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Erbakan & Ciller Hold Tight to the Government
|Erbakan & Ciller Hold Tight to the Government » ...And Major Dailies Index Prices to the $ » One Minute of Darkness - Back For Democracy » Symphony to Secularism » The Short and Bloody History of Ulkucus » The Week in Perspective » Focus on Human Rights|
|Untitled 4 April, 1997, Turkish Probe issue 222, Copyright © Turkish Daily News
Erbakan & Ciller Hold Tight to the Government
By Sirma Evcan
Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan and Deputy Prime Minister Tansu Ciller are holding on very tightly to the coalition. They seem not to worry at all about the "uneasiness" felt in the army, the presidency, business and finance circles, opposition parties nor at their respective grassroots organizations. Leaders of the coalition parties, the Islamist Welfare Party (Refah) and the so-called "mainstream conservative-liberal" True Path Party (DYP), however, do give necessary messages to their supporters through their sharp-tongued deputies. These deputies who keep making binding statements (there are more of them in the DYP than Refah) about their uneasiness and concessions made on the side of their party, the next day somehow are seen sitting in harmony with their leader.
To ease public opinion pressure on the coalition, both leaders feel they have to give certain messages to society as well. Erbakan with a surprise move sent documents pertaining to charges against former Interior Minister Mehmet Agar, and Urfa Deputy Sedat Bucak (both from the DYP) for parliamentary assessment on whether their immunity should be lifted or not. These documents had been kept by Erbakan since the accident on Nov. 3, 1996, in Susurluk which led to claims that both Agar and Bucak were involved in state-mafia-police connections. Erbakan wanted to evade criticisms that he was covering corruption in order to continue in government with Ciller.
Ciller, meanwhile, has lately adopted a harder line against Refah's "efforts to bring about a shariah regime" in Turkey. She has always said the DYP is the guarantee of the secular and democratic Turkish Republic but lately she is seemingly threatening the Refah deputies who go too far with their religious "ideology." Meanwhile, Ciller is turning to the opposition and calling them to "behave like a man" and not hide against tanks and mortars to topple the government. "Find the necessary number of 276 and finish the government," she stated recently.
Erbakan may seem to have firmer control over his party, but obviously Ciller's power is no less in the DYP. And because there is no viable alternative government formula, the uneasy deputies of both parties don't take the necessary steps to end the coalition.
When no significant message came from the National Security Council (MGK) meeting on March 31 (it was expected that army commanders would once more underline the implementation of measures required to keep up the secular regime), DYP deputies' inclinations were brought into focus again. The army, at the MGK meeting of Feb. 28, had actually given two months to the government before moving onto the next step of utilizing certain sanctions to save Turkey from the "threat of religious extremism." DYP deputies still had some time until this period expired at the end of April before making the final move of resignation from the party. However, even if not very convincing, opposition against the government continued to be voiced by DYP deputies.
One of Ciller's close aides, Yalim Erez, the minister of industry, on different occasions has voiced his uneasiness. Especially after attending a meeting of the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB), Erez, who until then was labelled as a "fake revolter" within the party, was reported as saying he wanted to be at peace and "look at the faces of his wife and children." "I hope this government will finish," he said seeing that the TOBB too had withdrawn its support from the DYP.
Erez is a key figure in the DYP because he is believed to be effective at influencing his leader's decisions. Despite this he has lost the confidence of his fellow DYP deputies. Another key figure is Necmettin Cevheri, who isn't saying much at this stage. He is known to have his private contacts with President Suleyman Demirel (his former leader) and, according to DYP sources, to have understood that it is difficult to move on with Ciller. Cevheri is closer to party organization than Erez. Another veteran DYP politician is Mehmet Golhan and he too recently disclosed his dissatisfaction with the coalition. "We are at the crossroads with Refah," he told a meeting.
