Erdogan-Gulen Power Struggle Divides European Turks

erdoganIPT News
August 8, 2016

On the night of July 15, members of the Turkish military stormed the state-run TRT news agency in Ankara and forced an anchorwoman to read a statement calling President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a “traitor.” Within moments, tanks began to drive menacingly through the streets of Ankara and Istanbul as military planes roared over Turkish skies. The Parliament was bombed. The fifth military coup in the history of modern Turkey had begun, taking even the most anti-government Turks by surprise.

But Erdogan regained complete control within hours, thanks to his fervent supporters who took to the streets in his defense. Throughout the night, pro- and anti-Erdogan military and civilians clashed across the country, leaving nearly 300 dead and 2,100 injured by morning.

The attempted coup and its aftermath, however, soon exploded into more than just a national crisis; it has had incendiary repercussions globally, particularly in the Turkish communities of Europe.

Erdogan declared a state of emergency July 16, and began cracking down on suspected members of the coup plot and their allies. By July 20, more than 45,000 people had been arrested, including 2,700 judges and 15,000 teachers. As Erdogan called for reinstating the death penalty, credible reports emerged of prisoners being tortured and raped.

In the meantime, tens of thousands of others have been fired from their jobs as the state takes over or shuts down nearly all the country’s media outlets – including three news agencies, 16 television channels, 45 newspapers and 15 magazines, Reuters reports. And on Monday, more than three weeks after the failed coup, Turkey recalled five senior diplomats from its embassy in The Hague.

All who have been sacked are accused of complicity in the coup, based on their (ostensible) ties to Fethullah Gulen, a powerful cleric now living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. Once one of Erdogan’s closest allies, Gulen has become his most despised enemy in recent years, thanks in large part to Gulen’s criticism of Erdogan during the 2013 Gezi Park demonstrations. Now Turkey’s president accuses Gulen of being behind the coup attempt, demands his extradition from the United States. Meantime, he continues his crackdown on the cleric’s followers.

But those followers are not just in Turkey, and neither are Tayyip Erdogan’s. Millions of European Turks – both immigrants and subsequent generations – ally themselves with the Gulenist movement, or Hizmet. While some call it a cult and claim it represents a zealous Islamic religious movement, others view it as a more moderate strain of Islam and praise Gulen for his interfaith initiatives, and for the hospitals, schools and universities he has founded internationally, including over 100 charter schools in the United States. But since the split between the two men, tensions have also emerged between pro-Gulen and pro-Erdogan groups that are far more virulent than the disputes between those who favor Hizmet and those who condemn it.

As a result, the clashes between the conflicting sides have spilled beyond the Turkish borders into Europe, and have now exploded since the coup. Often, they have been violent, with pro-Erdogan protesters hurling stones into the windows of Gulen organizations in Gelsenkirchen, Germany and Rotterdam, Holland, or calling to set fire to a building housing a Gulenist organization in Beringen, Belgium (“Burn them alive!” the protesters shouted.). Arsonists also attacked several Gulen buildings in the Netherlands.

In other instances, the attacks are quieter but more sinister: members of 70 different Gulen-affiliated groups in the Netherlands report receiving hate messages and death threats. People believed to support the movement – or who fail to support Erdogan – report being banned from mosques and refused entry to restaurants. Dutch children have told each other “I can’t talk to you anymore.” A number of Gulen followers have gone into hiding, fearing for their safety.

And in Germany, home to Europe’s largest Turkish community, estimated at nearly 3 million, some 30-40,000 Erdogan supporters marched through Cologne on July 31. And while the demonstrations went off without incident, they represent a chasm within the country – not just between Germans and Turks, but – as in the Netherlands – among the Turks themselves. Noted Deutsch-Welle‘s Gero Schliess in an editorial, “After the coup attempt in Turkey, divisions have emerged in this country that no one had seen for a long time – or hadn’t wanted to see. The failed coup and President Erdogan’s massive onslaught against civil rights have deeply divided the Turkish community in Germany. The split runs right through families and neighborhoods, regardless of social strata or profession.”

But at least as disturbing is the idea of 30-40,000 people marching in support of the man who has led the profoundly anti-democratic crackdown in Turkey. While it may be understandable to oppose a military coup, it is something else entirely to continue marching in support in light of the abuses that have followed. Moreover, according to Politico, the situation has also “reignited a decade-long debate in Germany about the Turkish state steering public opinion within the German-Turkish community through a web of lobbying groups, religious institutions, media outlets and public figures.”

Religious groups seem to be chief among those, such as the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, sponsored by the Turkish state. That Turkey is therefore subsidizing mosques in Germany demonstrates the strength not only of the country’s influence on the political visions of German Turks, but on their religious ideas as well. And in an increasingly Islamist Turkey, those ideas no longer reflect the secular, humanist values of Ataturk; rather, they are based on an increasingly strict vision of Sunni Islam in which the state and the mosque are one.

Other Turkish religious groups, including Milli Gorüs, an Islamist group headquartered in Cologne, are also believed to hold sway over European Turks, particularly in the Netherlands.

Behind them all, particularly in Belgium, is the Diyanet, the official Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs .

Ataturk created the Diyanet soon after the founding of the Turkish republic, to help ensure that imams preached moderate interpretations of Islam. They were critical to maintaining the separation between mosque and state. With the rise of Erdogan and his AK Party, however, it has served to do just the opposite: it now promotes Islamist views in Turkey and among the Turkish community abroad. As Istanbul-based journalist David Lepeska noted last year, the Diyanet‘s budget has quadrupled since 2006 to over $2 billion, with a 2015 budget allocation that was “40 percent more than the Ministry of the Interior’s and equal to those of the Foreign, Energy, and Culture and Tourism ministries combined.” In addition to presiding over Turkey’s own mosques, the directorate governs hundreds of mosques across Europe, has increased the number of religious classes in public schools, and, reports Lepeska, “runs a 24-hour television station, Diyanet television, available via satellite, cable, and YouTube, and manages a Facebook page (with nearly 230,000 fans), two Twitter accounts (more than 50,000 followers), and an Islamic lifestyle hotline.”

The result is a toxic mixture of religion and politics that could not be further from the secular ideals of the founder of modern Turkey. Add Erdogan’s and the AKP’s human rights abuses and dictatorial leanings to this and the cauldron boils hotter and more dangerous than ever. Whatever problems existed previously, the post-coup situation bears far too many parallels to the impulses and ideologies of radical Islamism: whoever does not support Erdogan becomes the enemy. And Erdogan, as the leader of Turkey, is the leader of the Diyanet.

The outcome is a kind of tribalism that already infects the rest of the Middle East: to be outside the Erdogan support core is to be outside the realm of the Diyanet – an apostate of sorts, threatened with death.

That this could become the future of Ataturk’s secular democratic republic is tragic. But there is also a very real possibility of the impulse spreading into Europe. Other events this year, such as the attacks on Dutch journalist Ebru Umar and German comedian Jan Bohmermann, both of whom criticized the Turkish president, demonstrate that many European Turks lean towards such a radicalized and tribalist vision. It is a vision Europe’s leaders would do well to extinguish while they still can.

