Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said Turkey has been moving away from democracy and is turning into a totalitarian regime as he criticized mass arrests that have been taking place in Turkey.
“All developments prove this,” said Kılıçdaroğlu, speaking to the Yeniçağ daily about the recent detention of three columnists from the newspaper.
He said even during the 1980 coup era, the military regime did not care about letters from anonymous informants.
“Nowadays, people’s homes are being raided and people are being detained due to tips from anonymous people. By detaining journalists through these procedures you overshadow the Yenikapı spirit, which represents respect for democracy,” said Kılıçdaroğlu.
He was referring to a mass rally held in Istanbul’s Yenikapı neighborhood in August to defend democracy in the wake of a failed coup attempt on July 15.
Servet Avcı, Adnan İslamoğulları and Yavuz Selim Demirağ, columnists for the nationalist Yeniçağ daily, were detained early on Wednesday, and a detention warrant was issued for another columnist, Kürşat Zorlu, as part of an ongoing witch-hunt targeting the Gülen movement.
Continuing his remarks on the issue during a CHP party council meeting on Friday, Kılıçdaroğlu said: “The first step of the witch-hunt targeted the media. A total of 113 journalists have been arrested so far, while 2,308 journalists have lost their jobs. TV stations and newspapers have been closed down. We are saying clearly that we don’t want any journalists to be detained or jailed. You cannot explain this to the civilized world.”
He also pointed out that the government is preparing to take legal action to close down the Kemalist Sözcü daily as well.
“The government has been engaging in coup opportunism to silence critical media. You say ‘we defend democracy’ and say ‘we defend media freedom,’ but you close down newspapers and detain and jail journalists,” added Kılıçdaroğlu.
Kılıçdaroğlu also said the CHP, from the very beginning, has been against the imposition of a state of emergency, which was declared following the failed coup attempt on July 15.
‘If we had a strong democracy, this wouldn’t have happened’
Evaluating the conditions that paved the way for the coup attempt on July 15, Kılıçdaroğlu said, “If this country had a strong democracy, rule of law, media freedom, fair trials and judicial independence and neutrality, we would not be facing this picture.”
Sending a message to the government about the way it is handling the post-coup process, he added: “If you try to run the country with feelings of revenge and hatred, then you will cause suffering for many innocent people. This is the point we have reached now. A total witch-hunt has been launched in many areas.”
Kılıçdaroğlu also criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent remarks about the way the purge has been handled:
“Who is responsible for this? Who is the prime minister, the president of the country? Who is guilty? The government is never guilty. On the one hand you complain, but on the other you continue to implement these measures. There is no such state understanding anywhere else in the world.”
‘Turkey is being governed like a tribal state’
The CHP leader also slammed the government over the arrest of academics and trying to create one type of university in the country.
“One type university is a Nazi idea. Everyone must think the way I think. All must support me. If so, where is democracy? Why do you talk about democracy?”
Criticizing recent a government decision to suspend 11,285 teachers for their alleged links to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Kılıçdaroğlu continued: “There is one reason. These 11,285 teachers are members of a certain union. Is it a crime to be member of a union? It is a constitutional right. ‘You will establish a union and support me. If you do not support me, by using the state of emergency as an opportunity I will dismiss you.’ Turkey cannot be governed like a tribal state. But it is being ruled like one.”
‘No understanding of individual criminal responsibility’
“The government is trying to impose an understanding that if one person commits a crime, all family members and relatives can be punished for the same crime as well. If a father commits a crime, you fire him from his state position. If his wife is working for a public entity, then you fire her as well. You have been punishing innocent people. How long will this witch-hunt continue? You search for a son but you take his wheelchair-bound mother hostage. And you still call this justice and the rule of law?” said Kılıçdaroğlu regarding recent government violations of the principle of individual criminal responsibility.
The CHP leader also slammed the government on the seizing of private property as part of the witch-hunt against the Gülen movement.
“Trustees have been appointed to over 500 companies. All have later been transferred to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund [TMSF]. A state must be in favor of companies surviving and not bankrupt them. All businessmen are feeling like they’re on a knife’s-edge. They are concerned that government will appoint trustees to their companies and detain them.”
Some TL 12 billion (about $4 billion) in property has been transferred to the Treasury as part of an investigation into the Gülen movement, said Minister for Environment and Urbanization Mehmet Özhaseki on Sept. 1. Yet, the total figure is expected to increase considering seizures and trustee appointments at more companies, which have become common practice in the aftermath of July 15.