Such statements coming from key DYP officials escalate expectations about the end of the coalition, which somehow never arrives. The reason for this, said an observer, is "the scattered situation of the opposition inside the party." Uneasiness is there, and opposition to Ciller is definitely there, but this isn't an organized opposition and therefore cannot yet be successful, DYP experts state. The only nucleus opposition comprises Unal Erkan, Ayvaz Gokdemir and Zeki Ertugay. This group is said to have been consistent. Ankara Deputy Ilhan Akuzum is reportedly in close contact with this group. Other than this group, there is individual opposition to the coalition. Erez, for example, doesn't have many deputies around him but Izmir Deputy Hasan Denizkurdu is one. Health Minister Yildirim Aktuna too, is acting individually because there isreportedly a "confidence crisis between him and Erez." Cefi Kamhi and Tekin Erener are yet other DYP deputies who are uneasy but disorganized.
Any defection in the very near future from the DYP looks unlikely at this stage, not only due to the scattered situation of the opposition, but also due to a "fear" of Tansu Ciller's determination to carry on at all cost. Moreover, DYP deputies know that if one or two resigned, then Ciller would certainly "buy" somebody else from another party. She recruited two deputies from the Democratic Left Party (DSP) lately and a former DYP deputy, Koksal Toptan, came back to the party on Wednesday.
Erbakan's opponents in the party don't make themselves public. Even Aydin Menderes who has acted as the voice of wisdom for some time has closed his mouth following the party meeting Erbakan chaired at the hospital where Menderes is undergoing treatment, just to "win his broken heart." Menderes, however, had a meeting with Husamettin Cindoruk, leader of the Democratic Turkey Party (DTP), who is touring leaders and influential politicians with the aim of finding a solution to the "government crisis." But Menderes is refusing journalists' interview requests following Erbakan's clever move.
Certain Refah deputies are reportedly complaining about concessions the party leadership is giving in order to carry on the coalition. These say the party grassroots are very uneasy about retreats from essential promises Refah made during election times. Erbakan seems to have found a solution to please this group too. He lets go certain deputies to speak the "Refah discourse," and even some top level party officials, like Oguzhan Asilturk, make rather contradictory statements in order to keep party grassroots in line. Erbakan at the same time bans one or two deputies -- such as Hasan Huseyin Ceylan -- from talking too sharply to justify the fear of the secular groups. So the "one step forward, two steps back" tactic of Refah also helps the government.
Erbakan and Ciller are now trying to find the right method of dealing with the MGK decisions. For the time being they have succeeded in summing up all the 18 decisions in one decision, the uniformity of eight years of uninterrupted compulsory elementary education. Turkey is busy debating the issue which brought about the controversy over whether such a practise will lead to the closure of the high school sections of the Imam-Hatip clerical schools. Refah is making good use of the issue and has immediately taken on its side the main opposition Motherland Party (ANAP) as well. ANAP Konya deputy and deputy Chairman Mehmet Kececiler has openly said it would be a mistake to count on ANAP for the closure of the Imam- Hatip Lycees. DYP deputies are already at a loss as to how to handle the subject. National Education Minister Mehmet Saglam from this party has said that MGK decisions will be applied as they were, as did Ciller, but Ciller knows well that her party's grassroots are also practicing Muslims and should not be hurt.
The issue is now brought down to the question whether the Imam-Hatip schools (which were originally established to train Imams and Hatip clergymen) will continue to be professional schools or not. There are about 500,000 students who are studying in such schools in Turkey. Experts say these schools have long lost the character of training professionals. And the mainstream right have long been making use of religion for political aims.
Among the graduates of Imam-Hatip schools are politicians such as Kececiler, who have been meeting with party leaders in the past days to defend their cause. Even DSP leader Bulent Ecevit received them and soothed their worries by saying nobody could harm religion in the country.
Still, neither the DSP nor the Republican People's Party (CHP) deputies attended the dinner for Imam-Hatip graduates when all the other parties were represented.
