US President Barack Obama will not have a personal meeting with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan during Erdogan’s upcoming visit to the United States, media reported.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — A number of world leaders, including Erdogan, are expected to gather for the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS), due to run in the United States from March 31 to April 1.
Obama has rejected Erdogan’s request to participate in a joint event and the US leader has no plans to have a one-on-one meeting with his Turkish counterpart, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing US officials.
The newspaper added that Erdogan might have a personal meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden instead of Obama.
Obama is said to have only one-on-one meeting planned during the NSS, with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Ankara is one of Washington’s closest partners in the Middle East, assisting the US anti-terror struggle in the region.
Erdogan’s anti-democratic actions have caused much negative publicity in recent years – so much so that any positive work he did in the early part of his rule has now been totally wiped out by his autocratic behaviour. Now when his name is mentioned only one word comes to mind- that is ‘Dictator’.
It is worrying to then learn that the Turkish Consulate in London has been busy targeting British Turks with Erdogan’s propaganda. It has come to our attention that mailshots are sent to Turks in the UK encouraging them to vote for the AK Party. This has created a climate of fear in some sections of the British Turkish community as many are concerned about the improper use of their details by the Turkish Consulate in London. This is clearly a breach of their human rights – every individual in Britain has a right to hold personal views which should be respected. The consulate’s approach also appears to be unprecedented; no other foreign embassy is known to target its communities in this way.
This also raises wider questions such as: Does the consulate act as the eyes and ears of Erdogan in the UK? Does it also monitor the movements and social media activities of British Turks? Will it use critical comments made about Erdogan and his AK Party to deny visas and confiscate passports? Will it report British Turks who criticise Erdogan to the security services in Turkey so that their families can be harassed? These truly are the signs of a dictatorship of the worst kind.
Foreign consulates and embassies are not supposed to target people in this way. We will be raising our concerns with the appropriate authorities as this type of ‘big brother’ approach goes against everything Britain stands for and as is extremely dangerous. In the meantime, British Turks and anybody who believes in freedom of expression should write to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the Turkish Consulate in London to express their concerns.
Woe betide any Turk who dares insult His Excellency President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Turkey’s leader inhabits the world’s largest residential palace with 1,000 rooms and a floor area four times the size of Versailles. He delights in issuing instructions to his people, notably by telling Turkish women to ensure they produce at least three babies each. He calls Benjamin Netanyahu a “murderer” and Bashar al-Assad a “merciless killer”.
Mr Erdogan is now trying to subdue every possible challenge to his rule. Troublesome journalists go straight to jail where they are joined by ordinary Turks found guilty of “insulting” their leader, in breach of the notorious Article 299 of the Penal Code.
Here in his home city of Istanbul, which he served as mayor in the Nineties, there are plenty of devout supporters of the president. Devout is the right word, for Mr Erdoğan embraces the religious faithful, the poor and the lower middle class. One Istanbul commentator – no friend of the president – acknowledges the personal charisma of a ruthless but intensely emotional man, who wept in public during his mother’s funeral.
Yet Mr Erdoğan’s behaviour rings more and more alarm bells. After his Justice and Development (AK) party won power in 2002, he broke the army’s grip on politics – and Turkey’s secular modernisers cheered him on.
These days, Mr Erdoğan denounces Vladimir Putin at every opportunity. But he has borrowed from the Russian’s political playbook by jumping from the prime ministership to the presidency in order to prolong his dominance.
Now Mr Erdoğan wants to complete this manoeuvre by rewriting the constitution to create an imperial presidency, tailor-made for his own ambitions. As for how long he aims to rule, he talks of being “ready for 2023” – the centenary of the republic’s birth.
So Turkey has an instinctively authoritarian leader who treats the constitution as a personal plaything and plans for decades of dominance. How can this not be dangerous?
Workers of the Zaman newspaper hold placards that read, ‘free media can not be silenced’ and ‘Zaman wont be silenced’ during a demonstration in 2014
“We tried to go there, but the security forces blocked us,” she said. “So we went to the hospital to speak to people who had been wounded. But the police chased us away from the hospital. Half an hour later, the police came to our office to arrest a reporter for writing ‘false news’. Then I was detained for ‘resisting arrest’.”
For the next six weeks, Ms Atmaca was behind bars in Van. She was not physically assaulted, but she had to endure constant verbal abuse from her guards – often of a sexual nature. Then she was freed on bail, pending trial for allegedly “spreading terrorist propaganda”. Speaking over the phone from a town in the epicentre of the conflict, Ms Atmaca told me: “There is no law, no justice and no democracy in Turkey.”
