Posted tagged ‘Erdogan’

Turkey’s Tightrope Dance

May 26, 2017

Turkey’s Tightrope Dance, Frontpage MagazineRobert Ellis, May 26, 2017

Turkey’s economy is in the doldrums and foreign investors, not surprisingly, are heading for the door. Growth is stagnant, there is double-digit inflation and unemployment is rising, particularly among young people. There is desperate need for foreign capital to reduce the growing current account deficit, which is why Turkey has been badly hit by the drop in the number of foreign, particularly European visitors. Erdoğan’s vitriolic attack on various European countries, for example, accusing Germany of “Nazi methods” and calling the Dutch “Nazi remnants” and “fascists,” hasn’t helped either. 

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Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was recently in Washington in search of “a new era” in Turkish-U.S. relations, was also out with the begging bowl. At a meeting with 40 prominent U.S. investors, Erdoğan urged them to increase investments in Turkey and shared recent developments regarding Turkey’s investment environment and economic agenda. What he did not share was the increasingly repressive environment that Erdoğan himself has created in search of absolute power.

But the true nature of Erdoğan’s regime did not go unnoticed when his bodyguards attacked a group of demonstrators, which seems to be a constant feature of the president’s foreign trips. Senator John McCain even suggested that the U.S. should “throw their ambassador the hell out.” Once safely home, Erdoğan reassured the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSIAD) that the state of emergency, where he has ruled by decree since the failed coup last July, was no hurdle for business.

According to Erdoğan, Turkey is preparing for “a new leap in democracy,” but there are no signs that this is true. On the contrary, Turkey has plans to build 174 new prisons to accommodate the thousands who have been purged since last July. At the beginning of April Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said that 113,260 had been detained and 47,155 had been arrested, including over 10,000 police officers, 7,631 from the military and 2,575 judges and prosecutors. These numbers have since increased, not to forget the 231 journalists who have been arrested. In addition, over 140,000 have been dismissed from public employment, so that they and their families are now ‘non-persons’ in the new Turkey.

Turkey’s economy is in the doldrums and foreign investors, not surprisingly, are heading for the door. Growth is stagnant, there is double-digit inflation and unemployment is rising, particularly among young people. There is desperate need for foreign capital to reduce the growing current account deficit, which is why Turkey has been badly hit by the drop in the number of foreign, particularly European visitors. Erdoğan’s vitriolic attack on various European countries, for example, accusing Germany of “Nazi methods” and calling the Dutch “Nazi remnants” and “fascists,” hasn’t helped either.

Turkey’s economy minister, Nihat Zeybekci, has launched a campaign involving 17 global companies to restore investor confidence in Turkey. Potential investors are invited to “Come to Turkey and discover your own story,” but given the political situation, a number of multinationals, for example, Switzerland’s Nestlé and the Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis, are having second thoughts.

Three years ago, the president of TÜSIAD, Muharrem Yılmaz, warned: “A country where the rule of law is ignored, where the independence of regulatory institutions is tainted, where companies are pressured through tax penalties and other punishments, where rules on tenders are changed regularly, is not a fit country for foreign capital.” Erdoğan denounced Yılmaz as a traitor and he was forced to resign.

President Erdoğan will brook no opposition nor tolerate any criticism and now his control of the legislature and the judiciary has been reinforced by the constitutional amendments narrowly approved in April’s referendum. Since the failed coup 879 companies, including large conglomerates, have been seized  by the Turkish government and the assets of dozens of businessmen have been confiscated.

The security of any registered foreign investment should be guaranteed by the rule of law and according to the U.S.-Turkey Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), “Investments shall at all times be accorded fair and equitable treatment and shall enjoy full protection and security in a manner consistent with international law.”

However, as Işıl Karakaş, a Turkish judge who is also the vice-president of the European Court of Human Rights, has pointed out, Turkish judges are ignorant of international law. Instead, they wear “ideological glasses” and believe that protecting the state is their fundamental job.

