Ali Duran Topuz
Silencing voices in 2023's Turkey: The Tanrikulu episode
A parliamentarian, Sezgin Tanrıkulu, has spoken. In response, many forces seem aligned against him: the prosecutor's office, the CHP (Republican People's Party), and the overt and covert entities capable of swaying public sentiment.
Mektum represents the silenced, the suppressed. To voice an opinion, one must emerge into the open, yet the mektum remains concealed, unable to speak or even make a sound. Although they exist, it's as if they don't. A prominent example from recent history is the treatment of Kurdish groups in Syria, particularly those who migrated from Northern Kurdistan. Despite their existence, the Damascus regime treated them as invisible. Termed "Mektum," these people were marginalized, silenced, and overlooked. They weren't awarded citizenship and had no rights, effectively rendering them nonexistent in the eyes of the officialdom. This invisibility meant that they couldn't openly voice their concerns or opinions even though they were present.
It might seem pedantic, but speaking is intrinsic to the role of a parliamentarian. Derived from the word "parle," which means "to speak," a parliament is a platform for speech. Sezgin Tanrikulu exercised his duty to speak as a parliamentarian and now faces calls for silence. What did he articulate that elicited such a reaction? Why has the CHP been quick to single him out?
To unpack the situation, it's essential to understand the context. Sezgin Tanrikulu spoke on a TV channel named TV 100 in response to allegations made against him by Saban Sevinc, the editor-in-chief of Bizim TV. Sevinc had claimed that Tanrikulu subscribed to the PKK's assertions about chemical weapons and consequently tabled a motion in Parliament. Furthermore, Sevinc accused Tanrikulu of stating that Ataturkist and nationalist ideologies had undermined the CHP.
Tanrikulu countered these accusations, explicitly asking for evidence of any derogatory remarks he might have made about Gazi Mustafa Kemal, the revered founder of the Republic and their party. Additionally, he clarified that his motion in the Parliament was not an endorsement of the PKK but a call for inquiry and dialogue, given certain historical events involving the Turkish Armed Forces.
However, the Ministry of National Defense quickly criticized Tanrikulu, dismissing his statements and concerns as slander, falsehoods, and ignorance. The stance of the Ministry of National Defense appears, by some measures, to be expected given the political climate.
The pressing question is: Why has the CHP, the main opposition party, adopted such a stringent posture against Tanrikulu? The backdrop has evolved over the past decade. Earlier, debates on the Kurdish issue were more open and inclusive. But post the June 7, 2015 elections, the discourse around the Kurdish matter took a decidedly more aggressive and judicial tone. Aspects of Kurdish culture, such as speaking the language or singing traditional songs, were criminalized. The Parliament's influence waned while the government's control over local Kurdish political movements grew more pronounced.
In this milieu, the primary supporter of the government's policies hasn't necessarily been their direct allies but rather the opposition, the CHP, as illustrated by the Tanrikulu episode. While the party's leadership occasionally makes overtures toward peace and reconciliation, their actions suggest a different narrative.
In conclusion, the CHP seems content with the current subdued state of Kurdish politics and appears committed to acting as the enforcer of this new political epoch, even if it means curtailing the voices within its ranks.