Quo Vadis Turkey?

Quo Vadis Turkey?

It has been a painful period for Turkey since the state of emergency was declared on July 20, 2016, but the problem is not unique to this period. In the aftermath of the 1980 military rule, hundreds of academics, top bureaucrats and civil servants were expelled from public services. It took almost two decades for those people to get their state-usurped rights back. Those were special and exceptional times of course. In the aftermath of the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup, there was a five-man military National Security Council ruling the country with decrees that held equal power as the law. Since then, at times of civilian rule, no such trauma was experienced until the state of emergency was declared last July.

How many people have lost their lives to thwart the July 15 coup attempt? Excluding those alleged to have staged the coup; 240 civilians lost their lives. After the coup attempt, over 100 thousand people have perished; they were either placed behind bars on grounds they participated in the coup attempt, or were members of either the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization” or some other terrorist groups, including the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) separatist gang.

With the latest state of emergency decree, which cannot be appealed, but those affected may ask for a correction from a special governmental unit, Turkey has suffered immense trauma once again, demonstrating what might be in stock should the constitutional amendment be approved in a tentatively scheduled April referendum, which would usher Turkey into a one-man arbitrary rule. The so-called Turkey Wealth Fund established under the chairmanship of a very controversial presidential adviser, the country has been re-shaped almost completely through statutory decrees and the thick veil of fear that successfully stifled critics, demonstrating what kind of a “new and great Turkey” might emerge should the nation succumb to unjust propaganda. 

The latest emergency decree is demonstrative enough to show what kind of an equal-opportunity regime is awaiting if Turks approved the constitutional amendments package. Under the equality principle of the constitution, public and private broadcasters of Turkey are required by the law to allocate equal time for political parties and candidates at elections or referendum periods. Now, the government has ordered in the latest decree that the Supreme Election Board (YSK) will not have power during the referendum campaign period to penalize private broadcasters of not giving equal time to parties. Already, according to public broadcaster TRT’s plans, the combined propaganda time allocated to the president, ruling party and the lame duck nationalists - that is the “yes” group - is two times more than the time allocated for the entire naysayers. 

In any country that claims to be abiding by the principles of the rule of law, universal norms of justice or to put it in short, norms of democratic governance, 330 of them academics, including well established constitutional law professors, 4,464 people were sacked from universities and public offices. The worst hit was the faculties of political sciences, communications and letters of Ankara University. As a graduate of the faculty of letters and as a board member of the Journalists Association, which was one of the founders of the faculty of communications, and as someone very much involved in politics and has always appreciated the great contributions made all along to modern Turkey’s governance and diplomatic services by the political sciences faculty, it was as if I received a very strong punch on my stomach.

Of course coming up with an “Only God is immune from mistakes… Even prophets erred. If there is a mistake, we shall correct in time,” might be acceptable for those who are not in the fire. But, those who were put in fire, expelled, or are suffering the pain of being deprived of all their rights including the right to appeal, what might be the value of making correction a while later? Is it not legitimate to ask when this vendetta of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) with everyone, including its comrades, with whom they were in bed until yesterday, will come to an end? Will it stop after the referendum?

It is very sad to say, but Turkey is drifting fast toward a primitive Middle Eastern country.  The Justice Ministry was admitting up until recently that there were five to six journalists in prison. This week at discussions with foreign dignitaries the figure somehow increased to 10. It is like a very bad joke. The ministry perhaps either suffers serious mathematical deficiency or the government is hallucinating that by withdrawing press cards (over 800 last year) it might terminate the journalist status of our colleagues. Is it normal to have 154 journalists in prison? Or is it normal to see almost 4,000 scribes kicked out of their jobs last year, bringing the total number of unemployed journalists to almost 11,000?

Many people in this country criticize European attitude toward Turkey. Europe has its own deficiencies of course. Brexit and similar existential problems cannot be ignored. But, rather than asking “Quo vadis Europe?” we must concentrate on our hopeless drift to wilderness and earnestly ask, “Quo vadis Turkey?”

 The April vote might be the last exit before a total collapse. Tomorrow might be too late.