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secret histories – maureen freely

Over the past 12 months, various European and American think tanks have put out weighty analyses of the Ergenekon trials (there are now three, with the first indictment running to 2,455 pages, the second to 1,909, and the third to 1,454, and the number of detentions now well into three digits). All agree that it is a very complicated story, and no one seems to know quite how to read it. There are even suggestions that Ergenekon is not a real organisation but a name invented by the prosecutors or their sponsors in the ruling party, the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), so that they can prosecute their enemies, thereby bringing down the military and, with it, the secularist republic. But even those expert observers who support or actively promote this view will concede that there has long been a culture of impunity that has allowed a rogue clique located at the heart of the state to prosecute, persecute, imprison, murder and silence all groups and individuals who challenge Turkey’s monolithic state ideology. Most also concede that this clique has its roots in a Gladio-type ‘stay behind’ group of the type established by the CIA in just about every country in Europe during the cold war. Some see its ideological origins in the Committee of Union and Progress and the Young Turks, who took the ailing empire into the First World War on the losing side and are directly implicated in the 1915 Armenian genocide.

Technically such claims can still lead to prosecution or worse. In practice, this is impossible, because the cat is out of the bag. The state-enforced taboo that kept most Turks in the dark about the events of 1915 is well and truly broken, and so, too, is the culture of impunity that has so long protected the enforcers. Though it continues to be against the law to criticise the army, the judiciary or the legacy of Atatürk, a string of scandals, each more shocking than the last, most initiated by journalists working for a new campaigning newspaper called Taraf, have seriously eroded public trust in the military and the court system. One involved documents, now universally accepted as genuine and emanating from a well-placed, and still anonymous, whistleblower last November, outlining detailed plans by members of the Turkish armed forces to undermine the ruling party through a series of devious and deniable strategies. The plan was to step up the harassment of the country’s non-Muslim minorities, not just by gathering information on the readership of dissenting newspapers like Agos and Taraf, but also by assassinating leading members of their communities and placing bombs on the ferries serving the Princes’ Islands, where many of Istanbul’s non-Muslims have summer homes. These were later to be attributed to Islamist extremists, thereby killing two birds with one stone. The so-called Cage Plan, which