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What is the opposition in Turkey opposed to?

The debate about the opposition in Turkey continues. The “opposition” that came out of the elections defeated has disappointed most of you and pushed you to the depths of despair. You had hoped, you had been encouraged. What else could be expected in an unbridled frenzy of good intentions?

Perhaps the Pollyanna-like approach was a psychological defense mechanism, preventing you from sinking even further in the current environment. Or like adrenaline pumped into a fatally ill patient, providing them with temporary vitality, a resurrection, a kind of final energy. But when the effect of adrenaline wears off and the body is left to its own devices, the weakness of the drug in the body increases and the proximity to annihilation intensifies.

That’s what the excessive goodwill scattered around during the elections was like. The doping effect disappeared after the elections. Now everyone, with a know-it-all demeanor, is telling you why Kılıçdaroğlu was actually the wrong candidate, embellishing it. You need to know what the opposition is opposing. However, if they already knew this, why didn’t they insist on sharing these analyses during the election process?

I ask: Is an approach that classifies victims of Decree-Law (KHK) into various categories, such as those acquitted by the courts, those against whom no further action is taken, those who are innocent, and those who have not been involved in any crime, considered opposition?

I ask: Can a structure that does not care about the imprisonment of Selahattin Demirtaş and ten Kurdish deputies, dozens of elected mayors, and hundreds of local administrators, using baseless, fabricated reasons, and reads out democracy slogans, be considered opposition?

I ask: Can you truly consider it opposition when there is a structure that does not pay any attention to hundreds of imprisoned journalists, thousands of thought criminals, tens of thousands of members of the Gülen Movement who have been targeted since July 15th, their families, and even their young children, treating them as if they don’t exist and approaching them with a logic of “if they are not guilty, why are they in prison”?

I ask: Do you truly believe that an opposition that never raises the issue of Kurdish villages, towns, and neighborhoods being bombarded with heavy weapons from a distance, and sees the votes of Kurds and democrats as a done deal, ignoring severe atrocities and human rights violations, is actually opposition?

I ask: Can an opposition that does not question the entire discourse, language, interpretation of recent history, the handle it attaches to events, July 15th, December 17th, deep affairs, and alliances, that does not expose them, does not break them apart, does not subject them to deconstruction, and does not categorically reject them, be credible to any extent?

You first need to understand what the opposition is opposed to. Do any of you understand what this thing you think is opposition is actually opposed to?

You were convinced because they know that the truth hurts you. The wound is severe, the illness is dire, and they gave you painkillers. Even though they didn’t chase away a few of us who speak the truth and whose articles are still there, they constantly told you things like “it’s not the right time,” “don’t demotivate people,” “people won’t go to vote if you do that,” “let Erdoğan go first…” As you believed, this regime became even more consolidated, be aware of that. You were convinced that you would get rid of them through democratic procedures (by voting), but the structural problems of the regime were ignored, and legitimacy was given to Erdoğan’s regime by suggesting that the system would be fixed once Erdoğan is gone. A lack of connection to reality, a lack of grounding, selling dreams, promoting optimistic prophecies as analysis, choosing to believe in miracles instead of rational thought, thinking that everything will resolve itself over time—this mentality, thinking that telling innocent victims bedtime stories like “if they are not guilty, why are they in prison?” will help them, is like a ship that has capsized and sunk in the water.

I ask again: What is this “opposition” opposing? To put it more clearly: What does this “opposition” want? What kind of Turkey does it envision? Why do we feel the need to put “opposition” in quotation marks when referring to it? If you think this so-called opposition is a real opposition, you should come out and say it openly to the people. No more evasions. As someone who has been writing to you continuously since 2016 and whose articles are still there, I say this. I have written and warned hundreds of times that this opposition is not opposition to the regime but the regime’s opposition. The general reaction I received was mostly a mix of comments like “what can we do, should we give up?” and “everything can change instantly in Turkey, don’t worry!” In short, it was like an advertisement saying, “Trust Mobil, don’t worry about the rest!”

What is this opposition opposing?

This opposition is opposed to Erdoğan for various reasons. It is opposed to corruption. These are the positive aspects.

However, this opposition does not oppose the systematic and grave human rights violations in Turkey, for example. Because these happen every day, and I am emphasizing this once again: they happen every day! Or this opposition does not outright reject the injustices caused by Decree-Laws (KHK), but evaluates them in two separate categories as “necessary and rightful KHKs” and “unfairly issued KHKs.” This tautological approach is so irrational that any normal mind with intact logical reasoning abilities can understand it instantly. A structure that does not explicitly state that Decree-Laws (KHK) that blatantly violate personal rights and are unconstitutional are null and void, and that the state is committing crimes against KHK victims, cannot be opposition, even if it tries. However, it can be “opposition.” In quotation marks, it is clearly saying, “You are the regime’s opposition, not opposed to the regime.”

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So, what should be done?

Sometimes, the solution comes after the diagnosis. To start the treatment, you need to first make the correct diagnosis. I’m not a fortune-teller. I’m not a doctor who can find a remedy for every problem. However, I have enough knowledge to diagnose this illness. Those who sell you the treatment are not doing anything different from those who deceive the people in the wild West by selling tonics that cure all ailments. The comments promising miracle solutions like “silky hair,” “cure for the incurable,” “fertility for the infertile,” “sight for the blind,” are not based on analysis but on escaping from the truth. To find a solution, you must first name the problem. There is no opposition, my friend. This is not opposition. There are some who demand a change of power within the regime, but they do not have the intention to change the regime itself. Can you understand that? Yes, even if they all come to power, they may not be able to skillfully keep the components of the regime together like Erdoğan does. But ultimately, this is a hypothesis. The end of this regime is not a good outcome that can be achieved simply by getting rid of Erdoğan.

Turkey needs a real opposition. Even if it doesn’t receive enough votes at the beginning, it is important for someone to come forward and speak the truth and start discussing what should be. It can bring short-term and immediate results. I’m sorry, but a pseudo-opposition that is said to bring quick and easy results is like wind to the regime. It reproduces it, it gives it life. Turkey has become authoritarian. Wake up already. This authoritarianism needs to be countered by telling the people the truth, by speaking to the people. This is a long and patient struggle. But they say it’s best to turn away from where the harm comes from. We need to start somewhere.

There is no way out of this without conflicting with the state, in plain Turkish.

You will criticize the ideological and identity-related taboos that have been in place for 100 years and the unquestionable doctrines built upon them. You will step out of your secure and comfortable mental world. You will learn, open up your perception channels, and start seeing the truth. You will be curious about the pains experienced by those who came before you, and you will abandon the state’s discourse.

Am I asking for too much?

If you believe in this idea, you will also accept this state oppression that affects you indirectly, my friend. Of course, you may not believe me, and that’s fine. Worst-case scenario, if I am alive and have the opportunity, I will try to tell you these things again in 2028. Because I don’t find it logical to expect different results when the conditions remain the same. Also, if you cannot change the conditions, you will reassess your individual attitude towards those conditions. I believe in that. Rumi’s verses, whispered to our ears hundreds of years ago, resonate within me: “It’s time to say new things!”

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Dr. Mehmet Efe Caman is a Scholar of Politics at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). Dr. Caman’s main research focuses on Democracy, democratization and human rights, Turkish politics, the Middle East, Eurasian politics and post-Soviet regions, the European Union. He has published a monograph on Turkish foreign policy, numerous book chapters and scholarly articles in English, German and Turkish about topics related to his research areas.

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