BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Dink, Bonk, Bling, Crash, Smush— the sound effects you might see in the emphatic bubbles in the panels of a comic book are what the news from Turkey is starting to sound like lately, a farce of ego, filth, and conflict.
DINK—Two suspects in the Hrant Dink murder case were arrested, based on a judge’s orders. This is all part of the deeper probing sought by Dink’s family, friends, and supporters who are (probably rightly) convinced that his murder goes deeper than just a few nut-cases deciding to “off” a giavoor. But, and here comes the ridiculous part, those two were released two days later.
BONK—Meanwhile, Turkey’s governing party, AKP, is getting bonked on its collective noggin because the results of a corruption investigation have become public with some 22 people arrested, among them many with connections to the highest echelons of AKP. Three ministers have resigned, numerous members of the government have been reshuffled, and Turkey’s internal divisions are once again on display with different factions clubbing each other with sometimes absurd accusations. For example, the U.S. ambassador has been accused of orchestrating the investigation to weaken Turkey.
BLING—The bling, (a rap era term referring to jewelry, often gaudy, that has become synonymous with “loot”) seems significant. Millions of dollars are involved, with cash hidden in boxes. Among those arrested is a bank president. Others are the sons of the AKP ministers who resigned.
CRASH—It’s as if the two sides of a titanic shark’s jaws have crashed into each other and are slashing away, trying to destroy one another. Many of the law enforcement people who conducted the investigation have been fired or removed from the case at Prime Minister Erdogan’s behest. Why? The police in Turkey have become filled with Gulenists. These are adherents of Fethullah Gulen, the Muslim cleric who directs a worldwide religious/educational empire from a compound in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. These people were one of the sectors of Turkish society who helped get the AKP to power. But over time, they and the party have become estranged with Erdogan and Gulen clashing ever more publicly. This corruption probe is seen as payback by the Gulenists against Erdogan because he shut down their “dershane” network (this might be better understood by those more familiar with our grandparents’ Turkish pronunciation as “ders khan”— “study-place”), a tutoring program that served as a means of recruiting people into Gulen’s cult.
SMUSH—What’s getting smushed in all this is good sense, proper attention to the hidden aspects of the Dink case, and Turkey’s slowly improving reputation.
In the non-Turkish media, there’s already chatter that this is an opportunity for Turkey to more fully, substantively, democratize. Any pundit who believes this is a closet Genocide denialist, since s/he is ignoring the fact that all of Turkish society is built on the ruins of Armenian civilization, wealth, and denial of this very foundation. Until that condition is remedied, Turkey will forever remain the “sick man of Europe” as it contorts itself into all manner of pretzels trying to avoid reality.
As to the Dink case, who can blame the average resident of Turkey for no longer paying much attention to it when the media is dominated by soap-opera-ish, sensational revelations about a formerly “clean” political party, two sides of a huge socio-politico-religious movement slinging Ararat-sized mounds of mud at each other, and the straight-faced but paranoid and absurd pronouncements of an egomaniacal Erdogan?
Finally, Turkey’s image is taking a beating as its seamy innards lie exposed. A duplicitous government, a remote-controlled cult, ridiculous conspiracy theories, factions lashing out at one another and in the process damaging state institutions (even Turkey’s intelligence agency seems to be involved in some funny business in this scandal), and a collapsing foreign policy (a massive and separate topic of discussion) are all on full display to the world. How can one not chuckle?
But once again, we as Armenians must be wary. As much as it might be tempting to cheer for some faction in this Turkish mess, none of them have demonstrated any behaviors that we might consider good. At best, there has been occasional “less horrible” behavior, e.g. the slight breathing space created when the AKP/Gulen forces first came to power. But all are corrupt and all will collapse as a consequence of that corruption. Ataturk’s party/military conglomerate which (effectively if not formally) ruled the country for the first eight decades of the so-called “republic” was knocked off its perch by AKP because of its endemic corruption. The AKP’s corruption has now been exposed. The Gulenists, whose operating in and from the shadows is based on the approach their leader has preached and institutionalized within the cult, are for that very reason intrinsically corrupt.
The moral is— a society originating in and based on murder and mayhem will long suffer because of the internal contradictions that eventually come to the surface. It’s like a mafia don’s kids trying to enter legitimate society with their father’s riches. Keep watching. Keep working. Keep pushing. Keep seeking the better elements of Turkish society. Keep developing relations with the Kurds. Keep struggling for a free, independent, and UNITED (i.e. all our lands) Armenia. It’s not around the corner, but neither is it unreachable.