In which case, a foreign investor who is a victim of fraud or other malfeasance stands little chance in a Turkish court. The only recourse is arbitration by the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID] and legal fees which can amount to several million dollars.

Anti-American sentiment is prevalent in Turkey, as Erdoğan has claimed the abortive coup was not planned in Turkey but orchestrated abroad. He even accused CENTCOM’s commander General Joseph Votel and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper of siding with the plotters and told them: “Know your place.”

President Trump’s approval of the Pentagon’s plan to supply weapons to the Kurdish militia in northern Syria has not improved U.S.-Turkey relations, and Trump’s invitation to President Erdoğan was intended to paper over the cracks. It hardly had that effect, and now Trump is beleaguered by the appointment of Robert Mueller as special prosecutor. Back home, Erdoğan is confronted by an increasingly divided and unstable Turkey.

There is a Turkish proverb: iki cambaz bir ipte oynamaz (two acrobats can’t dance on the same tightrope). What remains to be seen is whether one or both will fall off.

Erdogan will not “allow Muslim prayers silenced in Jerusalem”

May 8, 2017

Erdogan will not “allow Muslim prayers silenced in Jerusalem”  DEBKAfile, May 8, 2017

(Turkish Dictator President Erdogan and President Trump should have an interesting meeting next week. — DM)

Turkish President Reccep Erdogan talking to the International Forum on Jerusalem in Istanbul Monday, referred to the draft bills before the Knesset, banning amplified overnight calls to prayers from mosque loudspeakers in residential areas. He called the bill “shameful” and declared “we will not allow the silence of prayers form the heavens of Jerusalem.”  Erdogan also said that the discussions about the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem are extremely wrong. “We made the necessary warnings on this issue at the highest level and we are continuing to do so.”

Europe: More Migrants Coming

May 5, 2017

Europe: More Migrants Coming, Gatestone InstituteSoeren Kern, May 5, 2017

Müller added that only 10% of those currently on the move have reached Europe: “Eight to ten million migrants are still on the way.”

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“In terms of public order and internal security, I simply need to know who is coming to our country.” — Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka.

Turkey appears determined to flood Europe with migrants either way: with Europe’s permission by means of visa-free travel, or without Europe’s permission, as retribution for failing to provide visa-free travel.

The migrants arriving in Italy are overwhelmingly economic migrants seeking a better life in Europe. Only a very small number appear to be legitimate asylum seekers or refugees fleeing warzones.

The director of the UN office in Geneva, Michael Møller, has warned that Europe must prepare for the arrival of millions more migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The European Union has called on its member states to lift border controls — introduced at the height of the migration crisis in September 2015 — within the next six months.

The return to open borders, which would allow for passport-free travel across the EU, comes at a time when the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean continues to rise, and when Turkish authorities increasingly have been threatening to renege on a border deal that has lessened the flow of migrants from Turkey to Europe.

Critics say that lifting the border controls now could trigger another, even greater, migration crisis by encouraging potentially millions of new migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East to begin making their way to Europe. It would also allow jihadists to cross European borders undetected to carry out attacks when and where they wish.

At a press conference in Brussels on May 2, the EU Commissioner in charge of migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, called on Austria, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden — among the wealthiest and most sought after destinations in Europe for migrants — to phase out the temporary controls currently in place at their internal Schengen borders over the next six months.

The so-called Schengen Agreement, which took effect in March 1995, abolished many of the EU’s internal borders, enabling passport-free movement across most of the bloc. The Schengen Agreement, along with the single European currency, are fundamental pillars of the European Union and essential building-blocks for constructing a United States of Europe. With the long-term sustainability of the single currency and open borders in question, advocates of European federalism are keen to preserve both.

Avramopoulos, who argued that border controls are “not in the European spirit of solidarity and cooperation,” said:

“The time has come to take the last concrete steps to gradually return to a normal functioning of the Schengen Area. This is our goal, and it remains unchanged. A fully functioning Schengen area, free from internal border controls. Schengen is one of the greatest achievements of the European project. We must do everything to protect it.”

