Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

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Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2012.
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Democracy is like a train. We shall get out when we arrive at the station we want.
—"Sultan" Erdoğan[1]

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the borderline dictatorial President of Turkey. He came to power as head of the Islamist Justice and Development Party, promising to solve Turkey's economic and social problems. Current ETA is: "It's done when it's done". By the way, the ğ is silent, as it always is in Turkish.

The Justice and Development Party (rendered AKP in Turkish) is the first religion-based party to gain power since Turkey became a secular republic in the 1920s. Erdoğan himself is an authoritarian figure whose violent suppression of a protest in Istanbul caused a massive counterreaction lasting several weeks. His inflammatory, over the top remarks fueled the protests and led to widening of support for the demonstrators.

While he has an autocratic style and thinks his majoritarian credentials gives him carte blanche to treat any who opposes him as scum, Erdoğan has been the most important Turkish leader since Atatürk. He greatly reduced the power of the military with his frequent purges, and is in the process of introducing a new, authoritarian constitution (the current one was written by the generals). Erdoğan currently controls the largest military in Europe (if you consider Turkey to be European) and is the most powerful player in the Middle East outside of the Gulf States.

Military[edit]

Despite his autocratic style, and his Islamist influences (which are very mild compared to most Middle Eastern forms of Islamism), Erdoğan has occasionally been a democratizing force for Turkey. Thanks to his reforms, the chances of a military coup occurring were thought to be slim to none.

But this isn't such an obviously good thing as it might first appear. To describe the role of the military in Turkish politics as "complex" is a massive understatement. Unlike other countries the Turkish military tends to act as a stabilizing force. It sees itself as the guardian of "Kemalism," the principles of modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, which include secularism and republicanism. In 1980 the military staged a coup after national politics was paralyzed by waves of political violence that killed thousands and brought the economy near total collapse. The military were hardly Boy Scouts – imprisoning and torturing many thousands in the aftermath of the coup – but they stabilized the economy and within three years restored at least a nominal democracy. Since then, the fiercely secularist military have intervened twice (in 1997 and 2007) to nudge out or forestall the election of Islamist presidents. These latter episodes cast Erdoğan's efforts to limit the military in an interesting light. [2]

Justice[edit]

He's yet another Armenian Genocide denialist. Yet he has no issue accusing other nations of genocide like France [3] or Israel. [4] In 2008 he criticised a group of intellectuals who decided that the genocide really happened, saying "Muslims do not commit genocide."[5] He has also overseen a drift towards reduction of minority rights, freedom of the press and free speech.[6]

Mass protests in 2013[edit]

In 2013, Erdoğan's government authorised the building of a supermarket in a small park in İstanbul, a large city with few parks. The sparked a protest by locals who wanted to keep hold of their local bit of greenery (and who already had enough supermarkets). Riot police moved in on a peaceful sit-in, provoking national sympathy for the protestors. Demonstrations erupted across Turkey against Islamism and authoritarianism. Erdoğan's inflammatory remarks (routinely calling people "looters" and, of course, "terrorists") only served to fuel the fire.

Putinism[edit]

Erdoğan has been accused of following Putinism, which is a special blend of authoritarianism focusing on nationalism, social conservatism, state capitalism, and government domination of the media. [7] Erdoğan has all but announced that Turkey will be a Neo-Ottoman dictatorship within the next few years, with the same throwbacks to "Holy Empire" that Russia invokes. There's a big dollop of populism in his speeches, as well. Erdoğan views the pro-European, rakı-drinking businessmen of İstanbul in a very similar way as Trump sees California, or Farage sees Gibraltar, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

These claims have some credibility as Erdoğan has been pushing for social legislation that seems like it comes straight from the Qur'an such as curbs on drinking alcohol and abortion for women. This has led to some controversy in Turkey.[8] Erdoğan frequently makes nationalistic speeches and has significant control over the media.

Much like Russia's Putin and the Communist Party of China, international analysts believe that Erdoğan's power comes from the fact that Turkey's economy is growing and that the nation's people will generally let him do whatever the hell he wants in exchange for economic prosperity. Under Erdoğan, Turkey has joined Russia, Hungary (to a lesser extent), and other states that mix free (somewhat) market capitalism with an illiberal democracy. [9]

President Asshole[edit]

While still serving as Prime Minister, Erdoğan pulled a Putin and ran for the Presidency. While the position is supposed to be nonpartisan and neutral, Erdoğan openly stated that he would not abide by neutrality, and used his newfound authority to appoint, not nominate, his successor as head of the right wing AKP and Prime Minister. The Cabinet remains dominated by Erdoğan loyalists, meaning his policies and his agenda would still be pursued by the government.