Erbakan himself came up with a "development" package for the Southeast to please the MGK. He will likely continue with his "good news" conferences and deliver promises as he explains how improvements are made in the economy. His partner Ciller says Turkey is undergoing a "major leap forward." She said, "We shall be a partner in the contemporary Western world keeping our own identity. Turkey is going to be a peace bridge. Ottoman power is on the rise."
The coming days will give more clues about the future of the government and the agenda of the next MGK meeting. In the meantime, Turkey will observe the developments regarding the Imam-Hatip schools and the future of the eight year uninterrupted primary education.
...And Major Dailies Index Prices to the $
By Ilnur Cevik
The Turkish newspaper industry is moving into deeper crisis as major dailies move to hike their prices to record levels... Earlier, mass circulation dailies Hurriyet and Milliyet, both owned by the Dogan Group, had increased their prices to TL 120,000 to be able to cope with the free presents they had earlier promised their readers.
Their arch-rival Sabah, owned by the Bilgin Group, made a surprise move and increased the price of the 24-page newspaper to TL 170,000 (nearly $ 1.50).
Sabah said those who continue buying the newspaper with a "coupon" that will eventually earn them a "free" TV set will have to pay the TL 170,000 price tag while those who are not interested in a "present" will be able to buy the paper for TL 40,000.
The Sabah management also announced the price of the paper with the "coupon" would never exceed $1.50...
In a front-page letter published on Monday to explain the reason for the price increase, Sabah's management pointed out that when the paper started the promotion campaign on July 11, 1996 the newspaper cost only TL 50,000. It said that due to inflation and the rise of the dollar exchange rate it had increased the price to TL 60,000 in Nov. 1996, TL 80,000 in Dec. 1996 and TL 90,000 in Jan. 1997. Sabah said they had started to publish two editions of the paper with different prices in accordance with the wish of their readers who are not participating in the promotion campaign.
Sabah said that it had been forced to increase the price of the edition with the coupon to TL 170,000 due to the rise in the dollar exchange rate, and gave its readers the guarantee that during the television campaign the price would never exceed $ 1.50. This was the first time a Turkish paper has announced that its price is indexed to the U.S. dollar.
Industry sources said there were no major increases in input prices for newspapers to justify a price hike.
Hurriyet, which has promised to give its readers hi-fi systems, and Milliyet, which offers TV sets, recently increased their prices to TL 120,000 from TL 75,000 and TL 80,000 respectively.
The major newspapers had criticized daily Aksam, owned by Mehmet Ali Ilicak, for misleading its readers by increasing the price of the newspaper to astronomical figures when it was giving away free TV sets last year. They used their joint distribution company to block the sales of Aksam. In return, Aksam set up its own distribution network and continued to challenge the major newspaper.
Industry sources said it was interesting to see that the major newspapers were now doing exactly the same things which they had criticized Aksam for doing only a year ago.
Sources said the real problem is the serious crisis the major media companies are facing. "They owe huge amounts of money to the state-owned banks. Now the banks want their money back and the newspapers are doing everything they can to raise the cash and pay back the loans," a media expert told the Turkish Probe. The expert, who asked not to be named, said one newspaper group at least owes the state banks $220 million in credits, interest payments and penalties for not paying back their debts on time.
Added to this is the huge losses TV stations affiliated to these media groups are incurring. "They are losing billions of liras every day and the advertisement revenues are too little to cover up even the daily costs," the media expert says.
Newspaper readers are having to pay for the financial mismanagement of the media executives while the sales of newspapers fail to increase. This, experts say, is a prescription for disaster.
One Minute of Darkness - Back For Democracy
By Zafer F. Yoruk
The "One Minute of Darkness for Permanent Light" campaign, which dominated the evenings in major cities through February is resuming on 6 April. The campaign received unprecedented support and participation around the country, with lights turned on and off, candles blown out, pans banged, horns and whistles blown and "anti-gang" slogans shouted by hundreds in the neighborhoods of every major city at 9 o'clock every evening. Encouraged by the massive participation, campaigners hope for a concrete response from the government this time.
