Chilling reality

Chilling reality

Why have the Turkish president and government been so rigid regarding defamation suits? Why has the excessive use of police force against protestors become a routine practice nowadays? Is there logic behind pushing society into camps, further polarizing the country? Is it healthy in any society to expect a husband, father, worker or relative to spy on their wife, children, coworkers or other relatives and report to the police?

Does anyone remember that woman who reported to the police that her husband was using derogatory language against the president? Or, does anyone remember the deputy governor of a Central Anatolian city issuing a circular to all public offices in that province and asking people to report everyone, including family members and coworkers, who used “insolent remarks” or “slandered” the president, prime minister or members of the government? Such a mentality cannot be a healthy one. I would say we have plunged into a national schizophrenic condition, but I cannot as someone might report me to the police or an officious advisor of a top man might complain and land me in prison of insulting the nation. How dare I? Yet, I must say this is not a normal or healthy society at all.

An atmosphere of fear is becoming thicker and thicker and settling on the nation in a suffocating manner. This unsustainable situation must end. The Gezi incidents of 2013 were often condemned by the “official Turkey” and the “semi-official” or allegiant media of the tall, bald, bold, ever angry man yelling all the time at someone, as an attempted coup. Why? Because people said they opposed the “I know everything far better than anyone else in this country; since almost 50 percent people voted for me I represent the national will; if the national will is supreme, I am supreme; whatever I say is a reflection of the national will” mentality.

Is democracy just the ballot box? Definitely not. In the absence of supremacy of law, a free media, norms, values and the institutions of democracy, having a ballot box cannot mean much. Indeed, yesterday in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq there was a ballot box – to whatever purpose it was serving. Saddam emerged victorious from every vote and often launched a witch hunt to find the handful of people who did not vote for him and made him reelected with 99 percent plus of the vote. Even that Iraq was far better than today’s failed state of Iraq but anyhow was that a democracy? Or can anyone come forth with the claim that today’s Iran is a democracy? But, there is ballot box in Tehran as well…

On the sidelines of the Global Media Forum hosted by Deutsche Welle in Bonn I was talking with journalists and activists from all over the world, including Middle Eastern trouble spots Iran, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon as well as Sudan, Yemen, Uganda, Nigeria and of course European as well as Asian, American or Oceanian countries. Some admired Turkey until a few years back; some always had a suspicious perception of political Islam and always had a prejudiced view. They, however, united in describing Turkey’s current situation as “horrible.” Horrible for a Yemeni, a Sudanese? Well, they have been living through similar difficulties back at home and understand well the bitter conditions in Turkey.

How can anyone evaluate the brief detention, for example, of Progressive Labor Unions Confederation (DISK) Secretary-General Arzu Çerkezoğlu, as questioning of scores of eminent journalists and intellectuals who, in order to demonstrate solidarity with Özgür Gündem, participated in a symbolic “editor-in-chief on duty” action? What she said I might not participate in but Çerkezoğlu made her point at a speech in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. In democracies those who disagree should come up with some other ideas, not with detention orders. Was she involved in violence? Was she holding someone’s arm or intentionally hurt someone? No… She just made a point. Expressing solidarity and standing up together with some other people for the defense of something are just among the democratic rights of an individual. How can the state or the ideology dominating the state dare to teach people how to behave with such undertakings?

Hürriyet Editor-in-Chief Sedat Ergin was worried about a probable reaction from the government in accepting the Free Speech Award from Deutsche Welle. I just could not understand why he was so timid. Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar was recently presented a Norwegian press freedom award, for obvious reasons. He was in Brussels for a reception hosted by European Parliament Speaker Martin Schulz. Dündar was given a warm welcome by Schulz. That warm welcome, however, was taken as proof by the allegiant media that Dündar and other government critics were involved in treacherous activities.

In fact, those ruling the country must have been honored by two eminent Turkish journalists receiving prestigious awards and being given the red carpet treatment…

Red carpet? Well, that is a showcase of the chilling reality. The traditionally red carpets have long been replaced by the absolute authority with turquoise ones…