The deep state organization referred to popularly as “Ergenekon” presents us with a very complex and confusing tableau. What is actually being tried in court when it comes to Ergenekon is the order that came about in Turkey in 1915. What is being tried is the “komitacı” (secret society member) mentality; the mentality that surrounds secretive armed organizations with political aims.
The whole case is turning out to be a summation of the events of the past 90 years in Turkey. What is on trial is a force that planned assassinations, navigated military coups, threatened the media and business worlds while attempting to control them and tried to shepherd and direct society through means of provocation and manipulation.
At the same time though, here is our current problem: This investigation is not going as deep as we would like see it go. In other words, the Ergenekon case did manage to stick a truncheon into the complicated deep state cogs, but it has not been enough to stop those cogs from going around. In fact, the investigation has never really achieved a depth that would allow us to truly understand the nature of those cogs. And so, Turkey has not come to reckon with the system founded in 1915. When one does not possess the mental clarity necessary to reckon with the past and when one has not been able to transcend the official storyline, one is simply able to see the truth of what it is one is facing.
A ‘red apple’ coalition
When you look at the inner circle of what we call Ergenekon, you see a meeting of the Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate. This was an organization formed in 1921 by member of the Committee for Progress and Union (CUP); it was meant to struggle against Greek citizens, and it met in a church. When the whole Ergenekon case began, these are the photographs that began to emerge. It was like some sort of surrealist painting. Veli Küçük, a former gendarmerie commander, was sitting in the church, drinking wine. This patriarchate was the connecting point between those who had threatened Orhan Pamuk and all the various ultra-nationalistic organizations. In a normal country this would attract prosecutors’ attention. And so, these people -- who have no connection to Christianity and who were mixed up in serious crimes of the past in Turkey -- were now gathering in a “church.” Unfortunately however, this bizarre tableau did not seem to attract the attention of our prosecutors.
And so, this is precisely what we mean when we say Ergenekon: a “red apple” coalition that the neo-nationalists (ulusalcı) gather under. The former gendarmerie general being tried in the framework of the Ergenekon case is like the character Kaiser Söze from the film “The Usual Suspects.” As for the operation part, it was planned by one of the brains of the organization. He is the modern Turkish version of Topal Osman, who both worked to kill Armenians, and then shouldered the job of protecting Ataturk. This is simply the continuation in Turkey of a certain mentality, of a certain type of person. If you do not face up to the past, you will only wind up creating and re-creating it over and over. Not only do you recreate all those old traumas, but you also recreate all those same mechanisms that trigger those traumas to begin with. When you study the history of the Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate, you begin to find the entire history of the deep state in Turkey. In other words, these Ergenekon cases sit on top of coal mines of sorts. All that needs to be done is to open up these mines and start digging.
The state of not seeing
We cannot connect this state of not seeing things solely to the prosecutors. Not only the left, but also the Alevi and the Kurdish communities in Turkey did not see Ergenekon, or at least did not wish to see it. For example, there was a plan that emerged within the framework of Ergenekon that involved assassination attempts against Alevi leaders. But the Alevis still see this as some sort of fictional case. Perhaps they simply do not want the past to be overly tampered with, as the more people tamper, the more they might be forced as a whole to take a stance against the Kemalist system.
In the meantime, it is very difficult to comprehend how it is that the Kurds could remain so disinterested in this case. Would this be at all possible in any other country? In places like Argentina and Chile, citizens slept outside in front of the courtrooms, waiting to see coup-supporters tried for such crimes as throwing people out of planes. I would have expected that Kurds would have been lining up to sleep outside the Silivri courtrooms. I would have expected them to have demanded, “Hand JITEM over to us.” I would have expected them to say, “Tell us about all those villages that were burned.” I would have expected them to have said, “Tell us about where all those ‘lost’ people really are.” But in the end, it is as though some magic wand touched them all, and a silence blanketed everyone, without even the slightest “peep” from any corner.
The group called “Cumartesi Anneleri” (Saturday Mothers, the mothers and close relatives of “lost” names) still gathers in Galatasaray. But what are they doing gathering in Galatasaray, when they should really be gathering in Silivri, where the various suspects of Ergenekon are being tried; after all, their childrens’ murderers are all in Silivri.
I am not entirely dismissing or belittling the point at which we have arrived. For five years now in this country, these murders -- the likes of which we used to see regularly -- are no longer happening because the mechanism that allowed for these murders has been damaged. But this is not a situation that can last forever. In Turkey, when you do not entirely take over all of the illegal extensions of the gendarmerie, it means all of these mechanisms are still in place. Yes, the government-military clashes, the murders and the manipulations have all stopped, but the mechanisms remain in place. For example, the Special War Department’s records in Turkey are still sealed. This department was a unit formed within the military that is responsible for many of the provocations that came to the forefront in the past in Turkey. From the pogrom that took place against the Greeks in 1955 to the massacres of Alevi citizens in 1978, there are all sorts of pieces of evidence and allegations that point to the role played by this organization in these events.
Most recently, in the case of the Malatya massacre, it emerged -- in the second list of prosecutor allegations -- that a unit called the National Strategies and Operations Department of Turkey (TUSHAD) had been formed to head up operations against non-Muslims in Turkey. And so, we have to ask from the point we have reached today, have we really managed to transform the state mentality and structures that lie behind units such as JITEM, the Special War Department, TUSHAD, all the coups, the political assassinations and so many other horrible acts, or have we just managed to push this mentality and these structures into a corner? Have these mechanisms been struck swift enough blows to wipe them out entirely, or will they live on almost like viruses in the system? Is there any guarantee they will not return tomorrow, if the conditions are right? I suppose the way I have formulated these questions shows what my answers to them are. I personally believe that since the structure we call the “deep state” has really only been pushed into the corner with a large stick (meaning the court trials), and since none of the very necessary deep-seated reforms to ensure their elimination have been accomplished, that they could return easily with their old strength to the forefront.
For as long as the assassinations and massacres and provocations from the past remain largely in the dark, and for as long as the gendarmerie is neither eliminated nor re-structured and for as long as the inner-workings of the military do not come under political control and authority, everything has the potential to return to the way it was at any moment.
In other words, I believe that the deep state is simply in hibernation, and if serious reforms are not undertaken, this hibernation could come to an end at any moment.
Note: The article above is a compilation of notes from several conferences at which I spoke. I will be on vacation for the next two weeks and will not write anything over this time period.
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