Nar­ra­tive is head­ing to­wards geno­cide

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

AC­CORD­ING to num­bers from the Turk­ish Army Gen­eral Staff, 8 651 mil­i­tary per­son­nel took part in the July 15 coup at­tempt last year. Ac­cord­ing to Turkey’s Min­istry of Jus­tice, 168 801 peo­ple have been sub­ject to le­gal pro­ceed­ings, 50 504 ar­rested, 48 371 re­leased un­der po­lice su­per­vi­sion, 8 551 de­tained and later re­leased, again un­der po­lice su­per­vi­sion.

One woman sol­dier was in­volved, over 17 000 civil­ian women are de­tained. Some over­lap with the vic­tims of the ad­min­is­tra­tive mea­sures that saw 138 148 pub­lic of­fi­cials sacked, 8 271 aca­demics lose their jobs and ti­tles, 4 424 judges and pros­e­cu­tors dis­missed, and 149 me­dia out­lets closed.

The dis­crep­ancy be­tween the num­ber and na­ture of sus­pects and vic­tims of the en­su­ing purge says only one thing: this is not about the coup.

In the ini­tial stages, the purge was all about af­fil­i­a­tion with the Gülen Move­ment, the former ally and later arch-en­emy of (Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip) Er­do­gan’s ver­sion of po­lit­i­cal Is­lamism. Hav­ing a bank ac­count at the Move­ment’s Bankasya; us­ing Bylock – an en­crypted mes­sag­ing sys­tem al­legedly used by Gülenists; sub­scrib­ing to pe­ri­od­i­cals of the Move­ment like Za­man daily or Siz­inti monthly mag­a­zine; or pos­sess­ing Fethul­lah Gülen’s books or even a $1 bill was enough to be de­tained and pros­e­cuted. Now, it is enough to be a voice of dis­sent to be la­belled as a Gülenist and face the same fate.

There are count­less court cases against al­leged mem­bers of the move­ment – all link­ing them to the coup, la­belling them as ter­ror­ists and de­pict­ing their daily ac­tiv­i­ties as se­cre­tive acts of in­fil­trat­ing the Turk­ish state ap­pa­ra­tus. But the in­dict­ments lack that most cru­cial el­e­ment: ev­i­dence.

I do not claim the coup at­tempt never took place, nei­ther do I claim that no Gülen-af­fil­i­ated soldiers were in­volved. On Au­gust 10 in Le Monde, Gülen weighed this pos­si­bil­ity and com­mented, “If there are any of­fi­cers among the coup plot­ters who con­sider them­selves as a sym­pa­thizer of Hizmet move­ment, in my opin­ion those peo­ple com­mit­ted trea­son against the unity of their coun­try by tak­ing part in an event where their own cit­i­zens lost their lives. They also vi­o­lated the val­ues that I have cher­ished through­out my life.”

My claim ex­tends Gülen’s point: Even if there were Gülen Move­ment sym­pa­this­ers in the coup, it is not be­cause of a se­cret agenda of the move­ment, but be­cause of the in­ter­ven­tion­ist cul­ture dom­i­nant in the Turk­ish army; and what­ever the num­ber of the Gülenist soldiers in­volved, this does not prove any­thing about the rest of the move­ment.

What we are see­ing is the com­mon­place pro­fil­ing of the sym­pa­this­ers of a move­ment with­out any ev­i­dence, ex­e­cu­tion with­out due process, col­lec­tive pun­ish­ment, guilt by as­so­ci­a­tion, en­forced dis­ap­pear­ances, sus­pi­cious deaths and sui­cides and lately prepa­ra­tions for tar­geted killings (Dutch) of mem­bers who have fled to Western cap­i­tals.

Speak­ing at a photo ex­hi­bi­tion of the coup night, Turk­ish Min­is­ter of Jus­tice Bekir Bozdag com­plained that Turkey is “not able to tell and con­vince” the Western­ers about what hap­pened. This is a con­fes­sion in the form of ac­cu­sa­tion. The US, UK and Ger­man au­thor­i­ties made it clear that what their Turk­ish col­leagues have pre­sented as “proof” of Gülen’s or the move­ment’s in­volve­ment does not amount to ev­i­dence by uni­ver­sal stan­dards. Er­do­gan is fu­ri­ous at the Amer­i­can un­will­ing­ness to ex­tra­dite Gülen, who lives in the US. “For the ter­ror­ists you have asked from us, we didn’t ask for ev­i­dence,” he said. This is ev­i­dence of no ev­i­dence… The sin­gle court ver­dict so far about the soldiers in­volved ac­quit­ted 23 out of 24 of all charges, and un­der­lined that the of­fi­cer given a life sen­tence for his par­tic­i­pa­tion had no in­volve­ment with the move­ment. But AKP (Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party) politi­cians do not care for facts. When it was re­vealed the po­lice of­fi­cer Mev­lut Al­tun­tas, killer of the Rus­sian am­bas­sador to Turkey, had been at­tend­ing ser­mons of a pro-gov­ern­ment preacher for two years, the pro­pa­ganda ma­chin­ery claimed this was an at­tempt by the move­ment to throw the se­cu­rity forces off the scent. When Er­do­gan-critic, former prose­cu­tor Gul­tekin Avci, ar­rested be­fore the coup, in­sisted on hear­ing the crime he was ac­cused of, the judge re­sponded, “What is the hurry? We will even­tu­ally find one.”

The coup is the crime “even­tu­ally found” for all the sym­pa­this­ers of the move­ment. They were al­ready on Er­do­gan’s “to-be-per­se­cuted” list.

The AKP gov­ern­ment of Turkey and the pros­e­cu­tors col­lab­o­rat­ing with the regime have cre­ated a nar­ra­tive that mixes spec­u­la­tion with facts, ex­trap­o­la­tion with wit­nessed ev­i­dence. In­dict­ments pre­pared against sym­pa­this­ers of the move­ment take the in­volve­ment of Gülen as a given and base the rest on this “un­ques­tion­able” as­sump­tion. The in­dict­ments are full of legally ir­rel­e­vant terms like “co­her­ence with the ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion”, whereby prom­i­nent jour­nal­ists are jailed for the al­leged co­her­ence of their acts with pre­sup­posed acts of the move­ment; or “nat­u­ral flux of events”, whereby tens of thou­sands of peo­ple are pros­e­cuted on the grounds that hav­ing been so in­volved with the move­ment, it would be against the “nat­u­ral flux of events” for them not to know of the coup at­tempt be­fore­hand.

And as hu­man rights ad­vo­cates have al­ready started to warn, these two are steps to­wards a geno­cide.

The in­dict­ments lack that most cru­cial el­e­ment: ev­i­dence

Kerim Balci is a former colum­nist with Za­man Daily, a news­pa­per closed down by the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment. He cur­rently vol­un­teers for Turkey In­sti­tute’s Lon­don Ad­vo­cacy Group, a group try­ing to raise aware­ness about hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in Turkey

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