Wednesday, 05 November 2014

What the Columnists Say

Published in Roundup of Columnists

The fact that the military has returned to playing a political role in the wake of the Kobane events, with the General Staff making several emotionally charged statements on the Kurdish issue, has started to be noted with growing alarm by some commentators. Ali Bayramoğlu in Yeni Şafak warns that in a country with Turkey’s history, its political culture, with its deep societal divisions and with ongoing regional developments, the door is not closed to a return of the military. He notes that the Kurdish issue is of critical importance and reminds that what prompted the military return to politics in the 1990s was precisely the Kurdish issue.  Other commentators worry about the consequences of regional developments. While pro-government pundits accuse the United States of harboring imperialist designs against Turkey, critics of the government charge that it invites severe troubles by its ideologically motivated refusal to dissociate itself from what ISIS stands for.


Abdülkadir Selvi in Yeni Şafak notes that the Kurdish movement wants to involve the United States in ongoing talks between the Turkish government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK.) Would this have happened if Turkey had consented to the demands of the U.S. regarding the fight against ISIS? The answer is no. But then we would have needed to engage in a land war in Syria and consent to the use of our bases. Just because we didn’t go along with spilling the blood of our soldiers in Kobane, the U.S. is trying to punish us using the PKK and the solution process as means. The aim of the U.S. is to hand over Rojava as a gift to the PYD, its ally. And this in turn aims to bypass Turkey, transporting the Iraqi oil to the Mediterranean through the Iraqi-Syrian (Kurdish-controlled) corridor. This is the big game. It’s not going to be a nice expression, but the bear has entered the game and is redesigning the region over Kobane.


Ali Bayramoğlu in Yeni Şafak warns that Turkey faces the risk of a military return to politics. When there is a growing insecurity in the country, when there is a suffocating climate of securitization, the first result of this is that the presence of security institutions becomes more prominent. The steps we have taken so far away from a military regime are quite short, compared to the long distance that covers the eras of military empire and military republic. The military has recently begun to make moves that stick in the eye. The camouflage colors reappeared in a way that we had not seen for quite some time during the unrest of October 6-7, when the military once again took up position in the public space. Since the October 6-7 events, the General Staff has made a string of highly charged statements addressed to public opinion. The return of the military after the Turgut Özal era that followed on the 1980 coup regime occurred during the premiership of Tansu Çiller, when the General Staff reacted against the talk about introducing the Basque model to solve the Kurdish issue. The Kurdish issue is in this sense absolutely critical. It has been, and will always be so. And the door is still open for a risk of militarization in this country, with its past, its political culture, its internal political tensions, its geography and the developments in the region.


Can Dündar in Cumhuriyet writes that he, unlike many others, does not believe that Turkey has entered a process that will eventually end with a military coup. However, I’m afraid that we are headed toward a police coup. Since it came to power, the AKP has almost doubled the number of the police force. While Turkey has 750,000 soldiers, a police army 350,000 man strong has been created. Now, using the Kobane events, this army is being endowed with extraordinary powers. From now on, “reasonable suspicion” will be enough for allowing the police to search your home and eavesdrop on your telephone. The police will be allowed to detain a person for 24 hours without asking for the permission of a prosecutor. The excuse for these new regulations recall the eras of dictatorship: “To attempt to overthrow the constitutional order.” With the latest regulation, the right to “Protect and preserve the Republic,” which used to legitimate the coups, has been transferred from the military to the police. While we are busy discussing whether “the military is going to stage a coup,” the police have already laid the foundations of its state.


Güray Öz in Cumhuriyet writes that the developments in Syria and Iraq tell that it is becoming increasingly difficult to protect the republic.  We can see that the stance that almost sanctifies the barbaric ideology of ISIS is gaining traction in our own country. Even worse is the fact that the government, because of it ideology, refuses to draw a sharp distinction between itself and this primitive outrage across the border. The main threat against our republic lies in the fact that the government feels an ideological affinity with the forces across the border. What can we do then to counter the threat, can we save our republic? This republic can no longer be saved by reviving the status quo ante. The first republic was conquered by a team – which succeeded in bringing their accumulated ideological hatred to power – before anything had been done to heal the wounds that were inflicted by the coups of 1971 and 1980. Now it is up to Turkey’s left, to its socialists and clear-thinking democrats to reinvent a republic that is truly democratic and which rests on a secularism that does not put off broad sections of the population. If this struggle is not won, the retrograde primitiveness across the border will seep in and condemn the whole country to a deep darkness.


Hasan Cemal on the t24 news site notes that former president and prime minister Süleyman Demirel, a politician that put his mark on the history of the Turkish republic, has turned 90. It is sad, but nonetheless true that Demirel never worked to make Turkey democratic. After he was ousted from power the first time in 1971, he joined hands with the coup makers. It was Demirel and his Justice Party (AP) that gave the green light in parliament to the constitutional amendments that severely limited the democratic rights and freedoms. Again, it was Demirel and his AP that in parliament approved the death sentences that the military courts had handed out against Deniz Gezmis and others. There was no difference left between Demirel and the coup makers – he had become as much an enemy of democracy as they were. Demirel was a politician who wanted democracy only for himself, who thought the majority that emerged from the ballot box was the same as democracy. The Nationalist Front governments, of which Demirel was the architect and leader during the 1970s, divided Turkey into hostile camps and polarized the country in a terrible way. When the military deposed him in 1980, Demirel did not object to the new constitutional order that the military planned to impose. Demirel was all for a constitution that limited democratic rights and freedoms, just as had been the case after the 1971 coup.


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The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.


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