"One Minute" was designed as a protest to demand clean government, free of gangs, in the wake of the Susurluk accident by which the "mafia- politician- police" triangle was caught red-handed.
It was originally to be a silent and passive protest. Citizens were simply asked to turn their lights off for one minute at 9:00 every evening, nothing more. But the turning off of lights became flicking them on and off, then banging on pans, blowing whistles, clapping hands, and cars blowing horns all appeared at the designated blackout time. And within a few days, people began to collect in the streets, taking their whistles, pans and candles with them.
Thus the initially humble campaign may have started a new idea of civil disobedience. Many point out the similarities between this and the contemporary months- long anti-government protests in Belgrade and Sofia, arguing that the minute's darkness is a link in a chain of new style protests, in which consciousness of citizenship overrides social, ethnic and political differences.
While the action was taken to the streets, the participants did not consider that they were breaching the law due to the air of legitimacy it had acquired in the eyes of the majority of people.
But this transition from "a silent majority" to "a vocal majority" roused the campaign's critics to declare its illegitimacy. The True Path Party (DYP) correctly thought the shoe fit, and Deputy Chair Mehmet Golhan denounced the protestors as "traitors. "To be expected, given that the same DYP's leader, Tansu Ciller, had declared the gang members "national heroes."
The senior major coalition partner, the Refah Party's reaction was unintelligible. Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan called the campaigners "parasites and conspirators", and "people who have nothing to do apart from intrigue," while the Minister of Justice Sevket Kazan provoked a storm of indignation by comparing it to a game of "candles out", a grave slur against Turkey's millions- strong Alevi community.
Refah's opposition were incomprehensible, as they had pursued an argument for decades as a civil society movement against the authoritarian structure of Turkish state.In fact, Refah's distress before the One Minute campaign was so large that they declared the campaign illegal and illegitimate, declaring participants in breach of the law of gatherings.
These official reactions prodded police action. During the protest in Antalya police attempted to disperse the crowd, and in the confusion, a 45- year old retired bank clerk with a dangerous heart condition, Celal Cankoru, out for a stroll with his wife, died shortly after being randomly arrested. "The state, organized essentially according to violence, is trying to terrorize the action. But in our eyes no violence has any legitimacy be it legal or illegal. We are determined to continue the protest against the state; but we shall not with the state's language of violence but with the language of peace," read a declaration by the "Citizen's Initiative," the architects of the campaign, regretting Cankoru's death.
The campaigners expressed concern with the signs of official hard line response, and the possibility of a violent reaction from the hard-left participants of the protest which would alienate the general populace. A second concern was the attempt by the secularist hard liners to "hijack" the protests by turning them into anti-Refah or anti-Sharia protests. The "Citizens Initiative" issued constant warnings that the aim of the campaign was to demand an end to corruption and mafioso relations within the state, and should not be derailed from these aims.
In the end there was no difference in the massive participation, nor did the police response lead to any remarkable changes in the mood of the action as a nonviolent protest through its provisional curtailment on March 9.
At the resumption of "One Minute of Darkness for Permanent Light" on April 6, participants will wear white ribbons to signify their longing for a clean government, and the slogan of the campaign condemns not only the "mafia- police- politician" triangle, but proposes a third way, where people are not merely forced to chose between de-secularization of society and a secularist military takeover: "Neither the Shadow of the Sharia nor the Roar of the Tanks: For Democracy Only."
Symphony to Secularism
By Ben Holland
The opening concert of the Fourteenth Ankara Music Festival, held at the Mustafa Ozbek Sports Center outside Ankara on Sunday, may have been conceived by its organizers -- the Sevda Cenap And Music Foundation -- in purely musical terms. But of the more than 8,000 music-lovers from the capital who attended the concert, few can have left the hall unaware of the politically charged symbolism of the occasion.
