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Can’t Turkish democracy hasten slowly?

Sons and daughters of the Anglo-Saxons have it a bit on the harsh side. Along the non-word mincing God’s Seventh of the Ten Commandments handed over to the world through Moses’ Torah tablet, they deduce: “Say the truth and shame the devil.” 

Downloaded on our daily lives, activities devoid of direction, intention or target are not worth it. They are worth abandoning. This is proven by the abundant wide range of Modus Vivendi norms – call them formulas — scanning almost every walk of life in space and time. What really matters, at the end of it all, is the way we conduct ourselves.  

To those who have had a bit of deeper interest in the study of Mathematics, one would wish these Modus Vivendi formulae were replaced with theorems. The theorems are easy. All you do is simply applying them. They already command space and time respect. They don’t change. Formulas don’t possess this property.     

So, in the quest for achieving human goals, religious faiths prescribe patience. In politics, the formula/norm is principles, short of which everything translates into blunder. African indigenous knowledge has a horde of advices.  To mention just a few: “The slow moving (cow) drinks calmly; hurry has no blessing, the patient (grower) enjoys the ripe (harvest), patience invites blessings…”

For those interested in quotes of the wise, St. Vincent de Paul says: “If you must be in a hurry; then let it be according to the old adage, and hasten slowly.” And, observes Kumail Najiani: “You can go slow(ly). Allow your dreams and goals to change, but live an intentional life.”  Away from the wise saying to a school Chemistry lab, the procedure is: “Always add water to acid.” There is no vice-versa.

I found myself still going through all these experiences as dust settled under the feet of events that went into the marking of the fourth anniversary of the 15th July ‘failed coup’ that left 249 people dead and is blamed on the brains of Muslim Cleric Fethullah Gulen, living in self-exile 6,000 kilometres away from the ‘crime’ scene.

Whether it was a coup or a coup that was, time will tell. But the story until this far, embraces many and practically inexhaustible developments worth the time of a critical mind. Of course, observation or concern Number One remains the sad and unnecessary loss of 249 chronicled lives. Could ‘coup’ plotters, whoever they are, have forgotten that to kill just one person is equivalent to killing the whole of human kind? 

Now here we are with the colossal death toll also appearing in some records as 251. The two lives’ difference represents the whole of humanity. It is against this glaring tact that Turkey has designated July 15 the  Democracy and National Unity Day, the Istanbul Bosphorus Bridge has been renamed the July 15 Martyrs’ Bridge and a July 15 Democracy Martyrdom Monument stands at the seat of government in Ankara.

The question remains: What is the direction, target of all this? What amount of democracy and national unity has been achieved down the four-year ‘failed coup’ road? Is there any further need for creating more ‘martyrs’ for democracy? In whose hands do new deaths take place? 

In his address to the nation to mark the fourth ‘coup’ anniversary, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “No matter how much the terror groups FETO and the PKK plot against Turkey from within or without, they cannot silence the adhan (Muslim call for prayer), lower our flag…; thank God they could not succeed.” And flagging off the event activities, the President also referred to the 15th July 2016 day …“as not an ordinary coup; (but) a historic breaking point.” He was right. 

Turkish missions across the world also marked the day. Turkey’s deputy permanent representative to the UN in New York, Serhad Varlı, said: “Our fight…against FETÖ’s structure abroad will be maintained united and decisively.” Ambassador to the U.S. Serdar Kılıç said Turkey sent all essential files to the U.S. on extradition of Gulen and added the review process of American authorities “shouldn’t have taken that long.”

“We call upon African countries to be careful with foreign companies coming to invest in different sectors as such institutions are used for preparing future terrorists.” That was the message to Africa from the Turkish embassy based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – Africa’s opinion maker. Former Ambassador Ali Davutaglu blamed FETO for “disguising itself as an education movement…”  

Ankara also accuses FETÖ of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary. Why does Ankara see in Gulen what the rest of the world doesn’t?

All these facets bring us to critique Number Two and the most important one, constituting the alleged ‘coup’ axis of Fethullah Gulen and the Hizmet Movement, the chain, link and revolving circuit system of evolving events. On the outset, where did this mortal creature Gulen get the power from to overcome the limitation of space between Pennsylvania and Turkey? Even the 21st century technological advancements have yet to reach this stage. They have to obey space and time rules.

Gulen himself condemned the failed attempt. In Africa, it is believed that during a funeral of a dead child, normally the witch yells more than the bereaved mother! Could this apply to him? Rather than hide behind the screen, Fethullah Gulen was quoted by various global media outlets as having responded: “Let an international commission investigate the coup, and we will accept its findings.”  

