Opposition vows to resist Erdoğan’s witch hunt in post-election era

Turkey’s opposition parties slammed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for employing hateful language and leveling threats at certain segments of society in his victory speech, saying they will oppose the government’s attempt to stigmatize civic groups critical of Erdoğan, reports Today’s Zaman.

“The government is saying it will start a witch hunt. But whoever is subjected to any injustice, as the CHP [main opposition Republican People’s Party], we will stand by them,” Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the CHP, said.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairman Devlet Bahçeli criticized Erdoğan in a press conference at his party’s headquarters in Ankara on Sunday night, saying that the prime minister is determined to provoke further polarization in Turkish society.

Erdoğan, targeting the Hizmet movement, said its members are even worse than the Hashashi (notorious assassins and users of hashish), an 11th-century order that posed a strong threat to the Sunni Seljuk Empire, during his balcony speech — so called because he delivers his post-election speeches standing with his family on the balcony of AK Party’s headquarters.

The prime minister, who is facing serious graft allegations, has claimed that the Hizmet movement is behind a recent secret recording of a meeting between Turkey’s top security officials on Syria that was leaked online. But he offered no evidence to back up his claims.

Erdoğan, whose Justice and Development Party (AK Party) emerged victorious from Sunday’s local elections, threatened the Hizmet movement. “We will go into their lairs,” he said. Claiming that members of the Hizmet movement have infiltrated state agencies over the past 35 years, he promised to “purge” these individuals. The prime minister accused the followers of the Hizmet movement of treason, reiterating his earlier claim that they are behind the Syrian leak. He said the movement will pay the price for recording and leaking a conversation so crucial to Turkey’s national security.

Selahattin Demirtaş, the leader of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), also said his party is opposed to a government operation against the Hizmet movement. “If you raid or arrest members of the Fethullah Gülen community on the basis that they are sympathizers of Gülen or volunteers, as the BDP we will never support this kind of approach,” Demirtaş explained.

The BDP leader said the government needs to have evidence or documents indicating a crime before conducting an operation against people. “You cannot declare the whole community as criminals and run a smear campaign against its members,” Demirtaş noted.

Demirtaş said the prime minister needs to hand over any evidence indicating a crime to the prosecutor’s office, underlining that he does not need to threaten or blackmail Hizmet. “He [Erdoğan] is not a chief prosecutor. If he has any evidence, he has to deliver this to prosecutors,” he stated.

Erdoğan also called on the leaders of the MHP and the CHP to resign. He said he had promised to step down from AK Party leadership in the event his party didn’t come out as the winning party from the elections. “If you can’t add to the office you serve, you should leave that office,” he said, targeting CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu and MHP leader Bahçeli.

His wife, Emine Erdoğan, his son, Bilal Erdoğan and daughters Sümeyye Erdoğan and Esra Albayrak also stood by his side during the balcony speech.

Erdoğan had used the same polarizing words during his campaign rallies ahead of the elections.

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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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