Archive for the ‘Turkey post-coup’ category

Turkey, Europe’s Little Problem

August 11, 2016

Turkey, Europe’s Little Problem, Gatestone InstituteBurak Bekdil, August 11, 2016

♦ Europe is giving signals, albeit slowly, that it may be waking up from the “Turkey-the-bridge” dream. Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmaier said that his country’s relations with Turkey have grown so bad the two countries have virtually “no basis” for talks.

♦ “Italy should be attending to the mafia, not my son,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Typically, he does not understand the existence of independent judiciary in a European country. He thinks, as in an Arab sheikdom, prosecutors are liable to drop charges on orders from the prime minister.

♦ “We know that the democratic standards are clearly not sufficient to justify [Turkey’s] accession [to the European Union].” — Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern.

Nations do not have the luxury, as people often do, of choosing their neighbors. Turkey, under the 14-year rule of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist governments, and neighboring both Europe and the Middle East, was once praised as a “bridge” between Western and Islamic civilizations. Its accession into the European Union (EU) was encouraged by most EU and American leaders. Nearly three decades after its official bid to join the European club, Turkey is not yet European but has become one of Europe’s problems.

Europe’s “Turkish problem” is not only about the fact that in a fortnight a bomb attack wrecked a terminal of the country’s biggest airport and a coup attempt killed nearly 250 people; nor is it about who rules the country. It is about the undeniable democratic deficit both in governance and popular culture.

In only the past couple of weeks, Turkey was in the headlines with jaw-dropping news. In Istanbul, a secretary at a daily newspaper was attacked by a group of people who accused her of “wearing revealing clothes and supporting the July 15 failed coup.” She was six months pregnant.

Also in Istanbul, a Syrian gay refugee was murdered: he had been beheaded and mutilated. One social worker helping LGBT groups said: “Police are doing nothing because he is Syrian and because he is gay.”

Turkey is dangerous not only for gays and refugees. A French tourist was left bloodied and beaten by Turkish nationalists after he refused to hold a Turkish flag. Grisly footage shows the gang, encouraged by Erdogan to patrol the streets on “democracy watch,” telling the man “You will be punched if you don’t hold the flag.” The tourist is alone and does not appear to speak Turkish.

Meanwhile Europe is giving signals, albeit slowly, that it may be waking up from the “Turkey-the-bridge” dream. Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmaier said that his country’s relations with Turkey have grown so bad the two countries have virtually “no basis” for talks. He said that Germany has serious concerns about mass arrests carried out by Turkish officials. According to Steinmaier, Turkey and Germany are like “emissaries from two different planets.” Steinmaier is right. He is also not the only European statesman who sees Turkey as alien.

1777Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmaier (right) said that his country’s relations with Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan have grown so bad the two countries have virtually “no basis” for talks.

Erdogan recently threatened Italy that its bilateral relations with Turkey could deteriorate if Italian prosecutors investigating Erdogan’s son, Bilal, for money laundering, proceeded with their probe. “Italy should be attending to the mafia, not my son,” Erdogan said. Typically, he does not understand the existence of independent judiciary in a European country. He thinks, as in an Arab sheikdom, prosecutors are liable to drop charges on orders from the prime minister.

Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi, answered Erdogan in language Erdogan will probably will not understand: “Italy has an independent legal system and judges answer to the Italian constitution and not the Turkish president.”

In unusual European realism, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said that he would start a discussion among European heads of government to end EU membership talks with Turkey. He rightly called the accession talks “diplomatic fiction.” Kern said: “We know that the democratic standards are clearly not sufficient to justify [Turkey’s] accession.”

Even Turkish Cypriots on the divided island fear that Erdogan’s Islamization campaign may target their tiny statelet. On August 3, about 1,500 people from 80 groups spanning the political spectrum took to the streets in Nicosia to protest against “Turkey’s attempt to mold their secular culture into one that’s more in tune with Islamic norms.”

All of that inevitably makes Turkey an alien candidate waiting at Europe’s gates to join the club. According to a European survey, Turkey is the least-wanted potential EU member — even less wanted than Russia. Opposition to Turkish membership ranges from 54% (Norway) to 81% (Germany).

Celal Yaliniz, a little-known Turkish philosopher, likened Turks in the 1950s to “members of a ship’s crew who are running toward the west as their ship travelled east.” The Turks were not alone. Erdogan’s “liberal” Western supporters have been no different.

Erdogan-Gulen Power Struggle Divides European Turks

August 8, 2016

Erdogan-Gulen Power Struggle Divides European Turks, Investigative Project on Terrorism, August 8, 2016

(Please see also, Plotting Jihad in the Poconos—Who the Hell is Fethullah Gulen? — DM)

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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.

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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, Reutersreports. 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.

Turkey: The State and the Systematic Use of Mob Violence

August 7, 2016

Turkey: The State and the Systematic Use of Mob Violence, Clarion Project, William Reed, August 7, 2016

Turkey-Mob-Beating-Mustafa-Turan-Caliskan-HPTurkish victim of a mob attack Mustafa Turan Caliskan (Photo: Video screenshot)

Following the July 15 failed coup in Turkey, pro-Erdogan mobs across the country have attempted lynching not only against surrendering soldiers who took place in the coup attempt, but also against civilians just walking down the streets who they decide are anti-government.

The latest victims were in Ankara and Istanbul.

 

Ankara: Turks beat fellow Turk for “not holding Turkish flag”

In Ankara, a young was beaten on the night of July 30 by three assailants for not holding a Turkish flag. A video (see below) of the assault has gone viral.

The initial reports and social media accounts that shared the video said the victim was a French tourist. But the Turkish newspaper Birgun discovered that the victim, Mustafa Turan Caliskan, was an ethnic Turk from Yozgat, a central Anatolian city in Turkey.

