Comment: Witch hunt – in the name of what?

Turkey has gone through much, but has never before fallen into such madness. The metaphor “ship of fools” might somehow describe the situation.

Imagine a country where the prime minister, along with lackeys in his party, the bureaucracy and the media, broadly agree with the jailed leader of an outlawed organization with regard to a “global assault.” This global assault, accordingly, is taking place at the hands of the Jewish lobby, a financial center in London, another one based in Chicago and an academy in Utah.

Influential figures in the opposition parties, specifically the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), do not think differently in their analysis; as in Ridley Scott’s famous film “Alien,” there are dark lethal beasts everywhere. Let us be scared to death.

The overwhelming mood is antagonistic. As the arrogance of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) leadership has become cemented in the past three years, the defining slogan has embraced the formula developed by George W. Bush, “You are either with us or against us.”

The mood has been set for a witch hunt, a more expansive one than any other before. “Parallel state” is a term in fashion; Nuray Mert, a well-known dissident intellectual coined it in an article published on Tuesday as “the new straitjacket seen as fit for all those who disagree with the AKP government.”

Efforts to stop the witch hunt so far have been rather meek and may not be successful. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is now in the midst of his greatest battle for political survival, and his record so far assures us that he will go to any length to prove his “iron will,” as seen on urban billboards everywhere these days.

The interesting part is that this unprecedented crisis in Turkey has been reduced to infighting by some, which overshadows the rottenness that has surfaced and needs legal scrutiny. Islamophobes, cynics, militarists, isolationists, the extreme right and others at home and abroad are dancing with joy at what they see as a dog-eat-dog situation.

But what will happen if Erdoğan gets his way and succeeds with this witch hunt, chasing away what he sees as the parallel state? When this imaginary parallel state is replaced, will Turkey be closer to the rule of law?

The AKP, along with its media and the Kemalists, agree that both the police and the judiciary have been infiltrated by people affiliated with the Hizmet movement. Let us assume that this is true. Take, then, the concrete example of 9th Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals, which unanimously upheld the prison sentences in the Operation Sledgehammer secularist military coup case last year. There were five judges and four reserves in the department. If the anti-Hizmet reasoning is correct, we must assume that all those judges are so-called Gülenists. If so, then prove it and convince us; on every level, I stand ready.

Paranoia and frenzy are at such high levels that nobody sees a problem anymore, even if the witch hunt devastates the state of the judiciary, tarnishes law enforcement and poisons society.

The key question is, if the purge continues, what will the replacement be? Cynics and revanchists, the latter still firm in their belief that the old tutelage befits Turkey much better, do not care. But others at home and abroad, who care about Turkey, should care.

The not-so-hidden intent of Erdoğan is to lean on the old human resource elements in both the police and the judiciary and knit its structures tightly to create a wall of impunity, just like in Turkey’s old days.

Both of those structures have actually always been blended into Turkish society and its sociopolitical leanings. In the past decade, Kemalists, militarists and nationalists have fallen into disfavor. Now they see a golden opportunity to grab posts and are glad to help steer Turkey backwards.

We all know that injecting paranoia is the best way to lure the crowds. This witch hunt also promises a massive hijack of whatever Turkey has won in terms of democratic progress and will establish a new iron rule of arrogant fools.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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