Investigations into the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara
One of Ankara’s solutions to address the health emergency has been to ask citizens to make donations to support extraordinary expenses. On March 30, the President of the Republic came in front of the cameras and launched the appeal, stressing that he would also pay 7 months of his salary. The campaign is called “Biz bize yeteriz Turkiyem“(Dear Turkey, we are enough). A press conference in which the President underlined that the country is capable of dealing with the pandemic and does not need any foreign help.
The following day the President himself turned to the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara and defined their work as “an attempt to work in parallel with that of the central government and to confuse citizens”. He was referring to the money-raising campaigns started by these two mayors, already days before, with the aim of creating an extraordinary support fund for needy families in the city. In a few hours the current accounts already opened by the mayors were blocked and the money paid into them was frozen. In the following hours the number of municipalities to have received this political “slap” rose to 9, all governed by opposition parties. Perhaps the strongest statement by the President of the Republic was to define the collection of money started by the mayors as “an operation that resembles that carried out in the past by terrorist organizations”. A few days later, on April 17, the Mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoglu communicated to the media that both he and his colleague, Mansur Yavas, Mayor of Ankara, appeared to be under investigation thanks to the request presented by the Minister of the Interior, Suleyman Soylu.
Criminalize the books
On April 26, during the prayer on the first Friday of the month of Ramadan, the President of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, Ali Erbas, addressing the faithful in a mosque, defined extramarital relations and homosexual people as “the main sources of transmission of diseases that make generations rot ”.
After the speech, Erbas was denounced by some lawyers on charges of using hate speech and inciting the population to hostility. In particular, the Ankara register defined Erbas as “the one who remembers medieval lynching practices”. A few hours later, the Izmir and Diyarbakir registers also filed the same complaint.
Erbas’ statements drew protests from different parts of society: the world of associations, HIV positive people and numerous simple citizens. However, it should also be stressed that a significant portion of the country supported Erbas’ ideas.
The following week, after the council of ministers, the President of the Republic came before the cameras and defended Erbas, defining him as the most authoritative reference on Islam in Turkey. The President continued: “Everything Erbas says is correct and everyone must know their limits. The criticisms directed against him are attacks on Islam. ”
The next day, the Ankara prosecutor’s office launched an investigation against the city register on charges of “offending the religious values of a part of society”.
The latest thrust of the crusade against the books came from the President of the Republic himself. On May 5, on a public occasion, Erdogan said: “It is necessary to make a change in the electoral system within the register of lawyers and those of doctors. The attack on the President of the Directorate for Religious Affairs makes us understand that we must finalize this legislative change urgently. ”
Mayors removed and placed in provisional detention
Also in this extraordinary period, Ankara did not spare even the mayors belonging to the Democratic People’s Party, HDP. The men and women elected in the last election on 31 March 2019 have been removed from their posts. In total, five mayors are no longer able to work and extraordinary commissioners have been appointed in their place. The affected municipalities are Iğdır, Siirt, Baykan, Kurtalan and Altınova. According to the press release issued by the state agency, Anadolu Ajansi, the motivation is the ongoing investigations that accuse the mayors of having “links with terrorist organizations”. On May 19, four of these were released on condition and placed under house arrest.
In the last administrative elections, the HDP had sung victory in 65 municipalities across the country. The operations carried out from that moment to today have taken away the administrative power of the Party in 45 municipalities. There are still 21 mayors in prison.
Mithat Sancar, the co-president of the Democratic People’s Party, in a press release on May 15, called the ongoing operations a “coup”. The same definition was also adopted and used in the declarations on Twitter by the national parliamentarian Ozgur Ozel and by Canan Kaftancioglu, provincial director for the city of Istanbul of the main opposition party, People’s Party of the Republic, CHP.
A new coup d’état?
So in Turkey there is talk of a new coup d’état. While the opposition accuses the central government of taking undemocratic paths that do not respect the laws and constitution of the country, and therefore of acting like the coup leaders, Ankara does the same thing, under another guise, against the opposition.
For Turkey, which has suffered 3 real coups, it is a very delicate matter that creates tension, anger and anguish. The central government accuses, above all but not only, the main opposition party, CHP, of being the “representative” of the coup leaders, because it calls into question its actions. Instead, the opposition and a part of civil society strongly accuse the central government of exploiting the country’s historical wounds and of creating an atmosphere of panic with the aim of strengthening its power, precisely in this period of health emergency.
After the failed coup of July 15, 2016, Turkey has lived in an emergency for two years. During this period, restrictive measures, censorship, suspension of a series of international agreements / pacts / conventions meant that the central government had carte blanche. This opportunity has undoubtedly been used by Ankara to strike the voices of the opposition: parliamentarians, mayors, lawyers, artists, professors, journalists, judges, prosecutors, senior army officers and thousands of activists from the world of associations. Each time Ankara’s motivation was the same: “measures against terrorist organizations and against the danger of a new coup”. Instead, the opposition has always defined this wave of repression as a “coup d’etat”, therefore not military.
Today we are talking again about a possible coup. The central government is talking about it again, and journalists and opposition parties are targeted.
On April 30, on live TV, Canan Kaftancioglu, of the CHP, spoke in a telephone connection, complaining about the work of the central government: “Soon, with the elections or in another way, this government will lose its power. There will not be only a change of government but a change in the government system. These people have now understood who is taking advantage of this pandemic for their personal affairs. ” Obviously, the media aligned with Ankara did not wait a second to accuse Kaftancioglu of announcing the arrival of a coup.
The following day Ozgur Ozel, a member of the CHP, said in front of the cameras: “The system of the royal palace is coming to an end. This regime is ending its life. ” Ozel was also crucified on the same charges by the mainstream media.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was perhaps the article written by the journalist Ragip Zarakolu for the national newspaper Evrensel. In this work, Zarakolu compares the former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes (hanged during the 1961 coup) to the current President of the Republic, based on his lynching and censorship campaigns against the opposition.
The next day Erdogan announced that he had denounced Zarakolu. The national newspaper, Sabah, close to the government, instead defined Zarakolu’s article as a death threat against the President of the Republic.
The next step comes, live on TV, on the national channel A Haber. On 10 May, journalist Sebnem Bursali accused the main opposition party, CHP, of “collaborating with foreign forces with the aim of weakening the country’s economy, hindering its brilliant success and planning a coup”.
In the following days, numerous journalists and parliamentarians took part in this wave of accusations in various television / internet programs, or in newspapers.
Pandemic is an opportunity
The extraordinary period that is going on all over the world seems to be becoming an opportunity for Ankara in order to marginalize the voices of the opposition, taking advantage of the collective anguish that creates the pandemic. Obviously in the sights of the central government there is no shortage of Armenians and Greeks / Rūm.
On 11 May, the President of the Republic came in front of the cameras to announce 4 days of curfew, from 16 to 19 May, as a preventive measure in the exchange of the fight against the pandemic. In this the defense of our rights in the Aegean and the Mediterranean. We will not leave the field to the Armenian and Greek terrorist organizations and lobbyists / rūm. Those who hope to bring the country to its knees by using foreign financial organizations will be defeated. ”
It is clear that in Turkey the still open wounds of the past continue to represent the paranoia of society and it is clear that this sad fact is used repeatedly by the central government to legitimize its repression policy.