Germany is always on Turkey’s agenda, from the goldmines in the Bergama district of İzmir to an accusation uttered by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about “providing support to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK].” Most of the time, these debates cast a shadow over the role German foundations play in relations. Actually, foundations reflect a tradition unique to Germany in terms of watching and understanding what is going on in other countries.
Normally, states watch other states by means of foreign affairs, media, intelligence and the foreign corporations on their soil. In addition to these channels, Germany has the aforementioned foundations, which are sometimes extensions of political parties, such as the Konrad Adenauer Foundation of the Christian Democrats, the Heinrich Böll Foundation of the Greens, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation of the Social Democrat Party and the Friedrich Neumann Foundation of the Free Democrat Party. One reason these foundations are always a subject of debate is their unique structure. They have the status of nongovernmental organizations but receive support from the state as a requirement of the laws of Germany while also maintaining a fundamental connection with political parties. This structure therefore raises questions whether a foundation’s opinion on an issue like education in one’s mother tongue or the problems of the Alevi community simply represents civil action or whether it is a reflection of the policies of the German state.
While this aspect of foundations is being constantly discussed, it shouldn’t lead us to ignore the critical role these foundations play in helping Germany understand other countries and thereby determine its policies regarding those countries. I wish political parties in Turkey, which is opening itself to the world more and more each day, had such serious, working associations and foundations for policy-production and that these, while taking care of our country’s problems, helped us to learn about foreign communities by means of branch offices in other countries with which we have close relations.
The publication of the magazine Perspektif/Perspectives by the Turkish branch office of the Heinrich Böll Stiftung Foundation, associated with the Greens Party, is an example of such an act. The subject handled in the first issue of the magazine, which will be released both in English and Turkish, is a very sensitive subject, though it is on everybody’s lips in Turkey and abroad: the deep state. The subject matter is quite provocative.
For example, in the introduction of the first issue, it is stated: “The primary responsibility of governments in such critical periods is to try to actualize social change through peaceful and democratic channels. However, in this transformation process, the Justice and Development Party [AK Party] government has employed more and more populist and authoritarian political methods rather than following a democratic path.” Some of the titles are as follows: “Tracing the deep state,” ‘The deep state: Forms of domination, informal institutions and democracy,” “Ergenekon as an illusion of democratization,” “Democratization, revanchism, or…,” ‘The near future of Turkey on the axis of the AK Party-Gülen movement,” “The Counter-guerilla that is becoming the state and the state that is becoming the counter-guerilla,” “Is the Ergenekon trial an opportunity or a handicap?” and “Dink murder and state lies.” The Ergenekon trials, which are considered in official reports by the European Union as an opportunity for Turkey to decrease the influence of the military in politics, were written about by Ahmet Şık in his articles on Ergenekon under the heading “Ergenekon as an illusion of democratization.”
As a journalist, one may of course write about any issue, but how can one be objective and maintain distance with regards to a case in which he is a defendant? Reporter Nedim Şener, who became interested in and wrote about the Ergenekon and Hrant Dink cases and is said to be trying to direct the Dink probe through his book on the subject, is still on trial even though he was released from prison. The picture painted by Şık is that the Ergenekon trials are nonsense and that the deep state, which organized the military coups and committed hundreds of unsolved murders, is not as dangerous as the AK Party and Gülen movement, which are victims of the deep state. Be fair! Ruşen Çakır wrote about the Gülen movement. He repeated a number of clichés and biases and used cautious language, so wouldn’t a more objective picture have come from an academic like Elisabeth Özdalga or Şahin Alpay? Maybe after finding courage in these trials a Turkish association in Germany could discuss the German deep state, which is already on the German agenda due to the revelation that a neo-Nazi group committed murders in the country for a number of years without detection.
As long as there is good willing and sincerity, it is beneficial to decipher the deep states that work apart from public will.