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Imaging Turkey without Erdogan

When I read a headline about Politurco’s Engin Yigit’s ‘lightning-like’ twit saying: “Gone are the earthquake-hit Cities …”, there is one likewise fast ‘enlightening’ add flash I felt like had gone missing in order to tell the whole story. That was: “Erdogan”, the incumbent president seeking reelection. Earthquakes that had turned into the ‘Turk-quake’ could not leave Erdogan sitting on the throne. I saw him having gone under the rubble to become a prime subject for quick response and distribution of human rights aid facility in whose respect imagination alone fell short for a befitting explanation. Imaging, to me, remained the delivering alternative because in the literary world it is held that one picture tells more than a thousand words. 

This translated into imaging Turkey without Erdogan – something that can only be perfected by the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections to bear the now confirmed 14-May-2023 creation date tag for future reference, just as is the case with the Ottoman Empire. And if Erdogan himself did not see this – that now he was an overdue entry in his country’s history archives, that proves the case. People have had enough of him. They are furious. Like an earthquake, Erdogan ‘s rule has left no stone of democracy, the rule of law and justice unturned. He had lost every trust.

During the traditional night walk held in Istanbul in defiance of a ban on the International Women’s Day, women demanded for the government (Erdogan) to step down. One of the banners read: “We are angry, we are in mourning, we are in revolt.” In a sort of polls day atmosphere setting, one woman said this of the Erdogan government: “Those who have urged women to have three children – what have they done regarding the special needs of 226,000 pregnant women in the (quake-hit) region? Some of them – under stress and out in the cold –run the risk of miscarriage. Lactating mothers have gone dry due to lack of nourishment. Some children known to be saved under the rubble have gone missing.”

Erdogan’s first befitting image would be of him squatting on the throne rather than seated. From the African indigenous “nosindika atandamile” concept, little effort is needed to push such a person off.  And all looks set, particularly after the opposition, under the Nation Alliance, having almost miraculously shelved their differences to field one presidential candidate.  African indigenous knowledge, in such circumstances, declares, “egwile bashara”—meaning that the best and natural treatment one can give to a fallen cow is slaughter. Is Erdogan in for a political slaughter?

 The second image would be about the elections climate that was set ready for any eventuality so long as Erdogan’s chances of coming back remained almost nil. According to the Turkey Supreme Election Board (YSK) the number of political parties qualified to run in the upcoming polls increased from the previous 27 as of July last year to 36. There is everything to prove the country’s determination to see Erdogan’s exit. The new nine parties include the Greens and the Left Party which were understood to serve as the “back-up” in the event of the Constitutional Court shutting down the HDP before the elections. The others are the Victory Party (ZP), the Labour Party (EMEP), the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP), the Workers’ Party of Turkey (TIP) and the People’s Liberation Party (HKP).  Another indicator is one of the Constitutional Court removing a freeze on state funds allocated to the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and announcement of the postponement of its oral defense from March 14 to April 11 at the party’s request.

The third image would be Erdogan handing the country’s reins back to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The upcoming elections are set to represent the most-consequential vote in post-Ottoman history. In the present circumstances, Erdogan has found himself having to make vows for healing the earthquake-stricken nation’s wounds. Using the “Turkey Now” slogan, he said: “Our agenda will focus on efforts to heal the wounds of the earthquake victims and compensate economic and social harm.” The question is: Does “Turkey Now” work in his favour when his regime has had worse effects than the earthquakes?  

The fourth image is how Erdogan has encroached on the judiciary and law enforcement to turn them in an incredibly vindictive weapon for harassment, intimidation, abusive prosecution and mass incarceration. These are the more serious wounds caused by him. It is now time for him to pay the price.  One can see him and his inner circle ending up in the crosshairs of the very machinery they built. Erdogan cannot go into peaceful retirement. He has politicized government agencies which should operate independently. He has usurped powers of the military and undermined its independence in making top positions appointing system.  He brought the intelligence (MIT) under his armpit, making himself the leader of its overseas operations through which dissidents have been followed across borders, kidnapped and flown back to Turkey, defying the sovereignty of the countries involved.

The fifth image. Could he go into exile?  Where does he find a place to protect him from the then rule-of-the-law Ankara and Washington?  What image does one draw in the background of Reza Zarrab pleadings of “guilty” of defrauding US on Iran sanctions bursting involving the Turkey state lender Halkbank and possibly Erdogan himself? How about links with cocaine trafficking? How about his involvement in the private SADAT military network, which operates along the lines of Russian Federation’s Wagner? Where can he go comfortably?

The sixth image and, perhaps the most significant, is the country’s return to the parliamentary system and the accompanying wide range of scenarios. This is the pre-requisite for Turkey coming back on rails. The first and foremost image would be the opening of prison gates for immediate release of all political prisoners. Wow! Mothers and children languishing in jail would walk to their freedom. Philanthropist Osman Kavala, opposition party leader Sehallatin Demirtas and hundreds of people kidnapped from countries abroad would be freed. The Istanbul Convention would come back. Turkey EU membership talks would brighten up.

What a marvelous picture would be to witness the removal of government trustees from mayoral offices and replacing them with Kurdish politicians who are the original winners and ultimately clearing a political atmosphere where the resumption of efforts to resolve the Kurdish question could be discussed?

For about seven years now, the Erdogan government has been impressing upon the world to believe that Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen was the brain behind the 2016 planned-to-fail coup. What an image would it create to see him land on the Turkey soil as a free citizen after staying in self-exile in the United States since 1999? How about the triumphant return of other Turkish people, including journalists, living abroad in forced exile, where they lead a life of uncertainty, risking Erdogan’s MIT kidnap missions?  Indeed, life without Erdogan in Turkey is just something beyond imagination.  One has got to see it to get the real experience. Come 14 May, 2023, all this could come true.

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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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