The temporary border controls were established in September 2015, after hundreds of thousands of migrants arrived in Europe, and when EU member states, led by Germany, gave special permission to some EU countries to impose emergency controls for up to two years. Since then, the European Union has approved six-month extensions of controls at the German-Austrian border, at Austria’s frontiers with Hungary and Slovenia and at Danish, Swedish and Norwegian borders. (Norway is a member of Schengen but not the EU.) Since then, several countries have argued that they need border controls to combat the threat of Islamic militancy.

On May 2, Sweden, which claims to conduct the most border checks among the EU countries, announced that it will lift controls at its border with Denmark. Sweden received 81,000 asylum seekers in 2014; 163,000 in 2015; 29,000 in 2016, and the same is expected for 2017.

On April 26, Austria called for an indefinite extension of border controls. “In terms of public order and internal security, I simply need to know who is coming to our country,” Austrian Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said. Austria, which accepted some 90,000 migrants in 2015, also called for a “postponement” of the EU refugee distribution program, which requires EU member states to accept a mandatory and proportional distribution of asylum-seekers who arrive in other member nations.

On March 9, Norway extended border controls for another three months.

On January 26, Denmark extended border controls for another four months. Integration Minister Inger Støjberg said that his government would extend its border controls “until European borders are under control.”

On January 19, Germany and Austria announced that border controls between their countries would continue indefinitely, “as long as the EU external border is not adequately protected.”

Meanwhile, the number of migrants making their way to Europe is once again trending higher. Of the 30,465 migrants who reached Europe during the first quarter of 2017, 24,292 (80%) arrived in Italy, 4,407 arrived in Greece, 1,510 arrived in Spain and 256 arrived in Bulgaria, according to the International Office for Migration (IOM).

By way of comparison, the number of arrivals to Europe during each of the first three months of 2017 exceeded those who arrived during the same time period in 2015, the year in which migration to Europe reached unprecedented levels.

The trend is expected to continue throughout 2017. Better weather is already bringing about a surge of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Europe. During just one week in April, for example, a total of 9,661 migrants reached the shores of Italy.

The migrants arriving there are overwhelmingly economic migrants seeking a better life in Europe. Only a very small number appear to be legitimate asylum seekers or refugees fleeing warzones. According to the IOM, the migrants who reached Italy during the first three months of 2017 are, in descending order, from: Guinea, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Senegal, Morocco, Mali, Somalia and Eritrea.

In February, Italy reached a deal with the UN-backed government in Tripoli to hold migrants in camps in Libya in exchange for money to fight human traffickers. The agreement was endorsed by both the European Union and Germany.

On May 2, however, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel reversed course by saying the deal ignored the “catastrophic conditions” in Libya and would not curb migration. He said that Germany now favored tackling migration by fighting instability in Africa:

“What we are trying instead is to help stabilize the countries on the continent. But that is difficult. We will have to show staying power, stamina and patience. This is in the interest of Africans but also in the interest of Europeans.”

Gabriel’s long-term solution — which in the best of circumstances could take decades to bear fruit — implies that mass migration from Africa to Europe will continue unabated for many years to come.

Italy has emerged as Europe’s main point of entry for migrants largely because of an agreement the European Union signed with Turkey in March 2016 to stem migration from Turkey to Greece. In recent weeks, however, Turkish authorities have threatened to back out of the deal because, according to them, the EU has failed to honor its end of the bargain.

Under the agreement, the EU pledged to pay Turkey €3 billion ($3.4 billion), as well as grant visa-free travel to Europe for Turkey’s 78 million citizens, and to restart accession talks for Turkey to join the bloc. In exchange, Turkey agreed to take back all migrants and refugees who reach Greece via Turkey.

After the deal was reached, the number of migrants reaching Greece dropped sharply, although not completely. According to data supplied by the European Union on April 12, a total of 30,565 migrants reached Greece since the migrant deal took effect. Only 944 of those migrants have been returned to Turkey. Still, this is in sharp contrast to the hundreds of thousands of migrants who entered Greece at the height of the migration crisis. Turkey’s continued cooperation is essential to keep the migration floodgates closed.

