By Begüm Burak
December 24, 2014
Turkey's political history has witnessed major traumas. Mass killings, unidentified murders, discrimination, unlawful practices and so on…
After the proclamation of the republic, the nation-builders became engaged in creating a secular and westernised country. In order to undermine the role of religion in the public realm and break all ties with the Ottoman past, constitutional, institutional and structural arrangements were realized. However, while carrying out their “self-appointed mission of enlightening the masses,” the nation-builders demonized certain segments of society. Firstly, they denied the existence of Kurdish people and stigmatized them as “mountain Turks.” The elites, through promoting a certain interpretation of Islam, followed a discriminatory policy toward Alevis. Furthermore, the elites treated the public visibility of religion as a threat to secularism and labelled observant Muslim people, like veiled women, as reactionary (mürteci) and saw them as second-class citizens. The elites adopted a discriminatory attitude toward non-Muslims as well.
Besides these groups of citizens, the leftists, women, disabled people, liberals and other (relatively) disadvantaged groups have faced unfair treatment from time to time. In Turkey, rule of law and equality before the law have always been an imaginary situation through which politicians have attempted to manipulate the masses. The power-holders shaped the legal mechanisms in line with their own interests and paid lip service to democracy, as we are experiencing today under Justice and Development Party (AK Party) rule.
When the AK Party came to power in 2002, the party members had saluted a European model of governance that would feed liberties and deepen democracy. With the aim to combat the military tutelage and bureaucratic oligarchy, the party used all the available tools that the European Union membership required. After the 2010 referendum, the party consolidated its power. Challenges such as the Indictment Case and coup attempts were eliminated. Following this, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan started to put forward his authoritarian and charismatic personality in a more determined manner. However, Erdoğan's determination in consolidating his rule and authority has polarized the country and made all democratic acquisitions gained so far lose ground. As a result of the dehumanization of almost any opposing and critical figure, Erdoğan had lately created his own lebensraum that is made up of fear, greed and pride.
Since Dec. 17, 2013, Erdoğan has declared an open war against the Hizmet movement. Through using all available state instruments, the government has become engaged in fighting a “parallel state.” While doing this, Erdoğan and his team are employing almost all the linguistic tools evident in hate speech. What is worse is that while on the one hand Erdoğan demonizes Hizmet and in fact all other critical/opposing voices, he on the other hand abuses religion and adopts a religious lexicon to justify his steps in the eyes of his electorate. This harms the image of Islam both inside and outside Turkey.
Turkish history has always witnessed unfair practices, blood and tears. The pathological judiciary system has always been a major problem. Today, the Hizmet movement has faced this in a quite concrete way. The detainment of the leading figures of the Hizmet media outlets last Sunday has revealed the degree of demonization the Hizmet has faced. Hidayet Karaca, the head of Samanyolu Media Group, is still in prison. Karaca is accused of being a member of a terrorist organization, an accusation that has dealt a serious blow to the image of Turkey abroad.
The lessons all the citizens living in Turkey should draw from this process is simple: The struggle between good and evil never ends. We should stand against evil, not the people. We should raise our voices against evil practices, not against a single person or a party. If we want to live in harmony we should condemn evil in a chorus. The evil today is autocracy, one-man rule, the undermining of rule of law and the use of hate as a political strategy. We should do our best to put an end to such evil practices. We should not kill our time damning a man or a group of men or a political party. Social harmony can come into being in such way. Otherwise, we cannot build a perpetual harmony that reaches every corner of society.