Tayyip Erdogan

Obama rejects proposal to meet Erdogan during Turkish leader’s visit to US

Obama

This is a cross-post from Sputnik

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.

How Erdogan targets British Turks via the Turkish Consulate in London

Turkish Consulate London

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.

Is Turkey ruled by a tyrant? We may soon have an answer

This is a cross-post from the Telegraph.

Woe betide any Turk who dares insult His Excellency President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

File photo: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a labor union meeting in Ankara, Turkey

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”.

But woe betide any Turk who dares insult His Excellency President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. And by the way, in theory at least, he also wants to join the European Union.

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.

After 14 years of dominance in Turkey, Mr Erdoğan has become one of the most quixotic and accomplished politicians of all. The question which divides his country is whether he is also dangerous.

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.

But Mr Erdoğan 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.

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

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 

¶Terrorists strike in Istanbul from time to time – witness the suicide bombing outside Hagia Sophia in January – but visitors to this heaving metropolis find it easy to forget that one corner of Turkey is already engulfed in conflict. The old war between the Turkish state and Kurdish guerrillas has flared back to life with terrible consequences. A 28-year-old Kurdish journalist, Vildan Atmaca, told me what happened when she tried to reach the scene of a gun battle in the eastern province of Van.

“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

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.

So far, he has done nothing to obstruct them: that would be too inflammatory even for him. Given that Mr Erdoğan intends to wield power into the indefinite future, however, who knows what he might have in store?

 

Erdoğan’s Turkey: a disintegrating ally and imaginary friend

This is a cross-post from the Guardian.

As prime minister tries to make deal on refugees, confrontational president continues to pit it against its longtime allies.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks to the media

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.

 

Erdogan now ‘Editor-in-chief’ of all media in Turkey

Editor (1)

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.

How Erdogan duped the rural Turks

Asiatic Turkey

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.

Is the ‘Deep State’ using Erdogan to take revenge against its enemies?

Deep State

The deep state (or state within a state) is believed to be a secret network of military officers and their civilian allies who for decades suppressed and even murdered perceived opponents of Turkey’s secular order.  It allegedly functioned as a kind of shadow government, spreading false propaganda to whip up public fear and destabilising civilian governments through bombing campaigns and even assassinations (events which have again become common place in Turkey today).   Amongst other nefarious activities, the deep state is believed to have orchestrated the death of Prime Minister Adnan Mendres in 1960 and brought down the government of Necmettin Erbakan in the 1990s – both of whom they suspected of having Islamist leanings and therefore perceiving them as a threat.

The deep state’s foundations are believed to have been laid in the 1940s when the CIA trained Turkish soldiers and civilians in the event of a possible Soviet invasion. These groups, known as ‘Gladios‘, received military as well as intelligence training.  They also learnt how to hide weapons around the country which they could later retrieve and use.  Ergenekon, another group allegedly linked to the deep state, was exposed as a result of clandestine activities.

Initially, Erdogan and his allies were against the deep state and managed to initiate the ‘Ergenekon trials‘ and put hundreds of people involved behind bars.   But since 2013, when the AK Party was subject of a major corruption scandal, Erdogan made an alliance with members of the deep state, perhaps seeing them as allies, and freed every single one of their members who was imprisoned during the Ergenekon trials.  It is now believed they are both working closely together – Erdogan needs them to stay in power and crush his ever growing list of enemies and the deep state needs Erdogan to take revenge against those who they believe exposed and helped convict them.

Over the past 2 and half years, Erdogan has been arresting and suppressing journalists, lawyers and civil liberty campaigners based on zero or very flimsy evidence – this has now extended to any public figure or body that doesn’t support him.  He has also been busy taking over media channels so the Turkish public only sees and hears state sanctioned news.  But it’s the deep state which will be having the last laugh.  Once they’ve used Erdogan to eliminate their opponents and do their dirty work they will most likely turn against him – but for now the unholy alliance continues.