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Also see:

Erdoğan’s Coup Survival: Don’t Call It Democracy

pro erdogan demIPT NewsAugust 3, 2016

Nihad Awad, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) executive director, is in Turkey this week. It isn’t clear why, but Awad is taking advantage of his travels to post upbeat photographs celebrating that country’s recent failed military coup.

Last month, a faction of Turkey’s military tried to oust Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has consolidated power and steered his country away from the secular ambitions laid out by modern founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk toward a decidedly Islamist state.

As Natalie Martin explained in Newsweek:

“For almost ten years, Turkey has been drifting towards authoritarianism. Life has become distinctly uncomfortable for anyone who doesn’t support Erdoğan and his party, the AKP. The government controls the news media, has undermined the rule of law and clamped down harshly on any kind of peaceful protest. So while Turkey is still democratic—in that Erdoğan is elected—it is not a liberal country.”

1749Last Friday, Turkish journalist Mahir Zeynalov captured one aspect of Erdoğan’s latest crackdown, the arrests of dozens of journalists, in a series of Twitter posts that garnered immediate international attention.

Awad hasn’t seemed to notice or doesn’t care. On Saturday, he posted a photograph of a bridge where, he said, “the army surrendered to the will of the people.” Monday evening, he snapped a selfie in Turkey’s Taksim Square, showing what looked like a rally of flag-waving Turks “guarding democracy.”

1748True, Erdoğan was elected president by popular vote in 2014. But his actions, seizing opposition media outlets, purging military, the courts and government of potential foes and increasing Islam’s role in Turkish society, predates the failed coup.

But Erdoğan’s crackdown, described by the New York Times as “nearly unprecedented” in modern history, has not stopped his American Islamist supporters from fully embracing Turkey’s tilt toward a more theocratic state.

In a series of White House rallies that started the night of the failed coup, speakers including Awad cast Turkey as a beacon of freedom.

“This military coup is an affront, not only to the Turkish people, but to everyone who believes in democracy and the free will of the people,” Awad said at another White House rally July 15.

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Does Erdogan Want To Be Sultan?

9P4ShOV

Democracy is like a train — when you reach your stop, you get off.

CounterJihad, by Bruce Cornibe, July 20, 2016:

Last Friday’s failed coup attempt in Turkey, which claimed the lives of over 200 individuals, has left a lot of speculation about the causes of the incident and Turkish President Erdogan’s level of collusion. Erdogan has already stated that the coup attempt “is a blessing from Allah, because it will allow us to purge the military[.]” Reuters reports on the current number of detainees or those suspended by Turkish authorities at around 50,000 people – including military personnel, members of law enforcement, court officials, teachers and civil servants. Erdogan is clearly using this division to further Turkey into a more autocratic system of governance with him at the helm. For example, in a 2015 speech Erdogan addressed the issue of altering Turkey’s Constitution to match his expanded presidential role stating:

“There is a president with de facto power in the country, not a symbolic one. The president should conduct his duties for the nation directly, but within his authority. Whether one accepts it or not, Turkey’s administrative system has changed. Now, what should be done is to update this de facto situation in the legal framework of the constitution[.]”

Erdogan paints himself as an ally to the West, but he’s unquestionably an Islamist using the democratic process to transform a once secular-democratic country of the Ataturk tradition to an authoritarian Islamic state that punishes dissenting opinions.  Journalists, politicians, academics, military figures, and religious leaders alike have suffered under his rule.

Freedom House, an independent organization that monitors freedom and democracy, labeled Turkey as “Not Free” in 2016 – receiving poor rankings in different categories such as legal environment (26/30 with 30 being worst), political environment (30/40 with 40 being worst), economic environment (15/30 with 30 being worst), and press freedom score (71/100 with 100 being worst). Freedom House explains that constitutional protections such as freedom of press and expression are subverted by “the penal code, the criminal procedure code, and the harsh, broadly worded antiterrorism law that essentially leave punishment of normal journalistic activity to the discretion of prosecutors and judges.” For example, in 2015, Turkish authorities charged three Vice News journalists on terrorism related charges.  They have since been released with the help of freedom and human rights organizations.

Erdogan has made it clear that one of his chief rivals in his quest for power is an Islamic cleric named Fethullah Gülen, whom he accused of staging the recent coup attempt. Gülen is often regarded as a ‘moderate’ in the West but shares a similar Islamist ideology to that of Erdogan. Gülen, like the Muslim Brotherhood, goes by the strategy of gradualism or incrementalism to slowly bring about an Islamic state with the implementation of sharia. Gülen has built a vast network of schools and cultural centers around the world to gradually expand Islam’s role within society. This deceptive strategy is revealed in a former Gülen sermon, of which this is an excerpt:

You must move in the arteries of the system without anyone noticing your existence until you reach all the power centers … until the conditions are ripe, they [the followers] must continue like this. If they do something prematurely, the world will crush our heads, and Muslims will suffer everywhere, like in the tragedies in Algeria, like in 1982 [in] Syria … like in the yearly disasters and tragedies in Egypt. The time is not yet right. You must wait for the time when you are complete and conditions are ripe, until we can shoulder the entire world and carry it … You must wait until such time as you have gotten all the state power, until you have brought to your side all the power of the constitutional institutions in Turkey … Until that time, any step taken would be too early—like breaking an egg without waiting the full forty days for it to hatch. It would be like killing the chick inside. The work to be done is [in] confronting the world. Now, I have expressed my feelings and thoughts to you all—in confidence … trusting your loyalty and secrecy. I know that when you leave here—[just] as you discard your empty juice boxes, you must discard the thoughts and the feelings that I expressed here.

Because of Gülen’s influence and following within Turkey he is seen as a major threat by Erdogan. Erdogan officially designated Gülen’s movement a terrorist group and vowed to come after its members. Erdogan is now using the failed coup to try once more to extradite Gülen and clampdown on his followers.

Turkey is not only a strategic NATO ally but also holds considerable political clout with the EU in regards to Europe’s Muslim immigration crisis.  For that reason, he is likely to enjoy considerable support from the United States and the EU in spite of his autocratic tendencies.  As Erdogan continues to gain power and advances toward his aspirations of another Ottoman empire ruled by Sharia, the EU can either placate Turkish demands or stand up for their European values. Let’s hope they choose the latter.

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What happened in Turkey? And what comes next?

