Turkey under siege of a massive smear campaign: PM Davutoğlu
Serkan Demirtaş SKOPJE
‘This is a problem between the parallel structure and a group of people who have suffered because of a plot committed by this structure,’ Davutoğlu tells a group of journalists, including from the Hürriyet Daily News, on plane heading to Macedonia.Turkey and its government are under siege of a massive smear campaign that began right after the Dec. 14 operation, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said, vowing they will take necessary measures to counter such attacks through public diplomacy.
According to Davutoğlu, some circles have “pressed the button” to begin a smear campaign against the government following the launch of a judicial process against what the government labels the “parallel structure” and in a clear response to consecutive critical statements from the European Union. Davutoğlu refrained from confirming his scheduled visit to Brussels in January.
“Its timing has not yet been fixed. Talks were continuing. We will go [to Brussels] after the mutual confirmation [of the trip] and whenever our program is available,” Davutoğlu told a group of journalists traveling with him to Macedonia on Dec. 23. Here are some excerpts from the interview:
There is growing propaganda being made by the parallel structure. What are you planning to do to avoid this?
There are several interesting points with regard to recent developments. The first is efforts to introduce the Dec. 14 operation as a dispute or even revenge, as outlined by [main opposition Republican People’s Party, CHP, leader Kemal] Kılıçdaroğlu between the government and the parallel structure. However, this is not something between the government and the parallel structure. This is a problem between the parallel structure and a group of people who have suffered because of a plot committed by this structure. … Now that this plot has been revealed, they are hiding behind freedom of the press. They are trying to mislead [public opinion]. They are doing another thing at the same time. They are starting a smear campaign against Turkey in every corner of the world. …
What does an operation on this organization have to do with freedom of the press? The journalists brought to the courthouse are not being questioned for their articles. They are told ‘You violated the rights of a group of people for depicting them as terrorists through the campaign you carried out.’ There is clear evidence here. Weapons with certain serial numbers were found. We’ll now wait for the court ruling. I can’t judge beforehand, but these are things that were discovered. Plus, this incident has been introduced as a media raid. No one has been taken from their house in the early morning; they were invited to testify.
They didn’t behave like a normal citizen and instead of going to the court to testify, they went to the newspaper and deceived public opinion by saying that they were resisting. What are they resisting for? They testified and were released pending trial. What would happen if they had gone to the court in advance instead of making such a show?
And that shows another thing: Some circles are pressing the button [to begin an operation against Turkey]. When I was the foreign minister, I would think at least 50 times before calling a colleague on a Sunday, even if the case was an immediate one. And if the colleague is Jewish, I never called on Saturday. But about an operation that took place on a Sunday, without having an idea about its background, a statement was issued from the European Union even though it’s difficult to make such a decision, as such statements require collectivity. But [we observed] a mobilization [against Turkey], just like with the press of a button.
We have, in fact, envisaged this. We had a meeting on this issue with our friends and we have reviewed the measures to be taken in the frame of public diplomacy. We have made the necessary assignments. Public opinion should be careful against efforts to reflect this operation against human rights because it is in fact seeking to respond to the human rights of a certain group.
Are you planning to postpone your trip to Brussels?
Its timing has not yet been fixed. Talks were continuing. We will go [to Brussels] after the mutual confirmation [of the trip] and whenever our program is available.
You were planning to announce a new package on freedom of expression in Brussels?
There is nobody in Turkey being investigated because of their expression. We are not in a defensive mode on this issue. Anyone can make any kind of publication, even under Turkey’s current conditions. Whose freedom of expression is being restricted? Whose words were silenced? We can openly discuss it everywhere in the world. But it should also be known that we are under the siege of a massive smear campaign of propaganda. We know who is behind this propaganda.
There are also other cases like Ergenekon, Balyoz and so on. Will this judicial process be expanded to cover these cases as well?
This is not up to me to decide. It’s an ongoing judicial process. I speak carefully.
