After a while we realized that our publications had not been delivered to the deputies to whom they were addressed. We made an inquiry and found out that the “relevant administrative office” in Parliament found our publications “inappropriate” and decided not to deliver them to the deputies.
It was like a joke. Well, I then said to myself, “Not only are the citizens of Turkey treated like children by Turkish bureaucrats, so are their deputies.” It was really unbelievable that a public servant at the gates of Parliament could see himself in that position, one in which he could decide what a deputy should and should not read.
Seeing deputies like children is not unique to bureaucrats. Apparently, some politicians also see Parliament like a state institution in which deputies have to obey many different rules, ranging from a dress code to limitations on speech.
Women deputies, for example, cannot wear headscarves in Parliament. Neither are they allowed to wear skirts above their kneecaps. There are so many other details of the dress code that the deputies have to obey.
Merve Kavakçı, the first deputy who ever attempted to enter Parliament with her headscarf, was literally subjected to a psychological lynching in 1999 and repelled by so-called social democratic deputies.
Turkey is a cemetery for political parties. Our Constitutional Court has closed so many political parties and for so many reasons. Our Kurdish deputies were arrested right in the middle of Parliament.
Politics and deputies in Turkey have never received the respect they deserve in a democratic society. Yet another tragicomic thing happened in Parliament the other day. While Sırrı Süreyye Önder, a pro-Kurdish deputy, was making an address, session chair Meral Akşener from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) switched off the microphone since she found some of Önder’s remarks “inappropriate.” Önder was saying, “Where military service is mandatory, no one would be a martyr.” He is of course making a reference to the armed conflict between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and trying to say that being on the side of the military will not automatically make anyone right. For me, it is not important what he said, what he meant, whether he was right or not. In a democratic society a deputy can say anything in Parliament.
Where the deputies are not allowed to say what they have to say, we have to ask many questions: How can some people see themselves in a position in which they can decide what deputies can and cannot say in Parliament? How can a Parliament like that prepare a brand new constitution reflecting the will of the whole nation? How can this Parliament discuss well-known taboos in Turkey? How can this Parliament discuss the Kurdish question in depth and find a solution to it?
Yes, it was a huge step forward overcoming military guardianship in Turkey. But this alone will not bring democracy automatically. For a fully functioning democracy we need a fully functioning Parliament. For this, we need to treat deputies as grown adults who represent the will of their electorates and who can do and say whatever they find appropriate.
Neither the deputies nor the people of Turkey are children. And we have to fight any attempt to institute guardianship over the will of people, without which we cannot talk about democracy or pluralism.