AKP and ErdoIan in purgatory

AKP and ErdoIan in purgatoryIs Turkey a democratic country? Did our days with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) over the last 12 years add more experience to the aentures of Turkish democracy? As president of the Ankara-based Human Rights Agenda Association, I am asked these questions whenever I speak to people who are trying to understand Turkey and its human-rights situation. Last week, I was at SRH University Heidelberg in Germany to give a lecture on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Turkey’s position on the court. I received those questions again.If you had asked me these questions during 2004 or 2005, my answer would be completely positive. Most human-rights defenders, including myself, were in shock at the time. We simply couldn’t believe this was happening in Turkey. We were receiving a two-inch-thick Official Gazette nearly every day. Turkey had a new Civil Code, Turkish Penal Code (TCK), Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK), Code of Obligations, Commercial Code, etc. There were new regulations in laws governing meetings and public gatherings, freedom of expression, religious rights and liberties, abolishment of the death penalty and so on. It was like a paradise of free thought and most of us were very happy and hopeful.My answer to this question in Heidelberg, however, was quite different from this picture. What has changed in the last few years? During the May Day march in Adana, I thought about all these situations while I was hearing slogans regarding the AKP’s dictatorship. Can these two sources of policy be the same political party? It is unbelievable that the political movement that defended all rights and liberties 10 years ago has become a very arrogant, harsh and brash political group, frequently criticized for becoming more closed, hard and disrespectful of basic human rights. More than 270 people, including three lawyers, were taken into custody in Istanbul just because they wanted to exercise their constitutional right to demonstrate. More than 200 people were injured all across Turkey, again because of the excessive use of police force.In my opinion, the post-Gezi era has turned Recep Tayyip ErdoIan into a scared politician who fears losing all his and his family’s privileges and immunities. Now, he wants to become president. Is it really so hard for him to focus more on EU accession efforts, carry out the democratization process and bring about a return to a reformist atmosphere? We are not as optimistic as we were 10 years ago neither is Freedom House, which declared in its 2014 report that Turkey’s press was “Not Free” after previously being classified as “Partly Free.” Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are continuing their campaigns for more respect for basic rights and liberties in Turkey. The Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TIHV), the Human Rights Association (IHD) and the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUM-DER) issued releases this week, criticizing the government for its censorship policies, though we have seen that nothing bad happens when they let people enjoy their rights, as was the case on May Day 2012 in the famous Taksim Square.We will see whether ErdoIan will be Putinized or if he will return to his protestreformist roots. Putinization looks like a bigger possibility if President Abdullah Gul accepts becoming the prime minister after the 2015 elections. All these possibilities can harm Turkey’s democratization process if the party continues conducting its policies in the way we have seen in the last four years. What needs to be done is simple and difficult at the same time, and this is the AKP and ErdoIan’s purgatory. As Dante said in “The Divine Comedy” to one of his deceased friends, Belacqua, “From this time on, Belacqua, I need not grieve for you.”

SOURCE: Todays Zaman

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