17 July 2017 10:16
Last updated on: 18 July 2017 08:42

Turkey needs justice, not myths

Truth and justice are the casualties of the existing regime in Turkey. What Turkey needs now is justice, not myths.

Turkey needs justice, not myths

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The world is full of political myths. Facts do not work as well as myths. Myths have always provided better material for politics of nation-building, nationalism and fascism. Last year, a failed coup attempt on 15 July provided the context of a new myth in Turkey. The myth was quickly named the “15 July Saga” and was presented as a saga produced by the nation. There has been a such a great effort to promote this myth that many believe it is true. Now, a year after, it is important to separate facts from the fiction.

Fiction: The world knows what happened on 15 July last year. 

Fact: Only a few insiders really know what really happened during the night of the coup attempt. The regime that survived the coup has resisted all demands for investigations. Instead of revealing the truth, the regime has spent extraordinary time and energy to build a myth. This is exactly why the myth has prevailed over facts.

Fiction: Democracy was saved.

Fact: It was the regime that was saved. There was no democracy to be saved. And there was certainly no democracy afterwards. After the failed coup attempt, the regime quickly declared a state of emergency and moved onto undoing the remaining mechanisms of the republic.

Fiction: The regime and the nation are one: The regime was saved by the people and, therefore, it must be a legitimate and valued regime in the eyes of the public.

Fact: The regime found a “god-sent” opportunity in the failed coup attempt and jumped on it to consolidate its control and generate public support. The regime has no problem admitting that it works for the bosses. It has nothing to offer to the public. But class politics is obscured by political Islam and the politics of martyrdom.

The myth is used to make people believe that martyrs died for democracy and therefore the regime deserves support. Any doubt would amount to the betrayal of the democracy martyrs. The regime is obviously seeking legitimacy and support on the basis of martyrdom.
The regime has manufactured legitimacy for itself on the basis of a myth and therefore will do everything in its power to sustain it. The president says the 15 July Saga cannot and will not be forgotten. Obviously, the regime is afraid that the myth is not strong enough and needs to be consolidated. Hence the huge frenzy around the anniversary last week. The regime has used the entire state apparatus to repeat and enrich the myth. And, of course, all of this has been done with public funding.

MOSQUES AS POLITICAL TOOLS

A year ago, the Directorate of Religious Affairs (or Diyanet), which is in charge of all mosques and religious affairs in Turkey, asked preachers at mosques to call people to the streets in the hours following the coup attempt. But preachers were ordered to continue sela calls on 16 July and the following day. The mosques were turned into tools to remind the population of the coup attempt, again and again. Mosques were used to keep the entire population on the edge.

But the regime did not stop there. Diyanet led a campaign to associate mosques with the 15 July Saga. The campaign started in İzmir: The regime took one of the first private schools in Turkey founded by the Gülenists and transformed into a religious school for girls. And the school was renamed after a “democracy martyr”, a professor at a university in Istanbul. The private school had a mosque used as a library. The library was also seized and turned into a mosque. The name? 15 July Martyrs Mosque.

Next, a mosque in Pendik, in İstanbul’s Asian side, was renamed as “15 July Martyrs Mosque.” The renaming campaign continued in Bahçelievler, on İstanbul’s European side, then in the North, in Bafra, a city near Samsun. Then in Antalya, in the south, and in Çerkezköy, in the west near Tekirdağ.

The campaign expanded across borders. One of the first mosques to be named after 15 July was in Bulgaria: It was named as “15 July Democracy Martyrs Mosque” on 21 August. The opening ceremony was attended by the heads of the Muslim religious establishment in Bulgaria and also by three high-level representatives of the DOST party (Democrats for Responsibility, Solidarity and Tolerance).
The campaign reached as far as Kyrgyzstan. The IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, which is said to be active in more than 100 countries and is very closely associated with AKP, named two of the three mosques it commissioned in Kyrgyzstan after 15 July Martyrs.

DIYANET AS A PROPAGANDA MACHINE

Diyanet, which is only a directorate, now has the budget of several ministries combined. Under AKP, it has been transformed into the propaganda machine that has a television channel, a radio channel, and many publications. And it backs every political move by the regime.
Diyanet has been working over time to promote the 15 July Saga. The July issue of Diyanet’s monthly magazine was dedicated to 15 July. Diyanet just released a new book (15 July as Told by the Veterans), a documentary and short films about 15 July. A special photo exhibition was organised with 15 July as the theme. High-level Diyanet officers visited the families of “15 July martyrs” and also the “15 July veterans”.
On Friday 14 July, special activities, all titled “Commemoration of Our Martyrs,” were held across the country in Quran courses for children. Quran reading sessions were held across the country before Friday prayers. One hundred thousand prayers will read in honour of martyrs. Friday sermons focused on 15 July.

On 15 July Diyanet hosted special activities with the slogan, “From Coups that Silenced Prayers to Sala that Silenced Coups.” A web page devoted to 15 July was published. And Saturday night Diyanet organised for sala calls from minarets at 00:13 across the country in 90 thousand mosques. The lights of the mosques and minarets were on all night.

NOT ONLY THE GOVERNMENT

If the regime is working hard for the bosses, the bosses might be expected to promote the 15 July Saga, too. Ankara Chamber of Commerce (ACC), for instance, has been working diligently to promote martyrdom and the saga. On 15 July, the ACC president visited martyrs’ tombs and said, “On 15 July we had 250 martyrs but we were resurrected as a country. 15 July is a symbol of our resurrection.” 

Last week ACC organised a special event that blended religion, militarism and melodrama. The program began with prayers, the reading of Quran, continued with the reading of dramatic poems, followed by speeches. The highlight of the evening was the appearance of a girl who recounted the killing of her father on 15 July. The audience was expected to cry and so they did. The Minister of Culture and Tourism hugged the “daughter of the martyr” and photos of these emotional moments were taken. ACC distributed the photos as part of a press release the next day. No one was ashamed of the melodrama.

Last year GSM operators in Turkey provided practically unlimited talk time, SMS and internet service to aid the “national mobilisation” day after day. The generosity was repeated this year on 15 July. One of the companies went as far as inserting the president’s voice into phone calls. Türk Telekom, which is also allied with the regime, came up with a video depicting 15 July. It contained images of Ömer Halisdemir, tanks, crowds and the president of Turkey appearing on a mobile phone. The company sent e-mail announcements to its clients with a portrait of Halisdemir, who was turned into a mythical figure because he shot and killed one of the generals in command of the coup plot. Telekom used #Birliktecokguzeliz (Together We Are Beautiful) as the hashtag to promote its video.

JUSTICE, NOT MYTHS

When was the last time GSM operators and corporations spread the truth to the public? When bosses, their companies and corporations are so passionately embracing a saga, could it be that this is serving their interests? And when was the last time mosques spread the facts to the masses? And why should anyone believe that a militaristic myth produced by the rulers is a beautiful thing? Who could believe the slogan Together We Are Beautiful?

Truth and justice are the casualties of the existing regime in Turkey. What Turkey needs now is justice, not myths.