BY: STEFFAN ILEMAN
Lawyer Serdar Ozturk has appealed to President Obama for intervention in what he calls fabrication of evidence by U.S. intelligence agencies in a fictitious plot to overthrow Turkey’s Islamist government. Secularist Turks see the U.S. as the protagonist that’s advancing the cause of political Islam in Turkey.
If you ask any secular Turk where the country is going nowadays he or she will tell you that it’s going in the direction of Iran. The inevitable reply to why, and why anybody can’t stop it, will be that the United States is behind it. As evidence they will point out to the Turkish Islamic missionary Imam Fetullah Gulen who has been living in exile in Pennsylvania purportedly under CIA protection and running Turkish government under directions from his American bosses. Another evidence is the obvious emasculation of the once-powerful Turkish Army, the self-appointed guardians of secularism, with hundreds of high-ranking officers rotting in jail on fictitious conspiracy charges. The list includes General Ilker Basbug, former Chief of Staff and an obedient dove by Turkish standards, who’s accused of running a terrorist organisation. It’s anybody’s guess why the general would resort to terrorism while he could’ve moved the 700,000 troops he commanded.
“It was done with such precision and professionalism, it couldn’t have been done without U.S. support” they say. “If the U.S. wanted a coup, there would’ve been a military coup.” In a country where fiction becomes fact when circulated a few times rumours have the force of absolute truth. Actually, Ergenekon and the other plots recently added to the list to put more people in the slammer are so silly and have been handled in such a clumsy manner that they could’ve made a Mr. Bean comedy.
Ergenekon, the ancient Turkish legend, a word once uttered only by ultra nationalists is now a household word in Turkey. It’s the name of the plot uncovered in 2007 and allegedly hatched in 2002 to overthrow the Islamist government. The alleged plot is so full of cracks and holes and deficient of any substantive evidence that few in Turkey or the West believe it’s real. However, it has been successfully used as justification by the government to appoint “specially empowered” prosecutors and courts to detain hundreds of army officers, and civilians critical of the government. The list includes male and female journalists, authors, elected or unelected politicians, lawyers, civil servants and even charity workers, some of whom died in detention. Tuncay Ozkan, a pro-Ataturk activist that used to organise rallies has now been in incarcerated for 5 years as an Ergenekon suspect. According to a new law, dubbed one of the “midnight statutes” passed by the Islamist-dominated parliament, any gathering of more than 2 people could be detained as terrorist suspects indefinitely.
Serdar Ozturk, a lawyer imprisoned since 2009 as an Ergenekon suspect, has decided to voice his beliefs and grievances directly to the President of the United States, Barack Obama. In a letter he sent to the president he accuses the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies such as the CIA of providing support to the Fetullah Gulen organisation and plotting to subvert secularism in Turkey. He calls on President Obama to withdraw support from Gulen and put an end what he calls “the Turkish Guantanamo Bay”, the prison outside Istanbul where suspects have been incarcerated. Ozturk believes that he was framed with evidence fabricated by CIA operatives. For the full text of his letter click here.
There’s little dispute that the West has turned a blind eye to Turkey’s autocratic government and the human rights abuses committed in the name of democracy. Active U.S. participation to transform Turkey into another Iran, however, is a stretch of imagination that doesn’t make much sense. It’s clear, however, that the U.S. has an image problem in Turkey where a 2011 poll indicated that only 15-percent of Turks consider the U.S. a friend.
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan recently intimated that it was time for Fetullah Gulen to return home. Gulen is said to have replied with thanks but no thanks, “democracy has not yet taken root in Turkey.”