Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code and the AKP’s shortage
Erdogan’s AKP is once more challenged by the notorious Article 301 of the penal code. In this article we will try to figure out AKP’s policy on 301 and in the broader sense try to utilise it in order to understand and explain the deficit inherent within the AKP concerning the adherence to democratic principles or rope dancing to save the day?
Let’s first begin with understanding the Article 301 of the Turkish Penal code, which caused to widespread controversy and can be taken as a real test for Turkish democracy in elevating itself to the “standards of the contemporary civilisation” in today’s case the European Union and Turkey’s membership journey. According to a report of the Amnesty International, to quote:
“Article 301, on the denigration of Turkishness, the Republic, and the foundation and
institutions of the State, was introduced with the legislative reforms of 1 June 2005 and
replaced Article 159 (which Amnesty International also long campaigned against) of the
previous penal code. It states that:
“1. Public denigration of Turkishness, the Republic or the Grand National Assembly of
Turkey shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six months and three years.
2. Public denigration of the Government of the Republic of Turkey, the judicial institutions of
the State, the military or security structures shall be punishable by imprisonment of between
six months and two years.
3. In cases where denigration of Turkishness is committed by a Turkish citizen in another
country the punishment shall be increased by one third.
4. Expressions of thought intended to criticize shall not constitute a crime.”
This article can be taken as a direct reflection of the Hobessian nature of the Turkish state – society complex. We should also assess the necessity in the eyes of the state elite, this time both the bureaucracy and the akp and the rest, to formulate such an article. Turkish state for long time been a master strategist in reverting the reality, and portraying it upside down. with the intensification of mass media, internet usage and the rapid urbanisation, Turkish people began to be more interested in the critic of their land, albeit in small numbers.
The European union process enabled many to openly criticise the so-called official history of the Turkish Republic and to look to the past from a different perspective that of the justification. The number one fear of the Turkish elites is the rise of criticism, this is a logical outcome since, all are involved in practices which would be questioned in a openly society, thus paving the way to the erosion of their relative autonomy and aloofness. Furthermore, we should remember that the Turkish nationalism is also the main weapon against the cultural demands of many groups within Turkey, starting with the Kurds, Alevis, Yezidis and many others. The multi-cultural option would nevertheless put an end to the enjoyed autonomy of all actors as stated.
Now we can move on to understand the AKP’s policy on the Article 301. A very important determinant of the AKP’s policy-making is its unprofessional stance, which clearly illustrates the deficit of the party in dealing with such issues like 301 which genuinely requires a democratic stance instead. The latest developments taking place in April 2008 solidifies this view.
AKP’s unprofessional stance is clearly visible in the latest developments. The AKP’s highest echelons are not even united upon whether the authority to launch proceedings under the controversial article should be bestowed upon the president or the justice minister. Köksal Toptan a former leading figure of the corrupt Tansu Ciller’s DYP and ironically one of the most liberal voices of the AKP and now the head of the Turkish Parliament advocates that the Justice Minister should deal with the issue instead of the President. Other AKP members are in favour of the President option.
The former Chief Justice of the Court of Cassation Sami Selcuk, in his latest comments on the Turkish daily “Star” said that: “Bu öneri TBMM’ye asla sunulmamalı. TBMM’ye yepyeni bir gerekçeyle sunulmalı. Çünkü, öneri ve özellikle gerekçesi suç hukuku kavramlarını birbirine karıştırmış, Türkçe sözcüklere bile bakılmadan kaleme alınmış. Bu durumuyla çok üzücü. Yargıyı yanıltıcı. Kaş yapayım derken göz çıkartacak kadar da çok tehlikeli. Uygulamayı etkileyecek çok şey de getirmiyor…”(1) – “This proposal should never be presented to the Turkish Grand National Assembly. It should be presented with a new necessity. Because, the proposal and its reasons, mixes up the penal code concepts, even the Turkish words are used clumsly. It is very depressing with this form….”
This shows that the AKP is not serious on this issue and could not even understand the necessity to get rid of this article. unfortunately, Turkey has a long way to go…
1. for more information look at Cengiz Candar’s article
Toll of 301
The number of cases filed under Article 301 reached 835 in 2006, according to Şahin, who responded to the written inquiry of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
Out of 835 files, only 299 were finalized, while 536 were forwarded to be handled in 2007. In 2006, a total of 1,533 suspects, only 219 of whom were women, were tried under Article 301. In the first three months of 2007, 744 cases were opened and the number of suspects reduced to 1,025.
No comments yet.