The strong concern

The strong concern

Finally Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu let the cat out of the bag and the country was given an opportunity to see what kind of an animal will be the coming in the “internal security package.” The prime minister’s foremost aim was to explain that contrary to the claims by the critics, with the additional security powers provided through the draft in the pipeline, Turkey will not become a “police state.” Though it is questionable whether or not the country is already a police state, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that if legislated as it is, Turkey will definitely be transformed into a full-fledged autocracy.

Individual measures cited by Davutoğlu as elements of the new package might not at all be worrisome. For example, is there anything wrong in listing production, sale and distribution of Bonzai – a chemical drug blamed for the death of scores of young people in recent months – as terrorist acts? Finding dead bodies of beloved ones in parks, deserted buildings, in the streets should not be at all something tolerable. Yet, is there really a connection between Bonzai and terrorism? Why include it among terrorist acts? Why give police anti-terrorism powers in the fight against Bonzai?

Thanks to the cameras placed everywhere, Turks no longer have private life. As if that was not enough, covering one’s face is wanted to be listed among acts of terrorism. Yes, the prime minister most probably wanted to say masked people provoking demonstrators will be considered “potential terrorists,” but will not the state overblow the issue with such added powers to the security personnel. What if some people covering their faces because of cold water are arrested on a crowded street of downtown Kızılay area of Ankara? Well, there might be a demonstration just few blocks away, but will the mask be sufficient enough to land them under police custody?

What if those people are indeed innocent? People can be detained without any reason and held up to 24 hours. That period might be extended to 48 hours by the prosecutor and, overall, police will have up to four days before taking the detained in front of court? Is that sane?

Turkey must definitely do something against those hurling Molotov cocktails at buses, business places, public buildings, bank kiosks and so on. So many people were burnt to death or seriously injured in those heinous attacks. Those using firearms in protest demonstrations must as well be severely punished by courts. Yet, is it just because of low penalties that we have such actions? I have no intention of calling for clandestine further violations of the private sphere, but isn’t it such that the political administrators, security network and the intelligence ought to do something else to prevent such actions before they indeed take place? Was not “the need to gather intelligence and take preemptive measures” among the leading reasons cited for telephone taps over the past many years? Will the new mechanism of reporting all telephone taps to a parliamentary commission be of any help to reduce the infringement of the state on private lives?

While measures regarding widening e-state particularly as regards registration, birth records, identity documents and passports will perhaps provide some ease and citizens will perhaps rejoice having the right to change their names with a simple application and without a need to get a court ruling, but all such arrangements, together with the current citizenship number system, will make all Turks more transparent. Will that be something we should indeed celebrate? Furthermore, transparent for what?

The country’s police network will not just have added powers with the new package; it will be further strengthened as well. The country’s gendarmerie force will be fully taken under the control of the civilian government and, like the police, affiliated with the interior minister. The Interior Ministry thus will have the police, border security and gendarmerie under its command. Will they be second or alternative armed forces? If the aim is not to create a police state, then why is this country trying to consolidate its internal security network so much?

It is the duty of every state to provide security for its citizens, but if a government is using its “strong influence” over the security network and judges to cover up charges of corruption and silence the opposition, with such powers it can definitely turn the country into an undeclared dungeon, a police state. That is the concern.