How do you dismantle left-wing thought in a country? You attack institutions that foster free thinking.
That is precisely what — the Turkish government is doing right now in the capital of Ankara, as government sanctioned vehicles, accompanied by riot police, are destroying the forest of one of Turkey’s leading universities, ODTÜ (Middle East Technical University).
Protests have resumed in Turkey in outrage of the government’s latest stunt, which various officials have claimed was legitimate.The demolition began on the fourth day of Eid-el-adha, popularly known as the Holiday of Sacrifice. To refer back to a previous comparison I have made, a western equivalent of the current situation in Turkey would be if the government decided to pave a highway through Princeton, and then began construction during Christmas.
Ironically, EU Minister Egemen Bagis went on record earlier that week, citing his frustrations with the European Union because their official report on Turkey's progress had been released during Eid-al-adha. Bagis said that the report should have been released after the holiday, which could be regarded as a Turkish Christmas.
Clearly, the demolition crew did not know about the Turkish Christmas, and neither did Melih Gökçek, the mayor of Ankara, who commented on the demolition project, saying, “Last night, friends surprised me as well. They opened the ODTÜ road overnight...” Gökçek is shirking any responsibility people may have placed on him. He also went to state that the university had been engaging in illegal construction on the campus and that if the road project was cancelled, the government would hold the university accountable for the construction.
ODTÜ refuted the mayor's claim that the university was compensated for the removal of 2,388 trees. The university stated that a sum of slightly over $100,000 had been wired to the institution without any form of agreement, and was promptly returned earlier on Monday, Oct. 22.
Students have begun planting trees in areas that were bulldozed. Yet despite the public outcry and the ongoing protests, the demolition is in full swing. What is worse, a new government decree allows for the construction of shopping malls and mosques in the paved zones. The new hashtag of the season is #DirenODTÜ, which means "resist ODTÜ."
So why is the government continuing this line of unpopular and fascist behavior? Bagin recently referred to social media activists as social media terrorists, further deepening the divide between those who seek a more democratic Turkey and the government.
Bagis is a key figure in Turkish politics due to his specific post. During the Yalta Annual Meeting of European leaders, he noted the existence of skepticism regarding Turkey’s admittance into the European Union. He is not alone in this sentiment, however, considering that he is in charge of convincing the skeptics that Turkey should be allowed to join the EU, his public admittance of the lack of faith is troubling.
Turkey has been held more accountable in its human rights violations during its attempts to present itself to Europe. The Turkish government is losing faith (perhaps it already has, and the talks serve more cosmetic purposes) in gaining admittance to the EU. It is also making bold moves towards the East, such as allowing China become its missile defense contractor. As a NATO country, for Turkey to dilute the unity of a defense program so boldly is terrifying not just to NATO but to the average citizen on the street in Turkey. It means that the Turkish government no longer feels accountable to the West.
Some would argue that independence from the West is necessary for Turkey to grow. Here’s the catch: Do you think China would ever pressure Turkey into conducting itself more democratically? Would they threaten to boycott Turkey if Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan kept teargassing innocent civilians in Taksim Square?
A Turkey that faces East is a Turkey gone rogue. It is a Turkey capable of becoming the second Ottoman Empire because it would have the financial independence to do so. The government has demonstrated time and time again that it will not be held accountable to its citizens. If there is no external pressure either, who can stop the ruling AKP party?
And just so the question does not remain rhetorical: Please, who will stop AKP?