Today's Zaman, Turkey
Jan 3 2012

Getting rid of a bandit state


The state has committed grave crimes in Turkey; in every case, it has
also managed to involve society in these crimes.

In order to achieve this, it has sometimes jointly committed these
offenses, taking measures to ensure that the collaborators have
benefited from the outcomes of the criminal acts. For instance, the
offenses committed against non-Muslims in Turkey follow this pattern.
Some groups have become rich by their crimes in Turkey.

Another way the state involves society while committing these crimes
is by ensuring that the people who talk about them feel guilty. One is
given the impression that it would be a betrayal to the country to
discuss state crimes.

We should note that former Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz said that the
forest fires in Greece were plotted by the Turkish state. This
statement raised fury in Greece but it is not discussed in Turkey --
why? It is because we feel guilty. If we discuss this issue
thoroughly, Turkey may face hardships and have to pay compensation.
Besides, the fires were committed as a form of retaliation.

The argument is that we punished Greece because they hosted PKK
militants in their camps. However, Greece hosted these militants
because of other crimes that Turkey had committed previously. Torture
and mistreatment was widespread in Turkey in the 1990s. Villages were
evacuated and burned down and people were abducted and executed. For
this reason Turkey's requests for the extradition of the PKK militants
were rejected by European states. And Greece, without fearing of
international reaction or condemnation, was able to extend support to
the PKK.

In an attempt to address its poor human rights record, Turkey set fire
to Greek forests. Now we are expected to ignore this fact just because
it is possible that our country may be hurt.

Is it not also the case with the Armenian issue? Do they not imply
that Turkey would have to pay compensation and reparations if we
thoroughly discuss the past? For this reason are we citizens not
expected to remain silent about the problem? And it is for the same
reason that those who seem to be open to discussing the Dersim
massacre of 1938 prefer silence when it comes to the Armenian issue.
Do they not accuse those who ask for an open discussion on the
Armenian issue of siding with the Armenians?

I personally believe that the cost of getting rid of the bandit state
and creating a state governed by the rule of law is immeasurable. If
we have to pay a big price on the road to becoming a state governed by
the rule of law, I claim that we should pay that price. My family
never benefited from the looting of non-Muslim properties. If I have
committed a sin because I lived in a Greek house that we rented when I
was little, may God forgive me and my family. If Turkey is ready to
pay reparations, I am also ready to pay extra taxes to replace the
money made by those who became rich when non-Muslim properties were

They are playing with our minds with different methods. They ask who
should pay reparations to Muslims who were expelled from the Balkans.
If Turkey is confident enough to compensate the non-Muslims it
expelled or deported from this country, it should be able to help the
Muslims who were expelled from the Balkans, in their cause to remedy
the wrongs of the past.

Because it cannot discuss its own injustices, Turkey is also unable to
speak out about the injustices committed by others. And for this
reason, it can only use the French genocide in Algeria as a trump
card. Turkish politicians made reference to the genocide in Algeria
just because the French mentioned the Armenian genocide; otherwise,
they do not have a principled stance or claim to action on this

In recent years there have been some promising developments to get rid
of this traditional approach. The most important one is undoubtedly
the Ergenekon investigation, which focuses on the illegal activities
of the deep state. However, this investigation did not turn into a
process of purification, where serious human rights violations could
be addressed. In addition this investigation also raised some
redundant questions during the case. Second, contradictorily to the
arguments of some, freedom of expression has been considerably
expanded in Turkey. For instance, it would not have been possible for
me to write some of the columns I have recently published in Turkish
and English five years ago. The initial reaction and objection would
have come from the newspapers owners and editors-in-chief. Even if
they did publish my columns, I would have received thousands of death
threats and I would have been prosecuted in court. The threats I
received because of the columns I have written in recent times are
negligible by Turkey's prevailing standards. In the past the media
would have launched a witch hunt and a number of legal suits against
me would have followed.

All in all, there is a long way to travel. But it is impossible to
ignore the fact that Turkey has made progress over the last decade.
This is my assessment of last year.

From: Baghdasarian