Erdogan's Twitter ban is just the latest in a series of restrictive measures

The Turkish MP has missed the chance to become a contributor to democracy

Share

Seeing as it was Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s last term as Prime Minister, when his Justice and Development Party (JDP) won a landslide victory in the 2011 General Elections, one of his aims was to introduce a presidential system in Turkey.

Perhaps having this in mind, on the very evening of his election victory, he would announce that in his new term he would embrace all strata of the Turkish society, both his supporters and the opposition.

Wishfully thinking, many optimists, including myself, believed that it was most likely that he would try to establish better relations with other political parties to achieve his goal. We hoped for less political tensions and more consensus in Turkey, and finally a widespread Spanish-style (as in 1978) cooperation to draft a new democratic constitution. We could not have been more wrong.

The ban on Twitter after a court decision last week was only one of many restrictive measures that the Erdogan government have taken since 2011, if not the most meaningless one.

The law on the Internet last month had already tightened state control diminishing individual autonomy with the pretext that, in Erdogan’s words, the government was “only taking precautions against blackmail and immorality.

 If the Internet and computers are not used in a proper way under certain monitoring and order, they do not constitute beneficial and educational tools anymore. Instead, they turn into dangers with bitter results.” 

The imposition of the government’s self-defined moralism have curbed freedom of speech and opinion to the extent that Turkey has beaten China and Iran in becoming the world’s top jailer of journalists (not to mention those who lost their jobs). 

What was as striking is that the people of Turkey spent last November reading and watching discussions whether students’ mixed-sex house share was against the country’s ethical code, an issue which received little coverage in world media. As a matter of fact, the police were bursting into the houses of university students in the middle of nights to check who was living with whom. 

A certain moral authority defined by a narrow group was once again being imposed over others: non-Muslims, liberals, LGBTs, feminists, atheists, etc. It was a testament that the Erdogan government was unaware of the educative function of endowing individuals with rights and liberties and an autonomous will guaranteed by a functioning and independent judicial system.

I am sincerely sorry that Erdogan has lost a big opportunity to become a true contributor to the history of democracy as he seems to fail to continue his peace-minded discourses, which used to call for advanced democracy, the alliance of civilisations and Turkey’s potential exemplary role to marry its Islamic (among others) customs with democratic values.

Democracy, as he seems to understand it, works only for those who support the government. Democracy is still a matter of elections. Democracy is national will.

The increasingly authoritarian rhetoric he embraced since 2011, i.e. during his “mastership” as a politician, as he calls it, came to a peak during the Gezi Parki events last summer. The dissidents managed to prevent the destruction of the park in Istanbul, which was planned to be turned into a shopping mall that Istanbul hardly lacks.

The Erdogan government saw a widespread opposition for the first time during its office time, an opposition that none of the oppositional parties, weakly organised and ideologically narrow-minded, could have supplied before. As the world watched live, the police, heroes of the Erdogan government at the time, suppressed the demonstrators with pepper gas and excessive use of force, which has led to the death of many civilians and police officers, the last being only ten days ago.

Erdogan would claim that it was the international interest rate lobby who were responsible for the events, disregarding protestors’ demands for liberal democratic rights and liberties. We have seen a perfect example of authoritarianism where the governments show a lack of concern for the wants and views of others and suggest unconditional obedience to authority.

Since December 2013, the appearance of several tapes of phone talks of the JDP’s inner circle of ministers and bureaucrats seems to have uncovered one of the greatest corruption scandals in Turkish history.

When it was revealed that Erdogan had asked in his phone talks with his son to stash away the money they have in their house on 24 February, the Prime Minister said that the recordings were fake. With the technology in hand, he furthered, his men would prepare a similar incriminating tape within a week or ten days. So far no scientific reports have shown that the tapes are fake, while we are still looking forward to seeing how tapes of this kind can be fabricated.

While new records aiming to show the level of corruption in the Turkish government and bureaucracy are being released every other day, Erdogan has got a new enemy now, the Gulen Movement, which he accuses of setting up a plot against him and of getting entrenched within the police and judiciary. Hundreds have been re-appointed in the police departments and other bureaucratic posts since the first tapes were released.

As optimistically as they were when Erdogan was re-elected PM three years ago, the freedom-minded people of Turkey, who want nothing but equal freedoms and liberties for all, are wishfully thinking that the Gezi Parki protests with its liberal democratic spirit are not over yet.

Yet they are uncertain what has been going on within the police departments and state offices.

They are uncertain if they can still trust the judicial system in Turkey. They are uncertain if a corrupt version of neo-liberal alliances has been stealing from the pockets of ordinary women and men, and how much.

They are uncertain which political party can provide a real alternative to the JDP by fully committing to democracy - a democracy which seeks to inject rights and liberties into the social, political and moral bloodstream of society regardless of ethnicity, religion or gender, embracing all, as Erdogan had once promised.

Dr Ozan Ozavci is Research Fellow, The University of Southampton

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Field Engineer

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has 30 years of ex...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Account Manager

£27000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing cloud based I...

Ashdown Group: Product Marketing Manager - Software & Services

£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Product Marketing Manager...

Recruitment Genius: Exhibition Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An expanding B2B exhibition and...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd remind the rich that with great wealth comes great responsibility

Peter Tatchell
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey, who has its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival  

FAO Jamie Dornan: For a woman, being followed is not 'exciting' — it's humiliating and all too familiar

Mollie Goodfellow
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat