The road paved with good intentions…
Thanks to the generous decision of the Turkish government to bridge the period between the four-day Eid al-Adha sacrifice holiday with an “administrative leave,” Turks were provided with a nine-day end of summer opportunity for holidaying.
The end result was not the long queues of returning holidayers at the entrances of Istanbul, Ankara and other major cities, while according to official statistics at least 120 people perished in traffic accidents during the nine-day holiday period. Hundreds were injured in traffic accidents. The overall material loss of the holiday period traffic accidents was estimated to be well over 1 billion Turkish Liras, or about $300 million. The extended religious holiday, on the other hand, was very much like a kiss of life for the tourism industry, which unfortunately suffered seriously in the past year with the fallout of the wrong foreign policy practices of the government.
Rapprochement with Russia was great news, yet since the November 2015 downing of the Russian jet on grounds it intruded Turkish airspace Turkish hoteliers lost millions in revenues because of canceled Russian bookings. For many years Israeli tourists have not been coming to Turkey either. Now, a rapprochement with Israel was achieved as well. Could there be a revival of Turkey as a favored destination for Israeli tourists? Probably Turkey acquiring the status of a “trusted and secure venue” for Israeli tourists will take years of efforts. On the other hand, the attack to the Israeli Embassy by an apparent lunatic this week demonstrated once again what a great mistake constantly bashing Israel as a tool of appeasing the conservative electorate was.
Talking about plot theories might appear to be an easy way to shrug off deficiencies in governance responsibilities. To my surprise, so many weeks after the failed or condemned to fail coup attempt of July 15 Turkish leaders have not yet directed their fingers to Israel in their search for a scapegoat. Was it not strange that there were generals, admirals, officers of all ranks, writers, journalists and of course businessmen in the so-called Fethullah Gülen Terror Organization (FETÖ) but no politicians? Was it not the Justice and Development Party (AKP) who was the bedfellow of the Gülenists, at least in between 2002 and 2012? Was it not President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who was reading that famous song “We Walked This Road Together” at Gülenist gatherings, particularly the annual “Sacred Birth” festivals that somehow always coincided with the April 23 National Sovereignty and Children’s Day festivities of the “secular” republic?
During the religious holiday I was in northern Italy, partly holidaying but more so to attend the Trento Convention of the European Association of Journalists (EJ) where I was one of the speakers. Naturally, European colleagues were eager to listen to first-hand information about how Turkey lived through the night of July 15. They were as well fervently expecting me to talk about plot theories, allegations of CIA involvement, if I believed Gülen might be extradited by the United States and tens of other equally explosive and dangerous questions.
Could I? Was Turkey a country where someone could freely express his ideas on a contentious issue in a manner the president and his government might not appreciate and still remain outside of prison? A very difficult question but the answer explains whether Turkey is a democracy or a country in the process of consolidated dictatorship. It is so unfortunate that there is a perception that Turkey, as is said in the Trento resolution of the EJ, is “fast turning into a dictatorship.” The tall, bald, bold and ever angry man trying to consolidate himself as the sole executive, highest judge and chief legislator of the country in line with his belief of “integrity of powers” might disagree, but looking at Turkey from Trento the image was not one of a democratic country but rather one of an authoritarian state.
The emergency law declaration and the consequently developed habit of ruling the country with decrees in power of law - which constitutionality could not be even be questioned at the Constitutional Court and cannot be appealed – cannot be explained of course with a “France also has emergency law” excuse. France has an emergency law as well but can we compare the elements of the Human Rights Convention shelved by Ankara and Paris? How many government decrees were issued in France; how many people were rounded up? The excuse that Turkey was subjected to a coup attempt and thus it was its right to curtail rights to that extent was unacceptable. Since the failed coup the structure of the Turkish state was changed so drastically through government decrees without parliamentary approval that it might be argued that the country was indeed subjected to a coup.
The government cannot of course be held responsible of the high death toll on the roads during the holiday period because it encouraged people to go on holiday by declaring an administrative holiday and linking the four-day holiday with the two weekends and producing a nine-day holidaying period. Sometimes good intentions may also bring about catastrophic results. The emergency law declaration might have been intended to help the country quickly recover from the attempted coup and restore normalcy. The end result has been a terrible one. This week the president was talking about a probable extension of the emergency law for another three months. That means Turkish democracy will continue to be a hostage of the situation for a longer period.