AEI, by Michael Rubin, July 17, 2016:

On Friday, as Turks were out and about to mark the start of the evening, elements of the Turkish military sought to stage a coup. There was reason to see such violence coming. Last March, we speculated here at AEIdeas about the possibility that a coup might be brewing. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s president and strongman, has only grown increasingly dictatorial and erratic since.

tayyip

What really happened, though, remains unclear, and conspiracies swirl. Below are five questions to consider as Turkey teeters on the precipice:

  • Why is this coup different from others? The coup was unlike any coupTurkey had ever witnessed, and Turkey has seen four over the past decades. The Turkish military has timed past coups for the early morning hours (in 1980, the coup began at 5 am on Sunday) in order to detain sleeping political leaders at their homes). It has closed airspace and shutdown the media. In each of the past coups, the coup leaders themselves made the announcement. On Friday evening, however, a Turkish anchor made the announcement after being handed a note by low-ranked soldiers.
  • Who is responsible? There are three main suspects. The smoke had not cleared before Erdoğan blamed Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic cleric and former Erdoğan ally. Gülen preaches peace and tolerance, although his critics believe he has a hidden agenda. My own views are more conflicted. Erdoğan could never have consolidated power the way he did without the assistance of Gülen’s allies, but once Erdoğan turned on Gülen in 2013, the Pennsylvania-based cleric recognized the danger of Turkey with its constitutional checks-and-balances dismantled. Regardless, Gülen denies any role in Friday’s events. Nor has he ever had a powerbase in the military. Indeed, the Turkish General Staff has long vetted officer candidates to prevent Gülen’s followers from rising through the ranks.

The second are traditional Kemalists, those who follow the secular and pro-Western principles laid out by modern Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. While Erdoğan has eroded both the Turkish military’s power and promoted Islamists within its ranks, it is possible that secularists in the military acted alone without the coordination of the top, Erdoğan-appointed brass. Erdoğan has made no secret of his desire to transform Turkey into a religious republic. As he consolidated power, Kemalists may have calculated that this was their last, best chance to save the old Turkey. If so, the units involved may have counted on popular support to overcome gaps in their plan. After all, the military traditionally polls as the most trusted public institutions in Turkey while the public trusts the political class far less.

The third possibility might be that Erdoğan himself sparked the coup as a sort of Reichstag fire. Sustaining this theory is the sheer incompetence of the coup plotters, as well as the fact that Erdoğan apparently had lists of thousands to detain compiled ahead of time. That he called the coup plot a “gift from God” only feeds the conspiracy further. So too does the fact that Erdoğan’s supporters were armed and ready to go immediately after his televised call to take to the streets. Turks know that there is little spontaneity in their politics. For example, after Erdoğan blew up at Shimon Peres in Davos in 2009, thousands greeted him at the airport waving Palestinian flags, the metro hours having been mysteriously extended for that day only. Even in a city as bustling as Istanbul, it would normally be hard to find thousands of Palestinian flags at 3 a.m.

  • What is Erdoğan’s end goal? Whether or not Erdoğan planned the coup himself in an orgy of Machiavellianism, one thing is certain: He is now the winner and will consolidate power even further. What Erdoğan’s end goal is remains open for debate, however. Eight years ago, it appeared he aspired to be the Turkish equivalent of Russian President Vladimir Putin. More recently, Turks have suggested that his goal was grander, thinkcaliphate or Islamic republic. Whatever Erdoğan seeks, separation of powers does not appear on his agenda.
  • What’s next for Turkey? Erdoğan is on the warpath. He believes he has acarte blanche to target enemies at home and perhaps abroad as well. Turkey already has the high proportion per capita of imprisoned journalists. Expect prisons to become more crowded. The danger is that Turkish society is still divided. Erdoğan has never won more than 50% of the vote. The Kurdish insurgency is only growing more virulent. The terrorist attacks that have rocked Turkey in recent months may only be the tip of the iceberg. Here’s my biggest fear: The closing of Turkey’s political space may herald a new era of political assassination inside Turkey. Elections were once the escape valve but, with Turks no longer able to campaign openly and with atrocity fanning the flames of animosity even further, opponents, ideologues, and those who feel they must rectify personal or political grievance may turn to the gun. Not only will Erdoğan be a target, but also the heads of all major political parties, newspaper editors, television anchors, and civil society leaders.
  • What does it mean for the United States? It’s time for some serious introspection in Washington. If the coup attempt caught the State Department and intelligence community by surprise, it’s responsible to ask why? Are diplomats talking to themselves or Turks? Are their contacts relevant and broad, or are they trapped in an elite circle? Likewise, what are the base assumptions that blinded US intelligence? Erdoğan’s actions will challenge US policy in other ways. When President Obama declared that all parties should support Erdoğan, it is doubtful he meant to give the Turkish leader a green light to imprison thousands of opponents. And even though Obama came out against the coup plot, the Turkish government has redoubled anti-American incitement in recent days.

Turkish media suggests that the United States must have had a hand in the coup attempt because Gülen resides in Pennsylvania. Erdoğan has renewed calls for Gülen’s extradition, and appears willing to tie US use of the Incirlik air base to his demand. In effect, this means, Erdoğan is holding the fight against the Islamic State hostage to his domestic political aims. Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, equivocates.

Let us hope Obama and Kerry are students of history. When Jimmy Carter considered acquiescing to Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini’s demand to extradite the shah who, like Gülen, came to the United States seeking medical treatment, the result was not peace but rather a sense that blackmail was an effective tool.

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Also see:

Turkey: Coup Has Failed, Erdogan More Powerful Than Ever

Turkish soldiers secure the area as supporters of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan protest in Istanbul's Taksim square, early Saturday, July 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Turkish soldiers secure the area as supporters of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan protest in Istanbul’s Taksim square, early Saturday, July 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

PJ MEDIA, BY MICHAEL VAN DER GALIEN, JULY 16, 2016

Izmir, Turkey — It’s a done deal: the military coup has failed. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AK Parti remain in power and vow to take revenge against those behind the coup.

Or, perhaps better said: against those they say are behind it.

Now that the coup has clearly failed, we can conclude that this must have been the most incompetent attempted takeover in Turkey’s troubled history. When part of the military launched their offensive last night (Turkish time), I immediately checked news channels supporting President Erdogan. Surprisingly, none of them were taken over. The only broadcaster that was taken over was TRT Haber, the state news channel. But NTV and other channels supporting Erdogan were left alone.

That was remarkable, but what struck me even more was the fact that these channels — especially NTV — were able to talk to the president and the prime minister. That’s strange, to put it mildly. Normally, when the military stages a coup, the civilian rulers are among the first to be arrested. After all, as long as the country’s civilian leadership are free, they can tell forces supportive of them what to do… and they can even tell the people to rise up against the coup.

And that’s exactly what happened. Both Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called into news programs and told their supporters to go out on the streets and fight back against the soldiers. A short while later, streets in the big cities (Ankara and Izmir) were flooded with Erdogan supporters, who even climbed on top of tanks. Fast forward a few hours and it was officially announced that the coup had failed, and that Erdogan and his AK Party remained in power. About 1500 soldiers were arrested.

As I wrote on Twitter yesterday, there were three options:

  1. The coup was staged by a small group within the military, which would severely limit their ability to strike.
  2. The coup was staged by the entire military, which meant Erdogan’s chances of surviving politically were extremely small.
  3. The coup was a set-up. Think the Reichstag fire.

The main argument against option number three is that there was some very serious fighting taking place, including massive explosions. Dozens of people have been killed. If this was a fake coup, it probably was the bloodiest one ever. That’s why many people are skeptical about this option, and believe it was just an incompetent attempt at a military takeover.

