Turk­ish Lex­i­con, By Wil­liam Arm­strong

Turkish Review - - CONTENTS - WIL­LIAM ARM­STRONG Staff Writer

Ob­servers of Turkey have had a full- time job try­ing to fol­low all the twists and turns of the epic cor­rup­tion probe that has dom­i­nated the me­dia since mid- De­cem­ber. The ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the trench war­fare be­tween the govern­ment and the Hizmet move­ment are be­ing felt across the board, with the gen­eral po­lit­i­cal at­mos­phere dark­en­ing con­sid­er­ably in the lead- up to the March lo­cal elec­tions


Shock­waves con­tinue to be felt af­ter the ini­tial earth­quake of the cor­rup­tion probes that hit head­lines on Dec. 17. The in­ves­ti­ga­tions par­tic­u­larly fo­cused on the con­struc­tion in­dus­try and gold trad­ing, and touched on busi­ness­men, rel­a­tives and in­di­vid­u­als close to fig­ures from the rul­ing Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment (AK Party). The ap­par­ent grind­ing halt to the in­ves­ti­ga­tions was largely due to mas­sive govern­ment-led sack­ings and re­lo­ca­tions of thou­sands of of­fi­cials at the po­lice depart­ment, the ju­di­ciary, and across al­most all other ar­eas of the state bu­reau­cracy. Zek­eriya Öz, the pros­e­cu­tor who led the first wave of dawn raids on Dec. 17, was quickly re­moved from his post as İs­tan­bul deputy chief pros­e­cu­tor. The AK Party’s meth­ods to frus­trate the probes have of­ten re­sem­bled a scorched earth pol­icy, with each day bring­ing news of fur­ther se­rial purges.

A se­cond wave of ar­rests on Dec. 26 -- pos­si­bly in­volv­ing Prime Min­is­ter Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan’s sons, Bi­lal and Bu­rak, as well as al­leged al-Qaeda af­fil­i­ates from Saudi Ara­bia such Yasin al-Qadi and Osama Khoutub -- was stymied, and since then new in­ves­ti­ga­tions, too, have been mostly frus­trated. It was re­ported that po­lice of­fi­cers in the İs­tan­bul po­lice force, newly ap­pointed just a few days be­fore Dec. 26, re­fused to carry out their or­ders, and that the deputy di­rec­tor of pub­lic pros­e­cu­tions also didn’t ap­prove this new op­er­a­tion. Sim­i­lar to his pre­de­ces­sor Öz, the pros­e­cu­tor be­hind the se­cond in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Muam­mer Akkaş, was dis­missed on the same day, and later said he was pre­vented from per­form­ing his duty. By the end of Jan­uary, three of the four orig­i­nal pros­e­cu­tors who launched the Dec. 17 in­ves­ti­ga­tion had been re­moved. Such ex­ec­u­tive in­ter­ven­tions in the ju­di­cial process have raised se­ri­ous ques­tions about the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers and the rule of law in Turkey.

The crush­ing of at­tempted pros­e­cu­tions has man­aged to shape the nar­ra­tive in the Turk­ish me­dia. In the main­stream me­dia, highly sus­cep­ti­ble to govern­ment pres­sure, there’s now very lit­tle ad­dress­ing of the ac­tual con­tent of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion or the ac­cu­sa­tions. In­stead, the cov­er­age has de­scended al­most ex­clu­sively into an ac­count of the power strug­gle over the spoils of the state, be­tween fol­low­ers of the move­ment af­fil­i­ated with

Is­lamic preacher Fethul­lah Gülen (com­monly known as the Hizmet move­ment) -- now rou­tinely de­scribed by govern­ment fig­ures as a “par­al­lel state” that has in­fil­trated govern­ment in­sti­tu­tions -- and sup­port­ers of Er­doğan. Em­bez­zle­ment claims lev­eled against Er­doğan’s son Bi­lal at the end of Jan­uary, phone tap ev­i­dence in­di­cat­ing that Er­doğan di­rected busi­ness­men to “do­nate” money to buy a me­dia group, and claims that he owned 12 un­de­clared man­sions, have met with no re­sponse from the govern­ment.

