The Turkish paradox


While Turkey's ambition is to become the 10th largest economy in the world by 2023, the country fell to rank no 148 in the World Press Freedom Index and hasn't made any significant human right reform since 2005.


Marco Cesario

With its dynamic economy and its impressive Gross Domestic Product grew (10.2% in the first semester of 2011, higher than China's) Turkey is a global player for investors and one of the fastest-growing economy in the world. Since it came to power in 2002, Turkey's ruling party AKP has become one of the most business-friendly governments ever established in Turkey. During his mandate, Erdoğan has succeeded in transforming small and independent entrepreneurs coming from the Turkish inland - the so-called Anadolu Kaplanları (Anatolian Tigers) – in a brand new modern middle-class aiming at making Turkey the 10th largest economy in the world by 2023 (it’s AKP new target for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the modern Turkish Republic).

However, behind the prosperous façade the reality is far from rosy. The EU negotiations remained stalled over Cyprus issue and AKP government undertook few reforms to convince Berlin and Paris whose hostility towards Turkey’s accession has caused frustration and disdain among Turks. The idea that Turkey would have the largest delegation of deputy members sitting in EU parliament must frighten the Germans (perhaps because of the estimated 3.5 million people of Turkish origin living in Germany). France is more worried about the survival of the Common Agricultural Policy (the cost of subsidising a country which counts tens of millions of farmers would be unsustainable). Despite the fact that EU-Turkey Customs Unioncontinues to contribute to the enhancement of EU-Turkey bilateral trade, EU membership is not a priority anymore for Turkey whose foreign policy seems to be more focused on promoting Turkey interests in the Arab-Muslim world in response to Arab Spring movements.

Despite its economic achievements and an Eastern-oriented policy aiming at turning Turkey into a crucial actor in the region (the so-called 'neo-Ottomanism'), AKP government has totally neglected any significant human rights reform since 2005. Freedom of expression is terribly suffering, ongoing prosecution and imprisonment of writers, journalists and Kurdish political activists are poisoning everyday life in Turkey which has been ranked 148th in the 2011 World Press Freedom Index by RSF (Reporters without Borders) behind Russia, Tajikistan or Ethiopia. In 2002, when AKP came to power, was ranked 100th. Concerns over Turkish anti-Terror Law are increasing, the idea that “everybody is guilty until proven innocent” has created a sort of collective psychosis inside Turkish society: “Who will be the next?” Abuses by police forces, mass arrest of pro-Kurdish deputies, mayors, lawyers have created an atmosphere worthy of George Orwell’s worst nightmares. With a a huge Anti-terror operation held last December simultaneously in Istanbul, Ankara, Van and Diyarbakır, 31 journalists have been arrested under suspicion of having links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The wide interpretation of ambiguous terms such as 'propaganda ' or 'terrorist organization' in the anti-Terror Law has become the easiest way to target almost any journalist or media and silence those who openly criticize the government. Under the pretext of eradicating terrorism, dozens of journalists have been jailed even before being fairly tried. Under Turkish legislation, the detainees do not have the right to talk to a lawyer during the first 24 hours and can remain in police custody for days (or even months) before being brought before a public prosecutor.  The judiciary system in Turkey is too tortuous and the abuse of pre-trial detention makes it a nightmare for every person trapped - even accidentally - in the maze of a Kafkaesque system.


With nearly 100 journalists and media workers behind the bar, Turkey follows nowadays China as the country with the highest number of journalists in prison. Some of them have been accused of supporting an armed terrorist organisation – Ergenekon - allegedly said to have planned to use terrorism to overthrow  AKP government.  Several hundred suspects are already involved (and detained). Among them, the reporter Ahmet Şık whose book "The Army of Imam" - which should have been published last May but it was banned and his author arrested -  states that 80% of the police forces are followers of an Islamic community ruled by the theologian Fethullah Gülen who, despite living in the USA, remains one of the most powerful and influential Turkish man. Sources revealed by the reporter have showed links between this Islamic movement, Turkey's ruling party AKP and the idea of transforming Turkey in a “modern” and liberticidal caliphate.


The verdict for the murder of the Armenian journalist Hrant Dink - editor-in-chief of the weekly magazine Agos killed in front of his office in Istanbul 5 years ago - has provoked huge protests across the country. Yasin Hayal, who incited Ogün Samast to assassinate Dink, has been sentenced to life but acquitted of charges of acting under a terrorist organization's orders. Nedim Şener - reporter for the Turkish daily national newspaper Milliyet - published a book unveiling the involvement of Turkish security forces in Dink's murder. Şener revealed the preparation and prosecution of Dink’s murder, drew attention to the roles played by official staff and underlined all the attempts to cover up a negligent police investigation. Nowadays Nedim Şener is facing 32 years of prison, accused with his colleague Ahmet Şik of spreading terrorist propaganda (but not because of his journalistic activity). However, it seems unconceivable that he hasn’t been arrested for publishing those reports. Investigative reporters have been 'used' by AKP to put kemalists and the army out of the political game. In time, once AKP was able to secure its power inside the country, investigative journalists became the big problem. Like an old, cumbersome friend to get rid of as quick as possible. 

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