The general feeling in Izmir — a city with 3 million inhabitants who are generally not pro-Erdogan at all — is that it was a real coup attempt, but that the officers behind it were incredibly amateurish. Friends on the streets and cafés are literally telling me:

It was a real attempt, but they were stupid.

Shortly after the attempted coup, Erdogan and Yildirim immediately blamed a disgraced Islamic scholar, Fethullah Gulen, who now lives in Pennsylvania. Gulen and Erdogan were longtime allies who shared a dream of Islamizing Turkey but had a falling out several years ago. Ever since, Erdogan has blamed Gulen for pretty much every problem in Turkey, including a major controversy about cabinet members (including Erdogan and his family) possibly stealing millions of dollars. In the years after, Gulen became Erdogan’s enemy number one, which is undoubtedly why he’s being blamed for yesterday’s coup.

Proof that Gulen is indeed behind it hasn’t been presented, however. In fact, the Gulen group denies any involvement. You could imagine that, if they did support it, they’d call on their followers to support the takeover. They did no such thing.

The same goes for the leaders of Turkey’s official opposition parties. The secular CHP and the nationalist MHP aligned with the AKP to condemn the coup. Some in the West have expressed shock at that: if they’re opposed to Erdogan, why didn’t they support the coup? The answer is, of course, that Turkey has had two military takeovers in the recent past (1960s and 1980s): both were very bloody and absolutely horrendous, not just for the ousted governments, but also for the average Turk. People weren’t allowed to leave their homes, not even to buy food and drinks, and many innocent civilians were rounded up by the military. Once in prison, many of them either died or were severely tortured.

It’s not very strange that even the country’s opposition parties don’t wish a repeat of that. No person in his right mind would.

When the coup was still going on, one Twitter user tweeted this:

I’m afraid that Yousef was, and is, right. If the military would’ve succeeded, Turkey would now be a military dictatorship. Regardless of where you stand on Erdogan, that would’ve meant major changes for the Turkish people. A lockdown would’ve been put in place, people would’ve been imprisoned in their own homes. In fact, I went out at 2 a.m. to a local market to buy as much food, milk, eggs, and so on as I could. I did this because, in past coups, people had to stay indoors for many days. Some people who couldn’t take care of themselves actually died from hunger, or so I’ve been told by Turks. After that first phase, the military always rounded up all those they thought were loyal to the former government. Mass imprisonments, torture and killings were everyday events.

In other words, even if you oppose Erdogan, it’s difficult if not impossible to celebrate a military coup.

Of course we now have to see what Erdogan’s government will do. More than 100 soldiers involved in the coup have been killed, military commanders were taken hostage, and Erdogan has vowed revenge. As anyone with even a bit of knowledge of history knows, the crackdowns after a failed coup can be as bad as the crackdown after a successful military takeover. Erdogan already wanted to change Turkey’s constitution and change the system into a so-called presidential system, meaning most if not all power would reside in his office. Nobody doubts that this is exactly what’ll happen now: he’ll draw all power to himself and ignite a major cleansing, possibly not only of the military and police forces, but also in politics itself.

The only possible conclusion, then, is: no matter what, democracy will suffer a major setback in Turkey. We can only hope and pray that the consequences will be less severe than I fear.

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Why the coup in Turkey could mean hope

Photo: AP

Photo: AP

New York Post, By Michael Rubin, July 15, 2016:

The Turkish military has staged a coup. Bridges are closed in Istanbul. There is gunfire in Ankara. The Turkish General Staff says that it is in control.

Turkey is no stranger to coups. Historically, the Turkish military has been the guarantor of Turkey’s Constitution. In 1960, it overthrew Prime Minister Adnan Menderes after he sought to consolidate control and erode separation of mosque and state.

In 1971 and again in 1980, it intervened as chaos and political violence threatened to consume the country. In 1997, the military forced Turkey’s first Islamist government to step aside.

While any coup is tragic, in Turkey there is hope: The military has never tried to retain power; rather, it has always assumed a caretaker role, seeking to repair the constitutional checks and balances in order to return Turkey to democracy.

There are other reasons for hope. It’ll likely be a day or two before we see if the coup holds, but Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the prime minister-turned-president now apparently overthrown, was an autocrat. He flirted with support for terrorists groups like Hamas, the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and even the Islamic State.

Some regimes believe flirtation with radical Islamists might fulfill short-term policy ends, but in the long-term there is always a heavy price. The past year’s attacks in Ankara and Istanbul may have convinced Turks outside Erdoğan’s inner circle that their reckoning was near.

Erdoğan ruled through the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a party that started out promising not only religious tolerance but also technocratic expertise.

It increasingly delivered the opposite. In the first nine years of AKP rule, for example, the murder rate of women skyrocketed 1,400 percent as Islamists conducted honor crimes with impunity.

The good news is that, with the exception of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s secular political movement, no Turkish party has ever survived the death of its charismatic leader.

Erdoğan’s removal might open space for both religious conservatives and liberals to again compete in the marketplace of ideas.

That said, Turkey’s future is far from assured. Over his 13 years in power, Erdoğan has transformed the bureaucracy.

He has changed education to brainwash a generation of students. He has allowed Islamist students to leapfrog over secular requirements to enter top universities.

He has inserted party cadre into every government bureaucracy. He and his family have seized newspapers and TV stations and used them to broadcast nonstop streams of anti-American and anti-Semitic conspiracies.

Undoing this will be no easy feat, especially since half of Turkey’s population supports Erdoğan blindly.

There also needs to be serious soul-searching within the Turkish military. How did it manage to misread Turkish society for so long? Career officers lived and socialized with other officers; they lost touch with Turkey at large.

Should the Turkish military engage in a violent purge, the reverberations may last generations. Nor does the coup resolve real ethnic problems between Kurds and Turks.

Absent real reform, the coup won’t resolve the Kurdish insurgency Turkey now faces. Nor is the opposition a panacea. Party leaders act as mini-dictators within their own parties. Few are charismatic.

Turkey has no obvious savior. Get ready for a rocky ride.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute

Clare Lopez: Gulen and the Gulenist Movement

Center for Security Policy, May 10, 2016

Clare M. Lopez, Vice President for Research and Analysis at the Center for Security Policy, is the co-author of the recently published book “Gülen and the Gülenist Movement: Turkey’s Islamic Supremacist Cult and its Contributions to the Civilization Jihad.” Fethullah Gülen is the head of a vast political network in Turkey that promotes theocracy and has infiltrated the Turkish state. Gülen lives in the U.S. where he has established a significant number of charter schools. Her remarks included commentary on Gülen’s erstwhile ally, now opponent, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

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Turkey: Erdogan’s Thin-Skinned Government

Gatestone Institute, by Robbie Travers, April 20, 2016:

  • Is there any other person you trust to decide which ideas and speech you are entitled to hear — or which are too dangerous for you to hear?
  • The thin-skinned government of Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has in the past two years opened at least 1,845 cases over insults to the president.
  • Turkey’s World Press Freedom Index ranking has plummeted to 149 out of 180, below Zimbabwe (131) and Burundi (145).
  • Despite the ruling of Turkey’s judicial system that Erdogan could not eliminate access to Twitter, he nevertheless continues to advance his agenda of censorship. He pledges to “eradicate Twitter” which, according to him, encourages “blasphemy and criticism of the Turkish government.”