Family members of army officer Enes Demir mourn as they attend a funeral ceremony for Enes Demir and Dogukan Tazegul, both killed while fighting Kurdish rebels in Sur
¶Along the natural avenue carved between Europe and Asia by the mighty Bosphorus, a Russian frigate steamed towards the Black Sea. Istanbul straddles one of the great junctions of the world, controlling a vital artery for Russian shipping, both civilian and military.
Mr Putin and Mr Erdoğan have exchanged harsh words and economic counter-measures since Turkey destroyed a Russian jet last November. But the warships that Mr Putin sends to join his Syria campaign must pass under Mr Erdoğan’s metaphorical nose in Istanbul.
As prime minister tries to make deal on refugees, confrontational president continues to pit it against its longtime allies.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wants visa-free travel for Turks and accelerated EU accession talks in return for his cooperation on migrants.
The kneejerk response of Turkey’s leaders to the country’s latest terrorist atrocity – Sunday’s suicide bombing in Ankara that killed 37 people and injured more than 100 – suggests that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s strongman president, and his neo-Islamist party are fresh out of ideas about how to halt what looks increasingly like a slide into chaos.
The bigger problem, for Turkey’s US and European allies, is how to shore up a strategically important Muslim democracy, Nato member and EU applicant that had long been considered a vital outpost of stability in a volatile region. Once-dependable Turkey seems in danger of implosion. Under Erdoğan, Turkey is the west’s disintegrating ally and Europe’s imaginary friend.
This dilemma will come sharply to a head later this week when Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, tries finally to seal an EU deal with Turkey on Syrian migrants. Erdoğan is demanding visa-free travel for Turks, accelerated accession talks and for Brussels to ignore human rights abuses in return for his cooperation. Several EU countries, notably France and Cyprus, are adamantly opposed.
Erdoğan set Sunday’s bombing, the second in Ankara in two months, in his preferred narrative context: as part of a life-or-death national struggle against shadowy forces bent on victimising and destroying Turkey. This is the only tune on his playlist. He uses its fearful message to win elections, rally nationalists and delegitimise opponents.
“Our state will never give up using its right of self-defence in the face of all kinds of terror threats. All of our security forces, with its soldiers, police and village guards, have been conducting a determined struggle against terror organisations at the cost of their lives,” Erdoğan said, ignoring the fact that Sunday’s victims were civilians.
Officials pinned the blame, predictably, on Erdoğan’s bête noire, the Kurdistan Workers party (PKK), although a more likely culprit is an extremist splinter group, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks, which perpetrated the 17 February Ankara attack.When the capital was bombed last year, the Kurds were again initially blamed. It later transpired that Islamic State was responsible.
Following his usual script, Erdoğan authorised retaliatory airstrikes on Monday on PKK targets in northern Iraq, another example of how the Turkish leader lashes out under pressure. It is a dangerous reflex. Last year, Erdoğan ordered the shooting down of a Russian warplane that briefly entered Turkish airspace from Syria. Bilateral relations have been dreadful ever since.
Security forces also intensified operations in ethnic Kurdish areas of southern and south-eastern Turkey that have killed hundreds of people and displaced tens of thousands since last year. Curfews and martial law, backed up by tanks, were imposed on Monday on Yüksekova and Şırnak, near the Iraq border, and Nusaybin, close to Syria.
Turkey’s internal Kurdish problem is only one of the challenges that Erdoğan’s confrontational approach appears to exacerbate. Turkey is at war, on and off, with Syrian Kurdish militias fighting Isis in northern Syria. Ankara fears they may try to create a separate political entity linked to the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq and even Turkey itself.
Signs of societal disintegration may also be seen in Erdoğan’s manipulation of the judiciary, repeated threats to prosecute pro-Kurdish MPs and politicians, curbs on media freedom and independent journalism, unchecked corruption, and his attempt to enact a new constitution giving him Vladimir Putin-style presidential powers. He is obsessed with a supposed “parallel state” conspiracy against himallegedly led by an exiled former ally, Fethullah Gülen, and has ordered mass arrests.
At the weekend, the main opposition Republican People’s party leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, said Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) would stop at nothing to stay in power. “Turkey is step by step sliding towards an authoritarian regime … The AKP is currently in a position that it may do everything not to leave power, including [committing] political murder,” he said.
