Turkish opposition: Time to appeal to the streets

The situation in Turkey these days is reminiscent of the story of the frog in the slowly warming pot of water. When the water reaches the boiling point, the country will head into a new phase; we’re perilously close to the boiling point now.

What’s that about the law?

Rhetoric coming out of Ankara these days — from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his favored Justice and Development Party (AKP) circles — is polarizing society, and ramping up the temperature of the water. What’s more, since Erdogan thinks the victory at the ballot box on Nov. 1 signaled an approval of the polarization efforts, he’s now carrying on with this policy. We have seen this clearly since election day.

Nowadays, though, it is not just the Gulen movement that lies squarely in President Erdogan’s sights, but the entire opposition. This includes not just opposition media, but also any “white Turks” in state institutions and departments.

In the meantime, Erdogan’s pet project, the penal courts of peace — whose workings are like those of the republican era Independence Tribunals — are the entities allowing moves like the takeover of Bank Asya, Koza İpek Holding and Kaynak Holding.

We’ve never seen justice trampled to this extent before in this country, not even during coup eras.

The process that has brought Erdogan and the AKP leadership to this point began with the Gezi uprising and continued with the Dec. 17 and 25 investigations. And in order to escape the law, the AKP’s highest levels connected the justice system directly to the executive branch, in other words, to Erdogan.

Everything we’re experiencing now in Turkey is a result of all this illegality. And thus the water is now almost at 100 degrees Celsius.

What sort of opposition?

The critical questions now are:

– Does the opposition see this reality?

– Assuming it does, is it conducting the right sort of opposition?

If we examine the opposition as one large bloc — setting aside the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) — we can say that they are, in fact, aware of this reality.

So the real problem is that the Turkish opposition, while aware of the realities we are facing, is not carrying out the right kind of opposition.

Let me explain.

For example, how exactly did the opposition react when Koza İpek was taken over, or when those TV channels went dark?

All we saw was a handful of deputies protest, with assertions that these doings were anathema to the 30th article of the Constitution. Which basically means there were some public statements that identified the situation, and then labeled it as illegal. Does this have any political meaning, though?

No, and precisely because these acts do violate the Constitution. What’s more, these acts have been purposeful moves on the part of the AKP. Think of the state-appointed trustee installed to head Kaynak Holding, with a salary of TL 105,000 a month!

And here is where the Turkish opposition faces its own particular dead-end — it seems to believe that typical salon politics are going to elicit results here.

What the Turkish opposition needs now — in the face of the level of normalization this leadership has brought to injustice and illegalities — is to develop more creative political tools, rhetoric and kinds of protests.

It needs to explore — within the framework of democracy and the legitimate paths — what sorts of protests could help defend rights and freedoms. It needs to consider straying outside the law, though the protests must not include violence; it needs to involve the public in protests that will awaken awareness both inside and outside of Turkey.

Voices protesting the illegal appointment of state trustees to the helm of various media groups must not be limited to four or five deputies but must include some 70-80 deputies, thus reflecting the power of representation at its most effective.

Companies taken over by the state, but which carry on under the guise of private sector holdings, should be protested in an organized manner: Subscriptions could be cancelled, people could refuse to purchase products.

Cancellation of subscriptions to digital platforms and telephone services could be one massive and effective way of voicing protests.

We missed the chance for these kinds of protests with the illegal moves already made by the government, but there will doubtless be more coming, which will give us new opportunities to protests with more organization.

I realize that this is a call to move politics from indoors out onto the streets. Because the water is approaching 100 degrees now, and when it does, it will be too late for us all.


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