Is there any other person you trust to decide which ideas and speech you are entitled to hear — or which are too dangerous for you to hear?

Is there any other person you think should have the ability to decide what criticism of the Government is respectful enough?

Would you cede your autonomy to decide what you to hear to a Government? Probably not.

The Turkish government does not agree. Evidently Turkey’s AKP Government in Ankara believes it is fit to be this authority, and not just domestically. Its urge to censor negative press seems to be going global.

The Government of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara recently summoned the German ambassador to demand the deletion of a satirical music video which highlighted his government’s aggression against the Kurdish people, his brutal repression of protestors, and his weak position on equal rights for women. Turkey also insisted that a German comedian be prosecuted under an obscure German law for insulting the leader of a foreign country.

Turkey seems to be spending more time policing the image of Erdogan abroad than the serious security situation it is facing.

Turkey’s latest authoritarian crackdown on the rights of its citizens to freedom of expression should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following the country’s path towards an increasingly Islamist, authoritarian government.

Erdogan’s renowned thin-skinned government has, in the past two years, opened at least 1,845 cases over insults to the president, such as, for instance, comparing the president to Gollum fromLord of the Rings.

Last year, Dr. Bilgin Ciftci of Turkey posted photos on Twitter juxtaposing President Erdogan with the fictional character Gollum. Ciftci was immediately fired from the hospital where he worked. Then he was brought to court for insulting Erdogan, an offense punishable by up to four years in prison.

In March, a court placed the newspaper Zaman in the control of state administrators, with no clear reason given, arguably breaching Article Three of the European Convention of Human Rights:

“2. Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:

“(a) to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;”

Zaman has apparently never received information of the charges against it, or the reason for the court order placing its activities and infrastructure under state control — moves breaching further sections of Article 3, which specify the right to be able to “construct a defence”. Without knowing what charges it faces, Zaman is unable to do that.

In addition, Turkey’s World Press Freedom Index ranking has plummeted to 149 out of 180: below Zimbabwe (131) and Burundi (145).

Turkey also continues to imprison possibly the highest number of journalists of any nation — according the Committee to Protect Journalists, the assessed number is 14 out of 199, worldwide. Other sources claim the number is closer to 30, and still others suggest that Turkey has had the greatest number of incarcerated journalists globally.

Whatever the true number, it is shameful that a NATO member, pledged to uphold the values of democracy as a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), ranks among some of the worst abusers of press freedom, including Iran, China and Saudi Arabia.

The Turkish government led by Erdogan seems to be undergoing a public transformation into an increasingly totalitarian state. Turkey has been abandoning the pro-Western principles of Kemalism and pivoting, with a more oppressive and expansionist outlook, toward Ottoman Islam.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was willing and overtly “proud’ to show solidarity with the massacred Charlie Hebdo satirists in Paris by joining the Marche Republicaine against those who would attack freedom of speech. At home, however, Davutoglu pursues a domestic agenda that not only infringes upon media freedom, but also on the freedoms of individual citizens in fundamental breaches of ECHR legislation. Davutoglu, for example, has suggested women being equal to men causes suicides.

Turkey has also attempted, during Erdogan’s period of governance, to ban both Twitter — for “incit[ing] political dissent” — and YouTube — for “promot[ing] the act of religious defamation (article 216).” Erdogan blocked Twitter during responses to terror attacks and public protests, and attempted to quell any protest against his government.

Under the pretense of “counter terrorism,” Erdogan has repeatedly been attempting to strangle the channels of discussion and the organizing of protests.

In any state claiming that protests are linked to terrorism and blasphemy is unjustifiable. These are classic intimidatory tactics. They illustrate why the West must begin to criticize Erdogan’s regime to a greater extent on its infringement on freedom of speech, rather than to make deals with it.

Had Charlie Hebdo been a Turkish publication, its material would most likely have been branded illegal or brought under state control: it would likely no longer exist.

Despite the ruling by Turkey’s judiciary that Erdogan could not eliminate access to Twitter, he nevertheless continues to advance his agenda of censorship.

This position Erdogan holds, of branding opposition to his regime as blasphemy, creates a religious divide between those who are “pure” and those who are “dangerous.” Further, as mentioned, the notion that an idea is too politically toxic to be discussed contravenes the principles of free speech and freedom of expression that Turkey pledged as a signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights.

Turkey’s lurch to establish its government as some form of unassailable authority beyond questioning again breaches the ECHR, this time Article 9:

“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance. “

Turkey is also likely to fall afoul of Article 10 of the ECHR:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.”

Turkey’s blocking of social media, which targets communication with the outside world, also clearly infringes on the “regardless of frontiers” stipulation.

And finally, Turkey’s actions are also clearly in breach of Article 11

“Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”

The European Union and the liberal democracies have remained silent on Turkey’s aggressive campaign against civil liberties. But it is time to stop betraying Turkish liberals, democrats and Kurdish people facing persecution for their views — before it comes “soon to a theater near you.”

Countries in the West sometimes seem to fantasize that Turkey, with half of Istanbul in Europe, can therefore can modernized, be become progressive and work with the West.

They distance themselves and turn a blind eye to the Turkish government’s assaults on human rights. Before Turkey is capitulated to even further, or again considered for membership in the European Union, shining a serious light on the country seems long overdue.

Robbie Travers, a political commentator and consultant, is Executive Director of Agora, former media manager at the Human Security Centre, and a law student at the University of Edinburgh.

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John Oliver – Insulting Erdogan

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Frank Gaffney: Erdogan Transformed Turkey into an ‘Islamist Police State’ That Is No Longer a ‘Reliable NATO Ally’

AFP

AFP

Breitbart, by John Hayward, April 15, 2016:

Center for Security Policy founder and Sen. Ted Cruz foreign-policy adviser Frank Gaffney joined host Stephen K. Bannon on Breitbart News Daily Friday morning to talk about the recent proclamation of “Islamic unity” from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country will now assume the chairmanship of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for two years.

Gaffney argued that Erdogan’s statement was actually an example of taqqiya, the Muslim practice of lying for the greater good of the faith, and Erdogan’s true agenda was Islamic supremacism.

“I think what he’s trying to tell us is different from what he’s trying to tell his own people,” Gaffney said of Erdogan’s proclamation.  “He’s telling us that he’s all about solidarity, and tolerance, and ecumenicalism, and we all need to pull together, and so on.”

“But the main message he’s been sending to his own people, for something like 13 years now, is Islamic supremacism,” Gaffney continued.  “It has nothing to do with [singing] ‘Kumbaya’ with infidels.  It is about forcing them to submit, in the classic tradition ofsharia.

He described Erdogan as “Muslim Brotherhood old Islamist who believes, at the end of the day, that he is going to be the new Caliph.”

