Inside the Ergenekon Case
ECE TEMELKURAN - December 4, 2008
Turkey is facing a new round in her relationship with democracy. Opponents of the Islamic governing party, known as the AK for the initials of its Turkish name, are being accused being members of a secret state gang called Ergenekon. The trials in this case, which are expected to last for years, began last month. The sinister undertow portends the likelihood that Turkey is about to experience its own version of a ‘colored revolution’.
A few weeks ago in Diyarbak?r, in the Kurdish region of Turkey, a prominent Kurdish intellectual said: ‘Maybe I should appear as a commentator on the Ergenekon case’. Putting on a sour, hesitant face she carried on: ‘Since my husband’s assassin is still unknown I can be counted as a victim of deep state like many other Kurdish and Turkish leftists.’ The group of well-known intellectuals from both ethnicities gathered round the table were silent; nobody knew how to respond. Those who had for years been vocal about any political issue were now, like many of their peers, speechless.
That is why one should be warned about the Ergenekon case. Since the Ergenekon case represents the advanced level of classical Turkish chaos, this is not a good time to start learning about Turkey unless you are experienced in this ‘lonely and beloved country’. Of course, it makes the story easier if you are promoting a certain political engagement such as Kemalism or political Islam, but if you want to maintain a leftist stance on the Ergenekon case, there starts the hesitation, silence and confusion. And unfortunately this messy, pervasive state of mind has arisen at one of the most important cross-roads of not only Turkish political history but also the Middle East.
Ergenekon is the name of a legendary valley in Turkish mythology. According to the legend, the valley in Central Asia was home to the ancient Turks, until a grey wolf led them out onto the road to the eventual nationhood. Since last January this piece of mythology has become extremely vital for Turkey. Ergenekon is now the name of an alleged ultra-nationalist, ultra-Kemalist gang, which has been operating since 1999 as a part of the ‘deep state’. Their alleged aim is to organize coups against the AKP government. Like coups, the term ‘deep state’ has been and still is a very popular term in Turkish, used to describe renegade members of the security and military forces said to act outside the law in what they judge to be Turkey’s best interests. The term has a very long history, which goes back to the Ottoman period, but the contemporary version generally begins with the Cold War era. Under the name of ‘counter-guerrilla’, it was formed to combat the rising leftist movement and later on the Kurdish uprising in South Eastern Turkey. The secret entity represents illegal state violence, but also drug dealing and all kinds of smuggling, first in the Kurdish region then in whole country. The growing illegal, invisible and untouchable body has been the source of state terror against Kurdish and Turkish politicians, intellectuals, trade unions, leftist student organizations.