A new epidemic has broken out in Turkey. It’s called “terrorism.” This ideologically transmitted disease (ITD) appears to be extremely infectious. Otherwise how can we explain the large and growing number of terrorists in the country?
The Associated Press carried out a survey on terrorism convictions in the world. The figures are worrying. According to the findings of the survey, at least 35,000 people were convicted of terrorism in the world in the last ten years. 12,897 of them were convicted in Turkey. (For comparison, China, with a population of 1.3 billion, has 7,000 people convicted of terrorism.) In other words, Turkey alone accounted for one third of the world total. A rough estimate shows the size of the epidemic of terrorism in Turkey: of every 5,500 Turkish citizens, one is a terrorist.
Thanks to the efforts of the government, Turkey managed to break another record in prison population statistics. The total number of convicts and pre-trial detainees in Turkey reached 121,000 in 2010, an all-time high. Just nine years ago, when the Justice and Development Party first came into power, that number was 60,000. Did you notice something strange about the political party held up as the “model” of democracy for the “Arab Spring”?
There is another interesting point. Terrorism, oddly, is very widespread among intellectuals in Turkey. According to a report prepared by the Progressive Lawyers’ Association of Turkey, there are around 500 university students who are currently under arrest and charged with terrorism. Evidence? Public prosecutors’ indictments are full of symptoms of terrorism: participating in May Day celebrations, protesting the government on various occasions, and, worst of all, keeping the books of Lenin, Stalin, and Che Guevara at home. . . As if that is not enough, even a professor of law, Büşra Ersanlı, and a publisher, Ragıp Zarakolu, were recently discovered to be infected with terrorism. Alas!
By the way, the Progressive Lawyers’ Association might not be the best institution from which to learn facts about terrorism. Because last month police forces raided the houses of more than 40 lawyers in Turkey, among them the members of this association. The court said it suspected that 33 of these lawyers might be infected with terrorism. They were arrested. The International Association of Democratic Lawyers and the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights condemned their arrests. It was the biggest wave of arrests of lawyers in the history of the Republic of Turkey. Even in the years of military coups, in 1971 and 1980, we didn’t face anything comparable.
I remember that, just a couple of years ago, the journalists were very hopeful about Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s attempts at “democratization.” Dreams have shattered, and now almost everybody is complaining about the erosion of the independence of the judiciary. Some of them even started to question which is worse — the period of military coups or the reign of Turkey’s Mubarak?
Well, the journalists had better pick their words carefully. Because the public prosecutors and the anti-terror police are keeping an eye on them all. Any attempts to hinder the government’s march towards “democracy”? Any suspicious signs of terrorism?
In fact, media professionals are very anxious nowadays. Famous journalists and broadcasters like Banu Güven, Can Dündar, Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, and Ruşen Çakır either have quit or have been forced to quit their newspapers or TV channels because of their critical attitudes to the government. Turkey’s Mubarak and his ministers held a closed meeting with the biggest media bosses and their chief editors to call “for sensitivity in covering terrorism.” That is how “censorship” is spelled under “democracy.”
The journalists in Turkey clearly know what happens to “insensitive” ones. Half a year ago, I wrote about the Yürüyüş incident, a police raid on a left-wing publisher, in which six journalists were arrested. 12 months later, these six journalists are still in prison without any trial. They were read indictments only a month ago. Staying in a high-security prison and not knowing why you are there for 11 months — that is what happens to you in Turkey when you lack “sensitivity” in covering terrorism.
Too bad not all journalists learned their lessons, which forced anti-terror squads to raid their houses and offices, again. On the 20th of December 2011, the anti-terror squads of Turkey’s Mubarak launched raids in five cities of the country. They identified 49 journalists suspected of being infected with terrorism and took them under custody. Just a couple of days later, we were told that 36 of them certainly had a high probability of being terrorists. These journalists were working for the Dicle News Agency, the Etkin News Agency, the Özgür Gündem newspaper, the Birgün newspaper, and the Vatan newspaper. They were now sent to the government’s specially designed quarantine locations: high-security prisons.
A couple of months before, Turkey had already won another judicial championship, becoming the global leader in jailing journalists. For Turkey’s Mubarak, a man aiming to make Turkey a world leader in all senses of the term, this was far from enough. Hence the addition of 36 more to make his record indisputable.
What will happen next? The associates of Turkey’s Mubarak are still worried about the epidemic of terrorism. While I was writing this article, I heard the Interior Minister make a speech about how highly infectious terrorism is. After referring to those who covertly spread this ITD under the guise of “cultural associations,” the minister said:
How are they supporting terrorism? Maybe by reflecting it in their paintings. They write poems and reflect it in their poems. They write daily articles and columns about it. Not content with that, they are trying to demoralize the soldiers and police who fight against terrorism by making them the subjects of their artworks.
Isn’t it funny? Not if you are living in Turkey.