Will the deputies in jail be released? Is it the end of the era of settling accounts for coups in Turkey? And if this is the case, what will the consequences be for cases against JİTEM, a clandestine gendarmerie intelligence unit established in the late 1980s to counter ethnic separatism in the Southeast, which acted on behalf of Ergenekon east of the Euphrates? Other questions can be added to this list.
When the judicial process began against Ergenekon and arrests commenced in 2008, it took some time for people to realize that Turkey had just avoided a disaster.
Indeed, many found it hard to believe the findings of the investigations. As soon as the hair-raising coup plans plotted by the highest ranking military officers, intending to breed a civil war instead of simply overthrowing the government by force, were revealed, media networks rushed to launch a comprehensive campaign to discredit the investigations.
I think this campaign was very influential. The Ergenekon mentality started to permeate the collective unconscious and become entrenched there after this campaign to discredit the cases was launched. It is safe to argue that if the pro-Ergenekon mentality is nothing but the will to power, then this will hasn’t waned in the present day; rather, it is growing stronger in the hearts of those who adopt this mentality.
Now those who seek to pursue policies centered on the Ergenekon mentality and to create a “national front” to this end are backed not only by the armed forces but also by people from all social groups.
Those who are tried for membership of Ergenekon are not perceived as ashamed or repentant for the crime of attempting to overthrow the government and for committing murders to this end, in a country that is progressing slowly, albeit with interruptions, toward democracy. Rather, they are seen as heroes who have realized that the country is being lost and left to others, and have set out to save the country, possibly at the cost of their lives. Their photos are carried and raised in the air at meetings of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and other parties.
Deputies are paying visits to Silivri, where the defendants are jailed, and make public statements in support of them.
Books telling their stories are bestsellers. The politicians who parachuted into top administrative positions at the CHP through a “political operation” conducted at the beginning of the Ergenekon process quickly became part of the campaign to discredit the cases against Ergenekon.
As for relations between Kurds and Ergenekon, jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan has kept Kurds away from the process. He has warned the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), and even said members of Ergenekon were actually seeking resolution of the Kurdish issue.
Oddly enough, the PKK attacks that came at that time, as well as the national mourning for the young soldiers killed in them, were the icing on the cake for those trying to discredit the Ergenekon case. It is hard to say that at least part of the general public is opposed to the judicial trial of Ergenekon, in a political climate in which soldiers continue to be killed, bombs are exploding in the streets and dozens of people are dying in suicide attacks.
Today, the analysis of the reasons for the general public’s decreased interest in the Ergenekon case raises such matters as the negative effects of the intense frequency and volume of information, the efforts to discredit the cases, errors made during the trial and the nature of the political will that initiated and backed the cases.
All of these factors have certainly played a major role in discrediting the cases. But I think if the Ergenekon process could have been linked with thousands of murders and massacres committed by the defendants in predominantly Kurdish cities, and with the serious investigations into these murders, the discrediting would not have been so easy. If efforts to discredit the Ergenekon case are successful to a certain extent, the lion’s share of this success goes to the PKK’s resumption of violence in 2004.
If the political will behind the Ergenekon process had dared to go beyond the River Euphrates, Turkey would today be in a different position, one of settling accounts with the past and making progress on the Kurdish question. Therefore, I believe it is wrong to look at these cases from the perspective of releasing the jailed deputies. Whether they are released or not, it is clear that Turkey’s move to settle accounts with its past will be aborted. And this move cannot be made without dealing with Ergenekon to the east of the Euphrates.