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Turkey Recycles Notorious Minister of Justice

Abdulhamit Gul, the outgoing Turkish Minister of Justice, recently resigned from his post by asking forgiveness from the President Erdogan for his shortcomings. Erdogan accepted Gul’s resignation and appointed the former Minister of Justice, Bekir Bozdag anew to the same post. People’s reactions vary for such sweeping changes in Turkey. Reactions can also lead anyone to have a cursive idea of the volatile political atmosphere of the country.

Abdulhamit Gul is a controversial political figure in Turkey through the policies he doggedly implemented and his approaches towards human rights-related issues. Gul guested in his judicial post for 4 years and 6 months and took numerous notorious steps, nosediving Turkey’s already brittle human rights rankings for favoring the ruling party to silence dissent.

Here are some significant events that took place during Gul’s tenure:

  • Istanbul Convention officially known as the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence as a regional human rights instrument aiming to protect women against all forms of violence and holding perpetrators accountable was ratified on March 20, 2021.
  • Turkish Union of Bar Associations was divided and politicized through Gul’s maneuvers. As the leading ministerial figure to put Erdogan’s plan to divide-and-rule the judiciary with expansive influence over the bar associations and minimize their pressure on human rights issues, Gul was the rubber stamp regulating the so-called ‘overhauled justice practices’ of the Erdogan regime.
  • Turkey also openly defied the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) judgements often, most significantly on the immediate release rulings for the HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas and businessman-and-activist Osman Kavala. Despising these decisions was not only against the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey and it was also an indelible blemish branding Abdulhamit Gul as one of the most notorious justice ministers of Turkey.
  • Abdulhamit Gul along with Suleyman Soylu, Interior Minister, was also sanctioned and blacklisted by the US Treasury Department in 2018 for the captivity of a US pastor over terror charges in Turkey.
  • Abdulhamit Gul always wanted to be viewed as a hardcore democrat and tried to prove this by his speeches seasoned with democracy and rule of law cliches in ceremonial gatherings. Most people criticized this dual personality on social media platforms and said, “When he talks, everyone assumes we all live in Norway but in fact, Turkey is new Syria thanks to his practices in dispensing justice.”
  • During his tenure, witch-hunts and large-scale of arrests increased in leaps and bounds. Opponents were pressured, demonized and gagged by threats and arrests. He crowned his craft before resigning through the benefaction of his Supreme Leader by hurling threats to TV anchor and journalist Sedef Kabas on Twitter.
  • Political prisoners languish under severe prison conditions with no access to their citizenship rights. While a Covid-spread scare in the beginning of 2021 led to the release of criminals and murderers from Turkish prisons, political prisoners were not included in that ‘amnesty’ sugarcoated in public health concerns. Gul the Justice Minister even banned open visits to these political prisoners by their families on the pretext of pandemic for a year and a half.
  • Gul boondoggled public opinion with so-called judicial reforms but none of those ‘improvements’ alleviated the oppression on the political prisoners, including women who are incarcerated with their babies in Turkish prisons, and the military cadets baselessly accused of ‘attempting a coup’ against the Erdogan regime.
  • Least but not last, Gul engaged in several charm offensives on Twitter by posting photos portraying himself as an animal lover. This backfired amid stifling social and political oppression across the country and the public heavily criticized him for doing nothing to improve the conditions of the inmates or to restore justice.

Have these points of human rights issues, deterioration of justice and law become flashpoints after Gul beggingly resigned from his post? No, not really. Everyone including the opposition and international media outlets like BBC Turkce, DW Turkce, Independent Turkce mostly focused on the matter highlighting the way he was ‘eventually sacked’ in the guise of ‘resignation’ by President Erdogan and mentioning several reasons not related to his dismal performance in dispensing justice but to his public rivalry with the Interior Minister who himself is a shady character of unlawful practices and how he could not help but lost his control over the judicial system, as if Abdulhamit Gul had always been a super-democratic, justice-loving fair guy.

As usual, opposition parties and most dissidents failed again to yield reasonable and robust arguments against Erdogan’s such political moves and just criticized why Abdulhamit Gul was sidelined for tried-and-fired Bekir Bozdag who had once from the Turkish Grand National Assembly rostrum advocated about Fethullah Gulen. Neither the opposition leaders nor the dissidents have been interested how these ministers committed crimes and encouraged unlawful practices across the entire country. As so-called ‘opposition’, they looked into the matter always from the point of whether these appointed government officials had ever been in the same snapshot or meeting with Gulen in the past and thus criticized the ruling party only for that ‘offense’ and ‘collaboration’. With such an opposition and their leaders, Turkey does not need additional foes to serve the interests of the Erdogan regime.

If Bekir Bozdag had never talked in affirmative about Gulen, the opposition might have had no concerns about his second coming as the Minister for Justice albeit his criminal conduct in the past. He was the Minister for Justice immediately after the December 17-25, 2013 anti- corruption probes and operations against his party, the cabinet members and Erdogan’s family. During the July 15 staged failed coup attempt and throughout the entire illegal and criminal measures meted out on the civil society and dismissed civil personnel by the Erdogan regime, Bozdag was the hawk perching on Erdogan’s shoulder and implementing his toxic policies into action after Efkan Ala, former interior minister. Bekir Bozdag being one most responsible political figures of today’s Turkey, criticizing him over a pep talk to the members of the Turkish parliament about Gulen would never bestow any political mileage on the opposition parties. It would never render Turkey into a more democratic state, either. All it has in store to do is, as a naïve effort, disappearing into ash in the hellish state ruled by thuggish Erdogan. With all his unlawful practices, Bozdag will always be remembered by one of his ‘stellar’ comments on child abuse when he said, “the abused are abused with their consent” while advocating a legal package known as ‘Marry Your Rapist Act’ favoring the rapists with impunity if the abused girls or women marry them. 

In brief, Erdogan continues his way to consolidate his sultanate and dictatorship by making cosmetic changes and refurbishing old ministers as if they were new. While this seems to make him stronger, opposition parties vainly wait for the man to meet his biological and political demise by himself so they can take over as if it will be their turn to play the game.

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Engin Yigit is a Politurco columnist, activist, and author. Follow him at @enginyigtt.

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