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January 25, 2013, Friday

Why can’t we postpone the reforming of the state?

The biggest obstacle hindering Turkey's reform processes during that last 10 years was that the state apparatus had been designed to be incompatible with democracy and transparency. This apparatus was tuned to reflexively destroy any move toward democracy and it was programmed to boost social polarization.

Every mechanism of this apparatus had been orchestrated just at the establishment phase of the republic to make this happen, and any deviation from this program was later corrected with recurrent coups. These coups had produced constitutions that imparted minor or major corrections to that program. Thus, the National Security Council (MGK), the Higher Education Board (YÖK), the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) were only a few of the institutions added later to the state apparatus to bolster the military tutelage.

Let me explain for my readers who don't know Turkey closely: These institutions categorically served as leverage for weakening or overthrowing the civilian administrations, particularly when the military and Parliament disagreed on certain major disputes with red lines for the state. For instance, the Constitutional Court issued the infamous "367" decision in breach of the Constitution in order to block Abdullah Gül's election as president in 2007 -- i.e., in violation of the previous practices and of the Constitution, the court held that at least 367 deputies must be present in Parliament during the election of the president. Then, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) had opted to amend the Constitution, allowing the election of the president through a direct popular vote, and then Gül was able to be elected president.

The fine-tuning made with the coup of 1960 was about how sovereignty should be wielded. Parliament was no longer the sole representative of sovereignty. This coup ensured that sovereignty should be wielded through authorized organs based on the principles introduced by the constitution. Parliament was just one of the many authorized organs.

In the wake of this coup, Parliament was subjugated to the military tutelage and this was formulated as a constitutional principle, and this was advertised as a democratic reform.

It must be noted that after the military coup of May 27, 1960, Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, Foreign Minister Fatin Rüştü Zorlu and Finance Minister Hasan Polatkan were executed. They had been sentenced to death in sham courts set up on the island of Yassıada and in breach of the law.

Living creatures have an urge to survive. They sense dangers and take measures against them and, if needed, they fight against them. If dangers are too big, they dare kill or die in this fight. This applies to organizations as well. The state apparatus fought most fiercely against the efforts to promote democratization or settle issues with red lines, which were essentially created by the deep state to permeate itself, such as the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) or Cyprus issues. Admittedly, it had been quite successful in this war until the postmodern coup of Feb. 28, 1997. The supporters of change and reform must understand the very basic chemistry of this war.

When the AK Party came to power in 2002, the powers that used to govern the country reacted to this change and waged a war. These powers did not consist only of subversive generals. What I am referring to is a colossal body. Nowhere around the world can the military overthrow the government based on its brute force and without securing internal or external support. Perhaps they can stage a coup, but they cannot keep the political power under their control for an extended period. To do it, they may create social support for the coup, making people believe that there was no other way than to overthrow the government, and finding accomplices in the process. And this, too, was successfully implemented in many Turkish coups, including the Feb. 28 postmodern coup.

A concerted effort

Thus, the media would be effectively used to pave the way for the coup. Other accomplices would include the business community, trade unions, the judiciary, universities, civil society organizations and deputies, who would collaborate with each other to undermine Parliament. To this end, they not only fabricate false news stories and implement scenarios that would damage the civilian government but also employ such deadly instruments as assassinations and massacres to create an atmosphere of chaos and trigger a sense of panic among the public. This is undertaken by shadowy networks. Thus, provocative and carefully planned violent attacks are conducted so as to widen the gap between social groups. The blame for these attacks is specially placed on the supporters of the ruling party. With social groups growing hostile to each other and social polarization rising, this brings in chaos and undermines democracy. Therefore, the ill-intentioned networks work on boosting social sensitivities and creating as many hostilities as possible in the society.

In this regard, 1993 was a very important and symbolic year. Being the strongest civilian leader after Menderes, Turgut Özal realized that the Kurdish and PKK issues posed a great threat for Turkey. He believed that the unfair treatment of Kurds should be stopped and that a peace agreement should be made with the PKK. Since his election in 1983, Özal resolved to tackle the Kurdish issue. Even after he was elected president, his mind kept returning to this issue. His relatives note that Özal had said to them that after his visit to several Central Asian countries, he would establish a new party and return to active politics to solve the Kurdish issue even if this would "cost him his life."

It is an odd coincidence that 1993 was the year when the deep state embarked on a new wave of disproportionate violence against Kurds through the agency of JİTEM -- a clandestine gendarmerie intelligence unit established in the late 1980s to counter ethnic separatism in the Southeast. Between 1993 and 1996, thousands of people were killed in the eastern and southeastern provinces and a significant portion of these murders has to this day remained unsolved. But at the same time 1993 was the year when the PKK decided to embark on peace negotiations and withdraw its troops in return for amnesty.

However, early in 1993 journalist Uğur Mumcu was killed in a bomb explosion in front of his house. Then, on Feb. 17 of that year, Gendarmerie Commander Eşref Bitlis, who was known to be a supporter of the peace negotiations with the PKK, was killed in a suspicious accident. Later, on April 17, President Özal died a suspicious death. On May 24, 33 unarmed soldiers were shot to death by the PKK in Bingöl, and PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan declared this attack suspicious. On July 2, the Madımak Hotel in Sivas was set on fire by an angry mob in a provocative manner and 33 Alevi intellectuals and two hotel employees died in the fire. On July 5, 33 Sunnis were killed in Başbağlar, a village in Erzincan province.

And in the end the peace talks with the PKK were aborted. Thus, a dark era started for Turkey in the context of the Kurdish and PKK issues.

Let us draw analogies between this chain of events and what happened after Nov. 3, 2002, when the AK Party was elected.

Several military officers started to make coup preparations. In 2006, suspicious murders and attacks started: the killing of priest Andrea Santoro, the beating of several priests, the Council of State attack and the killing of Mustafa Özbilgin, the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, the brutal killing of three Christians in Malatya, etc.

The police operations against Ergenekon -- a clandestine organization nested within the state trying to overthrow or manipulate the democratically elected government -- started in June 2007. Since then, no such suspicious murders or attacks have occurred. They stopped completely and suddenly.

According to a report the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) prepared based on the letters of a whistleblowing military officer and sent to the parliamentary commission that investigates coups and military interventions, most of these murders had been planned and implemented by the General Staff's Special Warfare Department with the intention of overthrowing the ruling AK Party.

This is a spine-chilling claim, but it fits like a glove to the above-mentioned behavioral pattern of the state apparatus. Our old state acts in this manner to "protect itself" in the face of any "danger."

Yes, but how can we reform this state? Any effort to reform it is like trying to change a flat tire while the car is traveling at 180 kilometers per hour.

It is hard, but possible. More correctly, this is inevitable. We cannot ensure our security while trying to live together with criminal networks nested within the state. As long as they are alive, we cannot solve the PKK issue and we cannot see the end of suspicious deaths. When the civilian government is strong, these networks will withdraw and let their presence be forgotten. But at the first sign of weakness, they will return with an insatiable sense of retribution.

Therefore, while it is still possible, we must do whatever is needed to purge them in accordance with the law.

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