Post-referendum Erdoğan: No mercy!

Some optimists had predicted that once Erdoğan had won the referendum, he would feel a little more relaxed, and start showing signs of softening.

How wrong they were.

These are the days Turkey is exposed an endurannce test over how far cruelty can go.

Following the referendum, party membership was once more possible for Turkish president. In an apparent haste, Erdoğan was keen on being ‘approved’ in a ceremony some days ago, and delivered his first speech as a member.

It was the same rhetoric, as loud as ever before.

Talking about those affected by the purge, he said:

”There could be those who would meet you, shedding tears. Don’t you ever show mercy for those whining! If we show mercy, we turn into those to be shown mercy!”

Meanwhile, decrees keep landing. Two new ones meant that nearly 4.000 more people were sacked. Among them, 484 academicians; which has brought the number of ‘cleansed’ scholars above 8.000, since the coup attempt. Totally, nearly 150.000 people are without a job.


Take it for granted that the pattern of decrees is to stay, since it leaves no doubt that the dominating mindset in Ankara is for shaping a new state format, based only on employees with loyalty as the only ‘merit’ required.

Little attention is paid, though, to the toll of ‘cleansing’.

A recent report by the main opposition party, CHP, underlines that since July 20 last year – the date of the implementation of emergency rule – at least 37 people committed suicide – most of them civil servants. Only after the latest two decrees two police officers ended their lives, using – like many others – pistols provided to them by the state. Two others, who after a long time were returned to their jobs after being ‘proven’ innocent, could not get over the depression, the report says.

BBC reported about a senior teacher, Ergül Yıldız, who soon after being purged killed himself in ‘Teachers’ Day’ last November. His brother, Bekir, said that he was unable to get over being sacked. ‘His blick and movements changed. But what upset him most of all was that people were turning their faces away whenever they saw him on the street. People he knew had stopped talking to him. We felt it too, we were branded…”

Then, there are those who seem to doomed to an existence in the twilight zone. When I was going through some information on how the suspicion and fear was spreading into Anatolia as a pandemic, I have received a mail from a human rights activist who had attached a letter, with his personal note: ‘Reading this, I have felt a deep shame on my being human.’

The letter, written by the wife of a prisoner, Hacer Çakmak, was originally sent to Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a human rights monitor, known for his pious-moral stand. Since it summarizes the the state of agony, generated by the state of emergency in a land eclipsed by arbitrary rule, I would like to share with you parts of it:

‘My husband, Seyfullah Çakmak, a former prosecutor in the province of Kocaeli, remains in detention for 270 days as part of the investigation on FETÖ (‘Fethullahist Terror Organisation’, yb). He has been held in isolation, allowed only one hour of walk in the yard. We have three children. Two of them are disabled, confined to bed. My husband was sacked from his job; I am a housewife without any social security. We have no income, nor any immovables.

Our 18-year long marriage has been to a large extent spent in hospitals… In September 2007 I gave birth to my eldest daughter, Tugba. She was diagnosed with some form of genetic metabolic illness. Now 9 years old, she is fed through her belly, and needs care all day. Out third child, born in January 2014, stayed in a coma for a month in hospital with me. It was my detained husband who was the greatest help for me to take care of my children.

In short, part of our life is spent in hospitals, at least 40-60 days per year. My husband managed to conduct his job in between his efforts in his office, a hardworking man, admired by others. He is now in detention for ‘membership of a terror organisation and for violating the constitution. He has absolutely nothing to do with those accusations; nor is there any proof. He was never part of any group, except abiding by the rule of law. His guide was our constitution and he pays a price for it.

There is nobody here to hear my voice. Judges and prosecutors in Turkey are so frightened by being branded as FETO members that they are unable to enforce the law. ‘There is nothing we can do’ they tell me in private.’

Gergerlioğlu went deeper into his inquiry about the agony of the family. He learned from Mrs Çakmak that her husband in solitary confinement had fallen into a ‘major depression’, but despite a medical report confirming his demand, he was still kept in there.

His other appels were not responded.

His wife was left with nothing when her husband’s salary was cancelled. She received also a letter saying that her two disabled children be separated fromher and sent to a protection center, which she refused. Her appealed for a salary scheme for disabled children, to no avail.

”It’s a scandal that these children are deprived of a salary’ Gergerlioğlu wrote. ‘Is it not clear how people are isolated socially and driven to suicide?”

But, the line drawn by Erdoğan seems clear:

Show no mercy.

One of those who had listened to Erdoğan’s reinauguriation as an AKP member was Oya Baydar, a renowned author and one of the few remaining voices of conscience in Turkey.

”While listening to you, I felt a pity for you” she wrote. ”I wonder if you are aware, Mr. President, that not only are you at a loss wit this world, but also you have lost your afterlife… When I heard you speak, I realized that everything about this wave of unjust suffering, which has become so indiscriminate, so random, was happening at your very orders. It is therefore these judges and prosecutors; these courts and police forces, the gendarmerie are so ruthless because they get the directives of being unmerciful from you. It’s the reason why they don’t shy away from breaching the rights; that they so blatantly put hundreds of thousands of innocent people into the clink, having them been fired, their properties seized and devastate the lives of their wives and children.”


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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