I was on holiday in southern Turkey last week. I'm back now, but nothing changed positively, it seems.
More casualties, including civilians, in the fight against PKK terrorism, a kidnapped MP from the main opposition, poor Olympic performance, etc.
But the worst development seemed like a more direct result of the government policies, again: In Izmir on August 13th, a policeman shot a man to death in the midst of an argument over a minor traffic accident. As can be seen from the video below, the police used excessive force against Emrah Barlak, 26, as several officers instantly responded the chair-swinging young man with their pistols, killed him and injured three civilians.
There are two factors here, as alarming as the killing.
1) Police brutality has become a norm for the AKP government: Many people expected that the Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan would order a stop to the strangulation of the opposition to release some pressure which has been built up by endless legal cases and arrests of dissidents. It seems that they were wrong. The government signals that it would not leave the collision course, whether against PKK or Syria or Turkish journalists, and may keep tear gassing students, unionists and even opposition MPs.
2) No scrutiny, more impunity, less public awareness: This Rodney-King-kind-of video didn't produce reactions that you expect to observe in a democratic country. “Well done, [you] did not bring shame to our uniform by being beaten in the street. I don’t wish for God to bless the dogs who died or were wounded [in the incident]", the Antalya Police Department commissioner, S.G., reportedly wrote on Facebook in support of the arrested police officer İ.K. Moreover, there were hundreds of reader comments in Turkish news websites to support the police and not the victim. These reactions may also have roots in the latest "Usual Suspects Incident", when the son of an AKP MP forced some police officers into lineup.
The core of the problem is the perception that the government keeps quelling dissent and turns a blind eye to the illegitimate use of legal force, which is just a side effect of this policy.
Time is ticking out, but we don't see any official to be seriously penalized for the loss of life or other unrightful harms that they caused.
As if it is not enough that the investigations are being concluded without an effective conclusion, like in the death of an innocent bystander with asthma who had died after police used pepper spray during a clash last May, the government officials keep promoting the deadly methods of the police.
After it was claimed that twenty people died because of the pepper spray used by the police, Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin told that "our gas is 100 percent natural and it didn't cause any death, as it is not unhealthy." (There are six confirmed deaths: Hüseyin Demir, Ibrahim Sevindik, Ishak Kalvo, Metin Lokumcu, Haci Zengin and Cayan Birben.)
The health experts whose report was vaguely referred by Sahin denied the minister today, emphasized that they never argued that the pepper spray was not dangerous to human health, as it can be deadly on people with respiratory problems. Unfortunately, it is not expected now that the government will step back and review its policy, as well as its discourse.