One less re­marked upon ex­am­ple of the govern­ment’s suc­cess­fully man­ag­ing to shape dis­course on the sub­ject is the way the probes are now widely re­ferred to in the me­dia us­ing the word “op­er­a­tion.” “Op­er­a­tion” has also been widely used to re­fer to pre­vi­ous al­leged coup plots, so its use now has the effect of im­plic­itly dis­cred­it­ing the whole probe. Even news out­lets that were in the past quite un­friendly to the AK Party now widely use this term.


Soon af­ter news of the in­ves­ti­ga­tions broke, Prime Min­is­ter Er­doğan sought to counter them with a ma­jor Cab­i­net reshuf­fle on Dec. 25. Four of the min­is­ters whose names were in­volved in the scan­dal were re­placed, while over­all 10 new min­is­ters -al­most half the Cab­i­net -- were brought in. Such reshuf­fles are ex­tremely rare even in Turkey’s roug­hand-tum­ble po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment, but this sit­u­a­tion was in­deed ex­tra­or­di­nary.

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Er­doğan Bayrak­tar, Econ­omy Min­is­ter Zafer Cağlayan and In­te­rior Min­is­ter Muam­mer Güler -- whose sons were de­tained in dawn raids on Dec. 17 -- all re­signed, while EU Min­is­ter Ege­men Bağış was re­moved from of­fice.

For­mer Er­doğan loy­al­ist Bayrak­tar did not go down qui­etly, re­mark­ably urg­ing the prime min­is­ter to also re­sign, in­sist­ing that “a great pro­por­tion” of con­struc­tion projects that were un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion were per­son­ally ap­proved by the prime min­is­ter him­self. Other min­is­ters re­moved in the reshuf­fle in­cluded those set to run for may­oral po­si­tions in the up­com­ing lo­cal elec­tions in March 2014.


One of the ma­jor po­ten­tial con­se­quences of the probe is the sug­ges­tion made by an in­creas­ing num­ber of pro-Er­doğan voices that fig­ures con­victed in the

Er­genekon/Ba­lyoz coup plot cases could be retried. These cases are widely per­ceived as hav­ing been pur­sued by pros­e­cu­tors aligned with the Hizmet move­ment, and the idea is that the wide­spread ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in them could be used as a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the re­trial and re­lease of im­pris­oned gen­er­als. The im­pli­ca­tion be­ing that this would then se­cure the mil­i­tary as a new part­ner for the AK Party -de­spite the volte-face this would rep­re­sent.

Er­doğan’s chief po­lit­i­cal ad­vi­sor, Yalçın Ay­doğan, him­self openly floated the pos­si­bil­ity of a re­trial for con­victed gen­er­als in his Star col­umn on Dec. 24. “Ev­ery­body knows that those who have plot­ted against their own coun­try’s na­tional army, na­tional in­tel­li­gence [or­ga­ni­za­tion], na­tional bank and the civil­ian rule that has been en­shrined in the na­tion’s heart could not have dealt for the good of this coun­try,” he wrote, ar­gu­ing that groups within the ju­di­ciary that are now al­legedly or­ches­trat­ing the cor­rup­tion probe against Er­doğan’s al­lies framed the hun­dreds of mil­i­tary of­fi­cers con­victed in the Er­genekon and Ba­lyoz cases.

Writ­ing in the pro-govern­ment daily Yeni Şafak, Ab­dülka­dir Selvi also in­di­cated that a new al­liance with the mil­i­tary could be sought by the AK Party, and even sug­gested that this could be tied to the Kur­dish peace process. “We are go­ing to fight against the tute­lage of the ‘ce­maat’ [“com­mu­nity” -- mean­ing Hizmet] just as we fought against the tute­lage of the mil­i­tary [...] In a sit­u­a­tion when the very ex­is­tence of the AK Party is un­der threat, and when an at­tempt is made to stop the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, the AK Party is in need of new ini­tia­tives and new friends [...] It is not at all dif­fi­cult to de­velop a for­mula that would ben­e­fit both the Er­genekon sus­pects and the peace process [with the Kurds]. Some might call this a gen­eral amnesty,” Selvi wrote.

