Their building was hit by a series of break-ins, murders and rape. Security gained priority over everything, and the tenants eagerly called for the services of a former military officer, Mack, who became responsible for the building’s safety. With Mack, this plague of crimes came to a sudden end and the tenants found peace.
But Mack soon started to control every aspect of the lives of the tenants. He was an extremely authoritarian figure, but the tenants were still very happy with him since he was the hero who gave them their security back again. There was only one person who felt uncomfortable with the control and authority Mack gained over their lives. This liberal tenant, Charles, grew more and more suspicious of Mack and started to think that it was actually Mack himself who masterminded, behind the scenes, all those crimes that made the tenants ask for a savior in the first place. The film left us in suspense wondering whether Charles was right in his suspicions.
Today, when I look back, I understand why this film gave me a feeling of familiarity. I did not have that much knowledge about how things operated in Turkey then, but I should have instinctively felt that the film provided quite a strong metaphor to what had been happening in Turkey for a long time.
In those years Turkey was ruled by a military junta. Before the 1980 coup d’état, there were so many tragic incidents, so many armed conflicts, so much bloodshed. Yet, in a single day, the day our military overthrew the government and came to power, we suddenly reached a magical peace! There was no anarchy, no armed conflict anymore. The junta arrested every single militant from left- and right-wing political groups in a short time. Before the coup, there was already martial law in place to combat terrorism; we found peace not then but when the generals came to power by crushing the democratic regime.
As you probably know, the 1980 coup was neither the first nor the last time the Turkish military intervened and overthrew our legitimately elected governments. Moreover, while they were not in power (at least overtly), they controlled and manipulated political life by manipulating the judiciary, the military-friendly media and, most importantly, through fear mongering. Since the Turkish Republic was established in 1923, there had not been a single day in which our republic was not “threatened” by “internal and external enemies.” These enemies were Communists, Christians, Muslims, Kurds, liberals — in fact everyone except the Kemalists. We were always under imminent threat. So we always needed our military’s guardianship.
However, like in the movie I mentioned, it was not possible to know for sure whether some of the events that turned these movements into “threats” were somehow arranged by the military or if they were just reacting against self-generating events. We had no free press, and no one has ever attempted to call the military to account for its actions.
But things are changing in Turkey. For the first time in our history, high-ranking military officers, including some retired generals, are under arrest in the Ergenekon case for their alleged attempts to plot military coups in 2004 and 2005. Another important development was the emergence of some unprecedented newspapers that dared to publish stories and documents about military officers’ illegal actions. The Taraf daily in Turkish and Today’s Zaman in English are just two examples of this brave new media. Some unhappy officials in the military, believing that what they will send out will be taken seriously, started to “leak” extremely important documents showing us a horrific picture about what was going on in military circles. They were once again trying to prepare the ground for another coup, and they were even planning to create some false evidence to lay blame on the social groups that they despised. According to a document published by Taraf and confirmed to be genuine by the Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK), in the military headquarters, plans were made to overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and plots were prepared against the Islamic movements in the country — to put guns in the homes of their members (and find them) in order to accuse them of terrorism and showing the world how fundamentalist Turkish Muslims are. Now, we have much evidence that allows us to look at our recent history from a different perspective. We are watching the second episode of “The Guardian” in which we face the terrible truth. And we realize that we need a confrontation with our guardians, who protect us only from democracy, for the sake of our own liberty.