Yavuz Baydar
Nov 30 2018

As Turkey’s civil society lies on its deathbed…

The words of Kurdish intellectual Ahmet Türk speaking to a youth group continue to echo in my mind.

“You know nothing about this state…”

He was referring to a nightmarish chain of events.

Let’s stick with recent history.

It has been 11 years since the murder of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in Istanbul, seven years since the Roboski massacre in which the Turkish Air Force bombed a group of 40 Kurdish villagers smuggling minor contraband from Iraq to Turkey, five years since the Gezi Park protests, during which nearly 2 million Turkish citizens took to the streets to protest the ruling party and were met with a violent crackdown, three years since a suicide bomb killed 109 people in Ankara died and the assassination of Kurdish lawyer Tahir Elçi, and two-and-a-half years since the imposition of the state of emergency following the July 2016 coup. 

There is no need to look very far, it is just a series of one injustice after another.

Let the words of the famous manifesto be a warning to us today:

There is a ghost on the loose in Turkey – the ghost of fascism.

The great and powerful state, as usual, is up to the business of “educating” the people, as it always has.

The Gezi Park protests were a civil uprising by a range of exasperated segments of the population fed up with the cruelty and lies they had experienced and opposed to the growing authoritarianism.

But the government managed to take those elements of society that had knit themselves together – the Islamists, the nationalists, the dogmatic leftists, and the authoritarian secularists –  and turn them against each other step by step using every social pressure point and taking advantage of the corrupted media landscape.

It was not an easy task, turning back this political phenomenon, but in the end they managed it.

Now those who supported the past social contract, along with those who accepted it as active or passive witnesses, have been declared enemies and are being made to pay and continue to pay.

Let’s not kid ourselves: A significant section of the Turkish population, whether conservative or secular, right-wing or left-wing, urban or rural does not understand the reforms encouraged by the European Union as part of the accession process. Or, if they do understand, they have not internalised them.

For this reason, the effort to create a new dynamic and strengthen civil society was inadequate. Women paid the highest price for this and are still paying the price as the most vulnerable section of the population.

With a tyrant and relentless bully like Erdoğan, whose strategy is clearly to remain in power at any price as long as he lives, those segments of society who support reform and democracy have been made to feel just how weak and isolated they have become.

The next turning point was the period between the two general elections of 2015, in June and November. 

This was when the government took advantage of the public’s negative feelings for the Kurdish political movement to divide the civil society and slowly begin its liquidation.

We all know the rest.

It is enough to see the current state of the media and the dates of the State of Emergency.

Here we are in November 2018 and I hope that there is no doubt left in anyone’s mind.

The government, along with the most vulgar and primitive elements it has gathered about itself, has angrily and vengefully gnawed away and sucked the marrow out of the human elements of our society that make it worthy of being called a society.

The best minds of not one but several generations have been deprived of the resources that gave our country all its value and meaning in the name of fascist totalitarianism and condemned to silence. Since 2013, Turkey has been experiencing a terrible drain of its human capital.

This is just the beginning of its complete desiccation.

On the other hand, there is the complete deprivation brought on by the state of emergency. The Saturday Mothers, who had protested the disappearances of their children every week in Istanbul since the 1990s were arrested. Pregnant women whose only 'crime' was having Gülenist husbands were locked up.

Educated academics, intellectuals, and doctors had their freedom taken away on the basis of ridiculous trumped up charges, people sentenced to horrible punishment for daring to speak up.

In the midst of the wreckage, there are still some who wrap themselves in hope.

If so, consider those who lived during the Third Reich who said that such dark times call not for empty and misguided optimism, and that while cynicism may distance us from reality, it paradoxically instils common sense in a way that allows problems to be solved.

Erdoğan and those around him are determined to do all they can to ensure the continuation of their regime. This is a time when any member of the opposition can be thrown in prison on trumped up charges and everyone must act like a zombie in order to avoid trouble.

For every such act of violence that we bear witness to, whichever segment of society it may be targeting, we are witnessing totalitarianism.

History has given us enough warning.

Fascism props itself up through a constant struggle against an internal enemy.

Erdoğan and his new coalition use ‘Soros the Hungarian Jew’ as a way of empowering themselves such that this decision will be applauded by on one side and silence the other.

What we are experiencing in Turkey, what we are being put through, is like a return to the dark ages. Each of the many vulnerable, peaceful, democratic, segments of society is being erased one by one, extinguished – and those that remain are being prepared like lambs to the slaughter.

In other words, this society, which has not yet properly learned democracy, had been seized by political barbarians and weakened to the point that no law nor order is left; we are all alone.

This is the worst scenario.

For those who wanted change and normalisation in Turkey, this is a historical tragedy.

For those who did not know, now you know.

For those who know, let this serve as a reminder.