Barbarity in NATO Turkey passing by without comment or condemnation
Where are the strong voices from Western capitals calling for restraint and moderation in Turkey? Where are the major literary figures and actors denouncing what look very like gross violations of the rule of law and due process, threatening free expression? Why isn’t opposing repression in Turkey a fashionable cause? It’s not that far away, and a lot of us know it quite well.
What is happening there is distressing and frightening, and not permissible in any nation considered to be part of the civilised world. How is it possible, so soon after a failed putsch (conducted, I might add, with amazing incompetence), for the authorities to possess and act on such long lists of suspects?
Whatever the Saturday coup was, fake or real or a mixture of the two, what we are seeing now is a genuine seizure of absolute power.
What protections do these suspects have? Where are the ‘Human Rights’ we are always making such a fuss about in other places whose governments we are not so scared of? People even talk as if it is true that ‘democracy’ and ‘the ‘rule of law’ have been *saved* in Turkey by the defeat of the putsch. Have they? Neither looks very healthy to me just now. How long before a snap election, its polling stations patrolled by chanting angry Islamist mobs, and its campaign reported on by a slavish pro-Erdogan media, gives Mr Erdogan the super-majority he needs to become Executive President, the post he has always longed for?
I am appalled when I see the TV scenes of alleged coup plotters being rounded up in Turkey. Cowering and obviously terrified, grown men , with their hands bound , forced to bow their heads, stripped of their clothes, are publicly humiliated and chased about by stone-faced goons. Many of them are helpless teenage conscript soldiers caught between two grindstones, utterly unaware of the forces which are crushing them, or of why they are now facing years of misery. None of these people has been tried or convicted of anything. It is a favourite method of oppressors to make their captives hurry pointlessly between long spells of misery confined in dungeons, when hurry is the last thing they need to do in the ghastly lives that now lie ahead of them, where there will be plenty of time, far too much time.
This treatment is to emphasise their powerlessness to them. Worse is to come. We are confidently assured that those now in prison will soon implicate many more, and somehow I do not doubt this. I am sure they will have their memories jogged by their interrogators. I think Turkey’s President Erdogan means what he says when he speaks of imposing the death penalty on his foes.
Readers here will know that I support the death penalty for murder after due process. But I am , perhaps because of this, utterly appalled by its use as a political weapon in a country where the phrase ‘independent judiciary’ is now a sick joke. But the ones who are not executed may come to envy the ones who have been, if I have the measure of Mr Erdogan’s ruthless, angry, militant heart.
Possibly not since the crushing of the Hungarian rising in 1956, with its tortures and betrayals and dreadful prisons, has real totalitarian repression come so close to civilised Europe. These things are happening in a NATO country, our supposed good friend and ally in the cause of freedom, until recently a candidate for EU membership, wooed by Western leaders a favourite holiday destination for many Europeans.
And yet these horrors (and this, I stress, is only what we are allowed and meant to see) go on as a sort of background noise, as Europe and the USA get on with their normal summers. Worse, there is a sort of acceptance, in much of the media and among many politicians, of the official version of events. I shall come to that.
I think we should be far more alarmed. And I think we should say more. I think we should have said more long ago, and I tried to ring the alarm bell in my own writing, protesting at the complacency of so much of the Western media and political establishment about Mr Erdogan (see the previous posting in which my despatches from Turkey in 2005 and 2010 are reproduced) . We might have given heart to the democratic and lawful opposition in Turkey which could have prevented his rise, and to Turkey’s once-free media, now flattened by state pressure into compliance and servile behaviour. But we called him ‘mildly Islamist’ and praised his economic policies and generally ignored his increasingly intolerant and repressive behaviour, and his obvious ambitions to become an autocrat. Instead we tipped bile over Russia’s Vladimir Putin, a more convenient target but not in the Erdogan league for intolerance.
Those who know a little European history might be tempted to think of two events – the Reichstag Fire in Berlin in 1933 and the murder of Sergei Kirov in Leningrad in 1934.
Both of these were classic pretexts for repression, in which a crisis (in one case a real one, in the other probably not) was put to very good use by autocrats determined to cement and strengthen their positions. The Reichstag Fire, it is now generally thought, was a genuine event, the work of a lone madman, seized on as a reason for the crushing of the remaining independent political forces in Germany. Kirov’s death was probably arranged by Joseph Stalin, who feared Kirov’s popularity in the USSR’s second city, and so got rid of a rival while using his death as the excuse for a terrible purge of all whom he feared or disliked.
We can only guess about the Turkish coup attempt. It is remarkably convenient for Mr Erdogan. As I wrote some years ago, Mr Erdogan more or less invented a previous plot against himself, the supposed ‘Ergenekon’ conspiracy, for which there was never any real evidence but which landed many of his enemies in prison.
But then again the remaining Kemalists in Turkey, guardians of the secular deep state, have used the military coup as a weapon in the past, and the main strongholds of Kemalists are still in the military. Secular Kemalists and Islamist Gulenists (who are very much involved in the round-up) have little in common save a distrust of Mr Erdogan, so collaboration between the two is questionable and would have been hard to achieve. Speculation is interesting but fruitless.
We shall probably never know, as Turkey lacks much in the way of a truly free press nowadays. But a coup which seizes the bridges over the Bosphorus, a sort of 19th-century action (they might as well have seized the post office, the telegraph bureau, and the railway stations) , but fails to get full control of airspace and airwaves, and the internet, is a very poorly-prepared seizure of power.
It is the dumbest coup since the drunken putsch against Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow in August 1991, for which I was present and which I have long suspected of not having been quite all it seemed to be (but whose culprits mostly escaped without serious penalties).
Yes, people died in the course of last weekend’s attempted Turkish takeover, and this is a terrible thing. But one needs to know far more about how they died and who gave the relevant orders before dragging thousands of people into prison cells in a frenzy of vengeance.
‘Due Process’ isn’t a catchy slogan. But it is a fine and important thing, and we all ought to be calling for it, as well as warning against dangerous concentrations of unseparated powers in one pair of hands.
Source: Daily Mail