Dark, darker, darkest
In less than a week’s time, Turkey has witnessed three major, worrying events, one after another. On Nov. 24, we learned that Turkey downed a Russian jet on the Syrian border. It was a dark day, since we did not know if we were on the verge of a war while wondering how it all happened. What was more worrying was that at first, the president and the governing party sounded jubilant as the pro-government media came out with celebratory headlines that Turkey had showed its strength. Nevertheless, even the president was surprised that there was applause in the room when he announced that Turkey had downed a Russian jet, forcing him to inform them that it was not something to celebrate. Then, he and his party tried to retreat from their first position but to no avail. Finally, Turkey ended up with a newborn crisis with Russia.
It turned darker two days later when two prominent journalists from daily Cumhuriyet (which I also write for) were arrested on espionage charges for breaking news about trucks that were allegedly sent to Syria in January 2014 by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT). Police stopped the trucks, which were full of heavy weapons and ammunition, as they were heading toward Syria.
At the time, the government claimed that the trucks were transporting humanitarian aid before announcing that the weapons were being sent to Turkmens to defend themselves. Those who stopped them were declared as conspirators who had exposed state secrets and duly arrested. This is how the controversy ended after the opposition, which had sought to question the government’s Syrian policy, was silenced in the name of the national interest. Cumhuriyet published the pictures of the trucks with weapons long after the event but just before the June elections, angering the president and his governing party. Everybody knew that the news was true but that the journalists who published them would end up in deep trouble. The trouble came after the Justice and Development Party (AKP) secured a majority vote in the snap election of Nov. 1. It was the latest blow to the freedom of press and the latest serious threat to dissent.
But no, the nightmare did not end there; the darkest day was to come just two days later on Nov. 28. That day, a prominent Kurdish human rights lawyer and the head of the Diyarbakır Bar Association, Tahir Elçi, was killed in unclear circumstances after he made a press conference in front of a historical mosque in Diyarbakır.
The so-called “peace process” with Kurds had come to an end long before the June elections and, therefore, before the Kurds restarted armed conflict in July. It was devastating for all who believe in Kurdish peace, as we were all concerned that if the last move for peace collapses, the Kurdish problem would regress to the dark days of the 1990s – or evolve into something even worse, as expectations had been even higher this time.
It seems that the worst of the worse is occurring now. Who knows what will happen next.