It was probably the most spectacular event in the history of classical music in Turkey. Ankara's finest orchestras and choirs joined forces for the day to create a body of musicians and singers 450 strong, from the Presidential Symphony Orchestra, the Ankara State Opera and Ballet Orchestra, the Bilkent Symphony Orchestra, the Ministry of Culture State Polyphonic Choir, and the TRT Polyphonic Choir. The lineup also featured distinguished soloists, and the whole ensemble was conducted by Georgian Jansug Kakhidze.
The piece selected for performance, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, is considered by many to be the nearest Europe has to a supranational anthem. So it was appropriate that the concert should turn into an impressive demonstration of strength on the part of secular, Europe-leaning Turkey.
The sheer scale of the event was in itself a demonstration of the widespread popularity European culture enjoys among a large sector of the Turkish population. This was an audience which left no doubt as to where its loyalties lay. Audience irritation at the concert's escalated into outright hostility with the entrance of Culture Minister Ismail Kahraman, a pro-Islamic Welfare Party deputy who never refrains from expressing his disdain for Western culture. Kahraman took his seat amid a storm of jeers and whistles
Most of these turned to cheers with the arrival of President Suleyman Demirel, who entered the hall shortly after Kahraman. Demirel was evidently moved by the atmosphere. Pointing with both arms to orchestra and audience, Demirel told them: "This magnificent picture is the picture of contemporary Turkey." The audience responded with an impassioned chant: "Turkey is secular, and will remain so."
Demirel apologized to the crowd for his late arrival, explaining that the roads outside were blocked. And here, too, there was a political subplot. The Mustafa Ozbek Hall is near Esenboga Airport, some 30 kilometers outside the center of Ankara; the final kilometers of the journey pass along a narrow, poorly-surfaced road. According to press reports after the concert, Ankara's Welfare Party Mayor Melih Gokcek -- like Kahraman, hardly a noted aficionado of Western culture -- decided that Sunday would be a suitable day for carrying out repairs to this road. These repairs slowed the traffic flow, which would have been problematic in any case, down to a trickle.
There were other organizational difficulties too, primarily the exclusion of a number of people -- some with tickets, some without -- from the hall, due to lack of space. Their noisy protests were clearly audible during the quieter passages of the first movement of the symphony. But on the whole the concert was a triumphant success. Sevda Cenap And Foundation head Mehmet Basan said after the performance that the concert would be repeated for the benefit of those unable to get in. The second run may well take place in conditions more suitable for listening to Beethoven; but the intense, politically charged atmosphere of Sunday's concert will be impossible to repeat.
The Short and Bloody History of Ulkucus
By Jan Pacal
Ulkucus, the ultranationalists, were the lead players of the Turkish Gladio that was revealed with the Susurluk Accident.Abdullah Catli,a convicted criminal whose name was mentioned very often and who was accused of many cases, was mentioned as the head of the Gladio. There were many Ulkucu Special Team officers, ministers, deputies who were accused of being the member of the Gladio.
They all said, "We have done everything for the state" and went as far as threatening the bureaucrats. Then there was the President of the Special Team, Ibrahim Sahin, who vanished for a month despite of the order for his arrest. He gave himself up a couple of weeks ago, claiming that he had "private businesses." Ibrahim Sahin was also an Ulkucu and he has done many things for the state, according to his interrogation by police.
Not more than three months after the Susurluk incident, another Ulkucu Godfather was on the agenda, accused of killing the mayor of Kusadasi. One day before his sentence of 16 years was approved, he escaped from the prison and vanished.
Who were these Ulkucus? What kind of a power did they have in the state that they could escape from the doors of the prison, like the would-be papal assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca?
These people, who have been around for the last 30 years of Turkey, prepared the bases for the military coup on the State's side and have been on the agenda after 1980 as well with their activities. They were ready to sacrifice everything they had for the Turkish state for some, and they were the hit men used by the state for others. Many of them were mentioned along with mafia and most of them had a "Godfather" in front of their names. Certain things were asked of them first.
