Witch-hunt season

Witch-hunt season

In the heart of Ankara, just a few minutes’ walk from Parliament, the old Prime Ministry building, the Interior Ministry of Efkan Ala, several other ministries and, unfortunately, the headquarters of the military forces of the country, some heinous terrorists were able to blow up a car bomb and kill and wound many people… It was very difficult to understand how such a dastardly action could be staged in such a presumably high-security area of the Turkish capital. However, moments after the blast, old, older and the oldest top cops, security experts and very influential “strategists” were on TV, informing everyone that they should not speak about an intelligence deficiency and that the security network of the country would soon identify who the culprits were and definitely capture them.

It was as if the nation should applaud the highly paid intelligence service of the country for finding such a great opportunity to demonstrate to the nation its remarkable skill in finding and capturing criminals. Was reason abdicated all together? Would someone remind those in high office that it shouldn’t be journalists who write about alleged arms and ammunition shipments to unknown people in Syria but that terrorists who are wandering around, blowing themselves up and devastating the lives of innocent people should instead be netted and placed in high-security prisons? Why has this country been spending such huge sums on the intelligence network if in less than a few months since the June elections, this nation has suffered four abysmal, unfortunate instances of carnage? In any other country, just one such action would take down the interior minister, the top cops and the top intelligence guys, if not the government. What’s happening in Turkey? Those who have badly failed and made the nation suffer such a huge tragedy have started pondering how to best use the opportunity to consolidate their rule and turn the country into their own private domain.

While there are claims that there are at least three more bomb-laden trucks or minibuses roaming around the country and despite the universal principle of the individuality of crime, the prime ministry has focused on launching a new profiling practice.

In the past, particularly in the immediate aftermath of the military coups, the state took out personnel files from heavy metal drawers, indiscriminately darkening the lives of everyone that those in powerful positions considered “harmful to the state.” The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government brought to an end religious profiling, if not all profiling. No longer were officers sacked from the military because they were practicing Muslims, or because some female family members covered their heads with a veil in the Muslim style. Young girls were not expelled from university classes because of the veil on their heads. There is even a minister in today’s Turkey wearing a veil in office.

Profiling and discrimination according to people’s religious or political standing was such a widespread problem in the “old Turkey” that today many people might not recall what “sufferers of 1402” were as it was just one of the many such examples of the time. After the 1980 coup, just for the sake of promotion or to consolidate their place by proving their loyalty to the new masters, respectable professors were made to spy on each other. With an amendment made to the Public Employment Law No. 1402, martial law commanders were authorized to evaluate all civil servants – all universities were public at the time – from the perspective of national security and public order and sack anyone. Thousands of leftists or alleged leftists were laid off as a result in the worse profiling practice in the country.

The latest dastardly action took place at 6:31 p.m. on Feb. 17. The country woke up on Feb. 18 to the news that the prime ministry had issued a new circular ordering all top civil servants in government offices and in local administrations to profile their co-workers, make sure that “publicly employed people cannot be members of any organizations that are established to commit actions that constitute crimes under Turkish laws. They cannot join in any association, establishment, grouping or movement established for such purposes. They cannot support or abet people involved in such actions. Publicly employed people can only undertake duties and tasks they are assigned by their superiors and thus they are responsible only to their superiors. The superiors, on the other hand, are responsible for making sure that their subordinates undertake their duties and tasks in line with the constitution and laws of the country.” It was further stressed that not only those working in public offices but workers of contracting companies engaging in public duties are also under the jurisdiction of the circular.

The prime ministry has clearly ordered the immediate undertaking of this duty by placing aside Law No. 657 that provides judicial immunity to civil servants, unless the relevant ministry or the prime ministry considered it appropriate to take legal action against them. The Ankara blast was of course a coincidence. The target here must be municipal staff and workers as well as people serving in offices of governors throughout the country, as there is widespread speculation in pro-government media that some local officials were allowing means of the state to be used by the terrorist separatist gang.

In any case, the “new Turkey” is apparently no different from the “old Turkey” as regards the habit of profiling.