June 15, 1215 Magna Carta

June 15 marked the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. It is the first known contract outlining the rules for the limiting and sharing of power. It talks of a state of humanity that we have still been unable to achieve in Turkey or in other countries.
In Runnymede, located between London and what is now known as Windsor Castle, the 25 most powerful barons of British royalty, together with allies from France and Scotland, presented King John with a document concerning their rights. Following the customary practice of the time, the king gave his seal of approval to the so-called and”Magna Carta Libertatumand” or and”Great Charter of Liberties.and” Within a few weeks, 13 copies of the Runnymede document were prepared and distributed throughout the kingdom. But the king was quite displeased with the document, which took baronsand’ rights under guarantee and also brought about restrictions to arbitrary rulings by royalty. So the king turned to the pope for aice, telling him he had been under duress when he issued his seal of approval for the Magna Carta. The kingand’s envoys returned to England in September with the news that the pope had declared the Magna Carta null and void. Of course, this was not a surprising decision from the pope, who enjoyed an even more powerful authoritarian rule and office than the British king. So the Magna Carta had an active life span of just 90 days. However, this bit of cleverness on the part of King John did not wind up auguring well for him or his country. After King John died of dysentery, the throne was taken over by his son, Henry III, and under his reign the Magna Carta was republished at least three times and reconfirmed by the royal family at least 30 times. In the end, the 63 clauses of the Magna Carta were not the same as those first presented to King John in June 1215. But still, once the document was out and becoming better known, it meant that England at least, had finally encountered the principle of power sharing and restricting the arbitrary use of power. The rotten parliamentary system that we hear about from President Recep Tayyip Erdoganand’s groupies today is enshrined in that very document. And in fact, one-fourth of humans today live under the principles outlined by the Magna Carta. In fact, the roots and sprouts of all the concepts and practices that structure our lives — from constitutions to equality, from individual rights to fair trials, from the idea of habeas corpus to human rights — go back to the Magna Carta. Just take, for example, its famous Clause 39: and”No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.and” The Magna Carta of our lands is the and”Sened-i ittifakand” (Charter of Alliance). It was signed 600 years after the Magna Carta in 1808 when the imperial power was in difficulty and had to accept some sort of local autonomy for powerful feudal lords. And as important as the Magna Carta was, it was also belittled and rejected by the Sublime Porte (the central government of the Ottoman Empire). In many ways, the charter was the first official document to bring limitations to power in the imperial palace. And though the charter was signed and sealed under the reign of Sultan Mahmud II, it was never implemented. In fact, some say its original is lost. The moment Sultan Mahmud II took control of the reigns he moved to place power squarely back in the center of the imperial palace, carrying out a series of Western-oriented reforms to strengthen the imperial court and getting rid of notables and aristocratic authorities with whom he had to seal the charter. And when he and his successors couldnand’t hold the power base, they gave up land but never shared their power within the same territory. Today is no different. We see the powerful of Turkey also quite unwilling to consider sharing their power, whether in forming a new government, moving ahead on peace building with Kurds or on guaranteeing equal rights. Eight hundred years on and still caught by the outdated illusion of total power!

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman