In whose interest, is this nightmare of Turkey’s?

Are things truly spinning out of control in Turkey? Measuring the vastness of unpredictability and concern is not that difficult these days.

At one end, strong spasms in the economy and the volatility of the Turkish currency are now daily events and, at the other, growing violence in the eastern half of the Anatolian peninsula makes all sorts of gloomy predictions (such as those expressed in this column), adding to the uncertainty of whether or not the early election on Nov. 1 will be held at all.

The speedy developments that happen in convergence stem from a visible clash of two interests: one being the whole of Turkey and its people, and the other, which only encompasses President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his inner circle in power.

As the latter raises the stakes on the gamble for a shift to a presidential system, we now see the very foundations of the state crumble, and the glue that keeps together the diverse segments of the society is melting.

On the very night when the country was shocked to hear the news that an attack by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had caused deaths of — so far — unspecified number of soldiers, what illustrates the mindset of the leader who wishes to be supreme was his very words during a TV interview:

”There is no need to seek the culprit elsewhere. This is all a result of the terrorism menace put on the stage in our country. They are generating interest from terrorism. This is what they do,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Sunday night during a live interview on a pro-government news TV station.

And he spilled the beans:

”If a political party had been able to secure 400 deputies to make a new Constitution, the situation would be very different today.”

The viewers were left with no doubt that the party he referred to was the very party he still leads with an iron fist: the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

His statement was a response to a question on claims that politicians’ harsh statements and his previous statements indirectly calling for 400 deputies for the ruling party ahead of a general election lie behind the recent upsurge in clashes and terror incidents.

Then, we were dragged into yet another media dimension. One of the first outlets that picked up this bombshell-like statement was the daily Hürriyet’s website, which in turn minutes after caused a storm on the social media. And by the midnight, a mob shouting Erdoğan’s name surrounded the Hürriyet building and crashed its way in with sticks and stones, vandalizing all that came in its way in the entrance hall. Finally dispersed after a long time of wrestling, the same partisan hooligans attempted to attack the Zaman building as well.

The physical attacks the other night follow a steady stream of branding and accusing media groups and individuals by the top figure of Turkey and raise concerns, which are now at a peak, that as we come closer to the elections, these may have set up a precedent to forcefully scare and silence the media, which are targeted by the “curse of one-man power.”

The wrath has, it seems, no boundaries now. Zaman yesterday reported that since Aug. 10, 2014, when Erdoğan was elected president, the number of legal inquiries against individuals (including even 13-year-old children) is more than 700. About 200 of those proceeded as trials, all based on a very ambiguous term “insult.” As we approach the election, the number of investigations seems also to be on the rise.

But it is the social reality on the field that reveals such facts that we truly should be worried about the future of the country. Day by day Turkey comes closer to a declaration of martial law at least on the eastern half of it. The closer we come, the more blurred are the aspects for the election to be held at all.

There might be a calculation at the AKP camp that extraordinary circumstances in the eastern provinces will deter the pro-Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) voters to go and vote at all. The opposition is asking itself how safe and reliable the ballot boxes will be, if emergency rule is declared and more people are displaced due to unrest.

Another hope for the AKP might be that the Kurdistan PKK calls for an overall boycott of the polls. This is a probability, and certainly a nightmare for all those who are concerned about the very existence of the democratic system.

Our bad old days, it seems, will define our future.

As the philosopher George Santayana said:

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

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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