“Since you don’t wear a women’s outfit you should not use women’s shampoo! Now you have a 100 percent men’s shampoo. If you are a man, you use Biomen!” says Hitler in a dubbed advertisement on Turkish TV channels. The shampoo ad explains a lot about the forced transformation or preparation of a country for a war.
On 22 July 2007, after winning a second term in government, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was on the balcony of his party’s central offices, calling the cheering crowd to “raise the flags.” “Now we shall say ‘One nation, one country, one flag, one State!’”
Mainstream media was not even concerned with the similarity of his wording to “Ein Staat, ein Volk, ein Führer!” They were also not concerned that he said “Those who did not vote for the AKP are the other colors of the country.”
My column in the daily newspaper <i>Milliyet</i> then argued that the PM, in his victory speech, had defined the population that didn’t vote for the AKP as “the garniture of Turkey.” Like the other critics of the government, I was attacked for being against the AKP and therefore against democracy per se.
An equally evil thing in the eyes of the AKP supporters was to criticize the lawlessness of “Ergenekon operations” that began after the AKP won in the elections.
Ergenekon is a clandestine, Kemalist, ultra-nationalist organization in Turkey with alleged ties to members of the country’s military and security forces. When writers, journalists, and retired generals were prosecuted for being involved with Ergenekon, most of Turkey was silent due to the general belief that the secret organization was plotting against a democratically elected authority.
Then came the local elections on 29 March 2009. The AKP’s victory was not as decisive. This time in south-eastern Turkey, where the population is predominantly Kurdish, people didn’t vote for the AKP in numbers that satisfied the party. Just after the AKP’s embarrassing defeat in Kurdish towns, Turkey introduced a series of “KCK operations.”
In this new massive judiciary campaign the AKP’s and therefore democracy’s enemy was not the “Kemalist elite,” but the “Kurdish terrorists.” KCK was allegedly the political and urban wing of the Kurdish armed movement PKK, and Turkey had to be cleansed of every kind of anti-democratic threat, according to the government.
Waves of prosecutions continued simultaneously for Ergenekon and the KCK. The number of detainees held under the Anti-Terror Law skyrocketed. Reports of Human Rights organizations indicated that the rise in detentions was over 100 percent compared to the previous year.
Then came 12 September 2010, the date of the referendum for a partial change in the constitution. Spiced with some improvement in women’s and children’s rights, the AKP’s main target was the composition of the two crucial judiciary institutions, namely the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors. These two bodies had been “obstacles” for the government to operate without being tied down by the law during its first two terms in power. To beat the political opponents who were concerned with the breach of the division of powers, the government’s propaganda machine was pushing: “Those who don’t vote ‘yes’ to the constitutional amendments want the junta constitution (as the prevailing constitution was designed and accepted after the coup d’état of 1980).”
As expected, the victory of the AKP in the referendum changed the composition of the higher bodies of judiciary in favor of the government. The government gained the capacity to act without the boundaries of an independent judicial system of checks and balances. Erdoğan once more visited the balcony of victory to declare: “Our nation has said ‘yes.’ From now on, we go forward.” So did he.
On 12 June 2011, after winning his third term with a landslide victory, the prime minister’s balcony speech was sanctified as “humbly pledging for consensus for a new constitution” by the national and international mainstream media. The PM Erdoğan said: “No one should have any doubt, whether you voted for us or not, all of your beliefs and values and lifestyles are our pride.”
At the time many seemed to disregard the fact that a “balcony speech” was not an institution of democracy, and “pride” was not a guarantee for freedom of speech in democracies.
Underneath his exaggerated “humbleness” the subtext of his words was more than clear. The AKP supporters were the majority in the country and rest of the political spectrum was the minority. Thus, building a consensus with those opposing views, or neglecting them altogether was subject to the prime minister’s mercy.
After all, the AKP was in power to abolish the 1980 relic coup d’état constitution and to bring “advanced democracy” to Turkey. Despite the political arrests, apparently the majority of the country was still buying the “AKP is equal to democracy” rhetoric. Over 600 students, over 100 journalists, and more than 6000 Kurdish political activists were in prison, all labeled as terrorists.
The bias of the judiciary with its special courts, anti-terror laws, and prolonged detentions was obvious. After five years of Ergenekon detentions, there was not a single verdict. The KCK case was equally unproductive, except for the massive terror it created not only for Kurdish citizens but also among Turkish dissidents. The transcriptions of tapped phone conversations, or wide area monitoring records as they were appropriately dubbed, were quoted in indictments. Personal conversations of the accused were frequently leaked to the partisan media to make sure that the entire society is aware that “Big Brother” was getting even bigger everyday.
On 31 October 2011, the detentions of Professor Büşra Ersanlı and publisher Ragıp Zarakolu had been an indicator of the reach of Turkish political authority. Respected Professor Ersanlı was accused of giving lectures in The Academy of Politics for the BDP, a pro-Kurdish Party. Internationally renowned Zarakolu, who published books mainly on Armenian and Kurdish issues, was accused of being a member of KCK.
The government started receiving international criticism due to the rising numbers of jailed journalists, unionists, and politicians. International and independent human rights institutions, the European Union, and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put the issue on the table. So the government had to compromise, just a little though. A tiny bit to create a cinematographic scene of freedom and democracy.
