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July 12, 2012, Thursday


Was the RF-4E fighter jet shot down by Syria or not? Was it anti-aircraft fire, or an optic guided missile? Why is Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir supposed to be different than Bashar al-Assad, in terms of butchery?

Why on Earth is the new third judicial reform package serving for the release of convicted murderers of leftists (the infamous “TİP [Turkish Workers’ Party] massacre” of 1978, which ended with seven youths being strangled) and not people such as Professor Büşra Ersanlı, a friend of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu as well as many European and American intellectuals?

How can it be at all defendable that Alevi members of Parliament demand a cemevi (house of worship) to pray in and the speaker, instead of granting this natural right for believers of all creeds also to them (there are many in the house), asks the Religious Affairs Directorate whether it is appropriate?

How is it that the historic monastery of the Aramean Church, Mor Gabriel, in Mardin has been declared property “stolen” by the Arameans and designated to be returned to the state by the Supreme Court of Appeals?

These are the days wildly erratic behavior is spreading across Turkey, causing mistrust, despair, tension, rage.

Seen from a bird’s eye, Turkey’s neighborhood policy regarding the Arab world is creating risks and uncertainties and the domestic scenery is showing a clear picture -- that unless the government tackles its issues with transparency, and promotes accountability, tolerance, resolve and a focus on consensus, its shift towards a “conservative populism” will be met with a backlash.

Take the jet crisis. Today, we are all much more confused than the day after its disappearance. We do know that the two pilots are dead, and the aircraft is at the bottom of the sea, but the information released has only made the picture more blurred than before. The statement of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) on Wednesday mentions that there were no traces of ammunition used on the pieces of the jet. This would be a bombshell, because it contradicted all the statements made by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other ministers, and also those made by Syria.

But, the heart of the matter is this: The TSK released patchy information from its technical investigation based on only a few pieces of the wreckage; the rest is still deep in the sea. Why is the TSK not waiting until enough of the debris is lifted up to the surface and scrutinized? Nobody knows the answer; we only know that this kind of transparency will make things worse.

Turkey is fully justified in taking a stand against the crimes against humanity that are committed by Assad, but how about Sudan’s Bashir? Is he not a war criminal sought by the International Criminal Court for the murder of 200,000 people? Where is the consistency? When asked this question by Turkish journalists, Erdoğan’s response is that “Turkey is talking to both North and South Sudan and the aid to South Sudan would not be possible if one stopped talking to Bashir. We talk in the hope of finding solutions.”

Yes, talks with Syria showed how “willing to change” the murderers are. Not very convincing, this.

On the cemevi issue, we are bitterly reminded of how “alive” the bureaucratic tutelage still is. We see mistake after mistake: The speaker, though he did not need to, asked the Religious Affairs Directorate if opening a cemevi in the building is “appropriate,” and the Religious Affairs Directorate, insensitive to the fact that it represents Sunnis and the state, said “Alevis are part of Islam, and therefore no.” This was demagoguery of the first order: The Orthodox Church belongs to Christianity -- as the former Alevi deputy of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Reha Çamuroğlu told the Akşam daily yesterday -- but Orthodox people are not “forced” to pray in Catholic churches. He added, “No Alevi would accept being forced to pray behind a Sunni imam.”

This episode tells us how profoundly “unsecular” Turkey is and the priority to either reform or abolish the Religious Affairs Directorate when writing a new constitution.

The aftermath of the third judicial reform package seems to have proven to many writing in this paper that it will only complicate problems further and lead to unknown consequences. The release of the murderers involved in the TİP massacre will surely send shockwaves amongst the reformist circles and raise the doubts about the justice delivered in key cases such as the Malatya “slain missionaries” trial.

Hopes are fading further that Turkey will never be able to reach a stage of “equality before justice” and those responsible for past crimes against humanity will get away with them. Certain it is that one group badly oppressed in earlier decades, the Arameans, will have their patience tested, as the judiciary took a decision in favor of the state rather than its people by taking away from them what they have through the centuries owned: a shrine and a religious school -- the Mor Gabriel Monastery.

The AKP, since the elections in June of last year, has shown remarkable flip-flopping on many key issues. Is it out of breath? Or is it joining forces with the very system that it fought so successfully, to adopt the manners and mechanisms of that system? We are all watching, with increasing concern, the developments that are taking place. It will, however, become very dangerous if the carrier of these developments cops out.

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