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Turkey

Turkey, How A Cynical Alliance Went Sour

The rising battle between the forces of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and exiled imam Fethullah Gulen is a high-stakes power struggle. But some in Turkey want no part of it.

Dec. 17, 2014 protests in Istanbul
Dec. 17, 2014 protests in Istanbul
Mehmet Yilmaz

On Dec. 17 last year, Turkish judicial authorities launched a crackdown against alleged government corruption. Those accused included members of the cabinet and their families, and even the son of then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan and other top government leaders accused the prosecutors of being in league with the Hizmet Movement led by imam Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally and now sworn enemy who lives in exile in the United States.

The clash last year over the corruption charges turned the Gulen-Erdogan feud into full-scale war. The corruption probe was shut down, and the government retaliated last week with a vengeance on its one-year anniversary. Erdogan's ruling AKP party has called the Hizmet Movement a "parallel state" within the state, and the new crackdown against the movement's members (including arrests of policemen, journalists and soap opera producers) charges them with taking part in a "terrorist organization" and conspiring against another religious community.Worldcrunch editors

-OpEd-

ISTANBUL It seems that the significance of Dec. 17 is different for everyone.

For Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, it is a time to remember Mevlana Jelaluddin al-Rumi, the 13th-century Sufi mystic who died on that day.

For former European Union Relations Minister Egemen Bagis, it is the anniversary of Turkey starting negotiations with the EU for full membership, even though it is also the date when corruption allegations against him surfaced.

For me, Dec. 17 is the day, in 2013, when documents detailing the worst corruption in the republic's history came to light. It is also the day we discovered that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a.k.a. "the great master," was, and is, a naive man.

He is incredibly naive never to have noticed that a religious community had infiltrated the government on every level. From the judiciary to the police, the telecommunication directorate to the treasury, they gained authority for themselves everywhere over everything.

They never stopped wanting more, and the then-prime minister and current president "gave them whatever they wanted," by his own admission.

Why did he do that? He was naive.

The people had trusted Erdogan and his administration with the country, and they delivered everything straight into the lap of the Hizmet Movement.

Now the government is fighting what it has since come to characterize as a "parallel state," the judiciary is being overhauled, laws are being rewritten every other week, and civil servants are being fired en masse, particularly at the Interior Ministry.

So how can we be sure that a government this naive is doing the right thing this time?

The government has witnessed how people were left to rot in prison based on false evidence, and scores of people had their phones tapped, accused of being members of an imaginary organization.

No thank you

Now, with a sudden moment of clarity, the government talks of putting the conspirators to account. Back in the day, government officials said people shouldn't fear having their phone conversations heard if they haven't commited any crimes.

When people were saying that a gang was organized within the state and that it was trying to conquer Turkey with fear, government officials were shouting, "I am also a prosecutor of this trial."

Now, they are saying the parallel gang has committed murders. Who was the government that didn't allow those murders to be properly investigated?

The truth is, Erdogan's AKP party was aware of everything back then even if today it claims the existence of a "parallel state." Everything changed when the two sides disagreed over sharing power.

It turns out that the ideology that had bound their alliance wasn't ethical at all.

One side was aware of the other's plans to capture the state, but it stayed silent. The other side was aware of all the corruption but was silent about it as long as it could be left to organize within the state.

The supposed ideology was nothing more than a scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours alliance. And everything would be continuing to this day if they had not had that power struggle.

One would continue to organize, and the other would go on stealing.

Now, because they are fighting, we are expected to take sides.

No, gentlemen, we are not pawns in your feud.

We can defend neither those who desire to become a state within the state nor those who only want to fill their pockets. We can defend neither the people who intend to create an empire of fear by throwing people into jail with false evidence nor those who allowed it because of their greed for power.

We want this country to be a democratic state of law. Our goals and your demands are not at all compatible.

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Society

Journalism In A Zero-Trust World: Maria Ressa Speaks After Rappler Shut Down Again

The Rappler CEO and Nobel Peace Prize winner spoke with The Wire's Arfa Khanum Sherwani about how journalists everywhere need to prepare themselves for the worst-case scenario of government-ordered closure and what they should do to face up to such a challenge.

Maria Ressa, Filipino journalist, author and Nobel Peace Prize laureate

Arfa Khanum Sherwani

HONOLULU — For someone who’s just been ordered to shut down the news website she runs, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa is remarkably cheerful about what may happen next.

In a speech she gave to a conference at the East-West Center here on challenges the media face in a “zero trust world”, Ressa said that she and her colleagues were prepared for this escalation in the Philippines government’s war on independent media and will carry on doing the work they do. “If you live in a country where the rule of law is bent to the point it’s broken, anything is possible…. So you have to be prepared.”

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