Why did Turkey declare and lift its state of emergency?

The Western world's expectations of help and partnership from Turkey on important matters is in vain; it must first understand and respect Turkey's struggle against terrorism and provide intelligence, logistical and psychological support for its ally against common enemies.

Why did Turkey declare and lift its state of emergency
People gather at 15 July Martyrs Bridge to attend July 15 Democracy and National Unity Day's events to mark July 15 defeated coup's 2nd anniversary in Istanbul, Turkey on July 15, 2018. Anadolu Agency

The state of emergency that began on July 20, 2016 – five days after the unsuccessful coup attempt on July 15 – ended on Wednesday. Indeed, the state of emergency, which was renewed every three months until now, was not extended this time around. Prior to the June 24 election, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had already given clues that it would not be renewed; as a result, the state of emergency is now over.

The Western world harshly criticized Turkey and Erdogan over the state of emergency instead of acknowledging it as a tool often used to preserve democracy and order in cases of extreme threat; in short, Turkey's declaration not well received.

The main justification for the declaration was to augment the authority and maneuverability of the administration for its fight against terrorism. The administration became vigilant in the aftermath of July 15 in its fight against terrorists. While, on one hand, the Gulenist Terror Group's (FETO) infiltration of the administration was eliminated, a comprehensive battle against the PKK and Daesh began as well. Unfortunately, Western media and many Western politicians ignored Turkey's needs and the dimensions of the threat it faced, offering only generic, universal criticism. Not only did they not propose solutions for how Turkey could deal with the terrorist organizations, they also problematized and even criminalized the steps Turkey took within the context of democratic customs and law.

Turkey overcame a huge obstacle on July 15, 2016. The shadowy group that had infiltrated state institutions and the military attempted a bloody coup by using its clout in the army. It killed hundreds of people, wounded thousands and bombed the Presidential Complex, the parliamentary building and security forces' buildings. Over the past two years, the Western world has acted as if the bloody July 15 tragedy that traumatized the whole of Turkey's society never occurred. With a few exceptions, no voices in the Western world spoke up to protect Turkey's democracy and condemn those involved in bloody attempt. Instead, Western media was more interested in the "rights of those involved in the coup." It did not care about the civilians and the rights of the elected government; it was never fully interested in Turkey's democracy. The West protested the state of emergency in this sense.

However, the state of emergency did not obstruct constitutional law in Turkey; nor did it create a threat to personal freedom or give concessions from legislative supervision in favor of the executive branch. The state of emergency enacted in the aftermath of the July 15 attempted coup had nothing to do with the one present in the 1990s and only later lifted in 2002 after the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) was elected. The state of emergency before 2002 was announced with a military logic and enacted through martial law. The declaration of that period did restrict personal freedoms while eliminating legislative oversight on the executive branch and violating constitutional law. However, we did not witness the same scenario and violations with the two-year state of emergency following the July 15 coup attempt.

First, the state of emergency for the past two years did not affect people's daily lives. It was strictly administrative and did not impede civilian society. Limited to the needs of the administration in fighting terrorism, the state of emergency was not extended when it was determined enough progress had been made in the country's struggle against terrorism. Civilian politics is the strongest it has ever been in Turkey's history. Likewise, the state has become stronger and renewed itself through the process of healing after July 15. Turkey today is racing toward being an even stronger democratic state, and this is the central approach in Erdogan's politics. Keeping this in mind, expecting a state not to take steps to fully eliminate a terrorist threat and to demand that it not carry out the necessary legal measures is unacceptable.

Lastly, let me say this: The Western world's expectations of help and partnership from Turkey on important matters is in vain; it must first understand and respect Turkey's struggle against terrorism and provide intelligence, logistical and psychological support for its ally against common enemies.

Source: Daily Sabah

Fahrettin Altun
Fahrettin Altun is a Professor at Ibn Haldun University and the General Coordinator of SETA Foundation, Istanbul. Altun is the Editor-in-Chief of the monthly political magazine Kriter, the author of “Modernleşme Kuramı: Eleştirel Bir Giriş" and the co-author of “Freedom Press in Turkey.” Currently a columnist for Daily Sabah and Sabah newspapers, he is also a weekly analyst on “Enine Boyuna” and “Dışa Bakış” – two television series aired live on TRT 1 and TRT Haber respectively. Altun’s research areas include sociology of media and political communication, Turkish modernization and political culture.