Nothing in Turkey bodes well anymore

The collective despair we are currently feeling in Turkey, among those observers and pundits who are still trying to keep their sanity intact as one irrational act and discourse follow another, is that the outside world does not seem to grasp the gravity of the situation this country is in.

We have lost, over roughly five years, most of the reputation Turkey had gained worldwide, particularly in this fragile region. Due to the erratic moves by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) leadership, and the sheer polarization and social acrimony as a result, we are now at a stage where the citizenry is struggling to keep its mind calm and sane.

Witch hunts and violence, hand in hand, invite more horrors. It welcomes hatred, disbelief of democratic rule and instability. One is left speechless, seeing the kind of collective frenzy that we have been experiencing.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is supposed to be impartial and promote social peace but somehow does not conduct his duties along those lines, is at a new stage of condemning everyone as the enemy.

He denounces the Nobel Peace Prize for “giving awards based on commission,” of course without feeling the need to show any evidence. When a group of respected academics objected to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Turkey, he labeled them “Mankurt,” a word borrowed from a Central Asian legend suggesting they are estranged from the nation they are living in and have forgotten their national identities.

Then the president went on to call the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a legal political party in Turkey, “not even a party; it is an organization.” Once again, his description and wording were a breach of the Constitution.

His discourse, which everyone at home or abroad now takes for granted, is parroted and hailed by staunch followers. Naturally, neither the pro-government nor the accomplice media dare question his statements.

The “abnormal” has become the “normal” in Turkey. Let’s take the case of Tahir Elçi, the chairman of the Diyarbakır Bar Association and a respected lawyer and human rights expert. He was declared the number one public enemy because he stated on a TV show, “The [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK is not a terrorist organization,” upon which arrest warrants were issued in a rage.

Deeply experienced in witch hunts, the brazen pro-government media were quick to lead a relentless battue.

On top of that, an opposition representative who clearly has no idea of free speech was like a tattletale child in school when he pointed his finger at Kurdish AKP deputy Orhan Miroğlu on a TV show the other night, saying Miroğlu had expressed the same view earlier.

Upon his denunciation, everyone took this “opposition” guy’s words as the truth and joined the bandwagon.

The present pathetic frenzy has become somewhat like an incurable schizophrenia in a country where the recent European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) ruling that states denying the “Armenian Genocide” is not a crime but falls under freedom of expression is praised to the skies and hypocritically hailed as a victory for freedom of expression.

Those who say “Elçi should be caught and imprisoned without delay; no one has the right to declare that the PKK is not a terrorist organization,” and those who loudly applaud the ECtHR ruling and say, “One should surely be able to deny the genocide; this is freedom of expression,” are the very same people.

This is the state of the country that has become polarized, divided and where “the others” are demonized and condemned as enemies. In his defense, Elçi said, “I believe this witch hunt against me was not started independently; members of the government gave the instruction.”

HDP Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş bitterly parodied the proceedings. “If Mr. Elçi had stated he was a suicide bomber, they would have released him, like the prime minister’s declaration that potential suicide bombers could not be arrested unless they went into action. There is no trust in a politicized judiciary…” For the sake of a chronic desire for absolute power, the country is being dragged towards a gory and irredeemable schism.

People will take to the streets, public order will be disturbed and the government will maintain power through destruction and bloodshed.

Elçi was released.

But this is just a temporary, tiny bit of relief before more horrors enter through the door.

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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