“He is going to create a neo-Ottoman Empire.  And anything that is communicated to the West – in various international fora, or through proclamations, or through other means – is what is known, in the traditions of sharia, as taqqiya – that is, essentially, lying for the Faith.  And I think this should be discounted as such,” said Gaffney.

Gaffney explained that it’s not just permitted, but “obligatory,” for followers of the Islamic supremacist doctrine to “dissemble, to deceive the unbeliever, and to use deception as Mohammed did – the perfect Muslim – to triumph over the infidel, and to successfully create conditions under which they will be effectively enslaved, or reduced to a dhimmistatus.”

He thought the Turkish president’s carefully crafted message would play well to Western media and government, which are suffused with the endless hope that “there’s a degree of moderation on the part of people like Erdogan, or others in the Muslim Brotherhood movement – the global jihad movement, for that matter.”

“It just ain’t so,” Gaffney argued.  “This is a guy who has transformed his country, let’s be clear, from a secular democratic nation – a Muslim one to be sure, but definitely in the secular tradition of Ataturk – into what is now an Islamist police state.”

“Particularly people in the press, who are trying to portray this in the most rose-colored glass mode, should understand what he’s doing to the press in Turkey,” Gaffney stressed.  “He’s crushing it, unless it bends to his will.”

He noted that Erdogan is famous for having said “Democracy is like a bus – you take it to your destination, and then you get off.”

“He’s long since gotten off, internally,” Gaffney warned.  “We should be under no illusion: he is not aligned with us.  He is aligned with the Islamists around the world – with Iran, with China, with Hamas of course.  This is a guy who is no longer, in his country, a reliable NATO ally.  And that’s the unvarnished and unhappy truth.”

Breitbart News Daily airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6:00AM to 9:00AM EST.

You can listen to the full interview with Frank Gaffney below:

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Horowitz: Turkish Islamic Leader Inaugurates Largest Mosque Complex in U.S.

Diyanet Center of AmericaConservative Review, by Daniel  Horowitz, April 4, 2016:

Imagine FDR inviting Benito Mussolini to come to the United States in Middle of World War II to dedicate a massive Italian cultural center?  Or how about inviting the Japanese emperor to the groundbreaking of a new Shinto shrine that was bankrolled by his country?  Well, the reality of Turkey’s Islamist leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking at the opening of a massive Islamic center that he funded in a small Maryland town – while we are at war with Islamic fascism – dwarfs these historical hypotheticals in terms of absurdity and outrage.

In May 2013, Erdogan visited the site of the future Mosque in Lanham, Maryland along with Obama administration officials.  After $110 million from the Turkish government, this massive Islamic center is now open and is the largest Islamic facility in the United States.  The Turkish Islamic-fascist leader spoke there on Saturday to inaugurate the behemoth complex.  During the feisty speech, Erdogan lectured Americans about tolerance towards Muslims, yet failed to acknowledge how he shuts down churches in his home country and fuels anti-Semitism.

While I haven’t seen any information on those who attended this ceremony, the head of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) was present at the 2013 groundbreaking.  ICNA is an Islamic supremacist group that follows the teachings of Maulana Mawdudi and the Jamaat Al-Islami of Pakistan.  Maulana has said that Jews will be exterminated in the end of days.  The mother of Syed Farook, who lived with her son for months while he was making bombs in San Bernardino, was a member of ICNA.  Syed’s wife, Tafsheen Malik, was radicalized in Pakistan by the network of Sharia-schools that followed those teachings as well.

Also in attendance in 2013 was Imam Mohamed Magid, the former head of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).  ISNA is a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot that was designated as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terror trial by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Even though Magid’s father is the Grand Mufti of Sudan responsible for the Christian genocide, he was appointed by Obama in 2011 to serve on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Countering Violent Extremism Working Group.  No, you aren’t missing anything.  There are Islamists who have been designated as Hamas agents that are given advisory positions in DHS, FBI, and the National Security Council.

Indeed, the Turkey/Muslim Brotherhood axis has come full circle right outside of our nation’s capital in a residential neighborhood.

Ever since the 9/11 attacks, and particularly over the past year, our political leaders have been pulling their hair out and wringing their hands in pursuit of a solution to combating Islamic terror.  We’ve spent 15 years refereeing Islamic civil wars overseas at a great fiscal and human cost to our nation.  Yet, at the same time we have brought the enemy to our shores through suicidal immigration policies and have allowed the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic foreign governments to represent the entire Muslim community in America.  We are at war with Islamic extremism, yet our political leaders have openly invited the Islamic extremists to come here and radicalize American Muslims.

Erdogan has been playing a double game of supporting ISIS for the past few years.  And of course, he is one of the biggest supporters of Hamas in the Middle East.  Then again, the Muslim Brotherhood is Hamas, yet they are in our government and control most of the mosques in this country.

Harking back to our original historical hypothetical analogy of allowing Mussolini or the Japanese emperor to inaugurate a cultural center during World War II, the reality we face today is much worse.  For the most part, Japanese-Americans and Italian Americans were completely assimilated and patriotic at the time.  What was going on in Japan and Italy had nothing to do with an entrenched religious ideology that spanned the globe and united all Japanese and Italians across the world to commit genocide or at least subvert their host countries.  That is not the case today with Sharia-adherent Muslims living in the West and radicalized by terror groups and foreign entities with which we are at war.

That we would allow the Erdogan regime—which has become the Islamist leader of the Sunni jihad world the same way Iran leads the Shia Jihad—to fund and control a $110 million Islamic center right near our capitol while we are at war with this very ideology and these very individual Islamic extremists not only defies logic, it defies the innate desire for self-preservation.

Bombings, Assaults on Reporters, Mar Erdogan Visit

turkishBrookingsOn Thursday, March 31, 2016, a car bomb detonated beside a minibus carrying Turkish police officers in the city of Diyarbakir. Seven police officers were killed by the bomb and two dozen others were wounded. This marks another major car bomb in Turkey this year, as violence between government and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) forces increases.

Earlier today, April 1, 2016, the PKK took responsibility for the attack on the Turkish police forces. The PKK has been engaged in a brutal war with the Turkish government since 1984. The PKK has sought out an independent Kurdish state within Turkey, and the resulting conflict with the government has killed over 40,000 people. In 2013 a ceasefire was reached between the PKK and the Turkish government, but it was abandoned after the government began airstrikes against Kurdish positions in Iraq.

This bombing marks the second major bombing this month by Kurdish forces, and the fourth total this year. In February, two separate bombs targeting Turkish security forces killed 34 and wounded another 64. Both explosives targeted military convoys traveling through Ankara and Southeast Turkey, respectively. Earlier in March, Ankara was again targeted after a car bomb detonated besides a row of buses. The blast killed 36 and injured 127. It was originally believed both these attacks were carried out by the PKK, but both were later claimed by the Kurdish Freedom Falcons (TAK).

Soon after the bombing, Turkish forces began to target PKK positions in Northern Iraq with airstrikes. Turkish warplanes targeted the Zap and Metina regions that were home to Kurdish strongholds. There have been no further reports of the casualties as result of these attacks.

