Turkey needs to be ‘normalized’

Turkey needs to be ‘normalized’

Turkey was pulled into a nightmarish situation with the failed July 15 coup attempt. How the coup evolved, why Turkey’s well-fed intelligence services could not gather information, take adequate measures and prevent the calamity the country was condemned to still remain a mystery. How all those failed top security agents and executives have retained their posts is yet another mystery from those days. Turkey has definitely always been a peculiar country but is even more so today.

The failed coup attempt and the subsequent reformatting of the Turkish state by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Islamist conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) government through emergency law degrees have induced an atmosphere of fear into the country. Thousands of people sacked from public duties, many of them from the security apparatus, thousands of people put behind bars and the constant repeat of power worshipping rituals by diehard supporters of the president have obviously produced an anxious and uncertain climate in the country.

It is a very sad situation for the Turkish media to remain mostly silent to the country becoming the champion in terms of the most journalists behind bars. Naturally, might it be rather risky talking about journalists who were deprived of their freedom or comment about some of the 3,600 colleagues who have lost their jobs since the coup attempt? Yet, is it normal under any scale or mentality if, in a country, the number of journalists in jail was at a very high 33 on the evening of July 15, 2016, but reached 62 by the end of that month, climbed to 93 by the end of August, exceeded 120 in September, and reached 146 (155 according to some claims) by the end of November? Just yesterday, the Ankara chief of the Doğan Holding, a very close friend, Barbaros Muratoğlu, was taken within the so-called “FETO operations.”

Naturally, journalists cannot have any right to impunity. If they were involved in any crime they must face the consequences in front of an independent judiciary. At that point, unfortunately, we have a problem as there are very serious doubts regarding adherence to international norms and values as regards the independence of judiciary in this country. Obviously with so high a number of judges and prosecutors in prison, it is only normal to suspect a high degree of political manipulation.

These and similar nasty developments, unfortunately, have landed Turkish-EU or Turkish-Western relations in a very uncomfortable period. The decision of the European Parliament to recommend that the EU Council temporarily suspend accession talks with Turkey, the constant Turkey bashing by senior European politicians and the unfortunate counter and often provocative statements by Erdoğan and senior politicians have further strained the already-tense relations.

All these and other extraordinary developments and of course the incredible dive in the value of the Turkish Lira against foreign currencies, particularly the U.S. dollar, coupled with the permanent atmosphere of fear successfully created by Erdoğan and the government have made Turkey prone to very serious social upheavals. This danger must be acknowledged and immediate moves must be taken to calm the nation, relieve the accumulated social pressure and restore normalcy.

Imposing news blackouts and draconian censorship even on a fire at a student dorm – the news ban was lifted by an Adana court upon an appeal by a former journalist opposition deputy – unfortunately demonstrated the habit of the government to try to place a veil on problems rather than acting on them with an intention of bringing about a resolution.

It is a fact that back in the founding period of the republic, religious societies were banned in this country because they were exploiting the religious feelings of the nation. It is a fact as well that despite the ban, particularly since Turkey moved to multi-party democratic governance in the 1950s, that such religious groupings, perverted organizations or Islamist brotherhoods such as the Fethullah Gülen group were all tolerated and abetted by politicians with the aim and intention of boosting their political clout.

Fighting one Islamist brotherhood by supporting and abetting other similar groups will unfortunately land Turkey in some far worse situation tomorrow. The Adana dorm in which 11 students and a worker lost their lives in a fire was operated by a religious group. The same group was operating another dorm in which 17 students lost their lives in a gas canister explosion and subsequent fire just a few years ago. Every time authorities pledge a full investigation, they ultimately place the blame on some scapegoats and let the Islamist gangs continue their operations…

What Turkey has experienced is not just a fire at a dorm… The system is sounding alarm bells. This constant ignorance, power-worshipping culture and political exploitation of everything cannot continue forever. This constant atmosphere of tension, polarization and discriminatory political understanding cannot last long. This “all mine and only mine. Surrender or vanish” understanding must be replaced.

Turkey needs to return to normalcy… Turkey needs to format the system and return to its default settings: A secular democracy with respect for an understating of a legal and social state as described in the first three articles of the Constitution.