On April 22, Turkey’s Minister for EU Affairs, Ömer Çelik, issued an ultimatum, warning the European Union that if it does not grant Turkish citizens visa-free travel by the end of May, Turkey would suspend the migrant deal and flood Europe with migrants.

On March 17, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu warned that his country would “blow the mind” of Europe and renege on the deal by sending 15,000 Syrian refugees a month to Europe:

“We have a readmission deal. I’m telling you Europe, do you have that courage? If you want, we’ll send the 15,000 refugees to you that we don’t send each month and blow your mind. You have to keep in mind that you can’t design a game in this region apart from Turkey.”

In February 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had already threatened to send millions of migrants to Europe. “We can open the doors to Greece and Bulgaria anytime and we can put the refugees on buses,” he told European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. In a speech, he signaled that he was running out of patience:

“We do not have the word ‘idiot’ written on our foreheads. We will be patient, but we will do what we have to. Don’t think that the planes and the buses are there for nothing.”

In February 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (left) threatened to send millions of migrants to Europe. “We can open the doors to Greece and Bulgaria anytime and we can put the refugees on buses,” he told Jean-Claude Juncker (right), President of the European Commission. (Image source: Turkish President’s Office)

European officials say that to qualify for the visa waiver, Turkey must meet 72 conditions, including the most important one: relaxing its stringent anti-terrorism laws, which are being used to silence critics of Erdoğan, especially since the failed coup in July 2016. Turkey has vowed not to comply with the EU’s demands.

Critics of visa liberalization fear that millions of Turkish nationals may end up migrating to Europe. The Austrian newsmagazine, Wochenblick, recently reported that 11 million Turks are living in poverty and “many of them are dreaming of moving to central Europe.”

Other analysts believe Erdoğan views the visa waiver as an opportunity to “export” Turkey’s “Kurdish Problem” to Germany. According to Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Söder, millions of Kurds are poised to take advantage of the visa waiver to flee to Germany to escape persecution at the hands of Erdoğan: “We are importing an internal Turkish conflict,” he warned. “In the end, fewer migrants may arrive by boat, but more will arrive by airplane.”

The European Union now finds itself in a Catch-22 situation. Turkey appears determined to flood Europe with migrants either way: with Europe’s permission by means of visa-free travel, or without Europe’s permission, as retribution for failing to provide visa-free travel.

Greek officials recently revealed that they have drawn up emergency plans to cope with a new migrant crisis. Turkey is hosting some three million migrants from Syria and Iraq, many of whom are presumably waiting for an opportunity to flee to Europe.

Italy is also bracing for the worst. Up to a million people, mainly from Bangladesh, Egypt, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sudan and Syria are now in Libya waiting to cross the Mediterranean Sea, according to the IOM.

The director of the United Nations office in Geneva, Michael Møller, has warned that Europe must prepare for the arrival of millions more migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. In an interview with The Times, Møller, a Dane, said:

“What we have been seeing is one of the biggest human migrations in history. And it’s just going to accelerate. Young people all have cellphones and they can see what’s happening in other parts of the world, and that acts as a magnet.”

German Development Minister Gerd Müller has echoed that warning:

“The biggest migration movements are still ahead: Africa’s population will double in the next decades. A country like Egypt will grow to 100 million people, Nigeria to 400 million. In our digital age with the internet and mobile phones, everyone knows about our prosperity and lifestyle.”

Müller added that only 10% of those currently on the move have reached Europe: “Eight to ten million migrants are still on the way.”

The end of Turkish democracy

April 19, 2017

The end of Turkish democracy, Israel Hayom, Clifford D. May, April 19, 2017

(Please see also, Kurdistan Independence Referendum and Why It Matters so Much in the Fight Against Radical Islam. — DM)

I made my first visit to Turkey 13 years ago. With the 2001 attacks on the United States still a vivid memory, Turkey struck me as a hopeful place. The people were friendly. The food was good. Istanbul was vibrant and cosmopolitan. This was not a Muslim country but rather a Muslim-majority country, a distinction made repeatedly and with pride. Turks, I was told, understood the importance of separating mosque and state.

