Turkey’s Journey to Democracy and Freedom

 By Begum Burak

In Turkey, enormous changes have been taking place both in domestic politics and in foreign policy issues. It should be noted that, it is not so hard to observe the positive changes and transformations Turkey has been going through in the last years. Since 2002, Turkey has been ruled by a single-party government (The Justice and Development Party –JDP) which has made a considerable amount of contribution to Turkish democracy via EU reforms and some other policies. On the other hand, it is also obvious that the steps that have been taken are not enough. Turkey has a long way to go for further democratization. In this context, the first and foremost need for Turkey for a more enhanced democracy and a more enlightened society is to have a new civilian constitution.

The positive changes witnessed in the last decade shed a light upon what can be succeeded in the near future.  Above all, the broadcasting in Kurdish language by a state-owned TV channel (TRT) now shows that the Kurdish citizens in this country are not treated as second-class citizens. However, we must all be aware of the fact that much more freedom is necessary for the solution of the Kurdish problem. In addition to that, the cultural rights of the Kurds must not be banned.

Secondly, some historical traumas such as the 1915 Armenian Issue or the Dersim Issue (Some call Dersim Issue as an uprising while others call it as a massacre ) inevitably discomfort the victims of these events. So to be able to face these tragic experiences in fact means an important step toward the elimination of the discomfort of those victims. Related to this, we know that a few months ago, the JDP government adopted a relieving rhetoric for the elimination of the Dersim trauma.  This face-off can be viewed as a pretty good start for handling other past traumas.

Apart from these, it is a well-known fact that Turkey is used to having a pathological civil-military relationship. However, the JDP policies to an important extent, have paved the way for the elimination of this anomaly in the nature of civil-military relations. The EU reforms have played a key role in this process.

On the other hand, the legal processes regarding terrorist organizations like Ergenekon and KCK have been playing a significant role in the normalization of civil-military relations. It should also be said that some writers see the arrestments as a threat to Turkish democracy and media freedom, but this is a really controversial issue. Notably, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has declared that Tuncay Ozkan, one of the journalists who is in prison due to KCK operations, has not been imprisoned for his journalistic activities. Today the judiciary process for the copy-makers has also started. The cases of the 1980 coup and the 1997 (Post-modern) coup are now also being legally examined. This is really encouraging for Turkish democracy. Last but not least, and as noted earlier, the most urgent need for Turkey now is the drafting of a new constitution which will lead to a more consolidated democracy.

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