Welcome to the second part of our exclusive interview with Bulent Kenes, the prominent Turkish journalist who has been living in Stockholm in exile. In this segment, we delve deeper into the challenges facing Turkey’s political landscape, human rights violations, international perspectives on Erdogan’s rule, and the ever-evolving dynamics of military influence. Kenes, known for his candid and insightful analysis, provides a unique perspective on these critical issues as we continue to explore the complex world of Turkish politics and governance.
FK: In your opinion, what is the problem of the opposition in Turkey? Erdogan’s popularity is getting weaker day by day. But he wins the polls. And this doesn’t seem to send a message across. What’s wrong?
BK: As we’ve previously discussed, it’s not feasible to label Turkish elections as free and fair. So, it is not possible to accept elections results are legal and legitimate. Consequently, the declared election results cannot be regarded as an accurate gauge of Erdogan’s popularity. However, those who are most burdened with addressing issues of election fraud and manipulation should be the opposition. Unfortunately, the opposition has been unsuccessful in ensuring the integrity of the elections and has also faltered in effectively challenging Erdogan’s unlawful victories. Thus, Turkey isn’t solely grappling with an Erdogan-centric predicament, but it also faces a significant challenge within its opposition landscape. The predicament within the opposition is multifaceted, encompassing issues ranging from incapability to lack of authenticity. In fact, the perceived incapability of opposition parties in Turkey is often interpreted by many as an unspoken collaboration between the Erdogan regime and these so-called opposition factions. Numerous observers frequently highlight that an autocratic regime is not exclusively defined by the ruling government but also extends to encompass the so-called opposition. Guided or manipulated opposition entities are observable in various electoral autocracies or dictatorships. Turkey has regrettably joined this category, wherein even the opposition appears to be shaped by the autocratic system.
FK: Human rights violations are rife in Turkey. Why is the world divided on a solidarity action? Why is Erdogan comfortable with Washington and Moscow, New York and Geneva, The Hague and Brussels? Why does the world seem to give in to his inhuman style of surviving on other people’s agony and even blood?
BK: The straightforward explanation lies within the realm of realpolitik. Undoubtedly, the international community has taken significant strides toward advancing humanitarian laws and human rights standards in both theory and practice. Nonetheless, the influence of realpolitik continues to shape the landscape of international relations. Turning our attention to Turkey, this nation occupies a pivotal role owing to its geopolitical significance, substantial economy, and formidable population. Such a country cannot be overlooked.
The predicament arises from the fact that Turkish citizens entrusted Erdogan with the authority to represent and lead them, but eventually found themselves unable to extricate themselves from his grasp. Many Western nations initially anticipated the Turkish populace to rectify their choice and remove the Islamofascist Erdogan from power. However, witnessing the persistence of the Erdogan regime, these countries have opted to cultivate expedient, transactional relationships. In my view, before holding foreign nations accountable for not challenging the Erdogan regime, we must first scrutinize ourselves and the lack of opposition against it within Turkey. If the Turkish opposition does not confront the Erdogan regime, how can we anticipate foreign governments to do so? The greatest source of legitimacy for the Erdogan regime appears to emanate from the so-called opposition, and purportedly democratic foreign powers are merely following suit. Shifting focus to Russia and similar autocratic regimes, they seemingly revel in the prospect of Turkey being governed by an autocrat like themselves. Consequently, the widespread human rights violations in Turkey tend to be brushed aside, as there is a lack of concern from external parties.
FK: You authored a book warning against genocide trends in Turkey targeting the Hizmet Movement real and assumed members in all walks of life and wherever they are on Earth. Do you think Erdogan is now a case for The Hague?
BK: In my book, I have exclusively concentrated on the systematic human rights violations directed at members and alleged affiliates of the Hizmet Movement. These violations form a substantial body of evidence that fits the criteria and progression of a potential genocide, constituting a volume of crimes against humanity. Nevertheless, the crimes against humanity and genocidal policies of Erdogan and his Islamofascist regime encompass more than just those affiliated with the Hizmet Movement. Their actions also encompass comparable or even more severe atrocities committed against Kurds, both within Turkey and abroad. Furthermore, the Erdogan regime has engaged in supporting and collaborating with radical Islamist or Jihadist terrorist organizations, leading to the perpetration of numerous massacres in neighboring countries such as Iraq, Syria, and Karabakh. The necessity for the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been underscored by the heinous crimes against humanity. This court is particularly vital for the prosecution of ruthless individuals in positions of power, such as Erdogan and his associates. Therefore, my response to whether an ICC case is needed to try Erdogan is a resounding “Yes,” without the slightest hesitation.
FK: Turkish history has it that in 1997 a secret protocol named EMASYA was signed to address security and public order assistance enabling the military to conduct internal security operations without seeking authority from civilian authorities. Now there is a KOKTOD. Is there anything new? Is military tutelage really gone?
BK: The old military tutelage regime represented an authoritarian and anti-democratic structure that was unconstitutional, unlawful, and arbitrary in nature, leading to the victimization of various segments of society. EMASYA was just one component of this intricate oppressive system. As the military’s illegitimate influence over politics, judiciary, media, institutions, and the whole society receded around 2010, those of us who championed democracy believed that this advancement would create new avenues for enhancing Turkey’s democratic standards, rule of law, and protection of rights and freedoms. However, Erdogan capitalized on this situation and swiftly shifted his mindset, reverting to his original radical Islamist agenda that was unfeasible during the era of the former military tutelage system. Today, the military is merely a component and tool of the Islamofascist Erdogan regime, lacking the role or character it once possessed. Consequently, we should attribute any wrongdoing committed by both civilian and military institutions in Turkey solely to Erdogan and his regime. While the concept of military tutelage might resurface in the coming decades, it is not a current issue for Turkey.
FK: Subsequent to the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul in May 2013 against authoritarian rule, Erdogan changed his stance against Ergenekon. He started a sort of sharing power with the military. With their help, he took control of the judiciary, and, in return, the Turkish judiciary acquitted the Ergenekon defendants. How safe is Erdogan from the military?
BK: I humbly believe that the Gezi Park protests played no role in Erdogan’s pursuit of an alliance with Ergenekon and other deep state entities. The driving force behind this collaboration was the corruption and bribery investigations on December 17/25, 2013, which targeted Erdogan, his corrupt family, and his corrupt cabinet members. Erdogan’s belief was that those orchestrating these investigations were sympathizers of Fethullah Gülen within the judiciary and police department. Similarly, groups linked to Ergenekon thought that the individuals behind the Ergenekon cases and military coup inquiries were the same. Thus, a collaboration between these factions was formed against their common adversary. To forge an alliance with his former adversaries, Erdogan had to make numerous concessions, including releasing those imprisoned as part of the Ergenekon investigations. A similar strategy was employed by Erdogan in 2015 when the Kurdish party decided not to support his proposed presidential system plans. In response, he swiftly abandoned his collaboration with the Kurdish party, ended the settlement process and aligned with the ultra-nationalist MHP. Erdogan is devoid of a strong moral stance, guiding principles, or ethical values; his actions are driven solely by his political interests to amass more power. Currently, there appears to be no immediate military threat to Erdogan’s security. Thanks to Erdogan’s reactionary Islamism, Turkey is now intertwined with the Middle East, a region known for its political volatility. Consequently, as predicting the positions of influential power players in the Middle East over the long term is an intricate task, predicting the positions of influential power players in Turkey is also a complex endeavor, given the ever-shifting political landscape.