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Are we, as Turkey’s citizens, pests that must be exterminated?

A couple of days ago, I and 804 other citizens of Turkey signed a statement, where we reiterated our desire to live a life of justice, peace with dignity and peace of mind on this land, with our livelihood and health under assurance.

As signatories from academia, law and medicine, we tried to put into words the common longing and desires of everybody living on this soil, without discriminating against anyone.

Our demands, in short, were as follows:

• A fair amnesty is declared, covering especially political prisoners, rather than discriminatory and arbitrary, sporadic discharges.

• Opposition writers and politicians, who are held in prison in defiance of the rulings of the (Turkish) Constitutional Court and European Court of Human Rights, are set free.

• Independence of the courts from the administration is ensured, and the Council of Judges and Prosecutors is reorganized.

• Thousands of people, who, by means of “State of Emergency Decrees with the Force of Law” (in the wake of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt), were summarily and without due process dismissed from their jobs, their passports seized, while some are continuing to serve jail sentences, should finally have their rights restored.

• More than 80 elected mayors representing millions of voters, who were illegally replaced by the government, should be returned to their positions.

• Threats to women’s rights should cease and equal rights come into effect, doing away with violations that take place despite the Istanbul Convention and the Turkish Constitution.

• The plundering of natural resources and the environment for the sake of profits should be prevented.

• People’s needs for health, shelter, education must be guaranteed by the state and the costs covered by appropriate provisions in the budget.

• Everyone who lives in this country, regardless of their identities, opinions, lifestyles, is equal before the law and in the social domain.

• In order for all citizens to be able to express themselves freely and equally, to organize and to take part in self-administration, the mechanisms for democratic participation must be safeguarded.

After we shared our text with the public, the leader of the junior member of Turkey’s ruling alliance and far right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahçeli, released a statement targeting the 805 people who had signed their names to the statement.

Bahçeli called the group “poor excuses for intellectuals, hired pens, so-called journalists and no-identity, rotten academics and individuals,’’ while the text we signed was dubbed a “statement of despicableness,’’ by the MHP leader.

Bahçeli declared us 805 people as criminals while going as far as saying that the hundreds of citizens had “lined up for food before the table of betrayal.’’

I am not about to respond or stoop to the level of Bahçeli, who is in cooperation with organised crime leaders instead of the citizens and legitimate politicians of this country. I consider it a degradation to respond using the same language to a person so rude and devoid of the sentiments of courtesy, justice and conscientiousness.

Anyone who maintains such a poisonous discourse, continues to divide the people of this country, targets certain segments of the population, declaring them and demonising them as criminals, should be a focus of the country’s judiciary. Nobody should be able to target the citizens of this country because of their thoughts and democratic requests. Through his toxic rhetoric, Bahçeli is violating the constitution of this country and committing a crime.

Immediately following Bahçeli’s call last week for the judiciary to shut down the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), MHP deputy chairman Semih Yalçın made a statement, referring to the HDP and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as “a swarm of pests that need to be exterminated.’’

This call for violence immediately brought Rwanda to my mind. During the 1994 genocide that took place in the eastern central African country, the Tutsis had been referred to as “cockroaches” by Leon Mugesera, a senior politician in Rwanda’s then-ruling Hutu party.

In a speech he delivered in 1992, Mugesera, who has since been jailed for life, told more than 1,000 party members that they should kill Tutsis and dump their bodies in the river.

We know the end result: In just 100 days, 800,000 people were killed in the genocide, according to the U.N., while Rwanda’s official figures point to the massacre of more than one million Tutsi and Hutus.

Turkey appears to be headed in a similar direction and this is horrifying. The prosecutors and courts of this country must swiftly take action against these individuals, who spew venom and target citizens, calling for their extermination. Turkey is headed in a very dangerous trajectory. A political mindset that envisages a mass killing is unfortunately in the position of being a coalition partner to the ruling party.

Turkey’s opposition, every segment of society, in short everyone must stand united against and call for an end to this mindset that sees a portion of society as “pests that need extermination.” We are on the brink of a disaster.