Shock therapy

The massive march commemorating murdered journalist Hrant Dink and his funeral is one of the most hopeful signs ever to come from Turkey. The slaying was a shock even to a public injected with a good dose of nationalism. The shock revealed a previously unseen facet of Turkish society – an ambiguous but no less real one. The murder was an extreme, but by no means isolated, incident. It followed the prosecution of Nobel Literature Prize winner Orhan Pamuk for his words on the Armenian genocide, the attacks against the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the confiscation of minority property. Article 301 of the Constitution which restricts freedom of expression, the para-state of the security service and organized crime all share the same womb: the deep state ideology. This was exposed in late 2000 when security forces in Turkey used their weapons to stop a hunger strike by thousands of inmates. Thirty-one prisoners were killed and many more were injured but that did not prevent then prime minister Bulent Ecevit from bragging about what would be shameful for any civilized being. Ecevit spoke of victory, as if the fully armed police force could ever have been defeated by the inmates. What the West saw as an act of barbarity was in Turkish eyes a demonstration of strength and determination. The Turkish regime has a penchant for periodic displays of stealth. This allows it to revive the specter of the ever-threatened albeit all-powerful state. The need to crush outside threats legitimates the hegemonic role of the security establishment – and all that notwithstanding Ankara’s EU ambitions. The task of EU-minded modernization is left to a great number of intellectuals, sections of the business class and of the media. It remains to be seen whether the aftermath of the Dink murder will prove to be a one-off reaction or a catalyst for a different future.

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