The democratic world and martial law

The democratic world and martial law

Declaring martial law or a state of emergency and expanding the definition of the crime of “terror,” have been suggested as ways to combat terrorism in the country. 

It is not a subject for a referendum in legal terms; but if a referendum is to be held, I am assuming that an absolutely overwhelming majority will accept it. In such a case, a populist demagogy of “the people want it so” can easily be conducted. 

But it would be wrong.

We have to think calmly, make rational analyses on what kind of consequences would the steps yield in the long term and decide accordingly.  

We don’t need to go very far in the past to be able to draw lessons from the practices of martial law and declared states of emergencies. Of course, the most determined struggle will be made with military and police power against terror. The struggle done today is a just one and we should support it morally.

However, we have seen that the martial law of the 1980s and the subsequent state of emergency have created a “different administrative style” in that part of the country and the “excessive use of force” has caused an accumulation of reaction in masses and as a result, contributed to creating a base for terror. 

The government, correctly, is now rejecting formulas involving martial law and declaring a state of emergency. 

We should think long and hard about whether it would discourage or encourage terror to make amendments in anti-terror and penal codes and create a similar atmosphere by the way of justice. 

The issue that needs to be seriously debated is this: Will it be discouraging to declare all as “terrorists,” arresting and jailing professors, artists, writers alongside bombers and armed terrorists? Or will it mitigate the concept of “terrorist” and increase criticisms against the state that needs to gain the broadest moral support?

Are we able to say, “Let it increase?” Isn’t the aim to narrow the base of terror and its circle of influence? 

I want to cite an example of a positive amendment this government did in the anti-terror law in 2006 on Article No. 6/2. This article originally penalized “the publishers and broadcasters of declarations and statements of terror organizations.” Several journalists were interrogated and jailed because of their stories, as well as intellectuals such as İsmail Beşikçi (who I absolutely disagree with). 

This scene was indeed very negative for Turkey. 

In 2006, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government changed this. It introduced a more moderate version. 

Moreover, in our times, which story or declaration can you block from reaching interested audiences? 

The president is insistent on the expansion of the definition of terror, but the government and the party have not made any supporting statements. We do not yet know which articles are to be changed. Once stated, there could be aspects I would also support. 

However, I want to point out to this fact: Expanding the coverage of terror crimes with the mood of anger may bear absolutely unwanted results, such as expanding the political base of terror. An image of a country where bans have been aggravated plays into the hands of terror organizations. 

While the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has lost reputation in the region due to ditches and barricades, the creation of such an atmosphere should be avoided. 

While Article No. 90 of the constitution states universal law prevails over local laws, what and how are we going to change? 

Do we not feel the need for the support of the democratic world in our anti-terror process?