Yesterday, fellow Turkish Daily News columnist Semih İdiz was arguing that the “inconsistent approach from Europe” on Turkey's legal matters was “turning Turks away from not just the EU, but the West as a whole.”
Well, I am a Turk, too, but I have no problem with Europe's approach to Turkey's legal matters. And I bet at the half of the country thinking like me.
The truth is that Mr. İdiz's comment is valid for some Turks, not all of them. And the bitter truth which underlines that is that Turkey has become extremely polarized. The two bitterly opposing camps in the country see almost everything in totally opposite perspectives. Indeed, it would not be a gross exaggeration to say that we have become the home of two nations.
A tale of two cases:
The two crucial court cases that are taking place in Ankara and Istanbul are telltale examples. The one in Ankara, the notorious “closure case” against the incumbent Justice and Development Party, or AKP, at the Constitutional Court, is aimed at overthrowing our popularly elected government. The one in Istanbul, the controversial “Ergenekon case,” is conversely aimed at saving our popularly elected government from a cadre of conspirators that yearn for a military coup. And many Turks see the closure case as a sham and rather find the “Ergenekon case” much more meaningful. For the others, it is the opposite.
So, is this all relative? Isn't there any objective criterion to judge these dramatically opposing cases?
No, it is not all relative. The natures of the two cases are actually fundamentally different. While the closure case is indeed a sham, the other one has all the signs of a real effort to unearth a serious threat to Turkey's constitutional democratic order.
Let me explain. The nice thing about the closure case against the AKP is that it is all clear. The “crimes” of the AKP are listed in detail by the chief prosecutor, who wants to close down not just the AKP but also the political careers of Prime Minister Erdoğan, President Gül, and 70 top members of the AKP. These horrifying “felonies” include comments about the need for more religious freedom in Turkish society, and legitimate political efforts such as the constitutional amendment to set the headscarf free in universities. In other words, the AKP's “crimes” are what we see on TV and read in papers everyday. The chief prosecutor confidently claims that the AKP wants to “overthrow the regime,” but there is no single element of criminal activity of the party that he can point to. He actually says he has “the impression” that the AKP is trying to bring in “shariah,” and his impression is all what the Constitutional Court needs. But there are no secret plans unveiled, no guns and bombs unearthed.
But just take a look at the other case. What we are speaking about here is an underground organization whose story started with the discovery of an Istanbul house full of grenades and explosives 13 months ago. The crimes which are thought to be related with Ergenekon include political assassinations such as the murder of Hrant Dink, the liberal Turkish-Armenian journalist, and the bloody shootout at the Council of State. Some members of the organization, such as the cranky “National Forces” group in Mersin, have openly taken oaths to “kill and to be killed… for the Turkish blood.” And the whole aim of Ergenekon seems to be the violent overthrow of a legitimate government.
In other words, while the AKP is accused for “bringing shariah” by simply following the rules of legitimate democratic politics, the Ergenekon is accused for using violence in order to overthrow democratic politics and establish military rule.
And here is another fact: As for “felony records,” the former is totally clean, whereas the latter is awful. The Turkish Republic has never seen an attempt for a “shariah revolution,” but it has seen almost a dozen attempts for military coups, four of which have been successful.
Plans for a coup?:
Therefore, it looks much more reasonable to me to take the Ergenekon case much more credibly. The news that came out the day before and yesterday indeed hint that this organization was onto something big. According to the stories published in newspapers like Radikal, Star, Sabah and others, secret documents were found in the office the of retired general, Şener Eruygur, who was one of the celebrities arrested last Tuesday. These documents, reportedly, show that the group planned a detailed strategy to provoke a military coup:
- First, PKK-member-turned-state-informants would be used to stage political assassinations against some prominent figures in order to provoke the public.
- Rallies would be organized in dozens of cities which would lead to clashes between “the people” and the police.
- Sinan Aygün, the detained president of the Ankara Chamber of Trade would start to preach the coming of a severe economic crisis. (Mr. Aygün is also mentioned as the potential prime minister of the government that would be formed after the coup.)
- Meanwhile, the pro-Ergenekon names in the media would start to pump the idea that the country needs “law and order” under the thumb of the military.
- And, finally, a military junta would take over the country.
Now, this is still all just news. The indictment, which is said to be out very soon, will probably give us the details of all such scenarios that the prosecutors have been able to extract from the pieces of evidence they have gathered in the past 13 months. And it will be the judges who will decide upon all that. But the information we have at hand right now suggests that the Ergenekon mates might have really been in some amazing adventures.
One final note: Retired Gen. Şener Eruygur, who is apparently at the center of all these plans, is the president of the Society of Atatürkist Thought, which is known for its zealous “anti-imperialism.” Gen. Eruygur is also known to be among a group of officers who think that Turkey needs to break up with NATO and, instead, join forces with Russia. So, some Turkish commentators argue that the crackdown of Ergenekon might also be a blow to the “Russophile” element within the Turkish Armed Forces. And that sounds convincing to me.