Remark from Freedom for Academia (FfA): This is a letter (sic) we received from one of our (verified) followers; an academic who would like to remain anonymous. He states that he knows the imprisoned Prof. Ibrahim Cerrah (Criminology) and HESA – an initiative that Prof. Cerrah established in Turkey, and wanted to share his views on the two. The following are the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the official opinion of FfA. We aim to provide a platform for endangered, suppressed, oppressed academics of all nationalities, creeds and ethnicities.
Letter by an anonymous academic from Turkey:
REMEMBERING HESA: A TRIBUTE TO GOOD WILL AND DEDICATION
After the failed coup attempt in July 2016, the Turkish government has shut down thousands of organizations, from schools to universities, civil society organizations, think-tanks and many others established to serve related purposes. None of these organizations were proven to have any direct or indirect link to those who have carried out the heinous act on 16th July 2016. The closure of these institutions were accompanied by the arrests of thousands of individuals whose names were already on the lists drawn up by the Turkish Intelligence Organization. The failed coup attempt was used as an excuse to eliminate all individuals and organizations considered as an opposition to the ruling AK Party. However, the massive purge was presented to the Turkish people as a necessary act to eliminate ‘traitors’ undermining the well-being of the country.
HESA (Hukuk Etik Siyaset Araştırmaları, which translates in English to ‘Legal, Ethical and Political Researches’) was among the many think-tanks closed by decrees issued by the Turkish government. It was established on 21st March 2014 as a policy institute with association status. The Advisory and Administrative Boards of HESA were composed of academics and executives who were well known with their works in the fields of law, ethics, economy and security. Just like many other institutions, HESA also started and continued its activities under the prevailing laws governing associations. Its activities were open to state inspection and its publications were public. HESA served its purpose for more than two years and filed necessary paperwork to remain operational. During this period of time, there was absolutely no criminal or any other case filed against HESA. However, after the coup attempt in Turkey, HESA was included into the list of institutions whose existence activities were considered as crime against the Turkish state. The founder and the President of HESA Prof. Ibrahim Cerrah was arrested at an Istanbul airport one week after the coup attempt.
As time passes, the names and the contributions of thousands of civil society organizations, think-tanks, and educational institutions fade into nothingness. Their memory and legacy are likely to fade away at a time people are terrorized with ongoing witch-hunt and massive purge aimed eradicating the so-called terrorist organization, FETÖ. This brief report is aimed at remembering the legacy of HESA, its contribution to academic and social life in Turkey and its founder Prof. Ibrahim Cerrah who is currently in jail serving an unknown period of time in a Turkish prison. A man who has spent his years to teach the cadets at Police Academy to respect law and fulfill their responsibilities in accordance with the constitution is facing unscrupulous charges. With its closure, the building was seized by the government and its website was taken down rendering it non-existent in one day. Two years of hard work and dedication by a group of people who have voluntarily gathered to help the country overcome its deep rooted problems were thrown into abyss without any regard to the services delivered by the institution and its value for the society. People of HESA did what they thought was best for the country and the society that they were part of. Our only hope is to see the days that HESA strived and worked hard to achieve.
The following lines are taken from a brochure that we were lucky enough to retrieve among emails sent for publication. This should only be seen as a note to ourselves and the generations to come that there is much to be done and this is what the people at HESA have tried…
What is HESA?
HESA was established to be a legal and ethical value-oriented think-tank organization to contribute to the field of politics by generating both theoretical and practical ideas. HESA considers the law and ethics to be the most fundamental building blocks of politics, and believed that a legitimate politics can only be established on the basis of these values. HESA aims to raise a ‘public awareness and sensitivity’ for the necessity of creating a political atmosphere where universal law and ethical values prevail.
HESA advocates that politics is a public service which must be conducted in accordance with legal and ethical codes and principles. HESA believed that a moral and virtuous politics cannot be possible if we claim that ‘All means that take us to the target are legitimate’, as stated by Machiavelli in The Prince. Although it may be legally possible to capture and/or maintain the ruling power by means of manipulation and speculation, it will never be legitimate morally.
HESA stands steadfast against laying waste to the sublime values born in Anatolia, especially in a period when all the gains of the Turkish Republic are being sacrificed for the sake of lusty cravings and passion to rule on the part of a small number of politicians. As very clearly expressed by Tom C. Clark, “Nothing can destroy a government more quickly than its failure to observe its own laws”, and it is impossible for executive powers to genuinely serve their country and their nation by utilizing illegitimate practices and procedures.
HESA argues that the ‘legal’ and ‘moral’ legitimacy of political parties comes before their ‘political’ legitimacy and that high levels of electoral support cannot be the only source of legitimacy for political parties. No matter how great the support a political party has gained from the public, this shall never grant politicians the right to do whatever they want, to abandon universal law principles, or to infringe the laws and rule as they wish. The universal principle suggesting that “Human rights are the most sublime values and nothing can have superiority over them!” also binds politicians. Moreover, the statement “Right is might, not might is right!” proclaims that, no matter how powerful a politician is, he cannot act in whatever way he likes. Human rights are universal values that transcend political powers.
As even stated in the Code of Hammurabi, the rule commanding that “The strong shall not injure the weak!” points out that those who are exercising executive power cannot use this power arbitrarily.