How­ever, in the same pa­per, colum­nist Ali Bayra­moğlu gave strong warn­ings about the dan­gers of bring­ing the mil­i­tary back into the po­lit­i­cal equa­tion. “The re­cent state­ment in which the Gen­eral Staff re­minded [us] of its sen­si­tiv­ity re­gard­ing the Er­genekon and Sledge­ham­mer court cases was the first se­ri­ous state­ment of the mil­i­tary af­ter a long pe­riod of si­lence,” Bayra­moğlu wrote. “At the very least, it shows that the mil­i­tary is a party to the con­flict and that it is mak­ing its po­si­tion pub­licly known [...] What is im­por­tant is that the mil­i­tary, on its own and for its own sake, has taken a step of a po­lit­i­cal na­ture into the bat­tle­ground within the state. If the state cri­sis, the fight be­tween the in­sti­tu­tions, turns into a threat to the ex­is­tence of the state in the eyes of the mil­i­tary, the po­si­tion they will take is go­ing to rep­re­sent a risk for democ­racy.”



The Turk­ish lira took a bat­ter­ing through­out Jan­uary, be­com­ing the world’s worst-per­form­ing cur­rency and fall­ing to con­sec­u­tive record lows against the dol­lar and the euro. At one point, the lira recorded 12 straight daily drops -- a first since Turkey’s fi­nan­cial cri­sis in 2001. The value of the lira tum­bled 12 per­cent from the be­gin­ning of De­cem­ber to the end of Jan­uary. The fall was mostly down to the open­ing of the graft probe and the be­gin­ning of the US Fed­eral Re­serve’s ta­per­ing of stim­u­lus mea­sures, which had spurred de­mand for higher-yield­ing as­sets, in­clud­ing in Turkey. Many econ­o­mists had long sug­gested that the nec­es­sary coun­ter­mea­sure to these de­vel­op­ments was a rise in in­ter­est rates, but Turk­ish Cen­tral Bank Gov­er­nor Er­dem Başçı again kept rates un­changed in a much an­tic­i­pated Jan. 21 an­nounce­ment. The de­ci­sion was seen as an acid test for the in­de­pen­dence of the Turk­ish Cen­tral Bank, but ul­ti­mately was in keep­ing with de­mands by govern­ment of­fi­cials to keep in­ter­est rates down to boost the econ­omy. The bank had in­stead been try­ing to limit the lira’s slide through a num­ber of un­ortho­dox op­er­a­tions, but most

an­a­lysts were skep­ti­cal about their ef­fec­tive­ness. Prime Min­is­ter Er­doğan has re­peat­edly voiced his op­po­si­tion to high in­ter­est rates, con­demn­ing them as de­manded by an “in­ter­est-rate lobby” of for­eign in­vestors, econ­o­mists and jour­nal­ists seek­ing to drive up bor­row­ing costs in Turkey for their own profit.

Pro-govern­ment me­dia main­tained a strong cho­rus against mon­e­tary pol­icy tight­en­ing, with Yeni Şafak adapt­ing Er­doğan sup­port­ers’ pop­u­lar chant, “Stand straight, don’t bend,” show­ing a pic­ture of Başçı un­der the head­line, “Stand straight, don’t raise rates.” How­ever, on Jan. 27, af­ter a morn­ing on which the lira dropped to a new record low of 2.39 per dol­lar, the cen­tral bank an­nounced that it would con­vene an ex­tra­or­di­nary meet­ing at mid­night. An in­ter­est rate rise (al­beit late) was widely ex­pected by econ­o­mists, and the bank fi­nally did de­cide to raise its overnight lend­ing rate to 12 per­cent from 7.75 per­cent, its one-week repo rate to 10 per­cent from 4.5 per­cent, and its overnight bor­row­ing rate to 8 per­cent from 3.5 per­cent -- all much sharper raises than econ­o­mists had fore­cast.


