2034) It Even Says ‘Justice’ On The Bottle

I have two images in front of me, one printed on a post card, the other in memory. The postcard is a bit of propaganda from the last election showing Tayyip Erdoğan flanked by his political “ancestors” -- the two figures in Turkey who shaped the political right. The influence of Turgut Özal is easy to understand. As prime minister in 1983 he was, of course, the great modernizer who shoved Turkey into a globalizing age and who managed to get himself elected in defiance of the military regime. Adnan Menderes, the other icon on the picture, wasn’t so lucky. He was hanged in 1961 for many of the reasons some today would like to see Tayyip swing. Menderes flirted too closely with populist forces which threatened to undermine the authority of the state elite.

Erdoğan’s party is not the only claimant to Menderes’ mantel. In the 1960s the party led by Süleyman Demirel was actually called the Justice Party -- a reference to the injustice done to the hanged prime minister and also to the continuing political bans enforced on his supporters. Demirel was himself barred from politics after the 1980 coup and struggled to have the prohibition reversed. Erdoğan was also prevented from standing for office after being convicted in a criminal court on the somewhat lame charge of inciting religious-based insurrection by reading out a poem. So it’s not surprising that AK, the name of his party he leads, is an acronym for the Turkish words for “justice” and “development,” Adalet ve Kalkınma. In Turkish politics, the rhetorical search for justice is a powerful force.

The other image I find hard to erase from my mind is the look on Hrant Dink’s face as he stepped out of an Istanbul courthouse and into a howling mob. It was the look of a man who had tumbled into a world gone mad. He was accused of insulting Turkishness, although anyone who knew him even slightly understood this was a crime of which he was congenitally incapable. Hrant argued openly and cogently in the Argos newspaper which he edited for measures he considered to be both in the best interests of his country and of Armenian compatriots. His thoughts were misrepresented; he was vilified in the press, convicted in court and shot dead in the street. It was as if his whole life were one miscarriage of justice.

Dink’s search for justice continues, at least in the prosecution of those responsible for his death. The teenager accused of pulling the trigger is standing trial along with 18 others in his immediate circle. But there is suspicion that those in authority, particularly among the Trabzon police, were also involved. The file of one of the suspects, a police informer called Erhan Tuncel, has not been submitted to the court but is reported to have been destroyed on grounds of national security. A taped conversation between Tuncel and a police officer in Trabzon has been leaked to the press and would seem to confirm that the plot to kill Dink was known to the police before the fact and that the conspiracy goes much wider.

Abdullah Gül, the Turkish president, was asked to defend his country’s record before Euro-parliamentarians the other day and by all accounts gave a good performance. To the question of whether Turkey was prepared to recognize the genocide of its Armenian population in 1915, the president said that Turks genuinely believed the issue to be more complex and that his country’s proposal to examine the evidence through a joint historical commission with Armenia had been unreasonably rejected. How can those who participate in such a commission be impartial while statutes like 301 exist to bring them to heel?

The obvious point is how can Turkey be relied upon to judge the events of 1915 when it appears to have so much trouble arbitrating the events of 2007? The Hrant Dink trial has become a test case. This government stands for justice. It even says “adalet” on the AK bottle. But justice doesn’t just mean fairness for yourself but for the powerless. Unless justice for Dink is seen to be done, the party in power should think of changing its name.

07.10.2007 ANDREW FINKEL a.finkel@todayszaman.com Zaman


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