But, according to the Vice President of the National Action Party (MHP) Tugrul Turkes, the numbers of these people who were mentioned as mafioso and hitmen were not more than the numbers of the fingers in a hand.In fact, these people were not even Ulkucu according to Tugrul Turkes. But the number of people who do not share Turkes' opinion is considerably high.
Ulkucu ideology entered the agenda of Turkey with the presidency of Alpaslan Turkes of the CKMP, the nationalist party, in the late 1960s.Turkes' ideology was adopted in the party which name was changed to MHP. The Ulkucus were people who adopted this ideology. The first supporters of the MHP were the youth from Anatolia, due to the messages given in the party regulations and during the propaganda meetings. The Ulkucu youth was united under the roof of the Ulkucu Hearths due to the legal ban on membership of the youth in political parties.
The MHP not only emphasized the thesis of Turkish nationalism, it also defended the thesis of Muslim Turkish identity of the Anatolian people. The interest in Ulkucu movement and MHP increased, with the spreading of socialist ideology in East Europe and its influence on Turkey.
There is no serious research on the sources of the Ulkucu movement. The pre-coup period of the movement was evaluated as an armed struggle against the left. The only study on the source of the Ulkucu movement was made by Mustafa Calik's doctorate thesis. Calik asked 870 people in Gumushane and surrounding villages where MHP' voting rate was high.446 people said MHP is the only base they rely upon, in an attack against Turkish people and they support MHP because they do not see any other way but struggle for the protection of the national and social values.
81 of the 870 people said MHP is the only solution to struggle against communism. Communism is an important symbol for Ulkucus, according to Calik. All kinds of left wing activity is viewed as communist activity, as well as being of an enemy religion. The same group evaluates communism in contrast with honor, family and ethics. Another interesting point in Calik's research is the psychological condition of the youth who adopt the ideology of MHP. Violence has an important place in the games these youth play. According to Calik, family roots are not valued much among Ulkucus, who are accused of fascism often.
The manes of Ulkucus came to agenda as the suspects of many massacres in the past. The names were also mentioned within the Security Department, in the DAL department (Detailed Research Laboratory).DAL was mentioned as a torture center and its inhuman activities were recounted by many people and documented with torture reports.
"DAL has been functioning since the mid 1970s.It was the base of the famous Ulkucus such as Kemal Yazcoglu, Mustafa Haskiris, Celal Sandal (some of these names are on the agenda today).DAL was the most important tool to oppress the left.It was a center to cover the murders of Ulkucus within the police. In fact it was a center to realize these murders easier. "These lines were printed in weekly Ikibine Dogru, on August 7, 1988.
The history of Ulkucus is written with blood, according to the leftists. They were behind many unresolved murders and were the hitmen of the State. But according to Ulkucus, they have done everything for the state.
The Week in Perspective
Focus on Human Rights
Rights group condemns ERNK
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki last week condemned a recent call by the National Liberation Front of Kurdistan (ERNK) spokesman Adar Serket to target businesses, tourism and other nonmilitary targets in Turkey.
The human rights group noted that Serket had said, "If Turkey insists on violence, then in the spring of 1997 businesses, roads, bridges, tourism and fascist circles, which are numerous, will become targets." Serket's words were reported by Reuters news agency on March 20.
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki executive director Holly Cartner said the statement raised serious concerns that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) -- of which the ERNK is the political wing -- will carry out indiscriminate attacks against civilians. Noting that this is strictly prohibited under the international humanitarian law concept of civilian immunity, Cartner said, "Serket's statement makes a mockery of earlier PKK statements that it will abide by the Geneva Convention."
Cartner's statement said that during the 12-yearlong PKK campaign for independence or autonomy in southeastern Turkey, both government forces and the PKK had been implicated in serious human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, the use of indiscriminate attacks, and the destruction of civilian property. It added that more than 2,500 villages and hamlets had been depopulated in the Southeast, most believed to have been the result of a government insurgency campaign.
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