Even a village cannot be ruled this way

Ekrem Dumanli is editor in chief of the Zaman daily newspaper in Turkey.
Ekrem Dumanli is editor in chief of the Zaman daily newspaper in Turkey.


Date posted: January 26, 2015

A simple question: by what standards is Turkey being ruled now? Constitution? Laws? Unfortunately, neither. We have a rule based on arbitrariness and bullying. How about democratic criteria? They were long shelved. Legal criteria? They are preserved in the deep freezer. So by what standards is our country being ruled? By the wishes and desires of some privileged individuals…

A few remainders here: A person who occupies the highest level in the administration asks for the shutdown of Turkish schools during his trip to Africa. And he makes a promise as well: “We will open new ones.” How could he do this? Is there not legal responsibility associated with that position? What sort of power does he have in the Constitution and laws that he asks for the closure of schools opened by private entrepreneurs?

It is really sad to see that the prime minister and ministers subscribe to the same logic. What law gives them the right to waste the hard labor of the people? What criterion and what standard of conscience? Laws were observed even in times of coups, when coup makers hesitated to violate the laws. Arguing “I am not a usual president” does not resolve the problem. Maybe the people would say, “Well, we are the usual citizens you are familiar with,” and exercise their most basic democratic rights.

There is already an operation of intimidation in Turkey; the walls of the schools accused of being affiliated with the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement are being torn down; inspectors are sent to these schools very frequently. By what standard and criterion? They do this out of jealousy, anger and a sense of revenge. And there is the other side of the coin: a person whose property was confiscated shortly after Bilal Erdoğan visited the site for inspection is speaking up. The government is transferring the facility he has been running for 17 years to Bilal Erdoğan by court order. How many lands and facilities have been transferred to the children of politicians, their relatives and friends? Please, could anybody tell me what standards were used in these processes?

And we all observed the reaction of the mother of Ali İsmail, who was beaten to death by the police: “The life of my son should not have been that cheap; is this your justice?” She was never able to see the scene of her son’s death. That made me sad; which mother can endure to watch such scene? And only 10 years in prison was prescribed as the punishment for this heinous crime. Sedef Kabaş faces five years in prison just because she posted a tweet. Five years for a tweet and 10 years for a murder…Kabaş made an interesting statement: “If we are summoned to give a statement in court, then Bilal Erdoğan should do the same.” The issue is not about Bilal, who some declared as crown prince or is not about his father. What makes people sad is the selective implementation of the law.

When the official documents and recordings detailing the activities of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks were publicized, a broadcast ban was issued. Those who published these confidential documents faced serious accusations and criticism. Bülent Arınç referred to the documents as pieces of paper; if they are pieces of paper, why was a broadcast ban issued? İlker Başbuğ, while serving as chief of staff, also referred to some important documents as pieces of paper. There are people who are in prison without even a “piece of paper.” Even the most critical documents and proof become pieces of paper when the whole matter becomes relevant to privileged persons. This is the old state and old mentality. There is no sign of the supremacy of the law.

The corruption files were shelved despite numerous pieces of evidence and documents. And the possibility of referral of the case to the Constitutional Court was also removed via political pressure. Those who are trying to cover up the bribery investigation based on a scrap of paper are referring to concrete evidence when it comes to those who performed the corruption operation.

A court ruled for the return of a property to the Journalists and Writers Foundation and abolished the arbitrary decision to confiscate the building. However, some guys who present themselves as authorities of the General Directorate of Foundations do not comply with the court order, and they also rely on brute power and further state that they do not recognize the court order. Who are you that you do not recognize a court order? There is no state mechanism and respect for rule of law in this country. Everybody knows how we have come this far.

Did not the ruling party say they would not recognize the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) elections if they do not like the results? Speaking about the lifting of the Twitter ban, the person who occupies the seat of president said he did not respect the Constitutional Court’s decision. Did not a person who was serving as undersecretary say, “There is no need for a court order; break his door and take that man…We will make a law to save you, if necessary,”?

The most recent incident in Diyarbakır should teach a lesson to the authorities: DEDAŞ cuts off the electricity of the municipality and the municipality reciprocates by digging up two holes in front of the entrance of the DEDAŞ building. Diyarbakır Mayor Gülten Kışanak says what DEDAŞ did was banditry. The Mardin municipality follows in the footsteps of Diyarbakır; in response to DEPSAŞ which cuts off the electricity to pumps delivering potable water, they declare that the DEPSAŞ building was illegally constructed and rule for its demolition. Well, there are court orders; but who cares?

It is possible to cite many examples. It is obvious that confidence in the law has been eroded. Recently, Taha Akyol raised criticism against the HSYK. Speaking on the frequent reappointment of members of the judiciary, Akyol said the HSYK violated its own directives. He is right. Akyol is not just an important columnist in Turkey but also a lawyer who has never stopped being objective. His criticism is for the sake of the law and justice. Is it possible to be optimistic about the future of this country if even the lawyers violate the law?

Unfortunately, illegality has become a habit; bullying turned into an administrative method. The Constitution is suspended; laws are being violated. If the rulers violate the laws all the time and arbitrariness becomes the rule, people get confused. By this logic, where law is suspended, it is not possible to rule even a village. What keeps a state alive is a justice system recognizing all as equal. Otherwise, what happens is oppression.

Shaming and humiliating Turkey

The crisis Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and some Justice and Development Party (AKP) rulers are experiencing is really saddening. On the one hand, they emphasize the so-called parallel state to get the endorsement and approval of the palace; on the other hand, they engage in practices that humiliate Turkey. What they do to avoid strong reaction from a person they consider as mighty is undermining Turkey’s image.

For instance, every statement Davutoğlu makes on press freedom is scandalous because it is not remotely relevant to the truth. For this reason, he is unable to convince the world. There are measures to silence and intimidate the media and polarize it. Who could you convince by referring to press freedom at a time when media groups are facing horrible obstructions and intimidation? The whole case is out there. For instance, how would you explain the arbitrary press accreditation policy in Europe? Who would buy this cheap trick? You said many things when the military relied on accreditation; now you are worse than them; and you are doing so for nothing.

Here is another crisis: A new collection of laws will be referred to the Parliament. Well, Davutoğlu told Arınç he did not want to rely on this method again in the law-making process. And Arınç said they were not trying to employ the usual method and that they would not resort to this approach again because the prime minister instructed them to do so. Nobody knows who runs this country. Everybody knows the latest trick: The boundaries for restricting Internet use are being expanded for the sake of national security. Now the government is authorized to shut down an entire Internet site without a court order. The minister and prime minister will be authorized to make a decision in four hours and submit the decision to the court within 24 hours. Well, and this is called the freest media in the world.

Well, dear prime minister! I have heard your typing machine-Internet comparison a thousand times. You said: “Hosni Mubarak was president when I was typing my thesis on a manual typing machine. He was still president when Facebook was invented; but he was unable to stand against Twitter.” I wonder if you recall your past statements while banning Twitter.

Those who rule Turkey are increasingly favoring security over liberties. They are becoming pro-status quo and pro-state. People miss the individuals who in the past presented themselves as men of ideas and vision. It is not possible to remain indifferent; not only they but also Turkey are being disgraced.

Source: Today's Zaman , January 25, 2015


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