Now that Turkey’s AKP is well and truly entrenched in power, voices issuing dire warnings have been popping up left and right. In Turkey as well as wider afield, many have warned of Turkey’s imminent “return to Islam” and Tayyip Erdoğan’s autocratic tendencies. And now, the leader of Turkey’s opposition has taken the bold step of publishing an op-ed in the venerable Washington Post.
As an alarmist pseudo-secularist also prone to employ an Islamic rhetoric to garner public sympathy, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu start his piece stating that “[m]any in Washington have been debating whether Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) could be a model for the Arab Spring , as our neighbors in the Middle East aspire to get rid of totalitarian regimes and become true democracies. But the reality in Turkey makes clear that the AKP model does not hold”. Many Turks as well as many other observers have been talking about Turkey’s Secularism as a possible model for the Arab world. But, as I have pointed out on numerous occasions, the mere idea that Turkey is a secular state seems far-fetched, and not just because the ruling party hails from Erbakan’s notorious Refah Partisi (RP), but rather because the republican system present in Turkey has always viewed Islam as the nation’s state-religion to be controlled and imposed by the ruling elite of the country, turning the notion of the separation of politics and religion in Turkey into a mere fallacy.
Turning his attention to the affairs of the day, Turkey’s opposition leader continues: “On Nov. 9 I visited the Silivri prison where hundreds of journalists, publishers, military officers, academics and politicians are being held. Trials were opened in 2007 on charges that an ultranationalist underground organization had plotted for years to overthrow the government. Many of those indicted have been detained for years without trial. There has not been a single conviction to date. Justice is at stake — and, so far, has been flagrantly denied. At work is an insidious attack on the rule of law by Turkey’s governing party. These trials could have been an occasion for Turkey to achieve a much-needed catharsis for correcting past wrongs, but they have been turned into instruments to silence the opposition and suppress freedoms. Among those being held are eight opposition members of parliament. Turkey’s high election board declared that these people were qualified to stand for elections, and all won seats in parliament. That they are incarcerated violates their rights under Turkish law as elected representatives of the people. A universal norm of the rule of law is that one is innocent until proven guilty. Another is that evidence leads to the arrest of a suspect. In today’s Turkey, however, people are treated as guilty until proven innocent. One gets arrested; then authorities gather evidence to establish an infraction. Presumed guilt is the norm. Sadly, all opponents of the government are viewed as potential terrorists or plotters against the state. The AKP is systematic and ruthless in its persecution of any opposition to its policies. Authoritarian pressure methods such as heavy tax fines and illegal videotaping and phone tapping are widely used to silence opponents. Even more disturbing is the AKP’s claim that such things are being done in the name of democratic progress. The latest government target is the primary vestige of our democracy, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), which I lead. While at the Silivri center in November, I likened the conditions to those of a concentration camp and said that prosecutors and judges were not meting out justice and did not deserve to be called upholders of justice. This month, I learned that the prosecutor’s office had opened an inquiry into my comments, contending that I was ‘seeking to influence a fair trial’ and ‘insulting public officials’. Never mind that not a day passes without some comment by government officials, such as the prime minister, on the process of law and justice. Clearly, an effort to single out the leader of the main opposition party ratchets up the pressures on freedom of expression. Meanwhile, the Constitutional Court penalized our party when we asked for the chief justice to recuse himself from particular cases. Our request was based on ill will, we were told when the $3,000 fine was levied, and the CHP was unnecessarily preoccupying the court’s time”, and ending his lament with, “It all boils down to this: In today’s Turkey, when one criticizes the justice system, one is prosecuted. When one appeals to the courts, one is penalized”.
Even though his own party has been playing the nationalist and Islamic cards quite openly for quite some time now, Kılıçdaroğlu still feels at ease to say that “Our party [the CHP or Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi] stands for democracy, secularism, the rule of law, human rights and freedoms. We envision a progressive Turkey where citizens, regardless of their faith, ethnicity, gender or political view, are equal before the law. Building political, economic and cultural walls between people is not consistent with democracy or social justice. Only a nation at peace with itself can be a model for its neighbors. A nation plagued by multiple forms of division and polarization is doomed to failure”. In fact, even though he Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has not explicitly accused the AKP government of turning Turkey into an Islamic state, his reiteration that the CHP stands for “democracy, secularism, the rule of law, human rights and freedoms” clearly implies that, in his opinion, the AKP as a political organization is synonymous with totalitarianism, Islamism, arbitrary rule, and a heavily constrained citizenry. In other words, Kılıçdaroğlu paints the spectre of a revived Ottoman state in the mould of Abdülhamid II (1876-1909), when Pan-Islamism and autocracy led to a veritable police state which was only overthrown by the Young Turk revolution of 1908 and the Second Constitutional period in Ottoman history (1908-1918) . . .
 Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, “Opposition being silenced in Turkey” The Washington Post (06 February 2012). http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/opposition-being-silenced-in-turkey/2012/01/26/gIQA0uLfsQ_story.html.
 C. Erimtan, “Secularism, beer and bikinis” Hürriyet Daily News (10 March 2011). http://tiny.cc/6msiy; “The Turkish Army: Guardian of Turkish Secularism???” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (09 August 2011). http://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/the-turkish-army-guardian-of-turkish-secularism/; “An Academic Entry: Hittites, Ottomans and Turks” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (18 October 2011). http://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/an-academic-entry-hittites-ottomans-and-turks/.
 Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, “Opposition being silenced in Turkey”.
 Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, “Opposition being silenced in Turkey”.