Those who campaigned for a “no” vote had limited access to media and in some instances were prevented from holding rallies. The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party complained of unstamped ballots affecting 3 million voters — more than the margin of Erdogan’s victory.

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On the grounds of the Turkish Embassy facing Massachusetts Avenue in Washington is a statue of Mustafa Kamal Ataturk, father of the Republic of Turkey, the nation-state he built from the rubble of the defeated Ottoman Empire and Islamic caliphate.

He is wearing a three-piece suit that would look stylish today, although he is steely-eyed in a way peculiar to early 20th century revolutionaries. He appears to be gazing into the future — a future in which Turkey would be modern, prosperous, secular and democratic.

If truth in advertising applied to governments, that statue would now be removed.

In a referendum on Sunday, Turkish voters were asked to give President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers. To no one’s great surprise, it was announced that they did, albeit by a narrow margin of 51.2% approving to 48.8% opposing, according to the state-run news agency. People in rural areas mostly voted yes, people in the cities — including Istanbul where Erdogan was once mayor — mostly voted no. But a win is a win and Erdogan has won.

I made my first visit to Turkey 13 years ago. With the 2001 attacks on the United States still a vivid memory, Turkey struck me as a hopeful place. The people were friendly. The food was good. Istanbul was vibrant and cosmopolitan. This was not a Muslim country but rather a Muslim-majority country, a distinction made repeatedly and with pride. Turks, I was told, understood the importance of separating mosque and state.

A NATO member, Turkey appeared to be the one sturdy bridge between the Middle East and Europe. It maintained cordial relations with Israel, too. While no Jeffersonian democracy, Turks had been going to the polls on a fairly regular basis for decades. Surely democratic habits were being acquired and democratic institutions were being built. A persuasive argument could be made that this was the direction history was taking throughout the Middle East and perhaps the world.

Sunday’s referendum contradicts that thesis. For a decade, Erdogan has been slowly concentrating power in his own hands. After a failed coup last summer — it’s unclear who launched it or why — he went full throttle, firing or arresting more than 140,000 military officers, academics, judges and civil servants, shutting more than 150 media outlets, and jailing journalists who dared criticize him.

The new referendum will significantly diminish whatever checks and balances the legislature and judiciary have left. And the rules on term limits will be adjusted so that the 63-year-old Erdogan can remain in the new 1,150-room presidential palace until 2029 or longer. In democratic societies, presidents do not serve for so many years. In the Ottoman Empire, sultans occasionally did.

Can we be confident that the announced results of the referendum are accurate? Those who campaigned for a “no” vote had limited access to media and in some instances were prevented from holding rallies. The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party complained of unstamped ballots affecting 3 million voters — more than the margin of Erdogan’s victory.

In Cermik, a town in northeastern Turkey, two members of the opposition CHP party were reportedly killed and two ballot observers were wounded as they were trying to prevent “ballot stuffing.” On Monday, European election monitors said the vote “fell short” of international standards.

Erdogan quickly fired back.

“The crusader mentality in the West and its servants at home have attacked us,” he told a crowd at Ankara’s airport. That is not the kind of language you expect to hear from the leader of a secular country. It is the kind of language you expect to hear from an Islamist demagogue.

Erdogan claims he will use the additional powers he is being granted to solve Turkey’s not insignificant problems, including political and economic instability, the strain caused by the refugees pouring in from Syria, and unrest among Turkey’s Kurdish minority, estimated at up to 20% of the country’s 80 million people.

What I think we can more realistically expect is for Turkey to become less free, less democratic, and less secular. Already we’ve seen Erdogan closing churches and detaining Christian clergymen. He has implied that only Muslims, not Christians, should be helped to rebuild their ancient communities in and around Mosul in Iraq, where he has sent Turkish troops, uninvited by the Iraqi government.

