Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: In Turkey, the problem is not corruption | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Turkish riot police use tear gas to disperse protestors during an anti government demonstration in Istanbul, Turkey, 22 December 2013. (EPA/Ulas Yunus Tosun)

Turkey has certainly had a full agenda again this week. Resignations by three ministers, a Cabinet reshuffle, a new operation being canceled by the chief prosecutor at the last moment, resignations from the Justice and Development Party (AKP). “I am the only target,” said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Some people disagreed, others agreed, and they were not slow to describe events as “an attempted coup by the judiciary.”

As far as Erdoğan is concerned, we need to consider the situation in broad terms. Something unprecedented during the 11 years of AKP rule happened this year: the Gezi Park incidents. The original issue was the protection of trees, but this turned into a broader protest by those opposed to the government. Turkey encountered an unfamiliar scene; some opponents of the government signaled they would resort to any means to get what they wanted. There was a group, among a nation that greatly values democracy, that disregarded the national will and desired a coup or a revolution, and which had no qualms about establishing an alliance with supporters of communist terror organization the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), perhaps the major threat to the country, to achieve that end. Correct and democratic steps taken after the protests again strengthened the government. However, Erdoğan’s perspective had changed; the threat was not to be underestimated.

The prime minister was now aware of this threat at every step. We need to assess the tension he must have experienced following the anti-corruption operations that were conducted without consultation with himself, the justice minister, governors, chief prosecutors or even the head of security. We must of course remember that these were conducted alongside an overt smear campaign on the part of some of the media. The prime minister believes some people are using the methods of the Gezi protests once more. If we remember the cudgel-wielding crowd that headed for Erdoğan’s home during the Gezi incidents, that concern needs to be taken seriously.

Those who do not want democracy in the country are trying to take advantage of the artificially inspired conflict between the government and the Fethullah Gülen movement. Very different and sinister groups have always tried to take advantage of divisions among Muslims. They look at what one of two sides in a conflict targets, and then support it on the basis that they share a “common enemy.”

Once the “common enemy” has been eliminated, those with sinister motives find a clearer field, take advantage of that loss of strength and turn to dividing Muslims, targeting our territorial integrity and spreading terror and anarchy. These are ideal conditions for the PKK, other anarchist groups and those who encourage separatism. The instability that results from divisions among Muslims always serves their purpose.

The artificial conflict being created in Turkey, and the fake alliance between right and left against a “common enemy” therefore represents the real threat. There are other costs, as well: this week, the stock exchange in Turkey closed down with a loss of 65 billion Turkish lira. The value of publicly traded companies fell from 269 billion lira to 249 billion, the largest loss being that of Halkbank. The dollar has risen to record levels against the Turkish lira and the European Union has seized the moment to begin expressing more reservations about Turkish membership of the EU. Turkey, a powerful country looking after some 1 million refugees, and perhaps the main support for needy Muslims in places such as Sudan, Somali and Myanmar, has become preoccupied with its own problems.

Certain circles have caused conflict among Muslims, and innocent people have again paid the price.

With the targeting of Halkbank—which was slated to manage Northern Iraq petroleum revenues—the central Iraqi and autonomous administration reached a new agreement regarding revenue management with an American bank. America got what it wanted. Isn’t the timing interesting?

Corruption is a loathsome crime, but at the end of the day that is the job of the judicial system to tackle. These are not the first corruption allegations linked to the government, either in Turkey or anywhere else in the world. The Turkish people have not yet heard the defenses of those detained. Nobody really knows who did what, if anything. Therefore, condemnation without trial is ill-befitting the rule of law.

Let us not forget that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government came to power eleven years ago as one determined to fight corruption, and over those eleven years it carried out 91,687 operations against corruption, fraud and economic crimes. Even now we are receiving determined signals from the government regarding corruption. Even the opposition regards the cabinet reshuffle and the acceptance of the ministers’ resignations as a move toward that goal.

Therefore, the real problem is not corruption, but its use as a pretext to set two Muslim forces against one another. Those who wish to weaken a country always need more than legal proceedings—they seek the fragmentation of the spiritual groups that represent the foundations of the country.

A weakened Turkey may delight certain circles—particularly in the West—that do not conceal their hostility to the Islamic world, but this foretells disaster for the Middle East. If attempts are made to include a powerful and democratic Turkey in the strategy of divide and rule being implemented in the Middle East, this will leave Muslims, and the weak in the region, unprotected, and will ultimately lead to even greater fragmentation.

However, such people should not raise their hopes. Turkey is a powerful country that has overcome coups, organizations within the state, and terrorist groups perpetrating murder within the military. What has made Turkey a rising star over the past eleven years is not political maneuverings, but policy based on good conscience and the importance attached to brotherhood. It is the only country in the world to stand up for that ideal. Allegations of corruption will not therefore be of much benefit to those who wish to weaken the country and turn it away from democracy. There is no going back in Turkey.

What we need to emphasize most at the moment is peace and brotherhood. Muslims must stop fighting, forego their enmities, and be united. They must not forget that they are responsible not only for themselves, but for all people in need. Muslims speaking as brothers with a single voice have always thwarted sinister plans; you can be sure that this will also happen in Turkey. Our job is to insist on brotherhood. Finally, I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year, filled with many blessings.