Foreign colleagues, visiting professors, parliamentarians and some Turkish friends who live abroad that have lost contact with the “Turkish reality” are all asking: Is it really that bad in Turkey? Are newsmen oppressed that much by the government? Can Turkey really drift and abandon its Western vocation? Does autocracy indeed threaten Turkey?
Some of the fundamentals of democratic governance are the independence of the judiciary; the equality of all in front of law and, of course, the freedom of speech and the media. If it is possible for anyone, including the prime minister himself, to talk about the independence of the judiciary, I would advise them to get their noses checked because they clearly cannot smell the bad odor coming from the rotten judiciary. If the salt is rotten, forget the rest, as the Turkish saying goes. With so many elected deputies behind bars, as well as with the wishy-washy Ergenekon and KCK political vendetta campaigns, talking about justice has become a very bad joke in this country.
Similarly, there are over 60 journalists imprisoned (with even an unpublished book considered as “evidence of involvement in an organized crime gang”), journalists have no guarantee of employment, there is almost no professional union organization and there is a prime minister who publicly tells the media bosses that it is up to them to decide who should work at their outlets since they are the ones paying the salaries. The freedom of the press has become a joke in this country.
The revanchist campaign against the secular democratic republic has expanded to such dimensions that, on the pretext of the Van earthquake, marking the Republic Day has become some sort of misdemeanor in this country.
On Oct. 28, at a posh private school in Istanbul, kids and their parents were invited to a Halloween party. At the private school, besides teaching kids in a foreign language, it should perhaps educate them a little bit about Christian culture as well. Thus, a Halloween party at that school appeared to me rather extraordinary, yet understandable. What was shocking, however, was something whispered by a parent: “While celebrating Halloween, we secretly celebrated Republic Day as well.” Is it not sad to see Republic Day being secretly marked in this country?
Daily Hürriyet’s Yılmaz Özdil wrote yesterday that he had advice for the government. It should switch October and February so that the former would only have 28 days (until a leap year). This nation, with its memory that is as good as a fish’s, would long forget Republic Day and the entire controversy would be swiftly ended.
A last note, there was a satire program on a digital TV network. Yes, we still have some courageous people who still dare to criticize the government, the ruling party or the sycophants through wit. According to one joke, a grandfather was arrested by police on grounds that during routine “circumstantial eavesdropping,” as part of the campaign to fight nationalist and patriotic gangs plotting to overthrow the constitutional government, the security network of the country discovered that he was congratulating the Republic Day of his grandson.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was on the defensive yesterday. His weekly live-televised oration to his party deputies, as always, preferred to attack his political opponents rather than explain why he ordered all Republic Day events cancelled.