The curse of the Zarrab trial

The curse of the Zarrab trial

Lately, the ruling party has been facing two major allegations. One comes from the Zarrab trial in the United States and the other comes from the main opposition party’s claims about tax evasion by the president’s relatives. Naturally, many political observers think that such big challenges will inevitably weaken the president and his party. Under normal circumstances, that could be so, but Turkey is not living in ordinary times.

A while ago, the ruling party started to define politics beyond ordinary politics; as a process of national struggle and survival. Especially after the July 15 coup attempt, there has been no space left to challenge this definition. In the view of the ruling party, first of all, the coup attempt was not only an anti-democratic act against Turkish democracy but targeted the country’s independence and survival. In this view, since this is the case, politics should be redefined with reference to that coup. That is to say, the political opposition and dissent can no longer be innocent, but a part and parcel of that evil plot. The ruling party claims any criticism means playing into the ends of the grand plot. If not by deliberately cooperating with domestic and foreign enemies of the country, it serves their interests. Therefore, it should either to be corrected or persecuted.

Under those circumstances, corruption allegations are seen as parts of this “dirty game that aims to weaken the country,” since Erdoğan and the destiny of the country is one and same. It follows that the trial in the U.S. further proves the point of the ruling party that imperialists are trying to weaken Turkey by all means. That is why the Zarrab case is not only far from being convincing of the majority of the public opinion, but it serves as a proof of “the grand plot against Turkey.” Furthermore, the ostentatious alliance of the U.S. with the Kurds of northern Syria and the U.S. arms support to the YPG, are seen as concomitant evidence which proves the existence of the cooperation of Turkey’s enemies.

Unfortunately for those who expect the Zarrab trial to weaken the ruling party, on the contrary, it has become the driving force behind a new wave of religio-nationalist solidarity. For some time, there has not been a unified public opinion in Turkey, but two separate publics who cannot agree on anything, including corruption allegations. Since nothing can shake the convictions of either camp, even the recent allegations are being perceived from two totally different points of views. Those who support the ruling party are firm in their belief of “the plot narrative,” whereas the opposite camp thinks otherwise.

That is not to say the ruling party can get away with anything with no difficulty, no one can deny that some damage has already been done if only by intimidating the governing party. More damage may follow in the shape of deepening economic crises. In my view, it is the scariest prospect since it will have a negative impact not only on our economic wellbeing but it may also have tragic social and political consequences. Under such circumstances like Turkey’s, economic crises further enforce nationalism, or religio-nationalism and pave way for further suppression of rights and freedoms. As some expect the majority of people to react against their governments and hold them responsible for economic deprivation, people are often inclined to put the blame on foreigners, minorities and alienated intellectuals. That is why I think the Zarrab case may prove to be a curse for Turkey.

Nuray Mert,