Turkey’s ‘black box’ must be opened

Yavuz Baydar
Yavuz Baydar

Date posted: December 3, 2013


At this stage in time, the way major events are shaped in this country is simply maddening.

The path toward democracy is steep and uphill, after the apparent deviation by Erdoğan who, performing a to-the-letter copy of Machiavelli, has redefined the “means” and the “ends” to be upside down. “Power to the people” is no longer; it is now power to one person. For all those who have not yet done so, I would strongly recommend reading Abdullah Bozkurt’s Dec. 2 column, to underline what I mean.

The growing sense is this: For forces of democracy, the battle from now on will be about how to return to the pre-2011 settings, to a time when the spirit of collective change was strong.

The recent debate on tutoring centers and private prep schools and the shocking revelations on the dirty warfare used in the 1990s against the Kurdish population are certainly parts of this pressure-cooker-like mood.

It is obvious that “Erdoğan’s Way” of running the country is based on keeping tension just under control, so that it will serve his own ambitions to cement personal power.

What is maddening is how control may end up derailing these erratic policies. The prep school row is only part of a new pattern that confirms that by alienating all social allies and external coalition partners — as is currently harshly being done to the Hizmet movement — the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is singling itself out as the sole definer of Turkey’s future. But, at the same time, it is losing whatever it once had in legitimacy to transform the country into a full-fledged democracy with constitutional guarantees.

Needless to say, much of the AKP’s legitimacy as being a carrier of change is gone, and society is gradually being pushed toward majoritarianism and arbitrary rule.

“Normalization” can have legitimacy only if its social and political partners and participants are treated with respect and have a strategic mindset. If most taboos are gone today, if Turkey is no longer regarded as the “torture chamber” of the world, if its trade has reached the farthest ends of the globe, etc., we and the AKP owe it to the forces that encouraged the ruling party to move forward. If most of those forces feel that the process that they placed so many hopes in is being hijacked, if they have lost trust in the political power, there is something seriously wrong.

Another maddening issue has to do with the National Security Council (MGK), which Turkey’s highly intimidated and growingly partisan media has been ignoring. The recent revelations by the daily Taraf on how the AKP government pursued policies of creating secret surveillance files on Hizmet movement affiliates are all based on a classified decision at a MGK meeting in August 2004. I am following in frustration how today’s pro-AKP pundits are using the same arguments that Kemalist/Militarist colleagues used a decade or so ago: The decision was “just a recommendation” they say.

The recent, shocking report on “Ergenekon’s East Side” by the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV), a liberal think tank, and the recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on the massacre of 38 people in Kurdish villages by Turkish fighter jets in 1994, are other reminders of when the MGK’s role in incidents were almost entirely “covered up” by the Turkish media.

In both cases, with 10 years in between, we see a central and entirely undemocratic role of this institution. In both cases, the perpetrators and people responsible are still hiding behind the confidentiality of MGK documents.

So, after 12 years of struggling for transparency, accountability, rule of law and facing the pitch-black aspects of a criminal past, we are still at square one. The MGK is still there, its status guaranteed by an ancient Constitution that cannot be amended. It is worrisome to see that some ministers of the AKP — including even Bülent Arınç — have adopted a pro-state, non-transparent rhetoric, saying publishing classified MGK files is a crime!

If one does not make public those files of the near and distant past, one can forget that Turkey will have dealt with a legacy that worked against its citizens.

Source: Today's Zaman , December 3, 2013

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