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March 08, 2012
 
 
 
 
 
 
Columnists 03 January 2012, Tuesday 37 0 2 0
ORHAN KEMAL CENGİZ
o.cengiz@todayszaman.com

Getting rid of a bandit state

The state has committed grave crimes in Turkey; in every case, it has also managed to involve society in these crimes. In order to achieve this, it has sometimes jointly committed these offenses, taking measures to ensure that the collaborators have benefited from the outcomes of the criminal acts. For instance, the offenses committed against non-Muslims in Turkey follow this pattern. Some groups have become rich by their crimes in Turkey.

Another way the state involves society while committing these crimes is by ensuring that the people who talk about them feel guilty. One is given the impression that it would be a betrayal to the country to discuss state crimes.

We should note that former Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz said that the forest fires in Greece were plotted by the Turkish state. This statement raised fury in Greece but it is not discussed in Turkey -- why? It is because we feel guilty. If we discuss this issue thoroughly, Turkey may face hardships and have to pay compensation. Besides, the fires were committed as a form of retaliation.

The argument is that we punished Greece because they hosted PKK militants in their camps. However, Greece hosted these militants because of other crimes that Turkey had committed previously. Torture and mistreatment was widespread in Turkey in the 1990s. Villages were evacuated and burned down and people were abducted and executed. For this reason Turkey's requests for the extradition of the PKK militants were rejected by European states. And Greece, without fearing of international reaction or condemnation, was able to extend support to the PKK.

In an attempt to address its poor human rights record, Turkey set fire to Greek forests. Now we are expected to ignore this fact just because it is possible that our country may be hurt.

Is it not also the case with the Armenian issue? Do they not imply that Turkey would have to pay compensation and reparations if we thoroughly discuss the past? For this reason are we citizens not expected to remain silent about the problem? And it is for the same reason that those who seem to be open to discussing the Dersim massacre of 1938 prefer silence when it comes to the Armenian genocide. Do they not accuse those who ask for an open discussion on the Armenian genocide of siding with the Armenians?

I personally believe that the cost of getting rid of the bandit state and creating a state governed by the rule of law is immeasurable. If we have to pay a big price on the road to becoming a state governed by the rule of law, I claim that we should pay that price. My family never benefited from the looting of non-Muslim properties. If I have committed a sin because I lived in a Greek house that we rented when I was little, may God forgive me and my family. If Turkey is ready to pay reparations, I am also ready to pay extra taxes to replace the money made by those who became rich when non-Muslim properties were looted.

They are playing with our minds with different methods. They ask who should pay reparations to Muslims who were expelled from the Balkans. If Turkey is confident enough to compensate the non-Muslims it expelled or deported from this country, it should be able to help the Muslims who were expelled from the Balkans, in their cause to remedy the wrongs of the past.

Because it cannot discuss its own injustices, Turkey is also unable to speak out about the injustices committed by others. And for this reason, it can only use the French genocide in Algeria as a trump card. Turkish politicians made reference to the genocide in Algeria just because the French mentioned the Armenian genocide; otherwise, they do not have a principled stance or claim to action on this matter.

In recent years there have been some promising developments to get rid of this traditional approach. The most important one is undoubtedly the Ergenekon investigation, which focuses on the illegal activities of the deep state. However, this investigation did not turn into a process of purification, where serious human rights violations could be addressed. In addition this investigation also raised some redundant questions during the case. Second, contradictorily to the arguments of some, freedom of expression has been considerably expanded in Turkey. For instance, it would not have been possible for me to write some of the columns I have recently published in Turkish and English five years ago. The initial reaction and objection would have come from the newspapers owners and editors-in-chief. Even if they did publish my columns, I would have received thousands of death threats and I would have been prosecuted in court. The threats I received because of the columns I have written in recent times are negligible by Turkey's prevailing standards. In the past the media would have launched a witch hunt and a number of legal suits against me would have followed.

All in all, there is a long way to travel. But it is impossible to ignore the fact that Turkey has made progress over the last decade. This is my assessment of last year.

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