During the June 2015 election, Erdoğan publicly called for voters to give a majority to his former party, the AKP, which is a brazenly illegal move since it, once again, violates presidential neutrality. In February 2015, a 13-year-old child was arrested after allegedly criticizing Erdoğan on Facebook. He passed new laws that gave greater power to the government over the judiciary, including the authority to sack secular judges and stacking courts with AKP supporters. He signed into law a bill which allows the government to block websites without prior court order on 12 September 2014, he was able to ban Twitter and YouTube.

He created an obscenely large and opulent Presidential Palace in a 50-acre area that was legally and judicially protected land. Construction of the palace resumed, and the end result is a visually offensive Sultanesque throne that spans 300,000 m2 (3,200,000 sq ft). Ak Saray, the name of the palace, was originally designed as a new office for the Prime Minister. However, upon assuming the presidency, Erdoğan unilaterally announced that the palace would become the new Presidential Palace, while the Çankaya Köşkü—the previous and historical office of the presidency—will be used by the Prime Minister instead. The Ak Saray has almost 1,000 rooms and cost $350 million (€270 million); the workers clearly won't reap the benefits of what they made from it.

It came to a head in June 2015. Long story short, he wanted a supermajority in parliament for the AKP, which would allow Erdoğan to pass constitutional reforms that would transition Turkey into a presidential republic and expand his set of powers. The good people of Turkey, however, voted for the secular, social democratic KURDISH party instead, denying him not only the supermajority, but relegating the AKP to a minority government that has to form a coalition if it plans to stay in power.

This didn't last long. His AKP party couldn't form a coalition government, and Erdoğan called snap elections in October of 2015. Erdoğan intensified crackdowns on the press,[10] ordered the police to raid the offices of two Turkish opposition newspapers using water cannon and tear gas,[11] and exploited a double suicide bombing in Ankara, which left nearly 100 Kurds, leftists and union members at an anti-war rally dead, as a wedge issue to net him some more votes. It was the worst terrorist attack to ever occur on Turkish soil, and many are accusing Erdoğan of allowing it to happen.[12] He later won a comfortable majority in the October 2015 election, but still short of the supermajority needed to change the constitution in his favor.

In March 2016, a conservative newspaper, Zaman, was raided by government forces and seized.[13] Activists urging for peace with the Kurds face imprisonment.[14] The crackdown continues even as he visits Washington, D.C., when his goons roughed up protesters and activists, while he tries to further encroach on freedom of the press. [15]

Role in the Syrian Civil War[edit]

This is easily his most uncomfortable policy. As a strident opponent of Bashar al-Assad and a supporter of regime change in Syria[16], Erdoğan became a leading instigator in the proxy war within Syria. As early as 2012, when the civil war began, the CIA funneled weapons into the hands of anti-Assad forces from the Turkish side of the border, using Turkey's connections with the Muslim Brotherhood to do so. [17] Can Dündar, the Editor-in-Chief of news outlet Cumhuriyet, published video footage confirming that Turkish trucks, ostensibly loaded with humanitarian supplies, were actually filled with arms bound for terror groups fighting against Assad, and that those trucks were operated by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT). Erdoğan called for a life sentence to Dündar for releasing the evidence. [18]

That same website distributed video footage and transcripts of wiretaps to Turkish courts accusing Turkish security forces of assisting in shelling and support operations for Nusra Front (al-Qaeda) in and around Kassab, Syria, among other sites. [19] [20] Audio was released on YouTube showing Erdoğan contemplating carrying out an actual false flag operation within Syria to justify open military intervention; he tried banning YouTube again after the audio was leaked. [21] [22]

According to Reuters, Erdoğan set up a secret base with Saudi Arabia and Qatar to "direct vital military and communications aid" to Syria’s opposition from a city near the border. "It’s the Turks who are militarily controlling it. Turkey is the main coordinator/facilitator. Think of a triangle, with Turkey at the top and Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the bottom," said a Doha-based source. [23] In early 2015, Turkey carried out a military incursion into Syria, supposedly to "evacuate" the tomb of Süleyman Shah, the grandfather of Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire.[24] Mujahideen were allowed entry to and from the Turkish border with Syria; many of those foreign fighters, as well as the armed opposition, ended up joining the Islamic State.

It's not even a question anymore: Ankara directly assisted and cooperated with Daesh and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq against Bashar al-Assad. [25] Furthermore, Turkey has openly supported Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, both of which are aligned with al-Qaeda.[26] When the Islamic State besieged the town of Kobani, Turkey refused to help the Kurdish defenders, despite having dozens of tanks and hundreds of troops stationed hundreds of meters away from the battlefield. Demonstrations demanding that Turkey come to the Kurds’ aid were suppressed by the police, and hundreds of Kurds were killed by Daesh before Kobani pushed them out.

