Ergenekon as an Illusion of Democratization


The structure called “deep state” is actually an organization that is present under various names in almost all corners of the world because, wherever there is a state, there is a “deep state”, too. Even though we do not know for sure, we need to say that it existed in certain countries in Europe. As a matter of fact, the deep state has been uncovered in many North Atlantic Treaty (NATO) countries under the names “Gladio”, “La Rose des Vents”, “Sword”, “Super NATO”, “Operation Gehlen”, etc. in a not-so-distant past. We now know, thanks to these developments, that NATO set up Gladio during the Cold War era, departing from the idea of creating a barrier against the exportation of revolutionary ideas from the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) by creating a barrier as a fighting force with racist-nationalistic elements.

This semi-official paramilitary group that was called “deep state”, which perpetrated horrendously murderous attacks, is a concept that is not at all unfamiliar to the inhabitants of Turkey. Even though it is sometimes referred to as “counter-guerilla” or “Gladio”, its globally common name, the deep state raises the suspicions of everyone after every murderous and shady event in Turkey, albeit without the knowledge of what it actually corresponds to. However, attempts are made to explain the illegal activities of the deep state in a number of different ways, depending on the political conjunctures, on account of the network of political relations that penetrates into the centre of power called “the state”. In recent years, the phrase “deep state” has been heard more often. The very familiar reason behind this situation is the chain of investigations and court cases called “Ergenekon”, which started in mid-2007.

During the Ergenekon operations, which initially started under the guise of an operation for clearing out the deep state, it seemed as if the untouchables were been touched, the unfinished business at the gates of the military barracks was being completed. The detention and arrest of some people from military and police backgrounds scrapped by the deep state, whose names had been uncovered back in 1996 when the Susurluk scandal erupted, the capture of Gendarmerie Intelligence and Anti-Terrorism Unit (JITEM) members, who were the official perpetrators of many murderous attacks and murders, access to their blood-stained archives, usurpation of bombs, guns, discovery of ammunition buried in the ground to be unearthed as necessary, left everyone with the good-intentioned impression that this investigation was a major one and the gates to a showdown with those who had turned the country into an inferno of unsolved murders and unburied dead had been opened. Naturally, demands for democratization and demilitarization came to the fore. The democratization demands of the pro-liberalization sectors that adopted the Ergenekon investigations with a –so to say– blind faith, were actually related to their preferences towards integration with the European Union (EU). However, the postponement of the EU process until an unspecified time in the future, the suspicions that arose about the ability of the Union to maintain its existence, let alone to continue its expansion on account of the economic and political crises it has been going through, gave the upper hand to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which had turned its back to the EU in the process.

The illusion of demilitarization and democratization

The first bill of indictment that emerged in relation to the investigation purported to convince public opinion that this process was indeed a process of clearing out the deep state through the manipulations of media bodies that were pro-AKP and part of the Fethullah Gülen community. As a matter of fact, page 461 of the bill of indictment, which described the establishment of the organization called Ergenekon, said: “The Ergenekon terrorist organization is an organization, initially referred to as ‘deep state’, perpetrated many murderous attacks in our country, aimed at creating an environment of crisis, chaos, anarchy, terror and insecurity via these acts and partially achieved this aim; thus, it is an organization that is a barrier in the way of the development and growth of our country”.

The bill of indictment, which reminded us that the deep state organization was created in many countries by NATO for the purpose of fighting communism, also described the objective in the following statement: “However, these organizations exceeded the boundaries of their objectives in time and they turned into terrorist organizations used by certain persons and groups to actualize their own targets and ideologies. Many countries in the world – with Italy as an example – conducted the required struggle against such formations so they could become ‘states of law’ to the extent that they could win this struggle”.

The following lines were taken from page 47 of the same bill of indictment:2 “Towards the end of the 20th century, a traffic accident happened in Susurluk3, which partially opened the doors to this murderous organization in our country. However, it was not possible to pursue it further due to the effectiveness and power of the organization at that period, only the tip of the iceberg above the water could be uncovered, thus the organization carried on with its murky acts in line with the organization’s aims.”

In his bill of indictment of approximately 2500 pages, the prosecutor explained –frequently underlining this point – that the deep state organization, which had existed for years and become embodied in the name “Ergenekon” during this interrogation, turned Turkey into a hell of mafia and terrorism and it was an organization that was behind many bloody, dark incidents, however, its actors could not be touched on account of its power in public institutions. The same illusion was always created in that first, long bill of indictment and the other indictments prepared during the operations that continued in the aftermath: the deep state for which the tip of the iceberg could be seen so far was now being investigated. Turkey would complete its demilitarization process to become a democratic state of law.

