The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) recently presented a report titled “The Presidential Regime is downgrading Turkey” based on data from international institutions.
Data from the last two years in Turkey points to a steady decrease in almost every aspect of a functioning, healthy democracy, such as freedom of speech, quality of education, gender and income equality, and the rule of law. It’s no surprise that society has become unhappier compared to 2017.
CHP’s intention was to show how far Turkey’s rank dropped after the system changed. In truth, the downfall of many aspects of democracy started before the presidential regime was introduced. Society became unhappier and more insecure due to economic stagnation and incorrect social policies in the past year.
Surely the AKP-MHP alliance is responsible for this great social, economic and political collapse. But was the opposition doing its job well to prevent such a huge downfall? And is there hope to make some change under Erdoğan’s rule?
When one begins to criticize the opposition, the first reaction is “Don’t be unfair.” Indeed, any criticism of the opposition leads to ecstatic applause led by the AKP and President Erdoğan, who takes joy in crushing and demeaning his opponents.
However, there were moments when the oppositional parties could interfere and enact some change. One of them was the referendum on the political system in April 2017. People tend to forget that Erdoğan won by 51.41 percent thanks to the Election Board counting the invalid, unstamped 1 million ballots in his favor.
The opposition parties won the vote in big cities and people flocked to the streets in protest. But CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu and İYİ leader Akşener asked people to stay at home, and they accepted the result. The HDP, left alone as always, organized a few small protests. In short, the shift to the much-debated presidential regime was made under unlawful, unfair and untransparent circumstances, but the opposition accepted it quietly.
The past one and a half years under the “new” system also showed that in matters of “national security,” the opposition synchronized themselves with the AKP-MHP alliance. For example, the opposition, with the exception of the HDP, gave their approval for military intervention into northern Iraq and Syria.
Today, the motion for deploying troops in Libya will be voted on in the parliament. Kılıçdaroğlu says they will not back it. This might be the first time they don’t act in line with the AKP-MHP alliance on national matters.
Although President Erdoğan has great power, the opposition’s hands are not totally tied. The last local elections showed that it is possible to succeed, even in rigged elections. But opposition leaders need to be more active and determined. If they dare to make a stance on a subject, they can get people mobilized.
One recent example is the Kanal Istanbul debate. In the last days of 2019, people queued to make their objections to the project. This was possible because the mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu, decided to not only criticize and expose wrongdoings, but to take some action. İYİ Party leader Akşener also made her support official.
Buses were organized for people to access the two local government offices in Istanbul where the objections could be made. Thousands of people waited for hours in cold weather and under heavy rain. The mood resembled the 2019 local elections in which people slept on ballot boxes in order to secure their vote count. It’s amazing how people are still resisting for the future of their city, like they did in Gezi in 2013.
What next? Erdoğan is adamant about “getting it done” when it comes to the canal project, but he will have the headache of dismissing the objections. He’ll probably proceed as usual, which means that he won’t take people’s opinion into account. He will probaby send construction equipment to start to dig immediately.
The question is what the opposition will do next. Do they have a good strategy about resisting further? Or will they let it go when their party leaders tell them to step down, be calm, and not get into a fight?
Istanbul is getting most of the attention, but Ankara’s mayor Mansur Yavaş is garnering a lot of support. In his ultra serious, unrelenting style, he has bypassed all attacks so far. The latest one was a fight with a notorious CHP figure, Sinan Aygün, accusing Yavaş of corruption. Aygün will be discharged from the CHP.
It’s high time for the opposition, especially the CHP, to get rid of parasites like Aygün and to support its local politicians, who are giving hope to unhappy citizens in Turkey. If they can show more support for the HDP’s elected mayors, who have been detained one by one, 2020 might actually be a year of hope.
Some medical experts in Turkey argue that the hospitals which were previously emptied by the AKP government, can easily be ransformed into functioning hospitals with minimal spending to treat COVID-19 patients. One might wonder why they were closed in the first place.
Turkey has one of the world’s fastest growing coronavirus outbreaks, confirmed cases double every three days. The statistics, combined with the capacity of the health system and nature of the restrictions raise great concerns. Doctors are forced to apologize for their critical remarks, health workers are banned from making press releases on their conditions. Aside […]
The last time President Erdoğan, who is 66 years-old, physically took part in a meeting was a week ago. Nobody asks whether the President and his close circle have been tested for coronavirus. And of course, no one dares to ask what happens if he gets sick, and what the Turkish Presidential System would bring.
The Covid-19 will inevitably affect a much wider population, and Turkey’s limited testing is dramatic. Scientists, doctors unanimously urge for a radical testing procedure. In Istanbul, a city of 16 million, there are only four hospitals conducting tests. Meanwhile, states of emergency, strict restrictions and bans are anything but new in Turkey!
As he traveled back to Turkey from Azerbaijan, Erdoğan ominously announced a new wave of repression. A few days later, Osman Kavala was re-arrested, the mayor of Diyarbakır Selçuk Mızraklı was sentenced to more than 9 years in jail and 7 journalists were arrested.
