Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Nation Divided Under Duress

"Mao and the Iranian Revolution are the ones that come to mind. But these were revolutions. You expect this [wholesale purge of the military, the judiciary, the police, the news media in Turkey]."
"So the interesting question is, Is Erdogan having his own revolution? He is going to completely restructure the Turkish state."
Henri J. Barkey, Turkey expert, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington

"We knew a lot, but either we didn't have enough legal basis or the time [to remove the Gulenists from government]."
"We are not making up these stories; this is not some Jason Bourne trilogy. We have these massive cells, networks, and they have a bank. They have massive financial resources."
Mehmet Simsek, deputy Prime Minister, Turkey
 Members of both the Republican People's Party (CHP) and President Erdogan's AKP Party wave flags during the 'Republic and Democracy' rally held at Taksim Square on July 24, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey.
NewStatesman, Taksim Square July 24, 2016

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been patient up until the last few years. The first decade of his Justice and Development Party's election victories saw a Turkey being governed by a man who appeared reasonable and a capable administrator. The economy was doing well, there was an eventual ceasefire agreement with the Kurds and there were no border problems, before Syria imploded under the weight of its sectarian violence.

And a man whose view of Islam seemed to echo Erdogan's own, a religious scholar of great repute and following who had supported the early Erdogan was a friendly colleague. Over the succeeding years, however, Erdogan's inbred ego became more difficult to restrain and the corruption of his administration more difficult to hide, and a sundering of relations occurred between Fethullah Gulen and the autocrat.

The Turkish intelligence service was instructed to investigate the suspected fifth column within Turkey. Years were spent putting together dossiers on tens of thousands of Turks across the country; links with Mr. Gulen, proven and unproven were all noted and stored for use. Those tens of thousands are inclusive of civil servants who had suddenly become state enemies, traitors, loyal to the the cleric now in self imposed exile, not Turkey, not Erdogan ... or so claims Erdogan.

The coup which resulted when some of those in the military realized that they were being sidelined and preparations were underway to arrest them reacting by mounting a coup hoping to pre-empt the inevitable, has given Erdogan the opportunity he has craved, to consolidate his tight Islamist control of the country, giving himself, in the guise of protecting Democracy, the powers that he has longed to vest in the presidency. The coup failure has led to an immense paroxysm of purging.

Foreigners looking in at the result of the failed coup might wonder how it might be possible for a country to hit back so relentlessly and fulsomely on those it claims to be involved, clearly having no idea of what Erdogan is capable of. The initial purging of the military a decade ago was merely the start. Turkish officials have long been tasked with identifying traitors; well before the attempted coup lists of military officers and others whose loyalties were suspect, were established.

The country's intelligence service came into possession of a surreptitious channel of communications where tens of thousands of names and identification numbers linking people to Fethullah Gulen's movement were found, a veritable bonanza. Among those names was 600 military officers. The armed forces were notified of those names with instructions to sideline all those suspected; when promotions were announced they would not be among them.

Any groups who the government suspects of disloyalty: political opposition groups, secularists, nationalists and Kurds who had all supported the government when the coup was underway, are now witnessing a concerning display of troubling responses to the coup. They have reason to be concerned; the purge that is decimating soldiers, police, teachers, journalists and government officials is likely to reach a little further, to include many of them, as well.

Schools  and universities have been shuttered; if this is democratic rule in practise, it is a variant on the kind of democracy that most nations recognize. Media outlets have been targeted with the closing of 45 newspapers, three news agencies, 16 television channels, 15 magazines and 29 publishers, lest they seek to publish information that might render unto the population statistics and concerns of troubling legitimacy.'

As for any who might presume to stand in the way of Erdogan's now-inevitable expansion of presidential imperial powers, the arrest of thousands of judges and prosecutors, placed in detention along with dozens of foreign ministry employees who were fired allegedly for links to Gulen, bodes well for Erdogan's fuutre, and ill for the country, a Western ally, a NATO member, the link between Europe and the Middle East.

A supporter of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves a flag against an electronic billboard during a rally in Kizilay Square on July 18 in Ankara, Turkey. Continuing raids across the country have seen thousands detained, suspended or arrested, including high ranking soldiers, judges and police officers.
A supporter of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves a flag against an electronic billboard during a rally in Kizilay Square on July 18 in Ankara, Turkey. Continuing raids across the country have seen thousands detained, suspended or arrested, including high ranking soldiers, judges and police officers.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

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