Ekrem Dumanlı [editor-in chief of daily Zaman] said he was questioned because of two articles and one news item.
As far as we know, those pieces are part of the mise-en-scène against this group [the Tahşiyeciler]. There was an instruction from a certain place to create such a mise-en-scène. This issue is far beyond being a matter of freedom of expression.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç held meetings with the Free Cause Party [Hüda-Par] and the Rights and Liberties Party [HAK-PAR]. Is there an idea for the expansion of the stakeholders in the Kurdish peace process?
Definitely. The resolution process is not one-dimensional. That was me who instructed our deputy prime minister to hold talks with these groups. These meetings will continue afterward.
Are we at a moment where ‘inter-delegations talks’ will begin?
No, there is no such thing. Afterward, our meetings with all political parties and nongovernmental organizations [NGOs] will continue to intensify. The resolution process is not a single-party issue. There is a positive climate about ongoing works. We hope it will continue. As for the methodology, it will be important not to continue the process through the press and to avoid speculations.
But the format is likely to change.
Yes, more straightforward and concrete … For us, this is not a one-dimensional process and it’s not an alternative for public order [to be compromised]. … What is important is to re-catch the positive momentum. There is such a momentum now. We’ll all see what can be done and cannot be done in this process.
Do you think there will be disarmament in 2015?
As you know, I have always been careful in giving times regarding the phases of this process. I do not want to give a timeframe now either.
You said the government was planning to strengthen local governments. There are claims that Turkey will withdraw its reserves from the Council of Europe’s [CoE] European Charter of Local Self-Government.
The Justice and Development Party [AK Party] has principles with regard to the local governments. If you read the charter, you will see that a majority of the CoE Charter of Local Self-Government has already been put into practice. We have no reservations on such issues. We can discuss anything, but what’s important is that our country will continue its march in national unity and a unitary state.
You emphasize the unitary state principle.
This issue has already been underlined by İmralı [where Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, is serving a life sentence in prison] and other places. When we look at the developments around us, we can clearly see what can happen when the principle of equal citizenship is ruined.
Officials from the Peoples’ Democratic Party [HDP] are more frequently talking about the notion of autonomy?
That’s why I have already said there is no need to focus on the symbolic meanings of concepts and to focus on the entire Turkey concerning what should be done against such efforts. Recent statements from the HDP recall they are aiming to produce politics for the future of this country.
Does the smear campaign you mentioned also include social media? And who is Fuat Avni [a mysterious Twitter user whose identity remains unknown who announced the plan for a police operation before it happened]? Could you find who he really is?
My objective here is to put the difference between the freedom of expression and the smear campaign. If there are publications [against] Turkey without investigating the details of the operation, it is as if someone has pressed the button.
Is there information on Fuat Avni’s identity?
There are some things about this issue. But what is important is what kind of a plot is behind this identity.
Is this an organized group?
It is probably a group of people under a single account. They are misleading the situation through anonymity. Of course there are real people behind this account and efforts to disclose them are being carried out.
In your speech on Sunday [Dec. 21], you vowed to ‘cut off the arm of those who involved in corruption.’ This message has been seen as one to the parliamentary commission tasked to deal with corruption claims.
I have always said so. I recall it: We will not tolerate any sort of corruption if it’s within our knowledge and in front of our eyes. This principle does not solely belong to me; it is also valid for our president and it’s a principle of the AK Party. … I have already said I won’t interfere with the commission’s work. Let’s let the commission finish its work. We will not declare anybody either guilty or innocent beforehand.
That means your statement on Sunday was not relevant with the corruption commission’s work.
This is a statement that is valid for that as well; for this and for others. But my statement at the AK Party congress has nothing to do with the commission. There are some principles in my life that will always exist; and one of them is intolerance on [corruption] issues.
Are your lawmakers going to make their decisions independently [on whether to send four former ministers to the Supreme Council]?
We’ll evaluate this after the commission makes its decision. I do not find it right to talk about these issues through prejudices.