However, in contrast to this ambitious “objective”, the bill of indictments were also marked by the contradiction that “Ergenekon” was being used to describe the deep state on the one hand while it was said, on the other hand, that the organization was not within the state, but outside it, trying to penetrate it. It was constantly emphasized that the fact that some defendants were soldiers did not mean that they represented the entire Armed Forces of Turkey (TSK), Ergenekon did not have any relations with any institutions in the security bureaucracy, and it was organized in a secretive manner aiming at penetrating all the state institutions by passing itself off as deep state. As a matter of fact, in spite of this entire atmosphere that was created and among massive information pollution, it was ignored that the concrete accusation directed at the defendants consisted only in the murderous raid at the Council of State4 and the bombing of the Cumhuriyet newspaper5, which were associated with one another based only on the relations among some suspects that consisted of phone contacts. The following lines on page 566 of the first bill of indictment of the Ergenekon investigation have actually drawn the limits of the investigations:

“It is obvious that the Ergenekon organization, which termed itself ‘deep state’, actually had no connections and relations with any official state institutions, the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey as well as the applicable laws allow no clandestine establishments, furthermore, no institutions or organizations exist that can use state authorities without the control of the state in respect of the overall structure of laws nor is it possible for them to exist.”

The deep state has but a name

First and foremost, it is useful to specify that Ergenekon reflects a racist, fascist, pro-coup, ultra-nationalistic mentality, placing political Islam, Kurds and the socialist left as its targets and involving some suspects who have various associations among themselves rather than constituting an organization. In this context, let us remember three important incidents in recent history considered to be connected to this mentality, but believed to have been assassinations committed by the deep state by the author of these lines, even though their “perpetrators are known”. This chain of assassinations and murders that occurred one after another and targeted members of religious minorities can be recounted as the murders of the priest Andrea Santoro in Trabzon7; Armenian socialist journalist Hrant Dink in Istanbul8, and Tilman Ekkehart Geske of German origin, Necati Aydın and Uğur Yüksel, who were members of the Christian religion and worked at Zirve Publishing House that printed Bibles in Malatya9.

It would be useful to mention a couple of reminders based on what we have expressed so far and what deep state has meant in Turkey. To recount in one sweep the incidents that come to mind upon mentioning “deep state” in Turkey, we come up with the following: the attacks and provocations against members of religious, ethnic minorities living in Turkey that began in the 1950’s, including the events of 6 -7, September; the mass murders that formed the foundation of the coup on 12 September, 1980; the assassinations of which the perpetrators are believed by almost everyone to have been state actors; the war that has been ongoing with the PKK stemming from the Kurdish question ever since the mid-1980’s, albeit, interrupted by unilateral ceasefires; the illegal activities of JITEM, which had the largest share of the dirt of this war; the acts of the Hezbollah organization known among Kurds of Turkey as “Hezbulkontra” which was proven to have perpetrated various massacres in Kurdish cities, again, under the supervision of JITEM. During the Ergenekon investigations, however, the activities which were not included in the scope of this investigation include; burning villages, evacuating villages and forced migration practices; bomb attacks; disappearances while  under detention, which was used as a systematic means of struggle by the state of Turkey in the 1990’s and which affected more than 2 thousand people according to reports by human rights organizations; the cases of torture and summary executions of which nearly each and every one were left with impunity.

So, as for the question ‘Has this shady process been tackled in the Ergenekon trials during which the policemen, members of juridical bodies involved in the investigations, who have been subject to various allegations of being members of the Fethullah Gülen community, pro-AKP people and the media – again, part of this community – spread the propaganda that the deep state was being investigated?’, we can answer it as follows: Unfortunately no. Unfortunately, none of the exemplary events mentioned above and other deep state activities were included in the area of interest of the Ergenekon investigation. The demands by relatives of victims, each of whom were considered to be victims of the deep state, to be party to the Ergenekon cases were rejected by the court that conducted the hearing. Even the Hrant Dink assassination case, which was frequently referred to in every bill of indictment claiming that it was committed by the Ergenekon gang, the defendants of which were, in fact, known to have been openly threatened by it and which was made the most important justification tool of the Ergenekon investigation process, was not held as a subject of this court case. It is a real pity that the murders and massacres targeted at intimidating the Kurdish people in the war against the PKK, which has become the largest killing field of the deep state, were only used as propaganda material to gain justification for the investigations via the media, avoided being included in the investigations.

