Ertuğrul Günay
Dec 02 2017

Reversing after a wrong turn

Turkey is experiencing one of the most difficult periods in its recent history.

The events that created crisis inside and outside the country originated almost entirely from the government’s shortsighted and stubborn attitude, in particular after 2011.

After high expectations and much idle rhetoric, Turkey is now trying desperately to extract itself from the Syrian vortex it entered in 2012.

Backing the rebel side in the Syrian civil war, Turkey’s allies were the United States, some European countries, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Russia and Iran openly and actively took sides with the Syrian government.

After so much suffering, death, slaughter and destruction, we now find ourselves on the opposite side to the United States, and trying to get rid of this jungle by cooperating with Russia and Iran.

The Saudis are always with the United States and Qatar is preoccupied with its own troubles.

When we became involved in this dirty war, we flattered ourselves an administration would emerge in Syria closer to us. It was the Turkish government’s promise and hope.

Apart from the fact that no such government can be seen on the horizon, new cruel organisations have emerged from the destruction of Syria and the whole world is trying to get rid of them.

It seems though that we will not have much of a say even in the new order to be established in Syria.

There is a saying in Turkish about making a costly mistake - “Take the wrong turn and come back via Baghdad”. This time it is not Baghdad, but Damascus.

A picture taken on December 24, 2013 shows Turkey's then ministers Zafer Caglayan (R), Erdogan Bayraktar (2nd-R), Muammer Guler (2nd-L) and Egemen Bagis (L) at the Esenboga Airport in Ankara. Four former Turkish cabinet ministers will hear on December 22, 2014 whether they will stand trial on accusations of corruption after losing their jobs in a spectacular graft scandal last year that rocked the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. AFP PHOTO/ADEM ALTAN
File: Turkey's former ministers Egemen Bağış, Muammer Güler, Erdoğan Bayraktar and Zafer Çağlayan at the Esenboğa Airport in Ankara on December 24, 2013. They lost their jobs in a spectacular graft scandal that rocked Turkey. AFP/ADEM ALTAN

It is not only foreign policy that has troubled Turkey in recent years. There have been issues of corruption and security, but lessons have not been learned.

Facing a series of corruption allegations at the end of 2013, after 10 years in power the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) should have taken responsibility, but it did the exact opposite.

It described the claims as false and rejected them altogether without an investigation, and it succeeded.

A public perception was built up - with the help of the short-sighted opposition - that those accused of being corrupt were the victims and those who attempted to investigate the claims were suspects and culprits.

But, the truth has an important habit of coming out in the end.

In the U.S. trial of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, deputy manager of state bank Halkbank, his lawyers said his boss Süleyman Aslan had “shamelessly and repeatedly received bribes” from Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab.

We do not know what else is going emerge from the trial, but it is likely the allegations covered up in Turkey four years ago will return more intensely and comprehensively and will further ruin Turkey’s international reputation.

But the Turkish administration is now still making the same mistake it made four years ago over bank records of foreign currency transferred to accounts in the Isle of Man, exposed by the main opposition leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

If his accusation of wrongdoing is unfounded, then Kılıçdaroğlu is guilty of slander and those he has accused should seek legal redress.

The judiciary should investigate whether the bank records are real and reveal the truth.

Otherwise, if these allegations are again passed off as fiction, intrigue and conspiracy, question marks will always remain in the mind of the public. And considering the U.S. court case, these issues will always hang like a sword over the heads of those in power.

In our age, democracy is not just about going to the polls every few years and voting.

Transparency and accountability in public administration also are one of the “sine qua non” rules of democracies, and perhaps the first.

The AKP government should give up attempting to brand every criticism and accusation as a “scheme of external powers”, abide by the rule of law and be accountable for its actions.

In today’s world, political power that ignores the law and tries to rule by oppression is difficult to sustain and of no benefit to the country.