollow curses against the PKK.

In the meantime, on one hand, the prime minister was accusing a media boss for employing critical columnists rather than answering very mild criticism from the columnist (who happened to be the latest target) in the name of accountability. On the other, governmental circles continued to accuse a victim of torture rather than inquiring about the alleged responsibility a recently promoted police chief had in the case, while the infamous interior minister claimed that the tear gas used by Turkish security forcers is 100 percent “natural.”

It seems that Turkey is passing through dire straits domestically and internationally and that nobody knows where it will all lead. The country is on the verge of war with Syria and it seems that only the U.S. reluctance to stage a military assault is stopping the government. Nobody besides the staunch supporters of the ruling party is convinced of the reasons for a possible war.

Recently, the atrocities and human rights abuses by the Free Syrian Army created even more skepticism concerning the Syrian case. Nevertheless, there is no free space left to discuss all these matters. The sectarian divide is starting to take the place of political debate in terms of domestic and regional crises.

The emergency bells have been ringing loudly for a while, but the government does not want to hear them while everyone else is forbidden from speaking out. The most dangerous situation for a country is to ban discussion about any other danger than what the government allows to be called “real danger.” And for the government, there is only one danger to fight against with all means, and that is the PKK.