The an­nual march com­mem­o­rat­ing the as­sas­si­na­tion of Turk­ish-Ar­me­nian jour­nal­ist Hrant Dink was held in İs­tan­bul on Jan. 19. Demon­stra­tors gath­ered near the cen­tral Tak­sim Square to walk to the site where Dink was shot dead in front of the of­fice of the Agos news­pa­per, where he was ed­i­tor-in-chief, in 2007. Some con­ster­na­tion was caused this year by the pres­ence of a num­ber of po­lice of­fi­cers guard­ing the protests wear­ing thick white hats, de­spite the un­sea­son­ably warm Jan­uary weather. A sim­i­lar hat was worn by Dink’s killer, Ogün Sa­mast, and be­came an iconic sym­bol for some ex­treme na­tion­al­ists af­ter the killing. On a day of high emo­tion for the demon­stra­tors, pho­tos of the po­lice of­fi­cers caused quite a stir and cir­cu­lated rapidly on so­cial me­dia. In a col­umn in Radikal head­lined “White Hat State,” Orhan Ke­mal Cen­giz wrote that white hats were in fact a use­ful metaphor for the Turk­ish state’s re­pres­sive prac­tices to­ward re­li­gious mi­nori­ties since 1915, the year of the mas­sacres of Ot­toman Ar­me­ni­ans.

The Dink case re­mains un­solved seven years af­ter his mur­der. The lawyers for his fam­ily main­tain that Sa­mast did not act alone, and that the killing was or­ga­nized and as­sisted by groups within the state.


On Jan. 1, a truck sup­pos­edly car­ry­ing aid to Syria was stopped in the Turk­ish bor­der prov­ince of Hatay, fol­low­ing a tip that it was in fact trans­port­ing weapons. How­ever, the se­cu­rity forces and the pros­e­cu­tor were barred from search­ing the ve­hi­cle, and the sus­pi­cious truck was whisked away from the pros­e­cu­tor, the gen­darmerie forces and the po­lice, on the grounds that it con­sti­tuted a “state se­cret.” The pros­e­cu­tor who led the search, the po­lice of­fi­cers who stopped the trucks, and sev­eral chiefs and deputy chiefs from Hatay’s Ter­ror­ism and Or­ga­nized Crime Depart­ment, were all re­lo­cated af­ter the in­ci­dent.

The scan­dal first broke in daily Radikal, which also claimed a Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Or­ga­ni­za­tion (MİT) of­fi­cial and a re­gional of­fi­cer of the Hu­man­i­tar­ian Aid Foun­da­tion (İHH), which has close links with the govern­ment, were aboard the truck. The İHH, known for its re­lief work in con­flict zones, has long been the sub­ject of spec­u­la­tion that its work in Syria goes be­yond hu­man­i­tar­ian mis­sions. How­ever, it de­nied any in­volve­ment in the in­ci­dent and de­scribed the


al­le­ga­tions as a “smear con­spir­acy.”

Soon af­ter the in­ci­dent, new In­te­rior Min­is­ter Efkan Ala scolded the pros­e­cu­tors, the gen­darmerie and the po­lice, say­ing “Ev­ery­body should mind their own busi­ness.” Ala claimed that the truck was car­ry­ing aid to Syr­ian Turk­men, de­spite the fact that no Turk­men set­tle­ment ex­isted on the ve­hi­cle’s route. Two deputy chairs of the Syr­ian Turk­men As­sem­bly quickly re­futed Ala’s ex­pla­na­tion.

