Second term of emergency rule

Second term of emergency rule

After a long lapse following the failed July 15 coup attempt, the return last week of almost weekly meetings between Turkey’s president and neighborhood heads (muhtars) again gave the country the chance to learn first-hand what might be in the pipeline. On trips abroad, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was already describing his planned agenda to his “confidant reporter entourage” and thus letting the nation learn about his plans. But such occasions are no match for the president’s lengthy, nationally televised orations to the muhtars. He even praised them the other day by saying each of them was “at the intellectual standard of a world leader.”

Anyway, Turkey is certainly a country of high standards. Someone with the ability of a muhtar could easily be the substitute for any prime minister, president, king or queen of any other country. The global community must be relieved to know that if something happens to their head of government or state there would not be any crisis. The governance problem could easily be averted by importing a muhtar from Turkey as a provisional governor.

Jokes aside, I’ll resist the temptation of asking what the point of those meetings with the muhtars is. How could I ask such a question that might enrage the country’s most righteous, merciful, and sole decision-maker? How could I dare to walk such a road, ignoring the fact that since the July 15 coup attempt 252 companies have been taken over by the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) on the grounds that they were funding the Islamist fraternity of Fethullah Gülen, now referred to by the government as the “Fethullah Terror Organization (FETÖ),” or that they were linked to people who borrowed money from or deposited their savings with Bank Asya. How to ignore the high number of people arrested since July 15, or the 28,000 people who were released early from prisons in order to open up space for the new “guests”? 

Who could have imagined in June, when the number of Turkish journalists in prison had fallen as low as 23 – though even then the government was denying that there were any journalists behind bars – that the number would mushroom to over 90 by the end of August (and, according to yet to be verified figures, to 110 by the end of September), breaking Turkey’s previous record of 76 journalists in jail in 2013.

Naturally, not all of the journalists jailed today are accused of being the “media leg” of FETÖ. Many are accused of being members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), or engaging in PKK propaganda. In any case, the figures clearly show that - contrary to what Turkey’s enemies say - the country in fact enjoys full freedom of press. After all, only those who have worked at media outlets owned or supported by FETÖ or the PKK are in prison. For the thousands of journalists and media executives who remain in their professions, in full awareness of the country’s conditions, there have been no curbs. 

I’ve lost count of how many people have been laid off from public office. Some say the figure is as high as 98,000, while others claim the number is even higher. What is clear, unfortunately, according to Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, is that 32,000 people have been arrested since July 15 and are now waiting to see with what they are actually accused of. The government is thus planning to build new prisons, heralding the possibility that the state of emergency, which was extended to its second three-month period this week, might continue for quite a while. Did Erdoğan himself not tell his muhtars that even one year of emergency rule might not be enough to completely eradicate the coup threat?

Without that meeting with the muhtars, we could not have learned days in advance why emergency rule had to be extended by another three months, or even further. We could not have learned why the suspension of rights, liberties and parliamentary legislation might need to continue for at least another nine months. 

When will the state of emergency end? Most probably the country will have to legislate a new constitution granting the president with super presidential powers in order to bring an end to this period of extraordinary rule.