Ayşen Candaş
Jan 01 2018

Decree 696 against citizenship and 'asymmetrical civil war'

The channels for democratic opposition have for a long time been closed in Turkey, and its legislative function has been shut down since the beginning of the state of emergency in August 2016. Yet the state of emergency decree number 696, without saying so directly, in effect completely removes the state’s protection from citizens who are dissatisfied with the present state of affairs: it effectively removes their citizenship!

The new decree, in deed if not word, removes citizenship from those unhappy with the Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s “building period” as proclaimed by Aziz Babuscu in 2011, and also spells the end for the basic rights regime in Turkey. It has reformed the provision of the security of life, which is the source of legitimacy not only for democracies but for any understanding of the state, in such a way that it is no longer guaranteed for those who, for whatever reason, are unhappy with the AKP’s policies.

The same decree, again without openly declaring it, carries the implication of a ‘war regime’. This regime is creating a group of ‘true citizens’ that will meet the opposing segment with guns, knives, and all manner of weapons.  Furthermore, this group will not recognise the right to life of its opponents, who until just yesterday were on an equal footing as citizens, and will not be held legally responsible for the damage they do to their victims.

In short, one group is having its citizenship revoked, while another ‘civilian’ paramilitary group has been assembled by the same decree as superior citizens, or civilian officials who are above the law. Their identity has not been made clear, so the decree means that these official and volunteer “civilian paramilitary” fighters will be able to kill whoever they themselves define as “internal enemies” in their “struggle” and there will be no way to hold them legally to account.

This open-ended clause recognises the possibility that paramilitary groups with organic ties to the AKP may kill whoever they dislike, or intend harm against their lives, properties and liberty, and ensures that these groups will not be punished for their ‘service’.

This decree was not passed at the time of a rebellion, nor was it brought out in response to calls to try the groups who lynched military cadets who were deployed in the 2016 coup attempt. In fact, it has been passed with an eye on the future, but looking at the reference drawn to the coup attempt, it has been envisaged to also prominently cover the lynches. This in political theory is called a ‘state of war’, in reference to civil war.

Continuing from Thomas Hobbles’ Leviathan, the entity which creates a state of war is always the [political] State which has exceeded its legitimacy, and the state of war is created by targeting the people’s natural right to life, property and liberty, and arbitrarily removing these rights from the public in whole or in part.

In Turkey right now, one group has seen its natural rights as human beings dismissed, and is now left at the mercy of paramilitary groups.

The comparison to a civil war is, in theory, valid, but Turkey under its current conditions has gone beyond even something as utterly horrific as a civil war.

To speak of a civil war, we need to have two sides which are more or less balanced in terms of power and armaments.

But in Turkey in 2017, the AKP has monopolised all social, economic, military and political power, as well as weaponry. In such circumstances, it would only be possible to envisage a one-sided massacre, which to the greatest degree will be inflicted on unarmed and defenceless people...  

The Republican People's Party (CHP) and Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) ought to withdraw from parliament, and to invite every local and foreign press association they can to announce their reasons to the widest possible audience.

Of course, for the opposition, what should be done, and what actually is done, are two very separate things, and have been for far too long.

The CHP has been doing the opposite of what they should [as an opposition party], perhaps that is why they have been able to keep a show of “parliamentary politics” going, even though parliament’s influence actually ended in mid-2013?

The CHP, in order to avoid being closed down completely, has carried on in much the same way as the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), without taking any action to “rouse” the public, and may have long since surrendered [to the AKP regime]. In that case, it would be enough for those MPs who have not given up to join forces with the HDP MPs who are not imprisoned.

What will come of this? The opposition, through its public representatives, has informed the world that Turkey’s rule of law has been abolished, and of the loss of Parliament and the courts. This might cause the AKP state to hesitate, as it is attempting to give the impression that it has the country in order, even if it is not democratic.

Or…

The presidential decree number 696 may cause the scenario that the AKP has envisioned to be realised. At the moment it is difficult to determine which of these will play out.

The parliament should withdraw, but continue to gather outside, to strive for solidarity and to rebuild the law.