The sheikhdom of fear

The sheikhdom of fear

The difference between Turkey and most other countries of the Muslim world, a prominent Western diplomat said recently, “they also have serious problems regarding freedom of expression or media freedom, but cannot say it, but the Turkish media has the courage to say it.”

Having the courage to say the problems of the country, criticize the administration or the absolute ruler, express opinions, let’s say on a new legislation and brand it as a tool of intensifying dictatorship deserves praise, definitely. Yet, in democracies, there should not be the need for heroes or courageous knights of the world. Why does a country like Turkey, a country on the way to European Union accession, a member of European institutions for the past half of the century and a member of NATO still remain the outstanding champion of journalists behind bars? Does Turkey belong to that league of nations, competing with some rough states in the contest of who is the cruelest in dealing with critics, demonstrators and opponents?

This country cannot use chemical gasses to kill its own people and sure there is the claim of that American writer that provided Sarin or other such deadly chemicals to the Syrians. Yet, it is becoming an established practice to beat to death, shoot gas canisters at heads or use rubber bullets, kill demonstrators and escape with it. What happened to the killers of so many young people, killed by excessive use of force by the security forces, or worse, by pro-government civilian mobs? In the inner fight of the Islamist clan in government and the Islamist brotherhood, the same policemen were victimized and banished to remote parts of the country, but the mentality remained all the same.
Indeed worsened.

The minister in charge of espionage and all of the government’s other dirty jobs proudly declared during parliamentary debates that what was done through secret circulars and government orders would now be regulated by law, thus there was nothing to be scared of the draft on the intelligence agency. A deaf ear was turned to the opposition in Parliament, critics in the media and the law on the intelligence agency was legislated, approved by the outgoing notary of the Çankaya presidential office.

Critics were often claiming that Turkey has become an empire of fear. Wrong. This has become just a sheikhdom of fear, with the absolute sheikh holding firmly the strings of his puppets decorated with all the means and tools to malevolently traumatize the people.

Sitting at comfortable offices in Ankara, Istanbul or enjoying gifts of life at a five-star all inclusive hotels in Antalya is easy. A self-catering democrat is no big business at a Çankaya café or at a lush snack bar at Cihangir. It is so easy to talk of great Turkish democracy, great advances achieved in liberating Turkey from military tutelage. Yes, but what about the party, worse the absolute ruler tutelage?

How can the spy agency of the country, for example, be given the legal right to tap private phone conversations, presumably to collect intelligence related to terrorism and international crimes? How can MİT people or people assigned to MİT work be immune from prosecution? How can I be obliged to cater to MİT’s demands or face up to four years behind bars? Worse, only the president can decide whether the top spy could face prosecution.

Turkey is fast becoming a typical Middle Eastern “muhabarat state…”