The objective is not the liquidation of the deep state

As we attempted to explain above, the investigations could never be conducted in the vein of a showdown with the deep state. The prosecutors, who departed from the reflection of their ideas on the actual facts, reduced this opportunity to the investigation of coup attempts that remained at the planning stage based on abstract accusations dictated by the police rather than concrete evidence. With initially the AKP and Gülen community, then only the opponents of this community being on the target board, this has been an investigation marked by a desire to silence all opposition voices, frequent generation of false evidence and the addition of some parts that would compromise judicial integrity with the documents about people who were wanted to become targets in an attempt to settle some political affairs rooted in the past. Namely, the actual cause is not to have a showdown with Gladio or to clear out the counter-guerilla; it is to intimidate, scare and seek revenge on the dissidents with miscellaneous identities or political alignments by making use of the suspects, who also included some people that were involved in crimes. The people who expressed this fact were at all times faced with the same accusation: being pro-Ergenekon. Furthermore, various people, who were dissidents or who took a critical distance to these troublesome investigations, ranging from judiciary officers, who investigated deep state activities, to journalists, who dedicated their professional career to working on this subject, were turned into the defendants of the Ergenekon investigations based on various conspiracies and false evidence.

This chain of investigations in time turned into an operation of revenge and intimidation that enabled the Fethullah Gülen community to create –in care of the AKP government– a horizontal and vertical organization in the administrative structure with the security bureaucracy ranking first. The fact that this mentality, which had, in its past, been a founder of anti-communism associations and which applauded the deep state that acted in line with their own objectives, now presents itself as the “enemy” of the deep state is not only ironic, but also completely obnoxious. It is clear as day that this chain of investigations aims to consolidate and perpetuate the power of political Islam in the presence of AKP, for which it is like protective armor and, consequently, to remove all barriers in the way of the deployment of the Fethullah Gülen organization in every level of bureaucracy and economy, which has already been achieved to a great extent in both the police and judicial bodies. Please do not assume from this remark that I am trying to exculpate some suspects of their guiltiness, about which a general opinion exists in the public conscience. On the contrary, some of these suspects, whose names are well known to everyone in Turkey, have obviously been involved in various crimes, some of which have been included in the investigation and some of which have unfortunately not been. However, Ergenekon investigations do not include in their adjudication scope those crimes committed by these people who are also known to be guilty in the public perception. To say it loud and clear, the Ergenekon process does not adjudicate the real criminals based on account of their real crimes.

Real criminals are not being tried for their real crimes

Those who think there is a showdown with the coups and the Armed Forces of Turkey being liquidated despite its resistance are wrong. The ongoing fight does not go further than a cutthroat showdown between the former counter-guerillas, who fell from the governing power and the counter-guerillas currently in power whose actual duty is to defend the deep state. As this whole process unfolds, the new owners and actors of the state have also taken their positions; namely, Ergenekon is a showdown and an operation that concerns not the past but the present. That is the reason why everyone who noticed and criticized the showdown has become targets. This has been the primary reason why the Ergenekon investigations have been devoid of public support similar to that in the Susurluk process, during which the details of the deep state in Turkey were most visibly spilled.

Hence, in contrary to the manipulative propaganda that is being conducted, the Ergenekon investigations are not about the liquidation of the Gladio, or deep state. Considering the general opinion about the investigations that some suspects scrapped by the deep state undertook tasks in Gladio, it would not be wrong to say that the deep state, which is still on duty, is dismissing some of its staff members that have been discarded as unfit for duty. In other words, it is not the Gladio that is being cleared out, but certain remnants of counter-guerilla that have strayed from their path and turned into interest-seeking gangs once they completed their tasks, have been grumpy towards their owners –alluding to societal peace – pulling their strings when brought into the open since they are unaware of the changing political paradigm of the country, and the world. It is a fact that Ergenekon operations and investigations not only liquidate a part of the already discarded elements of the counter-guerilla, and it is also equally a fact that they subtly ensure the institutionalization of a brand new deep organization. Therefore, we actually witness an exchange of the owners and actors of the Gladio rather than its liquidation; because the AKP and the Gülen community, the unofficial partner of the government, know very well that “being in the government is not the same as being in power”. The actual success is not to come to power, but to know how to maintain it. The power had to be preserved under any circumstances, be it in legal or illegal, democratic or not. That is exactly the reason why the Ergenekon investigations have become a tool for causing the military guardianship to step back while strengthening another guardianship in its place, which is claimed to be civilian. Even though this process has been presented to us under the guise of “a showdown with the murky and blood-stained past of the country”, they wanted us to believe it without any questioning, the deep state, counter-guerilla, JITEM and the crimes of the 30-year-long war have not been dealt with during the adjudication process. While the case of Hrant Dink, who was killed in the most prominent assassination that gave justification to the Ergenekon investigations, has still not been settled, his murderers are presented as if they are being adjudicated; the identities of the former and present actors of the deep state behind this murder have still not been uncovered. How can they want us to believe that we will be freed from the deep state? 