Erdoğan’s for-me-or-against-me stance increasingly pits Turkey against longtime allies. The migrant deal, which the UN and aid agencies say is probably illegal, is just the latest flashpoint. Last autumn, when visiting Brussels, he angrily threatened to flood Europe with refugees unless the EU bowed to his cash demands. He often mocks and berates the EU, once calling it an elitist, Islamophobic Christian club. He flatly rejects European criticism of increasingly worrying media controls and human rights abuses.
Erdoğan has also fallen foul of the Obama administration over how best to fight Isis and his cross-border shelling of Syrian Kurdish militias, who Washington regards as useful allies against the jihadis and the Damascus regime. In a recent interview, Barack Obama described Erdoğan as a failure and an authoritarian. When Turkey shot down the Russian warplane, the US was almost as alarmed as Moscow, especially when Erdoğan called for Nato backup.
In Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s prime minister, the west has a thoughtful interlocutor who will try his best to cut a deal on migrants and refugees with the EU this week. But Davutoğlu, a former academic who owes his political career to Erdoğan’s patronage, does not call the shots. Turkey’s irascible, unbiddable president does – and in his hands lies Turkey’s future as a dependable partner.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been using ISIS to advance his Middle East policy and suppress the Kurds, and Ankara’s elite maintains vibrant economic ties with the terror group and harbors its militants, a Turkish MP has told Russian media.
“Erdogan uses ISIS [Islamic State/IS, also known as ISIS/ISIL] against the Kurds. He can’t send the Turkish Army directly to Syrian Kurdistan, but he can use ISIS as an instrument against the Kurds. He has a greater Ottoman Empire in his mind, that’s his dream, while ISIS is one of the instruments [to achieve it],” Selma Irmak, a Turkish MP from the Peace and Democracy Party told RIA Novosti on Monday.
There are many signs that the Turkish leadership is aiding Islamic State and benefiting from it, Irmak argued.
“Wounded militants are given medical treatment in Turkey. For ISIS, Turkey is a very important supply channel. They are allowed to pass through the Turkish border, being given IDs [and other documents],”she added.
“ISIS has training camps in Turkey,” Irmak stressed, citing other examples of Turkey providing IS with certain capabilities, including the fact that all militants go back and forth into Syria through Turkish territory.
Both the Turkish elite and the terrorist group enjoy economic ties as well, Irmak argued.
“ISIS’ oil is sold via Turkey. All of ISIS’ external [trade] operations are being carried out via Turkey and involve not only oil.” Part of the terrorist group’s criminal business trafficking hostages as well as female slaves of Yazidi and Assyrian minorities, while “the government is, of course, well aware of it,” she added.
“ISIS never attacked Turkish positions and claimed no responsibility for terror attacks in Turkey’s cities. There were three large terror attacks [in 2015] in Diyarbakir, Suruc and Ankara. Each attack caused harm to the Kurds and opposition activists supporting them,” the MP noted.
Turkey only intervened when the Kurds retook territory from the IS-held Kurdish city of Tell Abyad in northern Syria.
“Turkish warplanes formally bombarded the ISIS-held territory and conducted two airstrikes to show it fights the Islamic State. And in the meantime, Turkey made 65 airstrikes on Qandil [the PKK stronghold in mountainous northern Iraq].”
According to Irmak, Ankara feels free to take on the Kurds because the West is unwilling to harm its interests in the region and beyond.
“Unfortunately, the international community is indifferent towards these events. Turkey has taken Europe prisoner by using Middle Eastern refugees as an instrument of blackmail. The US keeps silent too, having common interests with Turkey. For instance, the US wants to keep using the Incirlik airbase […] and the Turkish Army is emboldened by such impunity.”
This will be remembered as the month when Turkey’s elected regime crossed the moral red line into acts of genuine totalitarianism. It is a moment to back away from our close alliance with that regime.
Canada and its allies are relying on Turkey. Our military campaign in northern Iraq and Syria, to which Ottawa is contributing more than 800 trainers and special forces, would not function without the active co-operation, including access to military bases and border openings, provided by Turkey, a long-time fellow NATO member. And Turkey, which has received and is housing close to three million Syrian refugees, is seen as being vital in preventing the refugee flood into Europe from becoming less manageable – so vital that the European Union this week struck a deal in which the Turks, in exchange for reducing the refugee flow, will be given visa-free travel in Europe, billions in financing and a more direct pathway toward eventual EU membership.
