Posts in English

How the Turkish Military Conspires Against Turkish Society

[Originally published in Hurriyet Daily News] As most tourists discover in just a few days, Turkey is an amazing country with great history, beautiful nature, and delicious food. But one needs to spend a little more time to discover that its powerful military is pretty amazing as well. Where should I start? Since we became a democracy in 1950, our generals have launched four coups. They killed a prime minister and two ministers. They imprisoned thousands of politicians and wiped out their parties. They tortured tens of thousands of political activists, some of who died under, say, high voltage. All this was done in the name of "saving the Turkish nation from threats." Yet, alas, most of us haven't really faced a threat bigger then this Ankara-based one, which is, ironically, financed by our own taxes. But the overt coups are just the beginning. They are just the tips of the iceberg. What lies beneath is a permanent war against what our generals call "internal enemies." These are simply parties, groups or individuals who fail to comply with the ultra-nationalist, ultra-secularist official ideology. War against the liberals An iconic "psychological operation" launched against these "internal enemies" was the infamous "Andic" case of 1998. This Turkish term might sound like Chinese to you. It sounded like Chinese to us, too, until we learned that it meant "memo" and referred to nothing but a libel aimed at discrediting some liberal intellectuals that the generals despised. Here is the story. In April 1998, Semdin Sakik, the second man of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, was captured by security forces. He was interrogated for days, and made some confessions about the nature of his terrorist group. But the generals wanted something more. Something sexier. So, they inserted a passage into Sakik's testimony saying something like, "by the way, we, as the PKK, used to pay these people so that they would write things we want." Then they named names, including Akin Birdal, the head of the Human Rights Association, and prominent journalists such as Cengiz C‡andar and Mehmet Ali Birand, whose columns I hope you enjoy reading in these pages. The conspiracy worked. A public uproar erupted against these "lackeys" of the PKK, which is to Turks, as you would know, what al-Qaeda is to Americans. The journalists lost their jobs overnight, and were denounced by some of their colleagues. Akin Birdal was soon shot by a nationalist. He survived, but death was in the air. "I was getting myself ready to the idea that I would be soon killed," Cengiz Candar would write, years later. But you really can't fool all the people all the time. In 2000, someone, probably a decent human in the military, sent a five-page document to Nazli Ilicak, another liberal. This was an internal memo of the military explaining in detail how the "Sakik operation" was managed. Ms. Ilicak gave a press conference and distributed copies. "The Sakik affair turned out to be a conspiracy," some headlines read the next morning. The generals simply stood silent. And, of course, nobody dared to put them on trial. This is not Alice's Democracyland, after all. It is Kemalist Turkey. Only 11 years later, last May, a general accepted the truth. "Oh yeah," retired Chief of Staff Yasar Buyukanit said on TV, "It was mistake." That was it. Nothing else. Just a modest acknowledgement of a "mistake." The Taraf documents Now, there is a timely reason that I am telling you about the old Andic conspiracy: Recently, we Turks have been seeing many new versions of it - often before being put into action, or, perhaps, when they are just mind exercises. We owe this growing "transparency" of the military to again some decent human beings in its ranks, but also to the rise of a brave new media. Especially the new daily Taraf, founded just two years ago by a group of bold liberals, has become the spearhead of the "battle for democracy." When Chief of Staff Gen. Basbug gave an angry press conference threatening the paper last year, the next day its headline read: "Put your hand down first, general." Taraf's stories are often fun, but sometimes scary. They have published military documents exposing "psychological operations" targeting the incumbent Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and the Gulen Movement, an influential Islamic group. The plans include very nasty stuff such as putting weapons in people's homes and then making the security forces "find" them, just to prove those people as "Islamist terrorists." The most recent exposure, found in an encrypted disc of an Ergenekon suspect, even unveils a detailed military plan made just last April to assassinate some prominent non-Muslim figures, and then put the blame on the "Islamists" - a story that would sell really well. The military, of course, denies all this. And there is no way right now to be certain about the authenticity of the documents. Yet, personally, I find them quite credible. I have just seen enough in this county to know that our generals can do anything to preserve their grip on society. Just anything that you, and they, can imagine.
All for Joomla All for Webmasters