As aftershocks in the earthquake-stricken Van Province begin to die down, the social and economic ramifications continue to shake the nation. AKP and BDP escalated the war of words on which is culpable for delayed aid and misery of thousands of citizens condemned to living in ill-equipped tents or even in the ruins of the fallen buildings.
PM Erdogan admitted to slow response in the first 24 hours, bragging that in the following days the state institutions caught up with the needs. He also took refuge in his now patented reflex of blaming journalists for reporting on the human misery from the earthquake zone. His target this time was Radikal columnist and CNN presenter Cüneyt Özdemir . In real democracies a parliamentary inquiry, or a panel of experts are immediately appointed to investigate the accusations of ethnic discrimination by state aid workers, resistance to delivery of aid and looting by BDP mayors and sympathizers, and to assess the adequacy of emergency response. However, this is Turkey.
PM Erdogan also promised to take down all poorly constructed buildings in Turkey “even if it costs me my political career”. This is very admirable coming from the leader of a party which largely built its political clientele by ignoring wide-spread abuses of zoning regulations, city planning edicts and very shabby construction practices. CHP deputy chairman Gürsel Tekin expressed disbelief in PM’s promise of tearing down faulty buildings, pointing to the fact that AKP has been in power for a decade and had done nothing but encourage and capitalize on these practices. He added that there are no legal barriers to swift punishment of constructors .
Tekin questioned how the Earthquake Taxes were spent and why CHP’s detailed plan on new building standards in high risk areas were neglected so far. By the way, PM Erdogan confessed that the former mayor of the epicenter town Ercis, who is accused of turning a blind eye to building code violations, is indeed an AKP member of the parliament. Well, every good deed deserves a reward, doesn’t it?
Proclaiming a day of national mourning AKP, canceled the “celebrations” for Independence Day. First of all, these are not celebrations but “commemorations”. They intend to remind the nation how the republic was founded, at what cost and by whose labors. CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu pointed to a hidden irony: PM Erdogan spent the night of the Independence Day at a friend’s wedding instead of mourning.
It is hard to misconstrue the concealed intent behind the cancellation: To repudiate all the values that are represented by the Independence Day. Imagine President Obama canceling 4th of July, or ask yourselves the following question: Had the earthquake happened during Ramadan, would AKP cancel the 30-night long festivities that now have become the hallmark of this once somber month of prayer and reflection?
CHP advanced a censure motion against PM Erdogan for alleging that 3 charitable German foundations had funneled money to CHP and BDP municipalities to be transferred to PKK. CHP demands an apology.
Actually, we would have expected Chancellor Merkel to demand an apology from Erdogan during their meeting on Wednesday, because it is the reputation of German institutions that is at stake.
More Intellectuals Arrested
While at it, she should also ask Premier Erdogan why now all 9 Lighthouse charity embezzlement suspects are free on bail, while at last count 66 journalists are in prison for aiding and abetting coup attempts or PKK terror. Thanks to AKP’s 12th of September “judicial reforms” and EU’s naive support of them, Turkish judiciary is taken captive by the party. The lust for revenge on secularists, Kemalists and dissidents that was once unleashed upon the Ergenekon-Sledgehammer suspects is now directed to members of KCK, a purported NGO openly affiliated with PKK. BDP now claims that 8 thousand KCK and BDP members are in court for charges of sedition.
The callousness of the judiciary was on display once again, when courts ordered the arrest of BDP member of the constitutional committee Professor Büşra Ersanli and publisher Ragip Zarakolu . Prof Ersanli who had been tortured by the military after the 12th of March 1972 semi-coup is a prominent civil rights activist. Publisher Zarakolu, who made his fame by publishing dissidents’ books is also no stranger to torture. Neither is Kurdish. Neither has even been involved in violence of any form. When asked about the reasons for their detention, Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin said “She was lecturing students on how to riot against the state” . CHP deputy chairman Gürsel Tekin warned Turkey with the famous slogan “If you remain silent, it will be your turn”, adding that “we don’t know who will be arrested next” .
No doubt, AKP’s thirst for revenge and the judiciary’s full submission will end up alienating even larger segments of the Turkish society, creating new enemies for AKP, which will then be arrested for fomenting dissent.
Sometimes a small anecdote reveals a very telling picture of the true state of affairs in a nation. On Thursday, the AKP administration effectively nationalized the Istanbul Stock Exchange by decree, dismissing its chairman and three board members as of 31 Dec 2011. The new members will be appointed by the Cabinet. Thus, the ISE became one of the few stock exchanges in the world, along with the Tehran Stock Exchange, to be operated by the state.