On March 18 when two symbolic figures of the 106 journalists in jail, Ahmet Şık and Nedim Sener were released from prison, thousands in front of their TV screens were caught in between happiness and humiliation. Although they were accused of being members of the alleged terrorist organization Ergenekon, the two spent one year in prison for no reason at all except that they wrote books that explored the partisanship between the police force and intelligence service.
Thanks to a handful of courageous colleagues following Şık and Şener’s case, the people of Turkey were finally convinced that at least some of the thousands of detainees under the Ergenekon and KCK cases were kept in prison without solid evidence. While their indictment was read in the courtroom and tweeted by the colleagues and lawyers, many learned that people can be prosecuted without a single accurate accusation being brought against them.
One of those university students in jail was Cihan Kırmızıgül, also known as “the keffiyeh kid.” Two years ago he happened to be in a wrong place with a wrong outfit, a keffiyeh. Ignoring the testimony of the single eye witness on the scene, the police insisted that the Galatasaray University Kurdish student was a member of terrorist organization that placed the bomb that was found in the vicinity. Kırmızıgül spent two years in jail.
During his 8th hearing on March 23, people waiting for the court’s decision were once again caught in between rage and happiness when the rare miracle of justice happened. The court released Kırmızıgül pending trial. Kırmızıgül made a public statement similar to Şık’s: “Now it is my turn to struggle for those who are still kept in prison for no reason.”
Şık, Şener, Büşra Ersanlı, Zarakolu, Kırmızıgül are only a few names that are known by the public. Their cases have been and still are followed by relatively large audiences. That is why it was a good choice for the political authority to release them. It helped them to release some of the accumulating rage in the people at large. An efficient move in a dirty game of power where millions of people are extremely silent about the oppression of the government not only on intellectuals but also on all walks of life.
In the midst of these mass prosecutions and rare releases, the PM Erdoğan has found time to reveal their politics for “creating a new religious generation.” As he made through his statements, his perception was that if a child is not religious he is automatically a street thug or a drug addict. But it seems he has a rather specific taste even among the religious youth. He likes obedient ones which he also made sure through his other public statements. He finally heralds that “the biomen” is born through the above mentioned process:
“I want a youth that holds onto its religion! A youth that holds onto its grudge!”
After this statement, the big crowd in the AKP’s youth branch annual meeting starts chanting praises for their strong, unbeatable, and indisputable leader. Not only them but also half of the country believes that he is the best choice to run the country. There are no workers’ unions making a fuss, no intellectuals criticizing the authority, no NGO’s questioning the rising authoritarianism, no academics speaking of their concerns, and finally no politicians proposing a political alternative. And if someone proves the shortcomings of the prevalent “democracy,” the supporters of the leader go and hide behind the following line: “If only Tayyip Bey knew!”
Just like the 3rd Reich’s most popular line: “If only the Führer knew!”
The emphasis here is not the similarity of PM Erdoğan to Hitler but rather the similarity of Turkish society to the German masses under Hitler. Whenever there is something wrong, PM Erdoğan “gives his own word” to fix it. As long as there are balconies to give public speeches and the unshakable faith in his rhetoric, Turkish democracy is safe. As long as the “biomen” that have been produced by this government are the majority, anything goes.
The numbness, one can say, is the most incurable illness in a society. The Uludere massacre happened on the Iraqi border and 35 Kurdish people died, most of them children aged between 12 and 17. Hush! The Sivas Massacre that burned 35 people alive in 1993 was a victim of statute of limitations and the perpetrators went unpunished! Hushh! All pro-bono lawyers of the Sivas massacre perpetrators had their positions in the AKP organization! Hush! Anyone who speaks against the government is under the threat of imprisonment! They raped Kurdish kids in Pozantı juvenile prison and they sent them to another prison where they are being tortured now! Hushhh! Wikileaks and Stratfor documents say that the PM has secret accounts in Switzerland! Hushh! The government created its own media and silenced the rest of the journalists! All your phones are tapped! Hushh! The symbol of evil for the whole 20th century is used as an advertisement star for a shampoo! Isn’t that outrageous! Hushh!
The intellectuals of those countries that have experienced war would probably agree that the year preceding a war is worse than the war itself. The numbness, the manufactured hatred, the aversion towards criticism, the constructed state of chaos, the vanishing feeling of mercy, prevailing ignorance, the schizophrenic discourse of the authority, and the orchestrated brutality towards the outcast are all prevalent.
Recently, when PM Minister Erdoğan met US President Barack Obama in South Korea, he implied that Turkey is ready for intervention in Syria. Even though not a single country is wetting their hands for this dirty job yet, it looks like Turkey is getting ready for the unspeakable. Since the manufacture of the necessary biomen is completed and those who refused to take part in the process are in prisons, Turkey is ready to go. The bioman is not necessarily manufactured for this action per se but having a country full of biomen helps when there is a war coming.
In 2001 when the Iraq invasion was on the table, AKP worked very hard to pass a decision in the parliament to join the invasion. Then, it was impossible due to the fact that the anti-war coalition was strong in Turkey. But now? As AKP makes a dramatic change in its diplomatic discourse of “the peaceful New Ottomans of the region” and “zero-problem-with-neighbours” to “conquering force in the region” only a few courageous people have spoke out against this very dangerous development.
Today, the “Friends of Syria” meeting will be held in Istanbul. We shall find in the biomen newspapers tomorrow what our leader decided to do on the subject.
Until then hushhh!
This article is published in Al Akhbar English on April 1st, 2012