After a building was bombed by militants within Turkey, Erdoğan ordered bombings.... on non-state Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria, who are specifically fighting Daesh.[27] This was after Ankara-backed American lobbyists tried to block U.S. military assistance to Kurdish fighters in 2014. While there have been a few token strikes against Daesh over the course of months, Erdoğan is focusing almost all of his effort on the Kurds instead, and is ignoring Daesh, because he is that afraid of Kurdish autonomy (Kurds make up 20% of the population in Turkey). [28] In fact, on 28 June, 2015, Erdoğan is reportedly urging parliament to strip lawmakers of immunity from prosecution if they have ties to militants. This is a shot across the bow at the HDP, the secular and progressive Kurdish opposition party that #REKT him in the 2015 election. If he succeeds, the HDP MPs will be arrested, and Erdoğan will call for early elections, so he can get the super-majority needed to change the constitution in his favor.[29] The vast majority of arrests after the bombing in Turkey were directed at Kurds and Erdoğan's left-wing opponents. [30] He has since blocked Twitter once images of violence against Kurds made rounds online. [31] To this day, Erdoğan continues to fire tank shells at anti-ISIS Kurdish fighters in Syria on almost a weekly basis, destroying vehicles and wounding fighters.

Also, to reiterate, because it bears repeating: he is directly assisting ISIS. [32]

The man can take no criticism[edit]

Erdoğan is well known in Turkey for suing people who make fun of him or criticize him. Unfortunately Erdoğan has an increasingly not-independent justice system and the police at his disposal, so most of the times Erdoğan ends up winning. When in 2016 German TV made a mildly funny video about him, that earned the German ambassador a stern talking to (pretty much the harshest thing you can do in the diplomatic relations of two "friendly" nations). As a reaction to this Jan Böhmermann made a "poem" that insulted Erdoğan to prove a point about what satire can and cannot do. Naturally Erdoğan sued (with the help of a 19th century German law against the insulting of crowned heads) and the federal government signed off on prosecution.

Taking over Turkey[edit]

2016 military coup attempt[edit]

See the Wikipedia article on 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt.

On July 15, 2016, a significant portion of the Turkish military initiated a coup against Erdoğan's government. Denied landing rights in İstanbul, Erdoğan was reportedly seeking asylum in Germany, and was contacted using FaceTime on his smartphone. Erdoğan called for his supporters to rise up in the streets against the military, which they did.[33] Despite flights in and out of the country being temporarily suspended, Erdoğan appeared in İstanbul in public, a suggestion that the coup's attempts were faltering,[34] and it was called off by July 16 – even most of Erdoğan's detractors in Turkey didn't want a military takeover of the country.[35][36]

The main opposition party calls it a "controlled coup", meaning the coup attempt was recognized in advance by the secret service and used as a chance to seize absolute power for Erdogan and destroy the opposition and Gulen movement which accused Erdogan for his corruption.

104 pro-coup soldiers were killed and 2,839 arrested (5 generals and 29 colonels),[37] with 194–265 killed and 1,110–1,440 wounded overall[38][39]

Excuse to consolidate power[edit]

See the Wikipedia article on 2016 Turkish purges.

After the failed coup, Erdoğan went full Palpatine by declaring a state of emergency, which has granted him greater powers, and by suspending the compliance of Turkey to the European Convention on Human Rights. Mass arrests, detentions and dismissals followed. According to Amnesty International, several detainees awaiting trial were deprived of basic necessities (sleep, food, water and medical treatment), and the right to contact their families and lawyers, and were beaten, tortured, and raped by law enforcement officers.[40] Erdoğan blamed US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen for the uprising and demanded his extradition; and targeted anyone believed to be tied to or sympathetic to Gülen in any way.[41][42]

A few months after the coup, members of Erdoğan's party proposed a bill that would change the Constitution to transfer more power to the president. It would abolish the position of Prime Minister, and grants the president the power to appoint and sack all government ministers, dissolve the Parliament, and declare a state of emergency.[43] The bill appears ready to pass, as he has the requisite number of MPs who support it. If the bill passes, Erdogan would be able to rule for another decade with the powers of a dictator.[44]

Within Switzerland there has been a PKK-rally where people call to murder him that has targeted the Turkish consulate with graffiti of the same line, a move which is supported by the Swiss Green Party.[45][46][47]

References[edit]

