3,600 life sentences for preaching “don’t be a dick”

Fethullah Gulen was a controversial figure long before the attempted coup in Turkey–he’s an Islamic scholar who interprets the Qu’ran emphasizing altruism and public service (which, believe it or not, was not well received). While I will always be somewhat uneasy with any theology simply by virtue of its epistemological weaknesses, I can at least acknowledge that Gulen’s theology is “more” compatible with my own morality than most theologians. Basically, it boils down to “don’t be a dick,” Gulen’s blind spot for Kurds notwithstanding.

Nonetheless, he’s been living in self-imposed exile in the United States, and his movement of altruistic public servants is being scapegoated as the perpetrators of the attempted coup. Politicians sympathetic to Kurds have been jailed, over 200 journalists who’ve criticized the government are facing a variety of treason charges, academics can’t publish anything remotely critical of their government without getting visits from the secret police, and over 150,000 people have been arrested on evidence as wafer-thin as “used an encrypted messaging app,” with around 50,000 put in pre-trial detention–Oh, and massive portions of the judiciary are in said pre-trial detention, so there’s no infrastructure to actually try the accused. Some have been waiting for their trial since last July.

The hobbled judiciary has announced that it seeks 3,623 “aggravated life sentences” for Fethullah Gulen’s supposed role in the attempted coup, an accusation disputed by British and German intelligence. One wonders how long it’s going to take to try the other 50,000 accused, almost all of whom were not likely involved in the coup at all given that they’re a smattering of public servants, academics, or even just people who Tweeted something mean about Supreme Snowflake Erdogan. Really, that should always be the first barrier to legitimately believing in a conspiracy–you’d have to believe that many people can organize competently.

What I find especially disturbing is that the Supreme Snowflake’s supporters are fine with all of this. They’re fine with Turkey’s ascension to the EU being utterly torpedoed. They’re fine with what few democratic institutions they had being knocked down. They’re fine surrendering the right to a speedy trial. They’re fine with laws structure with absurdly low standards of evidence such that an accusation is functionally equivalent to a conviction. They’re fine with the relatives of accused being arrested and charged and prosecuted to give leverage for forced confessions. They’re fine seeking government approval for speech.

I’d say it’s unreal, but I believe it. I don’t want to, but I do. Until the infrastructure of Erdogan’s dictatorship comes down on them, they’ll be just fine with it. That’s intensely frustrating. It doesn’t occur to them to question whether it is right to seek 3,623 life sentences for a preacher whose message boils down to “help your community,” because the person saying Gulen deserves it is wearing a fancy uniform.



  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Anybody preaching “don’t be an Erdogan” will get trouble from the Erdogans.

  2. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    What I find especially disturbing is that the Supreme Snowflake’s supporters are fine with all of this.

    Disturbing, yes. Unusual or unexpected? No. We see the same thing in my country, the US. I am still tempted to say the US justice system is better than current Turkey, but it’s still a hard claim to make, because of things like the drug war which is largely a war on minorities, or many black cities that are run as virtual slave plantations by their white government officials and judges via police and petty offenses,
    or the continued US detention of hundreds(?) of people at Gitmo without charge or trial, many for over a decade, etc. And just like in Turkey, in the US, we have a large portion of the population that are seemingly entirely ok with such extreme abuses of justice.

    I am not saying “don’t complain about Turkey because other countries are just as bad”. I just want to point out that this is a larger problem, that too many people are willing to dispense with due process of law and limited police powers, and turn to blind trust of a governmental police state. For example, whenever I bring up “roadside sobriety checkpoints are bullshit, unconstitutional, and should not exist”, it’s hard to get a seconder, but it’s really the same damn thing. It’s a foolish trust that the government will not abuse its excessive police powers. It’s the foolish notion that we must live in a police state to be safe.