In the video, the attackers are heard laughing and saying, “We gave you a Turkish flag but you did not accept it. If you do not accept the Turkish flag, you will be punched. You have to be a man. If we give this to you, you have to hold it.”

The attackers kept interrogating Caliskan, all the while filming the attack. “Did you betray the Turkish flag?” asked one of the perpetrators. “Do you really love Turkey after this moment? Say you love Turkey! You have to love the flag, bastard!”

“We have turned the guy into wreckage in 10 seconds,” proclaimed another assailant joyfully. “Now go home, fuck off!” shouted another to the victim.  “Say you are Turkish! You are Turkish, right?”

The video was then proudly uploaded by one of the perpetrators .

Caliskan, 29, said that the incident occurred after he approached some men in a car to ask to use their lighter. Instead of responding, they attacked him.

“I got the first punch as I leaned towards the car. I partly lost my consciousness after being punched, so I could not speak while being filmed on the camera. That is why the viewers must have thought I was not Turkish,” he said.

Warning: Garphic Images

Caliskan said that his life has been very difficult since the incident.  “I do not want to go outside because I feel everybody is looking at me.” He filed a complaint about the attackers at a police station.

“I collapsed after the first punch in my eye,” said Caliskan. “There was no dialogue between us except for me asking for their lighter to light my cigarette. Then they filmed me. I do not remember what was spoken in the video. But I remember thinking that I could be murdered. I remembered Ali Ismail Korkmaz.”

Ali Ismail Korkmaz, a 19-year-old Alevi university student, was one of the many victims of mob and police violence in Turkey. He was savagely beaten on June 2, 2013 in the city of Eskisehir during the Gezi Protests.

In a statement to authorities before he died, Korkmaz described the attack: “Five or six people came up to me, they beat me with clubs on my head, back, shoulder and legs. I fell to the ground….Yesterday I didn’t have difficulty in speaking, but today I can’t remember. One of my teeth is loose because of the incident. My head hurts, I have difficulty speaking. I don’t know who beat me or why. They were wearing civilian clothes. I want to make a complaint.”

Korkmaz was admitted to a hospital after making his statement, but soon fell into a coma. He died on July 10, 2013.

 

Istanbul: Pregnant woman attacked for ‘wearing revealing clothes, supporting coup’

Hazal Olmez, who works as a secretary at the Turkish left-wing dailyEvrensel, was attacked by a group of people who accused her of “wearing revealing clothes and supporting the July 15 failed coup attempt” on August 2 in Istanbul.

Olmez, who is six and a half months pregnant, said two of the attackers were burqa-wearing women.

“Why are you wearing revealing clothes? You are a coup supporter and a Gulenist,” the group reportedly yelled at Olmez, while calling for people nearby to join them in beating her.

“You won’t get dressed this way anymore, you will get dressed the way we want you to and you will obey us,” one of the three attackers said.

Olmez reported, “They called for others to attack me. They wanted to lynch me there.”

The group continued to beat Olmez after she fell to the ground, as other people standing nearby watched the incident and did not offer any help, according to the report.

 

‘Turkey’s Lynching Regime’

Political violence, lynching – even pogroms — are not new or a rare phenomenon in Turkey. The victims have mostly been minorities.

“In Turkey’s near history,” writes columnist Fehim Tastekin, “mobs targeted mainly Armenians, Syriacs, Jews, Greeks, Alevis and Kurds.

“As Tanil Bora, author of the book Turkey’s Lynching Regime, puts it, “When it comes to Alevis and Kurds, this has always been a ‘free shot’ area. The ‘lynching’ of leftists has always been permissible. Police and ‘sensitive citizens’ act on the basis of this knowledge.”

“Despite hundreds of mob violence attempts,” added Tastekin, “the security forces have detained only a handful of people, only to release them after questioning. And almost always, they have found a reason to investigate the victims.”

Violence – be it political or not – is widespread in many parts of the world. What matters in the cases of violence, however, is the reaction of the state institutions and how they handle justice.

If the state protects the victims and punishes the perpetrators, and tries to take precautions to reduce the attacks, the violence could be blamed on just the criminals or “extremists” and interpreted as “isolated incidents” that take place outside of the control of the state.

But in Turkey, most attacks are state-sponsored and intentionally target minorities – such as the 1955 anti-Greek pogrom in Istanbul in which the Turkish government unleashed Turkish mobs on the Greek community.

According to the researcher Speros Vryonis Jr., “[The attacks] resulted in the ultimate destruction of Turkey’s oldest historical community, about 100,000 Greek Orthodox Christians who were the heirs of Byzantium.”

Due to such systematic attacks, the minorities in Turkey have mostly been exterminated and dissidents are silenced. Many victims have been murdered. If they are “lucky,” they manage to flee the country. If they have to stay, they most probably live the rest of their lives with fear of violence.

Meanwhile, extremists continue taking the law into their hands, looking for new victims in the streets to punish – for wearing “revealing” clothes, for not “holding the Turkish flag,” for speaking Kurdish or any other non-Turkish language, for being non-Muslim or not Islamic enough, for doing anything the extremists consider “unacceptablem” or for doing nothing at all.

These mobs know that they will never be held accountable no matter what they do and the state institutions will always be on their side and not of the victims.

The Turkish state apparently uses the mobs to shape the society as it wishes. Through these attacks, minorities and dissidents who dare think differently are ordered to “know their place” or just leave.

And so far, this policy seems to have worked well. Only 0.2 % of the remaining population  of Turkey is non-Muslim (Christians and Jews) and there is not a strong political opposition in the country to challenge the anti-democratic government policies.

Turkey, a European Union applicant, has totally turned EU standards and any other civilized code of conduct upside down.