Turkey's president has hosted opposition leaders at his residence to express gratitude for their support during the recent military coup attempt. But, many are wary of what's to come, reports Diego Cupolo from Ankara.
In an unprecedented move, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted opposition leaders at his Presidential Palace on Monday to express gratitude for their support during the recent coup attempt and to discuss the ongoing state of emergency measures being employed to "cleanse" the nation of lingering threats within state and private institutions.
Deemed "a call for unity" in the post-coup crisis, initial reports from the closed-door meeting suggest discussions involved possible constitutional changes and the implementation of capital punishment for convicted coup-plotters. Those attending the meeting were Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, Republican People's Party (CHP) head Kemal Kilicdaroglu, and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli.
But the notable absence of Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, leaders of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Turkey's second-largest opposition party, undermined the meeting's message as a "call for unity" fostering concerns that the parties involved will become no more than clans of yes-men, supporting Erdogan's ambitions to remove political opponents and further consolidate power.
At a time when those who dispute the purge are labeled coup supporters, it is not just the Turkish Republic that has come under a state of emergency, but the entire viability of credible opposition within the Turkish government and voting base. What we are seeing is a state of emergency for opposing views, and according to Hisyar Ozsoy, vice co-chair of the HDP, the evidence is in the votes.
"When the issue is national security, we see our opposition parties taking a very statist position and voting in line with the AKP," Ozsoy said. "They take these stances in the name of national unity, but this show of what they call unity will be very easy for Mr. Erdogan to exploit."
Calls to reinstate the death penalty
So far, the MHP has backed calls to reinstate the death penalty, and recently gave the AKP full support in a vote to lift immunity on members of parliament – a move which many believe will target HDP members.
"We suspect Mr. Erdogan is using this crisis as an opportunity not just to fight coup plotters, but to silence the political opposition at large, and HDP is the backbone of this opposition," Ozsoy said.
CHP, meanwhile, the party of Turkey's founding father Ataturk, voted against the state of emergency measure, but has been passive in moments critical importance, and garnered the votes necessary to lift parliamentary immunity.
On Sunday, CHP held a joint march with AKP supporters in Istanbul against the anti-democratic coup plotters, where it issued its "Taksim Manifesto," urging respect for human rights laws as more than 60,000 people have been detained, arrested or dismissed from their jobs in the ongoing purges.
Reports of torture
Yet a new report by Amnesty International cited evidence that security forces are subjecting some detainees to torture and rape, and considering the current political climate, opposition parties are in a weakened position to do anything about such infringement on human rights.
HDP co-chair Demirtas noted in moments of crisis, nations come together to show solidarity, which is what we are seeing both in the streets and the political arena, creating conditions unfavorable to dissent. Still, Turkey is a multi-cultural nation and to join together in the name of Turkish solidarity, is a dangerous sign of events that have yet to unfold for the nation's minorities, such as Kurds, Alawites and its 2.7 million Syrian refugees.
This may serve as an explanation not only for the exclusion of HDP leaders from today's meeting, but also for the attacks on minority neighborhoods that spread across the nation following the coup attempt. Some suspect the exclusion of the HDP from unity talks may be a precursor to increased fighting in the Kurdish southeast, and the possible expulsion of HDP MPs now that immunities have been lifted.
Alleged supporters of Fethullah Gulen, who lives in exile in the US, have been the object of the purges
Erdogan purging his way to power
The purges, which have so far targeted followers of alleged coup-plotter Fethullah Gulen, could easily expand to include other dissidents, notably Kurds, and the AKP now has the executive power and popular support to execute its agenda.
Eren Buglalilar, a Ph.D. student in the political science dept. of Ankara University, noted previous governments did not have the ability to mobilize large parts of the population against tanks and armed soldiers. He said, traditionally, Turkish citizens have held an image of their military as the "saviors during troubled times," but following the coup attempt, this too has changed.
"For minorities, leftists, intellectuals and secular Turks, this presents new concerns because they know the government will protect their Islamist supporters and may one day mobilize [these] people against them," Buglalilar said. "Especially in a time when the government is feeling very insecure."
Buglalilar added such mobilizations may be used to quell future protests against the Gezi Park renovations – a long-stalled project that has re-entered Erdogan's political agenda in recent weeks.
By drowning out opposition both in the political spectrum, and in the streets, the AKP is now in position to use the state of emergency to consolidate government powers. Whether Erdogan and his supporters become unbound in this new chapter in Turkish history, remains largely up to the international community, according to Ozsoy.
"We don't know when the purges will end, Erdogan said this coup was ‘God's gift' to give him the opportunity to do whatever he wants and he will use this gift to its limit," Ozsoy said. "He will go as far as he can if there is no significant international pressure."