My comment: Darkness at Noon

Here is my take on the latest in TR, on TZ: 

“Mr Baydar, frankly, tell me what kind of a country is this? What kind of leaders are they? What kind of politicians are these?”

The outburst of anger came last week from somebody whose love and hope for Turkey was, and is, ceaseless. Fully justified, of course, because everyone is sharing deep concerns.

We are in the midst of this  —  to quote the great novel by Arthur Koestler – “Darkness at Noon” moment (although some would instead suggest “High Noon,” the classic immortalized by Grace Kelly and Gary Cooper).

Turkey is being eclipsed by immorality, lies, denial, shamelessness, folly and an escalating abuse of power. As the days go by, we are also watching a reckless powerful clique without any consideration driving the country into dense darkness.

The underlying sense in the questions I quoted above is the most apparent tragic element of all — the irksome realization that when the significant 12-year cycle of Justice and Development Party (AKP) policymaking ends, despite remarkable economic achievement and infrastructural evolution, absolutely nothing at all will have changed in the political culture.

The quest for absolute power, authoritarianism, greed, hatred, immense myopia and sheer disrespect for anybody that disagrees are the elements that drive Turkey today to the edge of havoc.

Forget about the chief source of all this. The course of events since May last year proved that Turkey’s fragile democracy — kept fragile, perhaps intentionally — had to find civilized ways to deal with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

His pattern now has made it obvious that, applying hate speech, divisionism, provocative language and also sheer lies, he is capable of resorting to any tool to secure his survival.

We now know that his confirmations of the audio recordings tell us what he had meant by a “period of mastership” — referring to the period since the 2011 elections — which he apparently understood as him being the master of the entire nation, as the single decision maker and its chief judge, covering all aspects of life.

When such a journey, particularly since Dec. 17, continues, anything can be expected, and it will only be worse. So, one only hopes that the friend of Turkey who had asked the questions I quoted should cease to be surprised when she hears the statements by Zafer Çağlayan, former economy minister who, with his son, was implicated in the graft probe. At a rally two days ago in Mersin, where he is the elected deputy, Çağlayan said, “If those who did all these things to us [meaning corruption investigations, etc] were Jewish, atheist or Manichean I’d understand, but if they pretend to be Muslims, shame on them!”

These words, needless to be categorized in the hate speech category, are expressed by a politician, who despite a subpoena — apparently “shelved” somewhere in Parliament — refuses to comply with the judicial process, refuses to withdraw from his post as deputy, and becomes even more aggressive.

We are used to such parodies, however dangerous.

But there is a new pattern that we should be watching carefully. To save its skin, the AKP government unleashed new steps in the judicial system, which means that we will have to forget about justice done in many key trials, such as the ones regarding the murder of Hrant Dink, and the Christian missionaries in Malatya.

One key suspect, Erhan Tuncel, was released already. He was followed by five suspects, held for assassinating three missionaries in 2007. The wife of Tilman Geske, Suzanna, told the Taraf daily that she was now concerned that they might kill more people. Lawyer Erdal Doğan warns that they will now “vanish,” and that we can forget about such trials ever being concluded.

Releasing some families and suspects, mainly related to the Ergenekon trials, etc, may be justified, since holding people in detention for five years is, of course, unjustified.

But the core matter is that after Erdoğan’s desperate gamble for survival, by abusing the outdated judicial system’s weaknesses — which his government was unwilling to properly reform in terms of efficiency — we now enter a very delicate phase, which will force Turkey back to its defunct factory settings, with, possibly, gruesome consequences.


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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