  1. "'Sultan' Erdogan: the end of Turkey's secular state?", Channel 4 News, 6.4.13. It is just a train for him until he and his party can dismantle the secular government bit by bit. That's his destination. Half of Europe has corrupt politicians who ride this "train" for 4-8 years, until they fill their pockets and then move on to abolish democracy.
  2. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/27/world/europe/turkish-leader-disowns-trials-that-helped-him-tame-military.html?hp&_r=1
  3. [1]
  4. [2]
  5. Sudanese President Bashir's visit to Turkey in limbo
  6. Inching away from democracy?
  7. [3]
  8. [4]
  9. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/erdogan-set-to-cement-power-by-winning-presidential-election-a-984581.html
  10. https://news.vice.com/article/freerasool-international-news-editors-express-concern-over-turkish-climate-of-intimidation
  11. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34656901
  12. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/turkey-bombing-anti-government-rally_561a9fc7e4b0082030a2f6f7
  13. "Zaman newspaper: Seized Turkish daily 'now pro-government'". BBC News. 6 March 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35739547. Retrieved 26 March 2016. 
  14. http://www.nature.com/news/turkish-academics-jailed-for-making-terrorism-propaganda-1.19586
  15. http://thinkprogress.org/world/2016/03/31/3765417/erdogan-media-crackdown/
  16. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/us-and-turkey-discuss-possible-regime-change-in-syria.aspx?pageID=238&nid=74674
  17. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/world/middleeast/cia-said-to-aid-in-steering-arms-to-syrian-rebels.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  18. http://www.todayszaman.com/national_messages-of-support-pour-in-for-dundar-over-possible-life-sentence_382924.html
  19. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRV9UEJISdk
  20. http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/turkiye/213011/Cihatcilara_TSK_dan__topcu__destegi..._br__iste_o_telefon_konusmalari.html
  21. http://www.internationalman.com/articles/why-turkey-was-planning-a-false-flag-operation-in-syria
  22. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/27/us-syria-crisis-centre-idUSBRE86Q0JM20120727
  23. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/27/us-syria-crisis-centre-idUSBRE86Q0JM20120727
  24. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31572257
  25. http://www.businessinsider.com/links-between-turkey-and-isis-are-now-undeniable-2015-7
  26. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/26/isis-syria-turkey-us?CMP=share_btn_tw%22
  27. https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/07/29/turkeys-american-lobbyists-work-defeat-military-aid-isis/
  28. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/29/world/turkeys-focus-on-crushing-kurd-extremists-complicates-isis-efforts.html?gwh=25707D76E0EDABFC417C75646BD836DD&gwt=pay&assetType=nyt_now
  29. http://in.reuters.com/article/2015/07/29/mideast-crisis-turkey-idINKCN0Q30P220150729
  30. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/07/27/us-mideast-crisis-turkey-arrests-idUSKCN0Q10NH20150727
  31. http://www.ibtimes.com/turkey-blocks-access-twitter-images-violence-against-kurds-proliferate-users-report-2087955
  32. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/khairuldeen-al-makhzoomi/the-cost-of-turkeys-self-interest_b_8615668.html
  33. "Turkish forces try to crush last remnants of coup after Erdogan returns". Yahoo News. Retrieved on 16 July 2016.
  34. "Turkish President Returns to Istanbul in Sign Military Coup Is Faltering". The New York Times. 16 July 2016. Retrieved on 16 July 2016.
  35. "Turkey Detains Thousands of Military Personnel in Bid to Regain Control". The New York Times. 17 July 2016. Retrieved on 16 July 2016.
  36. "Turkish premier: Country under full government control after coup attempt". 
  37. "Turkish PM Blames Coup Attempt on 'Terrorist Organization:' 161 Killed, 2,839 Detained". 16 July 2016. 
  38. Turkish premier: Country under full government control after coup attempt, The Washington Post
  39. Over 2,800 arrested, 265 killed, 1,440 injured in Turkish coup attempt, RT
  40. http://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/07/turkey-independent-monitors-must-be-allowed-to-access-detainees-amid-torture-allegations/
  41. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/16/fethullah-gulen-who-is-the-man-blamed-by-turkeys-president-for-coup-attempt
  42. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-security-erdogan-idUSKCN10T1J7
  43. http://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/02240cdb-de1e-433c-ab85-bc2470048d96/Turkey-s-ruling--nationalist-parties-submit-bill-to-empower-Erdogan
  44. https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.ft.com/content/134e8364-bf14-11e6-9bca-2b93a6856354?client=ms-android-verizon
  45. https://www.dailysabah.com/diplomacy/2017/03/26/switzerland-opens-probe-into-kill-erdogan-poster-in-pro-pkk-rally-in-bern
  46. https://www.dailysabah.com/politics/2017/05/01/turkish-consulate-in-zurich-vandalized-with-paint-kill-erdogan-reappears-in-swiss-streets
  47. https://www.scribd.com/article/347988060/Switzerland-Kill-Erdogan-Sign-Not-Against-The-Law