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Reflections on Turkish Political Landscape

There is a difference between “being ignorant” and “willing to stay ignorant”.  Although there is always hope for curing ignorance, you really cannot do anything for those who are happy with and do not want to do anything regarding their ignorance.  Let’s review some major incidents occurred over the last several years in Turkey to fresh our memories.

On 17 December 2013, Turkish prosecutors launched a massive corruption operation which targeted Erdogan Government. All of the people detained were connected in various ways with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Prosecutors accused 57 people; including Suleyman Aslan, the director of Halkbank, a Turkish state bank, Iraninan- Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab and several family members of cabinet ministers of bribery, corruption, fraud, gold smuggling and money laundering. Reza Zarrab was released in 2 months after all the police forces, prosecutors and judges involved in operation were fired or displaced.

Zarrab later on arrested in the U.S. on 19 March 2016. This time he was accused of being a member of international criminal organization. He was charged with evading the US economic sanctions on Iran and money laundering in a scheme to help Iran bypass the sanctions, involving ministers of the Turkish government and Erdogan. Zarrab witnessed in the case against Hakan Atilla, the deputy general manager for international banking at Halkbank, having accepted a plea deal with federal prosecutors.

Ottoman military band
Ottoman military band

On July 13 2016, less than two days before the coup started, Erdogan signed a bill giving  Turkish soldiers immunity from prosecution while taking part in domestic operations.

On 15 July 2016, the coup attempt allegedly was carried out by a faction within the Turkish Armed Forces that organized themselves as the Peace at Home Council. They attempted to seize control of several key places but failed to do so after forces loyal to the state defeated them. The government accused the coup leaders of being linked to the Gulen Movement. Mr. Gulen has suggested the coup was in fact a self-coup carried out by Erdogan to consolidate his grip on power. This belief shared among some analysts and many Turks.

Although less than 300 soldiers joined the coup attempt, more than 10.000 soldiers and 3000 judges, including Supreme Court Judges, detained next day. Some officials who had died at least 6 months earlier were on the arrest lists which gives a strong suggestion that the lists were prepared by AKP months before coup attempt. More than 150,000 people have been arrested or fired from their jobs, on accusations of connections to Gulen Movement.

Erdogan accused the head of US Central Command

The UN Security Council did not denounce the coup.  Erdogan accused the head of US Central Command, chief General Joseph Votel of siding with coup plotters.

On March 2017, Germany’s intelligence chief said Germany was unconvinced by Erdogan’s claim that Fethullah Gulen was behind the failed coup. Germany opened its doors to many Gulen Movement participants who seek asylum.

The British Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee said although some Gulen followers were involved in coup attempt, found no hard evidence that Mr.Fethullah Gulen masterminded the failed coup and found no evidence to justify the UK designating the Gulen movement as a “terrorist organization”.

Some have compared the coup attempt to the Reichstag fire in 1933, which Hitler used as an excuse to suspend civil liberties and order mass arrests of his opponents. Indeed, there are lots of similarities between Reichstag fire and July 15 coup attempt.

While being beaten up so badly-literally and hypothetically- by AKP supporters, Gulen followers have tried to voice their innocence and their strong commitment to democracy. But does anyone care about that? AKP supporters are not concerned about the truth, they believe what they want to believe. Although they are constantly using the word “democracy” in everything after July 15, it is not certain whether majority of AKP members even are concerned about “democracy”. It is also noteworthy to recall that Turkish people accepted and legalized the constitution in 1982 referendum mandated by the military coup in 1980. Although AKP has been ruling the country for 16 years, they have not bothered to change this constitution. Blaming the Gulen Movement is not about being right or being wrong, not about coup or believing in democracy; it is about their interests and benefits.

We tend to blame the media in Turkey, which is all -except a few tiny newspapers- captured by Erdogan and his allies, for being responsible for the ignorance. We protest them and long for a free and objective media. But remember what Christopher Priest from the movie Prestige says: “Now you’re looking for the secret, but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled.” I still accept the role of the media but deeply believe that AKP followers know the truth to the core; they just don’t care. They want to be fooled. This is not ignorance or lack of knowledge, they pretend to be ignorant; because they have primary gain in this system. Erdogan secures his setup to financially back his followers and this is not the first time we see this in history. Turkey’s “the richest people list” and how it changed since AKP started to rule in 2002 can be reviewed to understand better the amplitude of wealth switch.

The world has witnessed many dictators in history. I have not seen or met with anybody in entire my life who likes the dictators. Then, how do they get enough support to cause harm and destruction? The truth is, most of the time dictators actually get a tremendous amount of support from people. They are able to get their support because first of all, they are charismatic, self-confident. They don’t care what others think. They come up with exotic ideas and do not actualize them most of the time. They want to control everything, from religion to how many kids people should have. They love to tell people how to live. They never show weaknesses. They are always right, never accepting their mistakes, and never look back. They can sort of hypnotize people with their acts and speeches. They are good to find followers who are easily influenced. They always pick on similarities between themselves and their new followers to solidify their rapport.

The problem with their system is, we know from the history, that this kind of systems are condemned to fail. Just like riding a bike, they have to proceed; do not have any chance to stop; until they hit a wall. It will be harder and harder to continue because they need a new enemy to move on. With every new enemy, their circle will get smaller. Paranoia will increase slowly, the system will start to ingest its own kids-which is happening these days; at the end, allies will start to fight with each other and finally that will bring the system down. This is not a prophesy, it is what human psychology and history tell us.

The relationship between Erdogan and his supporters are not based on love or trust; it is based on common interests and enemies. Dr. Frantz Omar Fanon says; “Tyrants have always used their technique of psychological artillery in an attempt to cause havoc and confusion in the minds of people and hypnotize them with intimidation and cynicism.” I am not sure whether the most of the AKP members are really hypnotized. To me, it is more ignorance by choice. They do not care about the evidence, willing to stay ignorant and there is no cure for that.

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