Turkey has no time to waste

Turkey has no time to waste

Turkey under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) is turning into a two-faced Janus, with one face looking to the future and another to the past. I say this because the situation in the country displays the positive and negative developments taking place at the same time.

It is true that the AKP has done much that could not have been done under previous governments. The fact that the armed forces have been relegated to the place where they should be in any democracy is the most striking case in point.

To have a former chief of General Staff and some of the highest-ranking former generals in prison on charges that they tried to undermine the government through undemocratic means would have been unthinkable even five years ago. But Turkey went ahead and proved once again that it is a country of unexpected surprises.

It is also a fact that, under the AKP, the understanding of the Kurdish problem – as a social issue above and beyond the issue of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), or terrorism – has also increased. The Kurds enjoy much more cultural freedom today than they did in the past.

There are developments in other spheres that one can point to and say the AKP has done well. But that is the face of Janus that looks to the future. As we know from mythology, however, the Roman god Janus had two faces. This is where the AKP’s contradictions have started to become too blatant for comfort.

Take the case of those, including the ranking officers mentioned above, on trial for allegedly undemocratic and illegal activities. These started off as seemingly justified investigations, but have been transformed into legal witch hunts against anyone considered disagreeable from an AKP perspective.

Government officials are quick to point out that the judiciary is independent and that all this is happening outside of their control. But the “subjectivity” and “selectivity” one sees in the way these cases are being prosecuted, as well as the tangible support for them from the government and the pro-government media – which prefers to disregards the legal anomalies involved – is increasingly alarming.

That is why these cases are seen by more and more people as classic examples of a certain group of people avenging the wrongs perpetrated against it in the past by another group (whose members are now on trial). This, however, does not make for a democratic situation or to a reformed legal structure, but a situation where the law is driven by feelings of crude revenge.

For example, Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık, two of the journalists charged in these cases – a fact that has relegated Turkey to the bottom of the list in terms of press freedoms – are believed by many to be in prison for writing against the government or exposing things that are embarrassing to the authorities.

Meanwhile, the so called “KCK case” against elected Kurdish politicians and activists, who are accused of “trying to establish the urban political wing of the PKK in order to set up an alternative state within Turkey,” has many questioning just how sincere the government is in terms of its so-called “Kurdish opening.”

The government has the power to correct all of the legal anomalies Turkey is faced with today given its majority in Parliament. But it appears in no hurry, and is taking its time over instituting the necessary legal reforms that the EU and the Council of Europe are also demanding of it now.

So we have a “Janus AKP” that looks to the future, but has not fully freed itself from the traps of the past. The good and the bad thus live side by side in this country. As always, it seems to be the Turkish “two-steps-forward-one step-back march.”

Turkey indeed gains a step each time, but it has no time to waste on those lost steps.