To live or not to live with this shame

To live or not to live with this shame

The reopening of the Reza Zarrab file as part of the ongoing case in New York and the facts littered around this file enable us to make a series of important evaluations on many levels.

For example, in line with the case, we see how skillful Iran is in bypassing an embargo laid against it by the U.S. through a mechanism it built off its neighbor Turkey, also allowing us to see how adept it is in protecting its own interests as a government.

On another level, we witness how much the Turkish system is open to exploitation and corruption and how an imposter such as Reza Zarrab used this “openness” to easily rise to a respectable level in a short period of time.

The situation is even more problematic when the picture is viewed from a different angle. That is, the indifference shown towards the bribery network, even though it had been completely exposed in broad daylight and seemed like it had the potential to spread like a cancerous cell.

The unilateral embargo put in place by the U.S. cannot be seen as an absolutely binding, strict mandate that definitely needs to be imposed. Turkey always needs to find the right balance in the requirements for its alliance relationship with the U.S. and its neighbor relationship with Iran.

Unfortunately, a requirement for the country’s interests cannot be used as an opportunity to make politicians and the public servants wealthy through wrongful means by operating a bribery network to strike it rich.

In that context, this is the important outcome resulting from the trial in New York: The bribery network that was previously shown on paper and along with other evidence, this time confirmed Reza Zarrab was the one who personally set up and operated the system. The overlap in question here is the perception that the bribery network has come to be undeniable in the eyes of both Turkey and the world.

Now, the real question looming over Turkey is what it will do in spite of this reality.

As long as nothing is done in Turkey and people continue to act as if nothing has happened, this lack of action will make way for a series of outcomes. The first one is that it establishes the perception that bribery is a fixed part of the country’s system and sanctions are not legally imposed. Turkey cannot be lowered to the same league as some third world countries where bribery has become institutionalized.

Another thought-provoking dimension of the problem is while the country’s institutions remain inactive, a majority of society approves the system’s indifference by not making an issue of this problem.

At this point, the last thing we should worry about is what foreign countries say. What we should really worry about is the erosion of our social values. We need to worry about the spread of a lack of punishment for a culture of bribery, especially the negative effects it will have on younger generations. It will set a very bad example for those who will have a say about the future of this country to bear witness to those who give and receive bribes going free without punishment.

Turkey had generally accepted that bribery is bad as a very basic moral norm. Children and young people could grow in this social environment and absorb social cultural values like this in their development, becoming shaped by internalizing the values of such a social culture.

The only thing that can be said from the acceptance of indifference towards bribery is the reality that social values are altered. For part of a country to start acting like bribery is not something worthy of reaction shows there is a decline in the values of that country.

Sedat Ergin,