BÜLENT KENEŞ

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BÜLENT KENEŞ
November 10, 2013, Sunday

I wish our end would not have been like this

The road was taken with great expectations, big ideals and goals. This long journey was to become the voice of the people and to speak up on their behalf in seeking additional rights from the state. This has remained the case for a long time, despite some minor deviations.

The men of the nation have been involved in a strong, bitter struggle against the Kemalist/militarist state, dominated by a minority, for the sake of natural rights and freedoms. Of course, this was not a bloody or violent struggle. It was a struggle for democracy, the rule of law and rights and freedoms. It was a justified struggle and because it was just, the struggle was actually won for the most part.

However, things have started to change. Those who took the road as the men of the nation and who attracted the support of the people on this journey have become the state. At least, they have started to see themselves as the state. The men of the nation, who assumed they had fully defeated the Leviathan called the state, which had been dominated by a repressive oligarchic minority, and who had no other enemy to confront, swiftly attempted to fill the void left by that enemy.

This process of void-filling unfortunately also brought about a process of emulating the past. Those who took the road as the men of the nation in this process (at least some of them) all of a sudden turned into the men of the state. It is so regrettable that they tended to see some of those who were considered enemies by the old state as their new enemies as well. Considering they had become the owners of the state, it was time for them to be themselves and return to their original roots. When they attempted to do so, the only option they considered best option to fill in the vacuum was the Islamism of the National View (Milli Görüş) ideology.

As these men of the nation had overcome every difficulty and obstacle as well as instances of victimization thanks to the support and prayers of the people, they had become stronger. They were both morally and legally right in this struggle and, as a result, they were winning. And as they have continued to win, they have become stronger. And as they have become stronger, they have changed. Imagine this vicious cycle: as they have changed, they have lost the ethical and moral ground they held as their major asset. But why did this happen? Could not be there a way to win and become stronger while continuing to raise the standards of democracy as well as of rights and freedoms?

Of course there could be. But, for some reason, this option was not considered. For the new power holders, who became even stronger during their time in office, becoming stronger and stronger appeared to be more attractive. For this reason, they adopted voters' support as the main criterion for their prioritization of actions. The norm and values were replaced by votes, namely what would bring further power. For this reason, they have become a kind of survey-freaks. They did not see a problem with what they do as long as their public support increased. Worse, they did not want to see one.

For this reason, they resorted to a type of populism that would make us long for even the worst examples of populism in the past. Motivated by unlimited and unchecked growth, they secured huge revenues and managed to share these revenues with their supporters at all levels and of all backgrounds. As in the case of offering free rides on the Marmaray for 15 days, they managed to use public goods and services as if they were their personal property, but in a way that would please the people. Because they derived power from the majority, they acted in accordance with the requirements of the majority rather than the requirements and principles of plurality, an essential premise of democracy. Instead of hearing them, they preferred silencing even slightly discordant voices by calling these people to confront them on the ballot and reminding them their election successes. They took effective measures against those who dared to voice criticisms, and this would ultimately lead to an authoritarian totalitarianism.

In the end, in this period in which voices are pushed into harmony, our new theme tune has become “advanced democracy.” But this was some sort of democracy that as people were silenced more and felt more repressed and restricted we have become a more "advanced" and "stronger democracy". The emergence of a group of supporters and accomplices from all backgrounds as well as of an intelligentsia and media consistent with this sui generis democracy immediately followed. It was now inevitable that we would move into a new era in which even the pro-freedom, pluralist, reasonable democrats within the Justice and Development Party (AKP) would hesitate to speak, would be silenced, repressed and alienated, and the whole of the arena was left to these nascent groups. A new state approach, with new praised, powerful actors and new official and unofficial advisors whose power goes beyond that of the cabinet members approved by the parliamentary deputies elected by the people among limited options was being built.

There is still a great deal of suffering among those who are considered by this new group to be enemies for their slightest criticism of the government. Being unwilling to sing the “advanced democracy” song is alone enough to mark you as “one who should be destroyed.” In fact, as Umut Özkırımlı explained, “in statistics” on the website of T24.com, there is no real democracy or even a trace of “advanced democracy” in Turkey.

For example, Turkey ranks in 120th place in the World Economic Forum's 2013 Global Gender Gap Report. In the report, which examines the inequality between men and women in critical areas such as economy, education, health and politics and compares 136 countries, Turkey held 105the place in 2006. However, today, Turkey ranks after Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Uganda, Bangladesh, China, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Ethiopia, which cannot be shown as an example of developed democracy.

Turkey has the second-highest number of police officers per capita, with 472.8 policemen per 100,000 people, out of 138 countries, following Russia. According to the Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders in 2013, Turkey ranks 154th, after Namibia, Ghana, Senegal, Serbia, Tanzania, Kenya, Armenia, Mongolia, Cameroon, South Sudan, Libya, Bangladesh and Iraq. This is still something that we should thank God for because, according to a report of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey ranks first in terms of its number of jailed journalists. In this list, Turkey is followed by Iran in second place and Russia in third.

In terms of the number of cases in which the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled against Turkey, it ranks second with 117 cases, right after Russia. Currently, with 12,850 cases open, Turkey ranks fourth in terms of the number of pending cases before the European court, after Russia, Italy and Ukraine.

Describing something as "big" and "beautiful" is not enough to make it big and beautiful. Similarly, continuing to say “advanced democracy” does not bring advanced democracy to a country where there is a great democratic deficit. Until very recently, Turkey was headed down a very good road by doing things correctly. After a long and hard journey, the place where Turkey arrives will perhaps be an “advanced democracy.” As you have read in this article, I do not know and maybe cannot understand or explain why all of this happened like this, but things did not go as we had hoped.

In the face of such a situation, I want to quote a song by my fellow townsman Ahmet Kaya, who was forced to leave Turkey after he became the victim of character assassination by the mainstream media in 1999 and died after having a heart attack in Paris in 2000. He sang: “My chest is contracting and my heart is burning / This shouldn't be the end of our affair.”

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