Death lists in the time of coronavirus

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed crime and corruption in various countries and systems.

In some countries, funds set aside for small businesses were allocated to the politically well-connected, in others, crates of personal protective equipment destined for foreign countries were removed from storage and sold to other clients somehow. 

The number of hospital beds had been on a decline, especially in Western countries, even as populations aged. Factories producing masks or other PPEs were closed. As such, some countries lost a lot of money as corrupt officials exploited the situation.

Although Turkey has managed the coronavirus outbreak better than many countries, the country’s issues have become more apparent during the pandemic. But because it is usually the opposition who sees the problems, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s base is still not perturbed by the situation. They even threaten those who are.

Rumours of a new coup attempt have been making the rounds recently, and AKP officials say such an attempt would be quashed like it was on July 15, 2016. Supporters of the party, meanwhile, admit to preparing kill lists and stockpiling weapons, as they vow to put a bloody end to any incident.

Last week it became clear that some of these lists were in fact lists of neighbours.

One would have to be blind not to see that Turkey may end up having a real civil war at the end of this dangerous discourse. While polls show a decline in the AKP’s support, it is understood that a certain group of people who enjoy the bounty brought by governmental power will not accept a losing outcome in a democratic election, and may even try their luck at gaining power without any elections at all.

Turkey’s history is full of “lists,” the most famous of which was the list of Kurdish business people to be extorted during the “dirty civil war” period of the ‘90s. After the infamous car accident near the town of Susurluk, which revealed the connections of Turkish state officials to illegal organisations and the criminal underworld in 1996, the public heard for the first time of a list of people who allegedly aided the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an outlawed group that has fought for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey since 1984.

Kurdish business people included in this list were abducted and killed if they refused to pay sizeable sums for their freedom. Turkey denied the existence of this list for years, but it resurfaced inside the Gendarmerie Command later.

The Ergenekon trials - where high-ranking military personnel, politicians, journalists and civil society figures were accused of forming an armed organised crime empire to overthrow the government - also mentioned some lists, including names of thousands to be arrested and detained in stadiums in case of a coup.

Apparently, the AKP government is making the same mistake and writing up new lists.

Lists have their place in the world of graphic novels too, with one pertinent example being “X” by Mike Richardson and Chris Warner that came out of Dark Horse Comics.

xcomics

In the story, the vigilante known only as “X”, who wears a one-eyed mask chained to his neck, kills corrupt politicians, police officers, business people and members of the mafia. X’s victims receive a photo of themselves marked with either one or two symbols, with a slash signifying a warning and a cross signifying outright death.

The character is reminiscent of Batman at first glance, but differs wildly with regards to killing. In this sense, he more closely resembles Rendel, Finland’s first superhero created by Jesse Haaja.

rendel

However, neither X nor Rendel put their neighbours or people who oppose them on death lists. They always go after the corrupt and the criminal. In Turkey, it seems anybody who stands against the government will end up on one of these lists.

As the coronavirus puts the world through rough times, people stuck inside their homes grow more and more pessimistic and irritated. Nobody expects the world to go back to the way it was before. We will live under a “new normal” from now on. It will be tough at first, but humanity will somehow adapt to this period. 

That said, increased pressure against dissidents and the presence of death lists can never be accepted as a new normal. Governments who try to remain in power through such ideas are destined to lose every time, just like infectious diseases.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.