As their hostage, I cannot criticize this government

My colleague, the other expert, gave a fairly balanced briefing on human rights questions that we have been going through recently. I, however, found myself only talking about the Ergenekon case. I had a good excuse for that. Since my colleague covered quite a large area on the subject, I could focus on the Ergenekon case. However, at the end of the meeting it suddenly dawned on me that I was in the kind of mood where I was refraining from criticizing the current government, which obviously should be held accountable for the shortcomings of its human rights records, for dragging its feet and refraining from making further reforms for democratization and so on.

I made a confession at the end. I said to the diplomats that I feel I am a hostage of the current government, which is the only power backing the Ergenekon case. If the opposition, whose leader declared himself to be the advocate of Ergenekon, comes to power, then the Ergenekon gang will be resurrected and start to do its job as usual. And their usual job is assassinations and mass provocations through which they manipulate society and the political agenda in Turkey. Not only me, but also many other intellectuals were threatened by Ergenekon before. Some became victims of hate-mongering campaigns during the trials against them. Some were targeted because of their stance against illegal activities within the state structure. Many people were condemned to live with bodyguards. We could not have had a “we apologize campaign” (an initiative started by intellectuals and followed by more than 30,000 people who signed a declaration apologizing to Turkish Armenians who lost their lives and were forced to leave the country during the “Great Catastrophe” in 1915) if the Ergenekon investigation had not been started. I can guarantee that a couple of intellectuals who took active roles in this campaign would have been killed by Ergenekon.

They may not be declaring this, but I believe many liberal and democratic intellectuals share the same feelings with me, too. Can these intellectuals, after all, be as outspoken and critical of the government as they would like if they feel so threatened by a gang, when the only supporter of its trial would be the current government? This is also a question of priority. If there is such a gang messing around, what would be your first priority? Wouldn’t you be less concerned about many other issues that do not have as much gravity as the issue concerned?

Normally, in such a meeting I would be talking about the Halki seminary and the government’s failure to open it for such a long time. I would talk about Erdoğan’s double standards when it comes to dealing with “other’s terrorist” and “ours,” when he advised the Israeli government to sit down at the table with Hamas, whereas he refused to even shake hands with the leaders of the legitimately elected pro-Kurdish Party, the Democratic Society Party (DTP). I would be fiercely critical of his treatment of Mr. al-Bashir who is obviously responsible for crimes against humanity in Darfur. I would be very critical of Erdoğan’s approach towards article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). I would also criticize him for his inadequacy in finding a long-awaited solution to the head scarf problem and for many other things…

These are the governments that should be criticized for human rights violations, right? But, imagine a government that is at the mercy of a Constitutional Court which has closed down many political parties before and there is a good chance that there might be a second closure case against it, which, this time, could actually bring an end to its existence after the first one in which the court decided to cut off the financial aid that the government was taking from the Treasury. Imagine a government which felt deeply threatened by a plot against itself prepared by some military personnel (just last week) in a country in which many governments were thrown out of power by military interventions. So we arrived at this formula: I am a hostage of a government that is taken hostage by the state apparatus in this country. As a human rights defender, I feel under tremendous pressure: Should I maintain my position and criticize this government as fiercely as I used to before and ignore their constraints, or should I focus on the “big picture” only, in which the future of the country would seem at stake. Which way should I take? Sometimes, I really do not know. I am the hostage of a government which is itself taken hostage by the state apparatus, and this situation is getting more and more complex. I really hope that the days when I could freely and openly criticize this government without feeling guilty will return soon. But for now, I am confused. Aren’t you?