Turkey, however, has become a problem. A really big problem. A week ago Friday, Turkish soldiers and police surrounded the offices of Zaman, the country’s largest and by some measures best newspaper, fired tear gas, broke down the doors and seized control of the paper and its media empire with authorization from courts appointed by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party. By Sunday morning, the paper, known for its independent-minded columnists, was publishing the most anodyne form of government propaganda.
This is bad enough in itself, but it is part of an unprecedented campaign to shut down or seize control of all forms of political, bureaucratic and media opposition – officially in the name of shutting down the Islamist and Kurdish movements. Mr. Erdogan claims they are security threats, but in practice, these crackdowns give him absolute executive power by eliminating all institutions of democratic and popular dissent.
That campaign went into high gear hours late last year after Mr. Erdogan’s AKP (Justice and Development Party) won a majority in the Nov. 1 national election. The editors of the important moderate news magazine Nokta were imprisoned for “fomenting armed rebellion” – that is, for criticizing Mr. Erdogan’s authoritarian approach. The most outspoken columnists in the newspaper Milliyet were fired or silenced. TV stations have been shut down.
More than 1,800 people have been arrested in the past year on charges of “insulting the president” – a law whose very existence is contradictory to democracy. Those imprisoned under it include the editor of the newspaper Birgun, who was found guilty of insulting Mr. Erdogan in an acrostic puzzle. And hundreds of government officials have been arrested or sacked on accusations that they are associated with the Islamist Gulen movement, which had brought Mr. Erdogan to power a decade and a half ago, but which he now opposes as a threat to his power.
Mr. Erdogan won November’s election on a fear campaign aimed at Turkey’s Kurds, who make up about a fifth of the country’s population. The Kurdish-Turkish violence that drove those fears is entirely the creation of Mr. Erdogan, who abandoned his long and successful unity-building efforts in 2013 after Kurdish-led moderate political parties became popular with non-Kurdish Turks seeking a modern and European-minded alternative. They therefore became threats to his goal of gaining an absolute majority he could use to rewrite the Turkish constitution and make himself president for life.
Mr. Erdogan is now bombing his own citizens aggressively: The Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir has become a deadly place of bomb craters, house-to-house searches and seizures and late-night disappearances. Little of it has anything to do with actual threats to the Turkish state. As the British writer Christopher de Bellaigue recently observed of the Nov. 1 election: “Erdogan pulled off the classic politician’s trick of successfully selling the panacea for an ailment largely of his own making.”
Kurds in Syria and Iraq are our most important allies in Syria’s civil war, and are key to finding a peaceful settlement to that conflict. By turning them into enemies strictly because they threatened his own grandiose political ambitions, Mr. Erdogan has destroyed the unified and open Turkey he earlier helped to create. And he has done so using the tools not just of authoritarianism but now, by silencing the media, of totalitarianism. It is time to stop treating Turkey as an ally, but as a country that has stepped beyond the pale.
Tayyip Erdogan’s stranglehold on the media should be a major issue of concern for everyone who believes in Democracy. He is now effectively the ‘editor-in–chief’ of all media in Turkey. Only he decides what stories should be printed and what comments on social media are acceptable. Any media organisation which dares to criticise him is seen as the enemy and is closed down and taken over by his state apparatus.
In recent weeks the IMC television channel was taken of air and the Zaman newspaper was seized. Both of these had been critical of Erdogan and his government’s policies – Zaman in particular was considered to be the last effective voice speaking out against Erdogan’s excesses. There is now no effective media organisation left to criticise the AKP’s abuses.
Last week Erdogan again displayed his dictatorial tendencies when he told a constitutional court which had released two newspaper editors of the opposition Cumhuriet newspaper that such actions could bring its very existence into question – in other words he will not tolerate any court decision which goes against his whims and desires.
The EU would be absolutely crazy to accept Turkey as a member of the European Union as long as Erdogan is leading it. A leader who cannot tolerate freedom of speech and expression, a leader who only promotes his cronies and brutally suppresses his critics has no place in the EU.
Free speech is a universal human value and any leader who can’t tolerate even the slightest bit of criticism is nothing other than a brutal dictator.
The rural Turks, mainly those living in Asiatic Turkey, have had it hard since the creation Turkey as a republic. First they were forced to change their dress and customs and then they were largely neglected by Turkey’s military rulers. They are known to be simple, hardworking, religiously conservative and straightforward. Many of them are not skilled at reading Turkey’s complex political chessboard.