HESA believes that the most fundamental problem with today’s politics is individual and political ‘degradation’. What is more alarming is the efforts of trying to justify the ‘degrading’ behaviors such as ‘bribery and corruption’, which are mere results of individual and political decrepitude, under the disguise of revered values like the fatherland, nation or the religion. The utilitarian conduct of a man trying to portray his unethical and illegal act, which he committed knowing that it is a crime, as legal and righteous by taking refuge in a noble cause is called ‘noble cause corruption’. This kind of exploitation, which is as old as humanity, is a means of deception, often utilized by some politicians even today. It is a social reality that, if necessary precautions are not taken, degradation will lead to further degradations. It is very often seen that some politicians develop noble cause corruption and violate legal and ethical codes by hiding behind noble causes like ‘serving to the exalted benefits of the country and the nation’. Whereas the statement “Do not commit immoral acts for a moral cause!” also expresses this notion, it is not possible to serve either the state, or the society with actions and methods that are against the legal and ethical codes. Notwithstanding the dirty politics that claim that ‘the end justifies the means’ and defends utilization of all kinds of illegal and immoral methods to reach and remain in power, for a legitimate and clean politics, both the ends and the means must be legal and ethical. ‘One cannot reach perfection with imperfect tools’ and ‘If an end is believed to be good, the means and ways to reach that end, too, must be good and legitimate’.
HESA is a think-tank organization which firmly believes in the universal principle of ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ –the presumption of innocence’ and affirms that political matters, too, must be addressed and investigated with legally and ethically unbiased, impartial methods.
Law is the lynchpin of legitimate politics, because it is itself universal and a mechanism of external control over political bodies. In this respect, a politicized judiciary, which has distanced itself from the principle of ‘the rule of law’ and become a tool of oppression and vengeance, may never comply with democracy. The statement “Justice is the foundation of a state” suggests that a state can maintain its existence only by justice, not by oppression and atrocity. As English philosopher John Locke says, “Wherever law ends tyranny begins”, and one cannot serve and do any good to man or state by offending and infringing the law. Ethical values must have determinative influence over politics at least as far as the law is concerned. As well as the authority of the rule of law over the executive power, political ethics’, which can be described as the reflection of the ‘universal ethical values’ in politics, also has great importance for implementing the ruling power justly. Since its capacity to influence initiatives is very large, to regulate politics with only penitential laws and resolutions – as a function of the external control mechanism – is not possible.
Ethical values address an individual’s conscience, which is an area legal auditing mechanisms cannot reach. In this regard, laws and regulations are necessary, but are not enough on their own, to control the executive power. In addition to laws which can impose ‘penitential sanctions’, ethical values and principles which can impose ‘inner conscientious sanctions’ are also needed. The control of politics cannot be left to personal ethical and moral perceptions of politicians. The power that is acquired by means of politics is corruptive by nature. Sir John Dalberg- Acton’s remark, “Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely” underlines the fact about the point a political power which is not controlled with judiciary and moral mechanisms will reach. As well as law – the external control mechanism – executive power must be also controlled by conscience and moral codes – the internal control mechanism. Politics can be legitimate when it serves the ‘public benefit’, not when it serves only the personal and/or family interests of politicians or of a small group. A legitimate politics can be possible only when political bodies are ‘transparent’, ‘accountable’, act in accordance with the ‘rule of law’ and apply the principle “Judge yourself before you are judged” at both personal and institutional levels.
Research is an important starting point for determining and solving social problems. Concerning itself with every problem related to politics, HESA especially focuses on ‘bribery and corruption’ under the title of ‘deprivation’. For this reason,
HESA believes that it is essential to conduct research into the effects of political degradation on social degradation by utilizing scientific methods. The most obvious indication of political degradation is the infringement of law and politicization of the judiciary by those holding power. No matter how much support a government receives from its constitution if it twists and violates the law, this action will overshadow all of its other deeds and credits, and will bring its ‘political legitimacy’, as well as its ‘legal legitimacy’, under question. Executive powers who impair their legitimacy by infringing the law can by the same token not be expected to show respect to moral and ethical values.
To become an independent and impartial research and policy institute that: provides true and correct information; reveals civil society’s needs and expectations of political officials and policymakers in the fields of law, ethics and politics, and socio-economical issues, benefitting from the academic experience and knowledge of experts; analyses these data by using scientific methods and sound judgement and conveys them to policymakers; advocates ethical principles and values to be practiced and exhibited in the applications and actions of policymakers; and, strives for a politics conducted in a manner compliant with local and universal values.
•Conduct research based on scientific methods into social and political matters, analyses the data obtained and suggests solutions,
•Define society’s expectations of policymakers and convey the outcomes to officials and decision makers,
•Help establish a ‘pluralist, reconciliatory and participatory’ understanding in the policy-making process, which promotes the view that social expectations should steer the government, not patronize political attitudes,
•Inform and the society about any possible negative developments and/or problems that may unfold in political life,
•Be the defender of public interests and the common good, adopting a completely nonpartisan approach,
•Create a platform where politicians and civil citizens can come together, and better know and understand each other,
•Urge policymakers to pursue the public benefit, in accordance with legal and moral principles, contribute to raising the quality of life in Turkey and exert effort to prevent any kind of deviation from this target,
•Organize informative meetings for the civil society,
•Hold national and international forums, conferences and seminars,
•Become an impartial, independent and unprejudiced research and policy institute.