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February 22, 2012, Wednesday

Trauma, renewal and the demand for more change

We are a traumatized nation. The 1990s overshadow our very existence in this country. I watched the first four parts of “Son Darbe” (The Last Coup), a documentary by Mehmet Ali Birand. “The Last Coup” is a thorough account of the politics of the 1990s with an emphasis on the events leading up to the Feb. 28, 1997 coup.

For those who do not remember, the 1990s were marked by political instability, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) threat and economic crises. Watching and remembering the political paralysis was painful. One of the most striking messages of the documentary is the fact that the Turkish state -- then dominated by hawks who wanted a military solution to the Kurdish question -- had no qualms at all about human rights, democracy and other values we today cherish and try to defend at every stage.

It was not so long ago when these events transpired, when Uğur Mumcu, Çetin Emeç and many others were killed. It was not so long ago when the economy was so unstable that we were converting our salaries into US dollars, and it was not so long ago when Kurdish deputies were dragged out of Parliament and put in prison. We tend to forget those days. We tend to pretend that we have overcome them.

Watching the documentary made me nervous that such days could come back in other forms. If we do not solve the Kurdish question, which has become gangrenous for this nation, we are destined to confront many other painful events in the near future. If we do not care about the grievances of our Alevi citizens, if the state does not apologize for the Gazi Mahallesi events, we will not be able to establish peace in society. If we fail to reconcile ourselves with the events in Sivas, Çorum and Kahramanmaraş, we will not be able to move forward.

The current state of relative calm and economic stability is almost surreal when remembering the 1990s and the trauma this nation has suffered. We demand more. We want a normal political system, a judiciary that is immune from manipulation of the political class. We demand transparency and accountability of the state. We want a normal and credible opposition in this country. Such an opposition would also be good for the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) as competition produces quality. In the absence of a credible opposition the AK Party does not feel the urgency to move forward on the many important issues facing us. The notion of time is rather different in the higher echelons of the AK Party.

There is no doubt that a lot has been achieved in the last 10 years. Civil-military relations, adjustments to some of the excesses of militant secularism, economic and political stability and the renewal of the transport infrastructure are just a few in a long list. However, Turks demand constant and consistent change. They want to play in the first division and have no patience or appetite to settle for less. A series of events beginning with the match-rigging scandal, the verdict in the Hrant Dink case, the Uludere incident and now the tension between the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) have all precipitated a debate as to where we are heading. We thought the phase of renewal was going to continue and even accelerate after the June 2011 elections. This is what is expected from the government -- to continue the reform drive of the last nine years.

Having been rudely reminded of the traumatic 1990s, we do not want to see a return to the instability of those days. We want a stable and credible government to lead us forward. The possibility of relapse is too frightening.

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