This attack on Turkish forces comes just a day before Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was set to visit the Southeast portion of Turkey, which is primarily made up of Kurds. The Erdogan regime, who PM Davutoglu serves, have been highly criticized by the Turkish people, as well as the Kurds, for severe civil rights abuses. The Erdogan regime has also linked the heavy restrictions on civil liberties to Kurdish protests in the Southeast, but it is not a point to forget that it was the same regime that instigated further violence between the Turkish government and the Kurds. The PKK may have been trying to keep PM Davutoglu out of the portion of the government heavily dominated by Kurds, so they attacked police forces in the area.

The bombing also correlated with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the Brookings Institute, where he was to speak on the future of Turkey. While President Erdogan was to speak on challenges he would face in his own country, he faced another challenge when he arrived at the building. Kurdish and Turkish Americans lined the street opposite Brookings to protest the appearance of Erdogan. Erdogan’s security detail even aggressively targeted some of the protestors and journalists attempting to report on the speech. The security detail even attempted to forcibly remove a Turkish reporter already in the event, only to be blocked by an American security officer.

The current unrest in Turkey will continue to create a perfect atmosphere for the Islamic State (IS) to attack or move through the country. Earlier in March, IS struck Istanbul for the second time this year, killing four and wounding another 36. While Turkey focuses on suppressing the Kurds, it is allowing for other terrorist groups to make its way into its borders.

Erdogan and his regime currently face a growing conflict with the Kurds, but through the heavy-handed response to criticism and increased authoritarianism, he risks political unrest amongst the general Turkish population, including secularists and other regime opponents at a time when the security situation in Turkey is continuing to deteriorate.

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Chaos erupts between Turkish security and protesters, journalists ahead of presidential speech

Brookings Institute Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Steve Bennett, center right, discusses the removal of a journalist from the auditorium before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks. (AP)

Brookings Institute Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Steve Bennett, center right, discusses the removal of a journalist from the auditorium before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks. (AP)

Fox  News, March 31, 2016:

Security personnel for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan clashed Thursday morning with protesters and journalists in Washington, DC, at one point physically throwing a woman to the sidewalk, according to tweets containing photos, videos and witness accounts.

Erdogan was scheduled to speak in the afternoon at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C. But before the Turkish leader even showed up, protesters calling the Turkish leader a “baby-killer” and “war criminal” already had gathered out front of the Dupont Circle thinktank.

Also on the scene were supporters of Erdogan, at least one Secret Service agent, District police and the Turkish security personnel. A DC police spokesperson told FoxNews.com that officers already were on the scene to assist with security outside the event and no calls had been placed for their assistance. As of 12:15 p.m. ET, no arrests had been made, the spokesperson said.

When protesters tried crossing the street to move closer to Brookings, DC police officers blocked traffic and separated them from Turkish security, according to Foreign Policy. A Secret Service agent standing nearby was overheard saying “the situation is a bit out of control.”

A shoving match occurred later between a Turkish security official and another person, who appeared to be a Brookings Institute worker, Foreign Policy magazine’s website reported. Turkish security allegedly “scolded” a Foreign Policy reporter and others holding cameras and one cameraman was “chased across the street by Turkish guards,” according to Foreign Policy.

An AFP reporter tweeted that “Turkish security outside Brookings just kicked an American reporter.” Later, the reporter tweeted that the Turkish bodyguards tried getting an “accredited reporter expelled” from the speech.

Amberin Zaman, a columnist and Public Policy Scholar for The Wilson Center, was among those caught in the confrontation. She tweeted a picture of one of Erdogan’s guards saying he had called her a “PKK whore” after being pushed away from the building.

The Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê, the Turkish name of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, is one of the main political opponents to Erdogan. Zaman says comments like that are indicative of the kind of political persecution freelance journalists have been facing in Turkey under Erdogan’s administration.

Asked about the reported violence outside the Brookings Institute, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes stressed a “respect for independent journalism” but noted that he didn’t “know the circumstances of what took place.”

“The U.S. strongly supports freedom of the press, media in every country, including Turkey,” Rhodes said.

The Brookings Institute tweeted about the situation just after 12:30 p.m.: “To clarify, many have gathered outside, where police are monitoring the situation. The event has not yet begun.”

A spokesperson for the Brookings Institute told FoxNews.com “I can’t talk right now, thank you,” and hung up when reached by phone. The Turkish Embassy indicated it was not taking media inquiries.

Erdogan was invited to the Brookings Institute to speak about Turkey’s role in global politics and the issues the country faces as Turkey approaches its 100th anniversary in 2023.

Foxnews.com’s Danny Jativa and Cody Derespina contributed to this report.

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Muslim Brotherhood expert Kyle Shideler’s use of the word “milestone” is an amusing reference to Sayyid Qutb’s book ‘Milestones” in which he promotes a method of civilization jihad through progressive revelation or gradualism.

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Turkish Police Takeover Largest Opposition Newspaper

Turkish police break down the entrance to the largest Turkish opposition newspaper Zaman. Inset: A photographer inside is ousted by special forces. (Photos: Video screenshots)

Turkish police break down the entrance to the largest Turkish opposition newspaper Zaman. Inset: A photographer inside is ousted by special forces. (Photos: Video screenshots)

Clarion Project,  March 6, 2016

Turkish special forces stormed the largest opposition newspaper in Turkey Friday night, forcibly taking over the paper. Outside, riot police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons into the crowds of thousands protesting the takeover (see video below).

The front page of the Zaman’s last edition, printed entirely in black and published before the takeover, read “Shameful day for free press in Turkey.”

Abdulhamit Bilici, the paper’s editor-in-chief, who was fired and dragged out of the building, said, “It is a dark day for Turkish democracy and a flagrant violation of the constitution.”

Earlier, commenting on the fact that under President (and former prime minister) Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has been labeled the biggest jail for journalists in Europe, Bilici said, “It has been a habit for the last three, four years, that anyone who is speaking against government policies is facing either court cases or prison, or such control by the government.”

Bilici said the Turkish media, for the most part, had avoided covering the details of the takeover out of fear that they might be targeted next.

According to Erkan Ipekci, award-winning Turkish journalist and president of the Turkish Journalists Union, 183 journalists have been imprisoned since 2009 with 63 still remaining in jail. Journalists who have been critical of Erdogan and his Islamist government have had their phones tapped and been arrested on charges of “terrorism.”

Erdogan has linked the paper, as well as its English-language edition Today’s Zaman and its news agency Cihan, to his nemesis Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Turkish preacher with enormous wealth and support. Erdogan accuses Gulen, who fled to the U.S. in 1999, of conspiring to overthrow the government by building a network of supporters in the judiciary, police and media.

In a statement, Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said the operation was “ideological and unlawful.”

“Erdoğan is now moving from authoritarianism to all-out despotism,” Deloire said. “Not content with throwing journalists in prison for ‘supporting terrorism’ or having them sentenced to pay heavy fines for ‘insulting the ‘head of state,’ he is now going further by taking control ofTurkey’s biggest opposition newspaper.”

