Thursday, January 22, 2009

Turkey's Inner Turmoil

More arrests in Turkey coup probe
Turkish police outside the Ankara office of the private ART television station on 22/1/09
The private ART television station was also being searched, the AFP reports

Up to 30 people have been arrested across Turkey in connection with an ongoing investigation into an alleged plot to topple the government.

Those detained include a union leader as well as a number of army officers and special force police officers.

Eighty-six people have been on trial since October, accused of an ultra-nationalist plot to stoke unrest and provoke the army to launch a coup.

Critics say the ruling AK party is simply arresting its secular opponents.

Around 30 people were detained in a separate wave of arrests earlier this month. [Read More]

Is it a coup plot, led by members of an elite police counterterrorism unit? Or is it an Islamic government repression of the opposition Turk Metal trade union? Was this special operations unit responsible for brutal murder of Kurds, or was it legitimately protecting Turkish law? Was it responsible for the false flag attacks on the Turkish court and newspaper, or is this a setup?

Turkey’s arrests today read like a fictional thriller. Yet this is quite a real crisis.

The weight of evidence, were it printed out, seems rather solid. There are 2,455 pages to the report. Which means that even legal scholars and human rights experts will need weeks or months to pore through the evidence presented in the indictment alone.

It is also possible that there is a general sweep occurring. A rounding up of the usual suspects, a la Casablanca. Opponents of the government contend that the state is rounding up people on the pretense of fighting corruption and crime. Others believe this is just serious business, and just the tip of the iceberg. If they try to round up too many suspects, there may be a backlash from the politically powerful armed forces. According to Ümit Kardaş, a retired military judge, speaking about the Ergenekon investigations in Today’s Zaman on 9 January 2009:
“I do not believe that Ergenekon marks the start of a general cleanup operation within the TSK (Turkish Armed Forces) because the TSK will resist such a move. It is not that easy to change the TSK. But behind the Ergenekon operations may be a consensus with the US to bring the TSK in line with NATO standards, under which interventions into politics through military coups are unacceptable,” Kardaş said.
Turkey, a nation of 74 million persons, has a patchy story around freedoms. According to Freedom House, it has a Political Rights score of 3, and Civil Liberties score of 3 (out of a scale of 1 = best, 8 = worst).

The Armenian community of roughly 75,000 persons, and some of the other 70,000 other Christians in Turkey might contend, due to Article 301, the 2007 assassination of Hrant Dink, and assassinations of Christian priests and community leaders in recent years, that a rating of 3 across the board may be on the high side. Likewise, the Kurdish minority of 12 million, though it now has a state-run Kurdish-language television station, has its own reasons to be leery of ultranationalist Turks.

Turkey is facing choices as to what sort of nation it wishes to be for the 21st Century. Kardas lays forth the issues surrounding Turkish repression and justice in an article from 14 January 2009 in Today’s Zaman:
“The Ergenekon process must have the foresight to expose the mentality of those who lust after power and who do not regard there being an ethical problem with transitions of power which are based on violence and deception, but it must do this by staying within the limits of law and ethics.”
— Ümit Kardas
It is quite possible Turkey is slowly building towards another coup d’état. After the left-wing coup of 1960, the right-wing coup of 1971, the Kemalist coup of 1980, and the bloodless “postmodern coup” of 1997, a modern decade seemingly cannot go by without the Turkish military forcing the handover of civilian control.

The question seems not to be whether the military will take a hand in the de facto alteration of the civilian government of Turkey, and in the repression of the state’s minorities and opponents, and more as to how heavy-handed their tactics will be.

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