This is where Erdogan steps into the fray – he has successfully exploited and taken advantage of their simple nature. He has done this by cleverly honing the art of knowing exactly what to say and how to say it to get their support. The manipulation of the rural class has undoubtedly been the secret of his success. By using the right religious terminology, strongman image and spreading conspiracy theories of phantom external enemies, he has gained their trust. However, Erdogan’s manipulation of his support base does not stop there; insecure to the core he has been ruthlessly crushing any voice of dissent and ensuring only state approved information reaches the masses. His approach is reminiscent of the type of system described in George Orwell’s brilliant novel ‘1984’. The difference is that Orwell’s novel was based on Stalin’s Russia – a god forsaken system – whereas Erdogan’s system is supposedly based on religion.
So what will it take to wake up the rural Turks? It will most likely be that Erdogan will eventually give them enough rope to hang himself. Either they will see through his years of deception and turn against him (if the deep state doesn’t remove him before then) or they will eventually see through his lies and switch their support to rival parties. Erdogan should take note of the old saying: “You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all of the time”.
When a person gets desperate they start making mistakes and Erdogan’s downfall has already begun; his dictatorial approach, dirty deals with terrorists and erosion of civil liberties is evidence of this. It remains to be seen how sudden and rapid his demise will be.
Those who have been following the pronouncements of Erdogan in recent years will be well aware of his frequent references to the Ottoman Empire. It comes as no surprise then that Erdogan’s ultimate aim is to turn modern Turkey into a ‘Caliphate’ by 2023 – exactly 100 years after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk dismantled the Ottoman Empire.
This goal is driving Erdogan’s aim to convert Turkey’s political system into a presidential one. If he succeeds in doing this then, when all power has been rested in his hands, he will easily be able to do away with Turkey’s secular constitution and change the system. However, before he can do that he has a number of obstacles to overcome: 1) the ‘deep state‘ which is staunchly secular and will strongly resist any attempts to change Turkey’s system 2) Turkish nationalists who fervently support Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s vision of a secular Turkey 3) Islamic organisations who consider Erdogan and his AK Party to be corrupt (despite the lip service Erdogan’s pays to religion) and 4) liberal citizens who support democracy and oppose Erdogan’s dictatorial style and policies.
Erdogan has already been demanding allegiance from public figures and suppressing those who have refused his overtures. These acts have been justified by his followers under the pretext that he is a defacto ‘Caliph’ and therefore allegiance to him is mandatory. Those who have refused have had their professional lives ruined and their livelihoods taken away by Erdogan and his mafia style employees.
Erdogan’s vanity project, his 1150 room palace, was built to show the world that he is a worthy successor to the Ottoman Sultans. The rural Turks and those nostalgic for Ottoman ear societies have been hoodwinked into supporting Erdogan’s social engineering project.
Erdogan’s personal ambitions are destroying the country; the economy is faltering, his foreign policy is in ruins and there is no safety for the common citizen anymore. Instead of fantasising about personal power and having continuous dreams of grandeur, Erdogan should do the decent thing and resign from his position to stop the country from heading towards bankruptcy and being destroyed any further. But like all dictators, past and present, he will most likely not give up on his personal ambitions, even at the expense of destroying his own country and people. Erdogan’s dream is turning into a nightmare for Turkey.
The Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD) was founded in Germany in 2004. It is essentially a lobby group for the Turkish Government and for the governing AKP party. It operates not only in Germany, but also in France, Belgium, Austria, Netherlands and the UK where it works to promote the political aims of Erdogan’s government and convince Turks living in these countries to support them.
Following Erdogan’s undemocratic, autocratic and erratic behaviour in recent years the activities of UETD are now of significant interest. It must be a particularly challenging job for the UETD and its supporters to convince Turks living in Europe to support Erdogan’s behaviours and aims. This includes the jailing of journalists, curbs on press freedoms, the sacking of judges and the silencing of political opponents. For example, in recent days the Zaman (Turkey’s most widely circulated newspaper) was taken over by Erdogan’s government and its editor in chief was sacked. The new trustee of Zaman appointed by AKP is no other than Metin Ilhan – the former General Secretary of UETD!
UETD’s current British directors are: Mehmet Macit, Yusuf Kilnic and Muttalip Unluer. News reaches us that the British branch has been propagating its messages in rather unusual ways and in a manner which potentially goes against British values.
We will be investigating and blogging about these activities in the coming weeks. Watch this space!