The CHP’s inability to seize the moment and strongly condemn the arbitrary extent and nature of the purges from the start was a critical failure, and one that serves to undermine its integrity and sustainability as an opposition force. Despite tentative but welcome signs from the CHP towards highlighting the exponential injustices of Turkey’s ongoing purge, it still seems like a classic case of acting too little, too late.
The daughter of former Bursa public prosecutor Seyfettin Yiğit, who allegedly committed suicide in a prison bathroom on Friday morning after he was put behind bars over Gülen movement ties, said on Saturday that her father was not affiliated with the Gülen movement but was with the Süleymancı movement, an Islamic movement in Turkey founded by Turkish Islamic scholar Süleyman Hilmi Tunahan in the early 20th century.
Erdoğan’s government is by no means the first to compel Turkish citizens to hide their preferences and beliefs. Under the secular governments that ruled Turkey from the 1920s to 1950, and to some extent until 2002, pious Turks seeking advancement in government, the military, and even commerce had to downplay their religiosity and avoid signaling approval of political Islam.
The official government narrative is everywhere, from the Twitter accounts to the dominance of the state-affiliated and pro-government press and TV in the wake of media crackdowns. The same words and phrases have been repeated endlessly by the AKP and their supporters until they become almost meaningless – Get Gülen. Gülen. Gülen. We are democracy. Democracy. Democracy. That is how it is, and there is no room to consider anything else.
Prominent Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, Orhan Pamuk, has criticized the government’s large-scale crackdown in the aftermath of the failed July 15 coup, warning that Turkey is heading toward “a regime of terror.” “In Turkey, we are dramatically putting behind bars all those who struggle for freedom of expression, and criticize the government even slightly,” Pamuk said on Sunday.
The National Police Department warned all its personnel to obey international rules of detention and to stop using unofficial detention centers days before a delegation from the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) was to pay a visit to Turkey in order to ascertain if people in custody are subject to any maltreatment, according to an anonymous tip received by Turkey Purge.
Hasan was the luckiest because he was not in Turkey during the coup. He was studying abroad on July 15th and learned the coup through the Internet. He was supposed to go back to Turkey but he decided not to do so because of the news on the immense purging in mostly the government and some private institutions. Few days after the coup he learned that he was dismissed from his position at a state university.
Police seized Gülen’s 1,500 books; 24 CDs featuring Gülen’s speeches; TL 435,200 ($148,000) along with $99,200 and 700 euros; several laptops; two guns and some digital data, during operations targeting the alleged terrorist network of the movement.
What a decade and a half of AKP experience has shown is that the problem with democracy in Turkey has deep social roots that go way beyond the political power struggles on the surface. Both an authoritarian political culture and conservative social values inhibit the emergence of a pluralist democracy. In the last decade, Muslim conservative elites have shown little interest in establishing a fully fledged democracy. This is not surprising: democracy is largely understood by most Turks to be just about elections.
After a searing summer that has already featured a failed military coup, spectacular terrorist attacks and now a new war across the border in Syria, Turkey’s cultural elite is watching with increased unease as authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan rides a wave of nationalism that they fear will be used to brand his critics as enemies of the state.
Immediately after the failed coup, the administration published lists of people that Erdogan claimed had participated in the coup. The lists included people from all professions, and journalists were no exception. Turkey now has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world, with three times the number jailed as Iran and China.