Again we see them on the news, migrants flocking to the borders and the human traffickers going about their “business” in front of the cameras. As thousands of migrants seek to cross the border from Turkey to Greece and Bulgaria- some getting injured and dying whilst doing so - authorities talk of them as if they are cheap tokens. Not only in Turkey but in the EU countries as well.
The pro-governmental media in Turkey, which usually targets well-known individuals or critics, targets ordinary people as well. But what’s perhaps more worth talking about is how the life of the poor living in cities has changed — and how they are perceived. They, too, want to live a good life. Or just to be a part of it, even for a few seconds. And they, too, want to show off.
Just as Kavala was preparing for his release after 840 days spent in the Silivri Prison, the prosecutor’s office announced the philanthropist would be questioned on “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order." This proves how partial, arbitrary and politically involved the Turkish judiciary is. Yet the dynamics of this process remain unclear.
It’s hard to voice opposition to war when the coffins of slain soldiers are being sent back from Syria and when the nationalist mood is in full swing. However HDP deputy and former journalist Ahmet Şık, who has been jailed twice and is still tried on the Cumhuriyet case, says that they have the responsibility to question why so many young people are dying for.
The watchmen will not operate under a specific law or the constitution but under the government’s direct orders. Opposition parties thus warn of a “parallel police force” that enjoys unprecedented powers. At night, the watchmen could well turn into the state’s moral police.
Although the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled for his immediate release on Dec. 10, 2019, Osman Kavala remains as the only defendant under detention at the Gezi trial. So the question is whether the Council of Europe (CoE) and member states will stand up. If they will not do that, what is the function of the ECHR and why should other states bother to follow its rules?
Well-known economists have questioned how Kanal Istanbul will be financed, but they haven’t yet received any answers. Prof. Dr. Haluk Levent from Bilgi University believes that Kanal Istanbul is a Ponzi scheme, but with a difference: in a Ponzi Scheme, everything must be on the record, but this is not the case for Kanal Istanbul. The scheme is changing the town planning and zoning.
The media almost totally neglects or misinterprets cases related to July 15 in fear of being targeted themselves. On the other hand, high-ranking Gülenists, who have long fled the country, are in fact using the cases and prison sentences for their own PR.
Despite the government's pledge to combat femicide and domestic abuse, 474 women were murdered by men in 2019 in Turkey. Women’s rights advocates have repeatedly said the system is too weak to protect women.
Two days ago I went to the forth hearing of the Gezi trial in Silivri, where Kavala is the only imprisoned suspect among 16 civil society activists accused with ‘organizing and financing Gezi protests to overthrow the AKP government’ back in 2013. These trials are top examples of how rule of law is undermined and how human rights abuses are executed.
Kanal Istanbul is not only critical for Erdoğan financially. It also represents a political battlefield in which he wishes to beat his opponents, in this case the new opposition Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu.
General elections appear to be on the agenda in 2023. That is what statements from President Erdoğan and his alliance partner, the MHP leader Bahçeli, suggest. Yet, the prospect of snap elections also looms. Many politicians, economists and journalists claim snap elections will be held in 2020. While snap elections may not seem logical, logics don’t apply to Turkish politics.
The severe violations of sick prisoners rights are against the law and contradict with international agreements Turkey partakes in. Human right advocates accuse the government of being unwilling to address these problems and point to the The European Council, which remains silent.
Just a few hours before police teargassed women in the streets of Istanbul, Emine Erdoğan, wife of President Tayyip Erdoğan, was giving a speech that denounced violence against women on the occasion of the International Day for Eliminating Violence against Women. However, Mrs. Erdoğan has also stated that the rise in violence against women is just a perception and that today, thanks to the AKP, women can ask for their rights.
As a journalist, I find it to be embarrassing and paradoxical that President Trump, not known to be a supporter of the free press, mocked the Turkish press.
Yet his words, “You sure you’re a reporter? You don’t work for Turkey with that question?” reflect the truth regarding the group of people Erdoğan took along with him to Washington. These words sum up the status of the Turkish mainstream media.
Turkey generally does not rank high in suicide rates. One reason is religion; in Islam suicide is a sin. Culture and family ties also are among strong reasons why people refrain from taking their lives according to experts. However figures show that there is a rise in suicide rates in Turkey. The society does not only suffer from economical crisis and neo-liberalism, but also a harsh transformation from a hybrid democracy to a more authoritarian state.
Last week, another bunch of journalists were sacked from daily Hürriyet newspaper, which is still considered as the “flagship” of the mainstream media. In fact, Hürriyet lost its prestige long while ago. It doesn’t really matter who the editor in chief is now. Or why and how journalists were sacked. It is the final nail in the coffin. The mainstream media resembles the living death.
By looking at mainstream media, military salutes of popular figures or twitter trending topics, one might assume that Turkish people were heavily supporting the military operation in Northern Syria -officially called “Operation Peace Spring” ending in 8 days- no matter what the rest of the world says. When there is any military action in Turkey or outside its borders, it becomes even harder for critical voices to be heard.
Associate Professor Şık was the deputy director of the Food Safety and Agricultural Research Center at Akdeniz University. Then, due to his scientific research, he became an enemy of the state.