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February 12, 2012, Sunday

Eclipse of the minds

Baskın Oran and Ibrahim Kaboğlu, two professors of fine reputation, were selected as members of the Prime Ministry Human Rights Advisory Council (İHDK), by the Prime Ministry some five years ago.

The academics were given the “official mission” directly by [Prime Minister Recap Tayyip] Erdoğan's office to prepare an extensive “Minority and Cultural Rights” report.

They did. Soon after, they were charged by a court in Ankara for “insulting Turkishness” (Article 301 of the Penal Code) and “inciting hatred” (Article 216). Charges through # 301 were dropped, and they were acquitted on # 216, but the Court of Cassation rejected it. Finally, the charges were dismissed, but they certainly felt “duped” by the political decision makers and regretted their involvement.

Almost 10 years on under a powerful, democratically elected single party rule, this obviously irrational pattern is very much unacceptable.

When in 2009 the [Justice and Development Party] AK Party leadership came to the conclusion that the gangrenous Kurdish conflict should be brought to an end, the decision was to launch a bold “Kurdish Initiative,” whose vital component was to enter into negotiations with the [Kurdistan Workers' Party] PKK. The mission was given to some top figures in the National Intelligence [Organization] (MİT). Abdullah Öcalan was then contacted and persuaded by Dr. Hakan Fidan, who acted throughout the process as the “special representative” of Erdoğan.

This was a purely political decision made by an elected government. The idea was also part of the regular agenda of the National Security Council [MGK], which did not reject nor stop it.

In its essence, the mindboggling “MİT affair” is similar to what took place with Oran and Kaboğlu. In both cases the "political representative" was “legally harrassed” by the judiciary due to the political decisions it had made.

The questions that linger are powerful. Who is ruling this country? As long as there is no harmony between the political and judicial pillars in the very essence of their domain, where will this take Turkey? Also, if the claims were true that the judiciary has been “subordinated” to the political executive since the Sept. 12 referendum and thus Turkey has fallen victim to “authoritarianism,” how should we then explain the “MİT affair”?

Because of chronic non-transparency, blurred infighting between/within key institutions and the obvious disarray in the conduct of the judiciary, a lot of wild speculation is floating about. Those in the anti-AKP camp are wildly enthusiastic about a “final showdown” between the AKP and “Gülenists,” but though it may have some minor ingredients in it, it only helps to cover-up the real problems and threats that lie beneath and will mislead us in light of the “MİT affair.” The real question is why this “clash” happened, what forces are involved in/behind it, what the endgame was.

If the endgame was to question the authority of Erdoğan and his intentions to deal with the Kurdish issue, his choice of Fidan as the lead-figure to “cleanse” an organization obviously backfired. It may only lead to further scrutiny to expose a “dark will” to whip-up the warfare between institutions to return to the “old order.”

But there are grave wrongs and what-must-be-dones in the aftermath of the MİT affair. If the prosecutors were interested in a probable indictment against Fidan and four other key MİT officials for their role and conduct in the talks with the PKK, they must have lost their minds, lost perspective completely. However, if they were simply after certain MİT figures within the KCK / PKK structures, they should have focused on them because as soon as they act on their own, they have left their duties. No superior can be held responsible for rogue elements or defectors. If still necessary, Fidan and two other top figures could have been approached discreetly, just like a former top general, Hilmi Özkök, on the Sledgehammer case. The prosecutors were responsible also for oversight for not notifying their superiors on what they intended to do with regard to the MİT affair.

Now, seeing that the gun may point against it, the government is set to change the law, giving the PM special powers to allow MİT heads to be prosecuted. This is another grave wrong, which can only serve the culture of impunity and create further secrecy. It is dangerous.

If anything, the politically bloody “MİT affair” once more showed this: As long as Turkey cannot adopt a new, solid, fully democratic constitutional order, it will remain vulnerable to internal and external shocks. Ever since the June 12 polls, the AK Party looks as if it is in disarray, out of focus, emotional rather than rational, with a distorted compass. The more it insists on the “concentration of power” with Sept. 12, 1980, legislation as a base, the more distant it will be from its real grassroots base, which expects a “consolidation of democracy.” The first choice will keep inviting more enemies, while the second will collect supporters.

The crisis offers an opportunity: A reset of reform politics, forward for swift justice and a go-ahead for modernization of MİT under Fidan.


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