A riveting Turkish tragicomedy

A riveting Turkish tragicomedy

It was “flabbergasting” enough, to use the term of a former United States ambassador to Ankara, that a former chief of General Staff should be put in prison on terrorism charges. But matters have taken on an even more bizarre turn now with the writ issued for Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s intelligence service MİT, together with other former senior officials from the agency, to answer charges they aided Kurdish terrorism.

Even more spice was added to the witches’ brew when two senior anti-terrorist officials in Istanbul were immediately discharged by the government on the news that Fidan and former MİT members were to be investigated. 

Both officials were deeply involved in the “KCK case” involving a group accused of being a terrorist organization fighting for an independent Kurdistan on Turkish soil. Scores, including elected local officials, publishers and academics, have been detained under this investigation, including, as we now found out, Kurds who are said to be MİT informers. 

So, are prosecutors so good in this country that they are successfully weeding out “terrorists” at the highest levels of the Turkish state? Or is it that we should see these developments in light of what I have been referring to for some time as the “post-modern civil war” going on since the AKP assumed power?

It is inevitable in this climate that the writ issued for Fidan and the former MİT officials should be interpreted by many as “payback” by anti-government elements lodged in the judiciary for the detention of former Chief of General Staff İlker Başbuğ on “terrorism” charges. 

That judiciary is also said to have its pro-government elements that are at the root of the by now famous cases under which journalists, ranking military officials, former police chiefs and scores of other people are being tried for allegedly attempting to topple the government by illegal means. 

Speculation has it that it is especially those within the judiciary who deplore the government’s “Kurdish opening” – failed as it may be – that are acting now. According to this argument, Fidan – who is charged with holding secret talks with PKK elements in Oslo – acted on government instructions at the time. The implication is that this probe should lead all the way to Prime Minister Erdoğan.

Given the anti-Israeli climate in the country, stoked by Erdoğan on every occasion that presents itself, there are also those who maintain Israel is behind the Fidan incident. The claim is Israel hated seeing what they assumed – wrongly, in fact – to be an “Islamist” as Turkey’s spymaster and therefore leaked the voice recording of the Oslo meeting to the press in order to undermine Fidan and Erdoğan.

Others say this is not the case and point to what they argue has been a serious rift between the MİT – which is under government control – and anti-terrorism officials, mainly in Istanbul, who answer to Fethullah Gülen, the Islamic leader who lives in the United States and is seen by many as one of the most influential behind-the-scenes players in Turkey. 

While Gülen is an Islamist, he nevertheless hails from an ultra-nationalist past, and the claim is that he also opposed the government’s Kurdish opening, as well as other acts by the Erdoğan government. As it is, Gülen’s disapproval of the government’s handling of the Mavi Marmara incident had sent shockwaves through the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). 

So it is not totally clear at this stage if it is a question of “entrenched Kemalists” vs. “ascendant Islamists” that is fueling the post-modern civil war, or if it is “nationalist Islamists” vs. “pure Islamists” that is doing this. 

All we know is that this Turkish tragicomedy continues to unfold with many unexpected and riveting surprises no doubt on the way as the plot continues to thicken.

politics, turkish army, turkish politics, Erdogan,