1. The first Ergenekon bill of indictment number 2008/968 w ritten by the prosecutor Zekeriya Öz and accepted on 28 July, 2008.

2. lbid.

3. On November, 3, 1996, a Mercedes brand car, in which Sedat Bucak,  the Şanlıurfa MP of DYP (True Path Party), Hüseyin Kocadağ, Chief of  Police, Abdullah Çatlı, an idealist and a culprit of massacres as  well as his girlfriend Gonca Us were travelling crashed into a truck in the Susurluk sub-province of Balıkesir. At the accident, only Bucak  survived. The deep state relations that were uncovered after this accident came to be referred to as ”Susurluk”.

4. On 17, May, 2007, at the attack to the members of the 2. Office of the Council of State in Ankara, Mustafa Yücel Özbilgin, a judge and chairman of the 2. Office, died, while four members were injured. It turned out that Alparslan Arslan, the hit man of the attack, was also the perpetrator of the bomb attacks against the Cumhuriyet newspaper. The Vakit newspaper had previously shown the members of the 2. Office of the Council of State, who had decided that a veiled teacher could not work at a school, as targets in its headline. Alparslan Arslan’s car contained a clipping of this headline in which the newspaper had placed photos of the members. However, a business card that was found on Ancak Arslan belonged to an anti-AKP nationalistic association. Arslan, who was determined to have been in contact with some Ergenekon defendants, was also a member of the Nizam-ı Alem Ocakları (Societies for the Universal Order), the youth organization of BBP (Grand Union Party). The AKP Government faced significant  reaction from the public due to the belief that this attack was committed for the sake of religious beliefs.

5. On 5, 10 and 11, May, 2006, grenade attacks occurred at the building of Cumhuriyet newspaper in Istanbul.

6. see footnote Nr. 1.

7. In Trabzon, the priest of the Santa Maria Church, Andrea Santoro, was killed as a result of an armed attack on 5, February, 2006.  Oğuzhan Akdin, 16 years old, was caught as the murder suspect and condemned to life imprisonment at Trabzon Aggravated Crime Court; however, due to his age his sentence  had been converted to 20-years imprisonment. It turned out later that the phone conversations of Priest Santoro were tapped; he was under police surveillance based on the allegation of being engaged in pro-Pontus activities.

8. Hrant Dink was killed in front of the building of the Agos Newspaper Ogün Samast, 17 years old, was caught as the hit man of the murder.  As a result of the investigation, the trial on defendants based on the  allegation that they incited Samast to commit the murder and were  involved in the assassination was adjudicated on 17 January, 2012.  Yasin Hayal, the defendant who was being accused as the instigator  was sentenced to life imprisonment. In the trial, at the end of which other defendants were sentenced to laughable punishments for various crimes, the court acquitted all the defendants from the crime of forming an organization based on the reason that no organization could be found in the assassination. Among those who were acquitted was also Erhan Tuncel, who was a police informant and whose instigating role in the murder was being discussed. Istanbul 14. Aggravated  Criminal Court said in its detailed ruling: “It is not possible in criminal  law to establish a conviction for a terrorist organizational crime based  on certain logical interpretations without any evidence. Even if there  was an organization, it could not be detected where, when and for  which purpose it was established. The principles and crimes around  which the reciprocal wills of the founders of the organization were  formed could not be identified. Even if there was a structure which  showed continuity, information on the kinds of acts in which it was  involved could not be obtained.’’

9. Tilman Eckehart Geske, Necati Aydın and Uğur Yüksel who were  working at Zirve Publishing House, which printed Bibles in Malatya on were killed  on 18 April, 2007. Five people, who were perpetrators of the massacre, were caught at the crime scene and arrested. The Zirve Publishing House massacre was included in the scope of the Ergenekon investigation in March, 2011. On 17 March, 2011, 20 people, including the retired colonel, Mehmet Ülger, who was the Gendarmerie Legion Commander in Malatya at the time, were detained. However, the investigation on the massacre was later excluded from the scope of the investigation based on the reasoning that it did not have any connections with the latter.