Now it is time to deal with second problem

Our failure to make our republican regime a democracy is the root cause of a number of problems we are experiencing today, including the exclusion of certain religious people, the discrimination against the Alevis, the Kurdish issue and the non-Muslim communities’ problems.

A huge part of our recent past is relevant to the struggle of those who do not fall into the accepted definition of the favorable citizen by the official ideology staged to ensure the recognition of their fundamental rights. Some problems we are unable to resolve now were caused by our initial preferences. A book by Taha Akyol, titled “Ataturk’s martial law,” deals with the root cause of the problems.

Of course, the particular environment of any era should be considered when evaluating the past but we also need to think seriously about ways to overcome some chronic issues. For instance, the issue of poor justice has always been a problem. The opposition back then wanted a strong Parliament but Ataturk favored a strong government that would also control the judiciary. The Ankara School of Law was established for this purpose and the judicial system was based on this approach.

Akyol draws this conclusions based on historical documents: that Ataturk rejected the idea of judicial independence. The developments in that period confirm this. The regime created a system of unity of the powers where the executive power held priority. After the war, Ataturk also appointed the deputies because he thought he represented the nation and that all other options would be harmful. For this reason, he wanted to have full control over legislation, executive and political matters. A martial law court sentenced a Sivas deputy to 10 years in prison in the case of an attempted assassination in Izmir. He objected to the ruling but eventually paid the price of his objection by being executed.

Given that this is the approach vis-agrave-vis the judiciary, the same also applies to the media. Take a look at what Akyol told Neie Tuzel on this matter: “Ataturk created his own media. He made statements suggesting that the republican regime should create its own media. The media was silenced in this country after the prosecutions in 1925 and 1926. Some secular figures including Huseyin Cahit and A. Emin Yalman were blamed for undermining the authority of the government. They were even accused of encouraging Sheik Said. As a result, they were tried in a martial court.”

Even though some change took place after the 1950s, this process of normalization has been frequently interrupted. This approach has always been preserved. Elected figures met with suspicion and in the old Turkey, even the strongest administrations had to consider restrictions to their actions.

In terms of democratization, the most important issue in the past was to deal with the military, judiciary and bureaucratic guardianship and to expand the sphere of civilian politics. A broad coalition of democracy that included liberals, religious people, seculars, nationalists and social democrats supported the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) reforms to achieve this goal and eventually this problem was resolved. The popular support for this coalition peaked with the Sep. 12 referendum. The Hizmet movement was also one of the supporters of this process. The EU process has played a remarkable role and served as guidance in this normalization process.

The initial goal was fulfilled given that there is no longer pressure over the elected figures. The political administration is now strong. However, since 2011, the government has not paid attention to democracy. Gezi protests and the Dec. 17-25 corruption investigations proved that the government was no longer eager to pursue a democratic agenda. A pro-government judiciary and media were created. The fight against guardianship was renamed the fight against a “conspiracy.” A number of journalists, including Hasan Cemal, Mehmet Baransu, Sedef Kabai and Hidayet Karaca, were oppressed. A huge number of public officers were removed from the state. Judges were placed under arrest because of their rulings. The government relied on the National Security Council and other mechanisms that were previously used by coup-makers. Critics were accused of treason. Turkey identified every critical country as the enemy. And finally, the government also abandoned the settlement process, the last sign of democracy. It was like the revival of the old regime.

The problem in the past was always how to deal with guardianship. Now the problem is to make sure that the public uses this power for further democracy and rule of law. Even though the current state of affairs is somehow unfortunate, it is good to pass the first stage. It is now time for all of us to resolve the second problem and offer solutions. Those who solved the first will also solve the second as well.