Four years down the ‘coup’ lane, this option has not been responded to. Instead reports reveal, among others, more than half a million interrogations, arrests of state officials, political prisoners on terrorism charges, human rights violations, suspicious prisoner deaths, seizure of US billions’ worth of assets, closure of schools, NGOs, media companies, unions, private universities; dismissal of academics, judges and prosecutors, lawyers put on trial, abductions of Gulen supporters from foreign countries, name them. All in the name of democracy and national unity!  

Zero response is by design. The commission would establish that the ‘coup’ had a sort of  official template for events yet to take place such as such as the bombing of the Turkish Grand National Assembly), the Presidential Palace intersection, and the air raid at the Ankara Police Headquarters.  None of them had taken place and when they did, the mode was different.

Responding to the press on areas he found difficult to handle Former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım Minister said: “… July 15 was a project I did not like at all.”  Why? Purge lists were prepared in advance and to be effected immediately after the attempt. About 3,000 judges and prosecutors had been earmarked for arrest.  In the absence of ‘anticipated’ criminal evidence, 2,745 were ended up being dismissed any way.

What has been sold to the world about the July 15 coup attempt is better summarized by the words of former European Parliament representative Andrew Duff. Said he:“We have finally figured out how Erdoğan was able to exploit this so-called coup in such a quick and relentless manner. This report (written by July 15 Public Prosecutor Serdar Coşkun) “ shows us that certain incidents were prepared before hand, ERDOĞAN allowed for the insurrection to be carried out in a controlled manner and afterward put his own version of a constitutional coup into action.”

Serkan Golge, Turkish-American NASA physicist was held in prison for about four years since one week after the coup on charges of being a CIA operative and part of the Gulen Movement. His arrest “was like a horror movie …They found a U.S. $1 in my belongings and used that as proof I was a terrorist. They were arresting anyone they found with $1 because they thought it was a sign of being part of the Gulen movement. How is this terrorism?  I have always been a law-abiding citizen; I have never even gotten a parking ticket. Then, all of a sudden, I am a terrorist?

 “It was like they wanted to break me psychologically, so I would admit to something I did not do. It took about 16 months, and then I got used to it. It was 23 hours a day alone, just one hour of sunlight. It wasn’t easy, especially knowing that I had done nothing wrong.

The routine interrogations by different police six or seven times under threat that if I didn’t give them names of Gulen members I would stay there a long time. I kept telling them I had no names to give. I wasn’t a spy or a terrorist. I am just a scientist.”

His wife, Kurba, and their sons were prohibited from leaving. “I’m very optimistic about Turkey’s future. I believe it really will be a mature democracy one day.”

As I was winding up this article, further proof of the Erdogan coup ploy arrived on my desk about Turkish Rear Admiral Mustafa Ugurlu, top officer at the NATO training command in Norfolk at the time.

 An aid rushes to him with a story of a major Istanbul bridge being closed to traffic. Tanks are in the streets, helicopters and war planes streaking across the sky. He tries to ring senior officers in Turkey. He fails to get through.

He imagines: “A military coup during prime time on a Friday evening?”  He trashes the story. Two weeks later he is charged with taking part in the coup. His picture appears in the press. He is dismissed and ordered home.  He seeks asylum in the US together with some colleagues.

Five years on, he has decided to talk. What does he say? “Nothing has changed in Turkey. President Erdogan has become more and more repressive. I want something to be changed because Turkey, my country home, is in bad condition…”

In these circumstances who would allow space to an independent commission? Can Turkey democracy hasten slowly?  The coup story is unfolding. Slowly the Erdogan version is being proven false. Can Gulen’s “No Return from Democracy” dream book summarizing his interviews on issues like the compatibility of Islam and democracy compiled by Faruk Mercan come true? Why not?  What is required is hastening slowly on his preferred path of tolerance, dialogue and coexistence rather than violence. The truth must be also be told to the shame of the 15 July coup devil.

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Felix Kaiza is a Tanzanian journalist with more than 50 years of experience currently working as an independent media consultant. Learned in agriculture, journalism, political science and international relations, his main fields of consultancy, besides the media, are good governance, nature conservation, tourism and investment. He was the first Tanzanian Chief Sub-Editor of an English daily newspaper in 1970, he has been behind the establishment and growth of the national independent media since the early 1990s. He is UNFAO Fellow Journalist since 1975 and has wide experience on regional integration. He worked on the Information Directorate of the original East African Community on whose ashes survive the current one. His ambition is to brand Tanzania in the inbound market with made-in-Tanzania brands, including information, almost all of which is currently foreign brewed.

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