Three trustees supportive of Erdogan were appointed to manage the paper. When reporters returned to work the next day, they found that their Internet connection had been cut, they were not able to access their email accounts and that attempts were being made to wipe out the paper’s entire online achive.

In the last number of years and particularly since the popular uprising at Gezi Park, Erdogan has been cracking down on press freedom and directed his majority parliament to pass laws limiting that freedom.

At the beginning of 2014, a new bill was approved to allow any Internet site to be blocked by the telecommunications authority without approval by a court. In addition, the law mandated that Internet providers must keep records of each subscriber’s online activity which must be made  available to authorities upon request.

In December of 2014, Today’s Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı was arrested on charges of forming and leading a terrorist organization. He was subsequently released.

Also see:

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Terrorist Groups Praise Erdogan on Turkish Election Win

Turkey's Islamist President Erdogan (left) with Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh in the Turkish parliament. (Photo: © Reuters)

Turkey’s Islamist President Erdogan (left) with Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh in the Turkish parliament. (Photo: © Reuters)

Clarion Project, Nov. 2, 2015:

Leading terrorist organizations were among the first to congratulate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist AK party after their surprising sweep in the November 1 election.

Hamas issued congratulations to the “Turkish people and their leadership on the success of the Turkish parliamentary elections,” according to the Palestinian Information Center, a Hamas-affiliated website,

In a press statement, Hamas categorized the Turkish elections as a victory for democracy and a “reflection of the state of stability and civilization in the capital of the Islamic caliphate.”

Turkey is reported to be the top financial sponsor of Hamas since 2012, with Erdogan arranging for the transfer of between $250-300 million anually to the terrorist organization. Turkey is also said to have trained Hamas security forces in Gaza through non-governmental groups.

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood also hailed Turkey’s Islamist party’s victory, offering its “sincere congratulations.” Ironically, amid much documentation of voter fraud, the Brotherhood stated, “The election results and the impressive turnout, which exceeded 87%, show how the state’s strengths can be bolstered with the people’s free will and free choice when they are not subject to despotic and repressive military rule.”

Erdogan’s Islamist government was openly dismayed at the popularly-supported military intervention that toppled the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. According to the Arab newspaper Al-Arabiya, Turkey has since “become the regional hub for the Muslim Brotherhood’s international organization.”

The Islamic Front, an umbrella group funded by Saudi Arabia comprising Islamist jihadi rebels fighting Assad, also sent a letter of congratulations to Erdogan, stating, “The Turkish government and the Turkish people have played a major role in embracing the Syrians and supporting the revolution and have stood by them in the time of their trouble.

“Turkey withstood a lot of internal and external pressure to back off from this unique position but it continued to implement this moral policy. We hope to have good relations – like brothers – between the people of Syria and Turley in the future after Assad and his regime will fall.”

Eight groups signed the Islamic Front’s letter including the Salafist movement Ahrar ash-Sham al Islamiya, the Damascus-based Jaysh al-Islam (the Army of Islam), Filaq al Rahman and Ansar al-Sham.

The well wishes came amid serious accusations of voter fraud which saw the AK party regain its majority in the parliament, taking the country back to single-party rule.

Yesterday’s elections followed a June vote that resulted in a hung parliament. In that election, the AK party, which had garnered only 41 percent of the vote, was not able to form a coalition in order to govern.

Meanwhile, according to the Emirates News Agency, Erdoğan issued words of support for Islamic State (ISIS) jihadis who claimed to have shot down a Russian passenger plane in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people aboard.

“How can I condemn the Islamic State for shooting down a Russian plane as its passengers were returning from a happy vacation in a time when our co-religionists in Syria are bombed by Putin’s fighter jets?” Erogan is quoted as saying. “It is the natural outcome of Moscow’s actions in Syria and the support for Assad.”

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Turkish elections have potential to alter the balance of power in the Middle East

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Center for Security Policy, by John Cordero, Oct. 28, 2015:

Turks head to the polls once again this upcoming Sunday to determine the composition of their parliament. At stake is the direction Turkey will take both internally and externally, with the main domestic concern being unemployment and the principal foreign policy issue being the Syrian civil war.

This election comes after Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) failed to secure a majority for the first time in 14 years, and was unable form a coalition government after the original June 7 elections.

Turkey’s Parliament consists of 550 seats, a minimum of 276 of which are necessary for a party to form a government. In the June elections, AKP failed to secure a majority, with only 258. The People’s Democratic Party (HDP), affiliated with Turkey’s Kurdish community, saw their representation increase to 80 MPs from the previous 40, when they fielded individual candidates, thanks in part to picking up anti-AKP protest votes. None of the AKP’s rivals would consent to a coalition government, hence the need for the upcoming elections.

The AKP’s drop in political support has stemmed largely from the authoritarian behavior of former Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Under Erdoğan, the AKP has successfully transformed Turkey from a secular NATO ally to an increasingly Islamist government which is openly aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood, supports Hamas, and has been credibly accused of supporting al Qaeda in Syria and the Islamic State. The AKP has also demanded amending the Turkish constitution to enable additional powers for the President (currently Erdoğan, who was Prime Minister since the AKP achieved Parliamentary majority in 2002).

While the AKP continues to enjoy substantial support, its base has been eroded by corruption scandals and the Syrian war, which has proved disastrous for Turkish foreign policy. Erdoğan’s inaction during the Islamic State siege of the Syrian border town of Kobani, during which the Kurdish YPG militia prevailed even after Ankara ignored their requests for assistance, drove many religious Turkish Kurds to support the HDP.

After first courting them via peace talks with the PKK and religious rhetoric, his self-defeatist policy of focusing on Kurds as a threat to national security at the expense of the Islamic State and the other jihadist factions in Syria directly led to the AKP losing their parliamentary majority in June and to the PKK picking up their weapons after a two-year cease-fire and the collapse of peace talks.

This Sunday’s elections represent a bet by Erdoğan that the Turkish people will prefer a restoration of the old order and hand AKP a majority in parliament. John Hannah writes that “the terrorist threat from the PKK will re-emerge, putting at risk civil order, national security, and even Turkey’s territorial integrity. Indeed, Erdoğan has more or less explicitly said that all of these dangers would have been avoided if only the Turkish public had chosen more wisely in the elections.” Rising unemployment, depreciation of the lira, and widespread protests are held up by the President as evidence of what happens when the AKP does not have its majority.

If the AKP once again fails to clear the majority threshold, a prospect that seems very likely, expect Turkey to continue its factionalism along ideological lines: the Islamists, the secular Kemalists, the Kurds, and the Conservatives. The seculars are ideologically opposed to the AKP’s platform, while the Kurds feel betrayed and used for political points by Erdoğan.

The AKP’s only hope to form a coalition government may lie with the conservative Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which opposes peace talks with the PKK. Instead of calling for yet another election, Erdoğan may have to swallow his pride and enter into a coalition, which may at least temporarily check his neo-Ottoman revival project.

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