Radikal’s Fe­him Taştekin wrote in Al-Mon­i­tor that the govern­ment and MİT had been caught “red handed” this time: “The govern­ment had pre­vi­ously man­aged to cen­sor footage from se­cu­rity cam­eras af­ter the Feb. 11 ex­plo­sion at the Cil­veg­özü bor­der cross­ing, ma­nip­u­lated the May 11 bomb­ing in Rey­hanlı al­though prior in­tel­li­gence was avail­able and al-Qaeda claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity, pro­tracted the court case over the chem­i­cals seized in Adana on May 27 and sought to cover up the court case over the truck loaded with weapons seized again in Adana on Nov. 7. To con­ceal some­thing whose ex­po­sure it fears, the govern­ment has now re­sorted to the ‘state se­cret’ cover.”

Se­cu­rity forces also launched a search of a num­ber of trucks in an op­er­a­tion on Jan. 19, af­ter re­ceiv­ing a tip. How­ever, af­ter get­ting wind of the searches, the lo­cal gov­er­nor again re­fused to al­low a de­tailed search on “state se­cret” grounds, and the trucks were re­leased.

The in­ci­dents were soon in­ter­preted as be­ing sim­ply an­other front in the tug-of-war be­tween the govern­ment and the Hizmet move­ment. The day af­ter the news broke, the front page of daily Star echoed the govern­ment’s line, quot­ing Ala, who didn’t re­spond to the ac­cu­sa­tions, but said the move was an “op­er­a­tion to tar­get Turkey’s im­age” and claimed that “Is­rael was be­hind it.” Left­ist daily BirGün was less ac­com­mo­dat­ing, sug­gest­ing that the truck brought to mind the trucks in the Susurluk scan­dal of 1996, which ex­posed links be­tween the govern­ment, the armed forces, and or­ga­nized crime.


Turkey topped the list of govern­ment re­quests to re­move con­tent from Google in 2013, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s “Trans­parency Re­port” re­leased in De­cem­ber. Re­quests from the Turk­ish govern­ment saw an al­most 10-fold in­crease over the se­cond half of the year, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. A to­tal of 1,673 re­quests were made by Turkey to Google for the re­moval of over 12,000 items, in­clud­ing search links re­lat­ing to po­lit­i­cal of­fi­cials and sex scan­dals, which the com­pany said it re­fused to re­move.

A re­port re­leased in Jan­uary by Wash­ing­ton-based think tank Free­dom House was also damn­ing of the Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties. The “Free­dom in the World” re­port stated that Turkey’s “free­dom rat­ing” had de­clined alarm­ingly in 2013, mostly due to the harsh govern­ment crack­down on the Gezi Park protests and a cam­paign against the ex­pres­sion of crit­i­cal views in the me­dia. Turkey’s de­cline came amid a wider global drop, with Free­dom House re­port­ing that civil rights and lib­er­ties around the world had de­clined over­all for an eighth straight year.


In an­other un­for­tu­nate dis­tinc­tion, Turkey was named the world’s num­ber one jailer of jour­nal­ists by the non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion the Com­mit­tee to Pro­tect Jour­nal­ists (CPJ), for the se­cond year run­ning. The num­ber of Turk­ish jour­nal­ists be­hind bars for their work was cal­cu­lated at 40, down from pre­vi­ous CPJ re­ports. How­ever, Turkey still holds more jour­nal­ists in cus­tody than Iran, China and Eritrea.

“As a NATO mem­ber and a re­gional leader, Turkey should not be­long in the list of top press jail­ers. But from the fail­ure to re­form its leg­is­la­tion in a mean­ing­ful way to the crack­down on its jour­nal­ists in the af­ter­math of the Gezi Park protests, Turkey has grown in­creas­ingly re­pres­sive de­spite the mod­est de­cline in the num­ber of me­dia work­ers be­hind bars,” the re­port stated.

It also made par­tic­u­lar ref­er­ence to re­spected in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Nedim Şener, the re­cip­i­ent of the CPJ’s 2013 In­ter­na­tional Press Free­dom Award, who faces up to 15 years in prison if con­victed on con­tro­ver­sial charges of sup­port­ing the al­leged Er­genekon plot. In his ac­cep­tance speech, Şener re­ferred to Dink, claim­ing that the of­fi­cials who ar­rested him were part of the same ap­pa­ra­tus com­plicit in Dink’s

mur­der. “The govern­ment has pro­tected those of­fi­cials. Be­cause I ex­posed their com­plic­ity and named the po­lice and in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers re­spon­si­ble for Hrant’s killing, I was tried as a ter­ror­ist,” he said.


