The arrest of CHP Member of Parliament Enis Berberoğlu and his sentencing to 25 years in prison in the court case known as the “MIT (National Intelligence Organisation) Trucks” represent a clear violation of the right to personal freedom as well as a violation of the protections afforded members of parliament in the constitution. The arrest of Berberoğlu was rightly met with strong opposition by Turkey’s main opposition party, sparking a discussion among the public once again concerning the government’s oppressive policies towards opposition parties. Responding to the arrest of a parliament member from his own main opposition party, CHP party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu announced the party would be organising a Justice March in Güvenpark, Ankara on 15 June 2017. The march took place today with mass participation.
It would be helpful here to revisit the developments of the past two years in Turkey. Unhappy with the election results of 7 June 2015, Mr. Erdoğan mobilized his party to organise a snap election. The ceasefire and peace negotiations ongoing since 2013 collapsed on 24 July 2015, and armed conflict ensued shortly after. During this period Mr Erdoğan declared himself the de facto President and began implementing a de facto Presidential system. In this political climate of armed conflict, the AKP was able to regain the majority in the Parliament in the 1 November 2015 dated election. After the 15 July failed coup attempt was quickly suppressed, a State of Emergency was declared, and a State of Emergency regime was established as a counter-coup measure. From this period until the referendum held on 16 April 2017, Turkey was governed by a de facto Presidential system with the support of the MHP party. The referendum vote on the adoption of a Turkish Presidential System passed with the help of an illegal decision made by the Supreme Election Board, and thus Turkey is now governed under a purely authoritarian system.
This kind of oppressive government is characterised by a tendency to completely restrict the exercise of fundamental human rights and freedoms, and to mobilise the judicial branch as an instrument of relentless political persecution against any and all dissent. The application of this judicial persecution has resulted in the 4 November 2016 arrest of HDP co-leaders Mr. Demirtaş and Ms. Yüksekdağ along with 8 other HDP members of parliament, and since then 13 more members of parliament have been arrested, 80 co-mayors have been arrested, 150 journalists have been arrested, and essentially anyone hoping to exercise their right to the freedom of expression and assembly has been subjected to some sort of legal persecution.
Leaving aside the inadequacies of the main opposition party in effectively responding to these aforementioned political developments over the past two years, we hope the CHP’s Justice March will be an effective act of democratic resistance and the main opposition party will be successful in this regard.
The sectors of society who voted “NO” on the 16 April Referendum have gathered today to uphold and advocate for the democratic values of freedom, equality, peace, justice. These efforts must also be accompanied by a firm political resolve to address these issues head on.