Witch-hunts in Europe


Date posted: June 3, 2014

ALİ YURTTAGÜL

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s defense, with his unique self-confidence, of his discourse, which has undertones of a witch-hunt against the Fethullah Gülen movement, has not surprised anybody, though many people have found it odd.

Some columnists have argued that while the prime minister accepted that what he is doing amounts to a “witch-hunt,” he doesn’t know the meaning of the term. I believe the prime minister has used this term knowingly and persistently. Hate-filled language, such as “dirty water mixed with the milk,” “we will enter their dens” and “hashashin,” all uttered by the prime minister as part of his hate speech against the Gülen movement, was also a method employed during the witch-hunts in medieval Europe.

Initially the prime minister had opted for the argument that there was a “coup” against his government, but he realized that this argument had started to lose its effect and so he chose to raise his voice in favor of a witch-hunt. It is known that the majority of judges, prosecutors and police officers who have been reassigned to other provinces are not affiliated with the Gülen movement.

Lately, thousands of people working in various departments of many ministries or public banks have been being dismissed, ostracized or blacklisted because of their real or imagined affiliation with a specific social group. Murat Yetkin, a columnist from the Radikal newspaper, recently argued that this witch-hunt will soon spread to the private sector.

Thanks to a news story appearing in the May 31, 2014 issue of the Sabah newspaper, European Union bureaucrats and deputies learned that they had been working with the “parallel structure,” not the Turkish Republic in recent years. As the news story had everything except the specific information, the event referred to by the “overseas blow to the parallel structure” is obvious. Turkey’s highly successful advisers, who had been working with the EU, the Council of Europe (CoE), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), etc., had been “recalled on the grounds that they are affiliated with the parallel state structure” and “they spread propaganda against Turkey.” In my opinion, the only “mistake” these advisers made was that they persuaded EU institutions into not taking harsh decisions concerning Turkey by stressing that the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) recent moves to undermine the rule of law might eventually be canceled by the Constitutional Court, instead of defending these moves. In other words, their “flaw” was that they were true jurists, not sycophants.

In writing the Progress Report 2014, therefore, the EC does not have to go far to research the “witch-hunt” and who the “Hashashin” are. The “witches” are the people with whom they dine and clink classes. The only criticism I can make of these advisers is that they played a significant role in making the progress reports of recent years use softer language. I hope they have realized that the realities in Turkey are worse than the picture portrayed in the EU reports. Indeed, since they have been “blacklisted” as so-called members of the “parallel structure,” their careers as well as their children and relatives are under suspicion.

I wonder how the minister to which these advisers are subordinate will react to the Sabah story. Now let us have a look at what the word “witch-hunt” evokes in Europe.

The practice of witch-hunting, which generally targeted women, especially during Europe’s darkest period, the Middle Ages, is proof that humankind is extremely open to false beliefs and that people can be very cruel at times. The women who were investigated on charges of practicing witchcraft, generally after a denunciation, would be arrested and imprisoned naked in a tower. Their bodies were shaved completely so that they couldn’t conceal anything. In most cases, they were raped by prison guards during their imprisonment.

Even girls aged 13 or 14 were burned to death on charges of being “witches.” Famous astrologist Johannes Kepler’s mother, Katharina Kepler, was also subject to an investigation after a neighbor who didn’t like her denounced her as a witch, and the young man barely escaped death. Denunciations soon became very widespread, and the witch-hunt emerged as a frequently employed method for the church to attack “irreligious” people and for merchants and landowners to attack their competitors.

The investigation would start after a long gossiping session, and the suspect, who had been chosen as a victim, would have to accept that she was a witch under torture and would then generally be burned to death. Various torture methods would be employed on victims to force them to give the names of the other witches with whom they were believed to gather on Saturdays, which was believed to be the Sabbath for witches. Tens of thousands of innocent women — some historians claim that the real figure is about 1 million — were cruelly tortured and burned to death.

Today, the medieval “witch-hunt” has made a comeback in the form of discrimination, denigration and the waging of hate campaigns against specific social groups for their beliefs, ethnicity, religion or color. This is what is currently happening in Turkey. People are being victimized for their real or imagined affiliation with a specific social group.

This is what happens when hate dominates the soul.

 

Source: Todays Zaman , June 3, 2014


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