by Akın Olgun
Whoever controls judicial power in Turkey secures what they want and, of course, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who monopolizes power, is mostly able to get what he wants. In fact, the moment that Erdoğan speaks out against transgressors, prosecutors immediately take action and trials are opened one after the other.
The number of cases that have been registered against people for allegedly “insulting the President” reveals the manner in which Turkey’s legal system works: more precisely, it shows how much the operational system is at the disposal of the president. We know that from 2014 – when Erdoğan was elected President – until the end of 2019, prosecutors had investigated a total of 128,872 complaints on the grounds that they “insulted the President”.
As a result of these investigations, 27,717 public lawsuits were filed. This information is based on statistics that were prepared by the Ministry of Justice General Directorate of Registries and Statistics. So this is officially recorded information. What is even more troubling is that 264 of those who were sued were children between the ages of 12-14 and a further 639 people who were sued were between the ages of 15-17.
Turkey’s justice system, viewed in this light, is brought into question. One is also drawn to ask: “What are these same prosecutors – who sued children for ‘insulting the President’ – doing to the President’s opponents?” Of course, the answer to this is evident to anyone who closely follows politics in Turkey: “The prosecutors are destroying the opponents”.
There may be some who claim the opposite, but we can ask them to share their ‘convincing data’ to the public. Till then, Turkey is subjected to this shameful conduct.
There is a group of people who lay claim to acts that are the opposite of what they actually do. They are to be found widely engaged both in the political and media spheres. On 9 January, President Erdoğan made claims of this type during his speech at the Local Governments Symposium – held in the Presidential Palace – which were covered by all the TV channels. His assertions fitted into that category of people who lay claim to acts that are the opposite of what they actually do.
”They are trying to change the edges of our seas, our forest areas and they are trying to cover soils with concrete. This is money! What money is capable of doing! This is what capitalism is capable of! It cuts and throws, it can be subjected to vertical architectural designs.” Erdoğan says at the Symposium.
However, one should not forget that the palace was constructed with thousands of rooms with the symposium rooms, and it was all built over thousands of trees.
At the same time, when Erdoğan opened up a huge area which had trees in Taksim Gezi Park and he tried to pour concrete onto it, people gathered in Gezi Park to protect the trees, and expressed their peaceful and democratic opposition to it. However, the government illegally opened this area for construction and used police intervention against the protestors. Erdoğan then called the protesters who were trying to protect the trees “looters”. The outcry led to millions of people protesting in the streets. In the ensuing demonstrations, 91 people suffered from head injuries, 10 people suffered eye injuries, and eight people died statewide. Erdoğan’s emphasis remained: “This money, this money, what is this money capable of?”
In terms of exploitation, Turkey has realized that underground sources and whatever is above ground can be opened to tender and the operations of multinational corporations. The four sides of Turkey have been opened to mining operations and hundreds of thousands of trees have been destroyed in the process.
I just want to provide an example here. A natural wonder – Mount Ida (Kaz Mountains), described as Turkey’s lungs – was given over to a Canadian company (Alamos Gold firms) to exploit. With its local subcontractors, the East Biga gold mine project has devastated the ecosystem: it is as if a genocide of nature has taken place. According to environmental organizations, 300,000 trees were felled and this number would have increased even further had they – alongside democratic mass organizations – not acted to oppose further destruction.
Erdoğan’s lack of concern about the consequences to nature of capitalistic enterprises such as these are noteworthy. The faces of the capital and media groups that share the bounty of such destruction among themselves, hide behind the discourses of ‘religion, state and flag’. Their complicit actions also serve to manipulate the feelings of the masses with nationalist, chauvinistic and religious rhetoric, and this complicity has plagued people, nature and life. And the biggest protector of this complicity is of course the judiciary.
Whilst prosecutors, the courts and judges vigorously follow the instructions that are given to them by those in power, those seeking, hoping and waiting for justice fruitlessly spend their lives in front of the buildings of justice. This power has filled its prisons with its opponents. More than a hundred journalists are in prison. Human rights defenders are in prison. Elected mayors are in prison. Politicians are in prison. The members and representatives of Turkey’s third largest opposition party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), are in prison. When we include students, civil servants and women, the numbers reach the tens of thousands.
The legal system has been turned into a mincing machine that grinds the opposition down following instructions from those commanding the government. For eighteen years, they have been repeating the same lie through the compliant media that has voluntarily surrendered to power. There is no deviation from the strategy of accusing opponents of “lying”: the police continue to appear on people’s doors at midnight, making them crawl to the court gates with the absurd accusation that they have committed the crime of “insulting the President”.
After each striking and damaging statement by the President, the spokesperson of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Ömer Çelik, appears in front of the cameras and adjusts to the reactions by saying: “Actually, he didn’t mean it that way”. He recently made a statement to the effect that “calling our President a dictator” is a ”fifth column activity” which means the accused “are a spy”. It is very interesting that the head of communications took to the stage with the same discourses and predictable media discussions followed.
But use of the term “dictator” is nothing more than stating things correctly. It is clear to opponents that this term has only one meaning, and everyone knows what it is. What will be the reaction against those who use the term? Peoples homes will be raided again and they will be dealt with as ”fifth column activity”.
To sum up: Peoples lives, hopes and beliefs are being restrained and the restraints are becoming tighter and tighter. This is why the forces of democracy in Turkey are bloodied. Even being a ‘moderate’ opponent does not save anyone in a police state. Everyone living knows that their turn will come. In spite of all these obstacles, the resistance of those who fight for human dignity continues.
For those who aim to make Erdoğan immortal, sacred and untouchable in the eyes of the masses by trying to create an ideology of Erdoğanism, a great disappointment awaits at the door. You ask, why? Because the more you engage in violence, cherish injustice and use it to destroy your opponents, the more it will turn into a boomerang: it will surely find you. This is the irony of history.