Let me give you a “fresh” example. Today I was planning to write a harsh critique of some of Erdoğan’s remarks. Like I do every morning, I started to read the newspapers. One particular piece of news coverage killed all my enthusiasm for criticizing the government. We know the chief prosecutor at the Court of Appeals (Yargıtay) is now collecting evidence to bring the second closure case against the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Crazy country!
Imagine, you have a neighbor in your apartment building and you’re irritated by the noise they produce. Overall you have good relations, you believe they are good people, but you have a specific complaint. You leave your home, go downstairs, trying to formulate your criticism about them in your mind on the way.
Just as you arrive on your neighbor’s doorstep, you are confronted with this devastatingly disturbing seen. A gun is pointed at your neighbor’s head and another neighbor is shouting at him and accusing him of some “crimes” he has not committed. Can you stand there and say I have such and such a complaint about you, too?
This is the very unfortunate situation we are in. It is our surreal reality. This government has never passed the point of being under the threat of being closed down or sent away with a possible coup d’état.
Look at this Ergenekon stuff. There is huge propaganda against the case and the propagandists are trying to exploit the usual and well-known prejudices about Muslims. They suggest the whole Ergenekon case is a fabrication of this government and they are just trying to undermine the secular structure of Turkey. It is impossible not to revolt. We know very well exactly what is going on there. But again the appearance is that Turkey’s “modern,” “secular” people are complaining about the “Islamist government” which is creating conspiracy theories.
As you see, whenever we attempt to criticize this government we are afraid of potentially giving ammunition to the evil coalition which is trying to restore the old regime of military guardianship. All these concerns make us less critical of the government and we may face the risk of losing our critical voice completely. This is the psychological state we are in.
Anyway, I should return to the beginning of this article. Sometimes some of Erdoğan’s remarks drives me crazy. When he said there was no genocide in Darfur, I was really devastated. As a human rights activist I know what has been going on in Darfur. Therefore, I found Erdoğan’s remarks quite embarrassing. He appears to be unaware of the indictment prepared by the International Criminal Court (ICC). He said he was in Darfur and he could not see any traces of genocide. What was Erdoğan expecting to happen? That President Omar Hassan al-Bashir would take him to some place and show him how they butcher people there?
He may not know this but our second biggest human rights NGO, the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUMDER), wanted to get permission for a fact finding visit and were immediately refused by Sudan. As if this was not enough, he said Muslims do not commit massacres. What is al-Qaeda doing? What happens in Iraq every day? What happened in the past in this country? These are extremely dangerous remarks. If he had said something like, “If you commit genocide you cannot remain a Muslim,” I would understand and appreciate him, and he would have contributed to peace in the world with this kind of statement. He would have shown the whole world how a Muslim democrat reacts in the face of injustice and crimes against humanity. But instead, with his unfortunate comments he just strengthens the well-known prejudices against Muslims and overshadows the extremely important progress happening in Turkey that he himself has designed.
His last remarks about the Armenian massacres were equally unlucky ones. He said that his ancestors did not commit genocide. He should tell us then what happened in Turkey in 1915. I am really very sorry for hearing these kinds of remarks from him. Erdoğan and his party are an opportunity for this country; if Erdoğan considered his stance on these kinds of matters they would be an opportunity for the world. But after criticizing Israel with such harsh words, turning a blind eye to massacres and genocides committed by other countries creates a terrible image of him, which, I believe he does not deserve. Human rights, when they are defended with sincerity, are one of the most powerful weapons to influence people and their opinion. It is, however, also an extremely dangerous tool; if you have double standards in defending them, it will almost always backfire and harm you. If Erdoğan really wants to influence Israel with his criticism he should put aside these kinds of double standards. If he does so, he will contribute to changing the course of history, otherwise he will be put in the museum of populist politicians who we have in abundance all over the world.
I hope some so-called “secular” Ergenekon lobbyists will not try to exploit my analysis. When it comes to double standards, Erdoğan would be deemed an innocent child compared to them. If Erdoğan changes his attitude, others will be caught in broad daylight.