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August 23, 2010, Monday

The shame

Hrant Dink was murdered on Jan. 19, 2007. Three days after his death my second column article appeared in Today’s Zaman, titled “Hrant Dink: the victim of the nation state.” There I explained how the murder of Dink was linked to the idea of a homogenized nation-state erected by expelling or silencing ethnic, religious and ideological “others.”

The same understanding of the nation state that is incapable of apologizing for the wrongs it has committed, as put by Orhan Kemal Cengiz last week, continues to hurt Hrant Dink’s memory. In a defense submitted to the European Court of Human Rights, Dink was compared to a Nazi leader and it was argued that restrictions on his writings could not be regarded as a breach of freedom of expression, since they contain “hate speech.” As if this embarrassing comparison was not enough, the defense of Turkish government also implied that Dink’s murderers were justified: It was Dink who was to blame for his own murder because he was found guilty of insulting Turkishness by the Turkish judiciary.

This shameful “defense” was prepared and sent to the European court by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs without the knowledge of the foreign minister himself. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu expressed his shock and sadness about the language used in the defense prepared in his own ministry, noting that he was not aware of such content. President Abdullah Gül received Dink’s family and tried to heal their renewed sorrow, while the Minister of Justice expressed his disapproval of the defense submitted to the European court.

All of this tells us something: Those who write the opinions of the government in ministry offices do not care what the government feels, thinks or does on this issue. The reason for such an attitude is simple: They regard themselves as above the government, representing something “deeper.”

Thus the explanation from the Foreign Ministry that came after all these statements was no different. It stood behind its shame, describing the defense as consisting of “merely legal and technical elements.”

This incident reveals that the Foreign Ministry bureaucracy is a state within a state independent of the people and their representative government. They feel accountable not to the people and government but to something “deeper.” What they are not aware of is that the circles they owe their allegiance to have lost their power vis-à-vis the people through the process of democratization. Once the “modernizers” of Turkey, diplomats have for some time been unable to read the transformation of modern Turkey and the spirit of the time that reigns in Turkey.

I think time has come to look into the structure of the Foreign Ministry and the mindset of its diplomats. It is an institution that has remained untouched by the process of democratization.

One should tell them that they are not above the people and their representative government. The defense sent to the European court reflects the logic of the “old state elite” whose time has passed. We are sick and tired of this understanding of the state, interest of the state and defense of the state.

Defending the so-called interests of the state, whatever they are and whoever defines them, at the expense of citizens’ rights is no longer acceptable. This has to be conveyed to the bureaucrats in the Foreign Ministry who seem to have missed the changes taking place in Turkey recently.

Yes, the government has done a great job in many foreign policy issues, and Foreign Minister Davutoğlu is among the most successful members of the cabinet. Yet the need to face the old habits and mindset in the Foreign Ministry is obvious. Diplomats are not untouchables. The government should not work with those who embarrass the nation.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry should withdraw this shameful “defense.” It is not a “defense” of Turkey but a text that leaves Turkey “defenseless” before the eyes of the world.

Previous articles of the columnist