A likely boom in the number of traitors
One of the most debated topics last week was the discussion between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the head of the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) Muharrem Yılmaz on “treason.”
The prime minister in a meeting last Friday (Jan. 24) in Ankara harshly criticized Yılmaz’s words the day before when he said, “Foreign capital will not flow into a country where rule of law is not respected.” Erdoğan said, “The head of TÜSİAD cannot say ‘Global capital will not flow into such a country.’ If he does, then this is treason against the country.”
Yılmaz, on a TV show the same day, said he would not have his patriotism questioned: “Anything like treason is not acceptable. It should not be such an easy thing to bring up treason.”
It was not only the head of TÜSİAD who was labeled a traitor recently. The PM also accused the head of the main opposition Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of being a traitor the other day in Istanbul. The reason for the latter was Kılıçdaroğlu’s claim that arms were being shipped to Syria with trucks of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT).
One of the important consequences the Dec. 17 era has added to Prime Minister Erdoğan’s political style is labels such as “traitor” or “treason” have become his routine discourse.
Erdoğan used to resort to the traitor attribution mostly for the PKK in the past. Also, the PM used these expressions from time to time last June during the Gezi Park resistance.
However, when his statements belonging to that period are reviewed, it can be said the concepts in question were not too predominant in terms of his tone. The difference in the post-Dec. 17 era is Erdoğan has made these concepts an almost routine, daily exercise to accuse people and institutions he is cross at.
The important aspect here is Erdoğan has characterized the investigation process concerning the corruption claims that started on Dec. 17 and the second wave of which arrived on Dec. 25 as a “treason initiative” as a whole. Thus, Erdoğan opts for the worst adjective possible for negation to repel, to invalidate the accusations.
For example, the PM, in his first domestic trip after Dec. 17, on Dec 21 in the Black Sea province of Ordu’s Fatsa district, he slapped “the certain domestic treason gangs who have their roots outside the country;” he also said “Turkey has never been subject to such a treacherous attack before as of today’s.” He has also referred to, the next day, “traitors who are used by certain dirty circles.”
The issue of treason then turned into a settled tone in his following speeches. “The treason operation, treason movement, treason project, treason network, treacherous campaign, traitor organizations,” within the same conceptual integrity, are attributions the PM resorts to systematically.
No doubt, these accusations, first and foremost, point to the Gülen Community, the domestic “traitor” used by external powers.
Of course, one can highlight the serious self-contradiction Erdoğan has fallen into while he is so easily denouncing many segments. When in the past, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) members called him a “traitor,” we know Erdoğan reacted severely to these accusations. Erdoğan had declared he took the leader of the main opposition Kılıçdaroğlu to court because he called him a “traitor.” Erdoğan said, “The leader of main opposition or a politician cannot call the prime minister of a country traitor, never….” (Sept. 27, 2012, NTV.)
Moreover, we remember the PM speaking about the opposition members who described the Kurdish initiative as “treason,” making moderate speeches saying, “In politics, it is wrong to plunge into hostile sentiments, to see opponents as enemies and label them as traitors.” (TİM General Assembly, June 6, 2012)
The tendency we see is that in terms of the prime minister using the “traitor” discourse so easily, he cannot grow out of the classic Turkish right-wing politician pattern and it seems highly probable that the number of traitors he will announce will skyrocket.
Sedat Ergin is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on Jan 28. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.