Yet another sad day for an ailing Turkish democracy

Yet another sad day for an ailing Turkish democracy

Hürriyet Daily News reported on Nov. 15 that Turkey and the European Union will hold two high-level meetings in the next two weeks as part of a joint effort in re-opening institutional dialogue channels. 

In this framework, Turkey-EU High-Level Political Dialogue meetings will be held in Ankara on Nov. 22 and the Turkey-EU Association Committee on Nov. 28. They will be followed by other dialogue meetings on energy, transportation and economy in the upcoming months.

EU High Representative and Vice President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini and European Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn will be in Turkey for the first meeting.

The revitalization of the Ankara-Brussels communication line follows the former’s latest attempts of normalization of its ties with the European capitals and institutions. It held the Reform Action Group meeting in late August after a three-year break and will reconvene on Dec. 11 in line with its promises to uphold political and democratic reforms.

Although more words than actions have been observed in this process, there were still hopes that revisiting the EU agenda would lead to concrete changes in the said fields.

All these hopes once again seem to be broken as a number of academics and civil society activists were detained in early Nov. 16 as part of an ongoing investigation into prominent rights activist and businessman Osman Kavala, who has been behind bars for more than a year without indictment.

Among the detainees are Bilgi University Law Faculty Dean Prof. Turhan Tarhanlı, Prof. Betül Tanbay from the Mathematics Department of Boğaziçi University, as well as board members of Anadolu Kültür, Hakan Altınay, Yiğit Ekmekçi and Çiğdem Mater. 

Pro-government media reported the number of detainees as 20 without giving the full list, claiming they were arrested over mass protests against the government, which erupted at Istanbul’s Gezi Park in May 2013 and spread across Turkey.

At a moment when many were expecting the release of Osman Kavala because of the fact that the probe has failed to find evidence on his alleged attempt to overthrow the constitution, this new wave of detentions is really shocking.

It is also worrying that Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland said in a written statement, “I am very concerned by the detention of a group of academics including Hakan Altınay and will raise this alarming development with the Turkish government as a matter of urgency.”

It is unfortunate to witness the detention of such credible academics and civil society figures out of nowhere. This set of new detentions also has devastating effects on society as it injects fear and insecurity among the university and civil society circles. This shows the continued purge of academics and activists under the new presidential regime, although many government officials are in sincere efforts to reverse this trend.

Yet, it was this government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who called on Turkish academics and researchers abroad to return to their homeland to carry out their works in a bid to reverse the brain drain. It is enough of an oxymoron to see more academics are being detained today. It is a sad day for democracy and for those who advocate for it.

Politics, Human Rights,