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January 31, 2007, Wednesday

The old Erdoğan and the new Erdoğan

What Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan has been saying for the last several days about the deep state and the need to fight against it struck me as an honest confession. The style he has recently been using reminds me of the Erdoğan of 2002-2004 when he was dubbed the greatest Turkish reformer since President Turgut Özal, possibly since Mustafa Kemal.

Now he argues that we have paid dearly as a nation for not doing enough to destroy the basis of the deep state. By “we” he, of course, means politicians. On his way to Ethiopia, Erdoğan admitted that as the executive branch, they were only able to dig to a certain depth, implying that the judiciary and the legislative were not always helpful with the excavation.  

What should also be noted carefully are his remarks dating the creation of the deep state back to the Ottoman Empire. I assume he means the last 10 years of the Ottoman Empire, when the Committee of Union and Progress toppled the government of Kamil Paşa on January 1913 by a bloody coup and then ruled the huge empire, not with laws but with lawlessness. This is why most of the cabinet did not even know the Ottomans had sided with the Germans and entered World War I, which marked the end of the empire. That is why the Armenian deportation led to a disaster. That is why Istanbul learned about the 90,000 troops who froze to death in 1915 at Sarıkamış only after the end of the war, three years after the calamity.

Turkey has had four military coups in the last 47 years and there has not been one single general who organized and carried out the coups brought to justice. The only reason many people support the EU bid is the assumption that the process will let Turkey be a more transparent state in which the government decides everything, from Cyprus to the promotion of its generals.

However, I admittedly have some doubts whether the prime minister will follow up to what he said on the deep state. That is why I am talking about the Erdoğan of 2002-2004 when he was the leader of a party, which dared to fight against all the remnants of the deep state.

I miss the Erdoğan who he said he would support the Annan Plan for Cyprus reunification despite enormous opposition at home, not the Erdoğan who calls on NGOs to agree among themselves to get rid of Article 301.

I miss the Erdoğan who went to Diyarbakır and publicly declared that Turkey had made mistakes in its policies vis-à-vis its Kurdish people, not the Erdoğan who acquiesced to the sacking Van prosecutor Ferhat Sarıkaya, who prepared the Şemdinli indictment.

I saw glimpses of that Erdoğan when he invited members of the Armenian diaspora to Hrant Dink's funeral, not when he though carrying placards that read “We are all Armenians” was not appropriate.

We miss this Erdoğan as a statesman but not as a politician, particularly when we are heading toward two elections!