The Turk­ish pub­lisher and trans­la­tor of French sur­re­al­ist poet Guil­laume Apol­li­naire’s “Les Ex­ploits d’un Je­une Don Juan” (The Ex­ploits of a Young Don Juan) went on trial in İs­tan­bul for cor­rupt­ing pub­lic moral­ity. Sel Pub­lish­ing House owner İr­fan Sancı and trans­la­tor İs­mail Yer­guz were fac­ing six to 10 years in jail for re­leas­ing the book, first pub­lished in France over 100 years ago.

Pros­e­cu­tors had con­demned the work for giv­ing de­tailed ac­counts of “un­nat­u­ral sex­ual re­la­tion­ships” with “no plot what­so­ever,” also claim­ing that it con­sti­tuted “child abuse” and could there­fore not fall within the lim­its of free­dom of speech. De­spite the post­pone­ment of the de­ci­sion, the court didn’t ac­quit the trans­la­tor and the pub­lisher of all charges. In­stead, pros­e­cu­tion was sus­pended for three years, and the case will only be dropped if no sim­i­lar charges are filed against ei­ther of them in the next three years.

Speak­ing to the Hür­riyet Daily News, Sancı ex­pressed his dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the ver­dict, say­ing he would “not hold back” de­spite the rul­ing. “As a pub­lisher, I’ll con­tinue to com­mit this crime. [The rul­ing] will not change any­thing,” he said.


A highly con­tro­ver­sial bill was passed in Jan­uary, ban­ning the pro­vi­sion of “unau­tho­rized” med­i­cal at­ten­tion and com­pelling doc­tors and health pro­fes­sion­als to ap­ply for govern­ment per­mis­sion be­fore ad­min­is­ter­ing emer­gency first aid. Med­i­cal per­son­nel could face jail terms of three years and fines of up to TL 2.25 mil­lion for break­ing the new law. The move has been seen by many as the lat­est in a long line of re­pres­sive mea­sures passed since Turkey was hit by the Gezi Park protests last sum­mer. Some had hoped the draft would be sent back by Pres­i­dent Ab­dul­lah Gül, who is widely seen as a more mod­er­ate and con­sen­sual fig­ure than the prime min­is­ter, but were ul­ti­mately dis­ap­pointed.

Hu­man rights and pro­fes­sional groups con­demned the law, and ac­cused the govern­ment of in­tim­i­da­tion and seek­ing to crim­i­nal­ize ur­gent as­sis­tance to street pro­test­ers. Dr. Hande Ar­pat, of the Ankara Cham­ber of Med­i­cal Doc­tors, who vol­un­teered dur­ing last sum­mer’s protests, was quoted in the Guardian as say­ing that the govern­ment had “writ­ten med­i­cal his­tory” by pass­ing a law that runs counter to all prin­ci­ples of med­i­cal care. “Not only does the law go against all of our pro­fes­sional and eth­i­cal du­ties, [and] in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights agree­ments that Turkey is party to, but it also con­tra­dicts the Turk­ish crim­i­nal code that obliges all med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als to pro­vide med­i­cal aid to those who need it,” said Dr. Ar­pat.


Crowds com­mem­o­rate the sev­enth an­niver­sary of the as­sas­si­na­tion of Turk­ish-Ar­me­nian jour­nal­ist Hrant Dink out­side his news­pa­per, Agos.


The Turk­ish lira took a bat­ter­ing through­out Jan­uary, be­com­ing the world’s

worst-per­form­ing cur­rency and fall­ing to con­sec­u­tive

record lows.


Turkey was named the world’s num­ber one jailer of jour­nal­ists for the se­cond year run­ning by CPJ.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Turkey

© PressReader. All rights reserved.