He appears to expect Turks living in Europe not to assimilate or even integrate but to remain loyal to Turkey and, of course, to him. In the weeks leading up to the referendum, he dispatched envoys to campaign in the large Turkish communities of the Netherlands and Germany. When local officials turned them away he leveled accusations of Islamophobia and even Nazism.

“Those who treat me, my ministers, my deputies with disrespect will pay the price for their actions,” he threatened. That is not the way leaders of NATO nations generally address one another.

Many Turks regard the referendum as illegitimate. It’s possible that Erdogan will feel the need to make peace with them. On the other hand, he may feel the need to make them submit.

More than a quarter of a century ago, when he was Istanbul’s mayor, Erdogan quipped that democracy was “like a streetcar. When you reach your destination you get off.”

In other words, he sees liberal democracy not as the best way to organize a government but only as a means to an end. If that’s correct, April 2017 marks the failure of Turkey’s democratic experiment. An Islamist, neo-Ottoman and neo-imperialist experiment began instead. It should surprise no one if a statue of Erdogan replaces that of Kemal Ataturk on Massachusetts Avenue.

Dr. Jasser discusses Turkey’s Pres. Erdogan & his Islamist policies 04.17.2017

April 19, 2017

Dr Jasser discusses Turkey’s Pres. Erdogan & his Islamist policies 04.17.2017, AIFD via NewsMax and YouTube, April 18, 2017

 

A yes and no victory for Erdogan

April 18, 2017

A yes and no victory for Erdogan, Israel Hayom, Boaz Bismuth, April 18, 2017

The “Yes” camp won Turkey’s national referendum. “Camp,” because Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not just a president/dictator/sultan, but because his obedient supporters always grant the leader the desired majority, even if only by a slim margin. Erdogan’s victory, however, which gives him a presidency with the authority of a sultan (sans constitutional restraints), paradoxically displayed his limitations. If he wants to remain in power for many more years (until 2029), he will have to reinvent himself, because his opposition also appears to be quite large. Therefore, both camps can see the election result from the other direction: “Yes and No,” remember?

We can, of course, discuss the “Yes” camp’s miniscule margin of victory until we’re blue in the face, along with the forgeries, the appeals, the fact that Turkey is splintered in two and the danger Erdogan poses to democracy — but that is nothing new. After all, Erdogan “only” received 51.7% of the vote in the presidential elections, and his Justice and Development Party won 49.5% of the parliamentary votes in November 2015 — which distinctly indicates a trend.

This time, too, the numbers should come as no surprise. Erdogan will always manage to secure the tiniest of majorities for any “holy” goal he wants to sell to his people. Such was the case this week. While he sought 60% of the votes and the opposition hoped his scheme would fail, anyone following developments in Turkey knows perfectly well that if Erdogan wakes up tomorrow morning and declares the sun is green and the stars are square, at least 50.01% of the population will say “amen.” This could be the greatest political victory for the man who wishes to never resign.

Turkey said “yes” to changing its system of government. This means the country will move toward a presidential regime similar to the one in the United States, only without the checks and balances provided by the justice system, the legislative branch, the police and the media. Everyone will be subject to the sultan’s authority. They say people today yearn for the good old days? Erdogan is making dreams come true.

On the other hand, we must remember that Erdogan wanted a resounding majority, even if he knew it would be hard to achieve.

The attempted coup against him last year undermined his self-confidence and personal safety, but not his ambitions. To the very end he had to wage a serious campaign, which included considerable efforts in hostile Kurdish areas. Surprising support from the far-right Nationalist Movement Party, citing patriotic motivations, still wasn’t enough to assure him the victory.

A nose for the street

Erdogan, a political animal, has a nose for the street. He knew the Kurds and Kemalists were against him, as was the climate in the large cities. In Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir and Antalya — he lost.

But he won in those distant, rural places where journalists and pundits do not go — “deep Turkey.” In those places, where Erdogan holds sway, people vote from the gut and from the mosque. While he perhaps goes to elections with an eye toward the past, the voters go to the voting stations looking to the future. For the sultan, this is food for thought.

Naturally, many people are now positing an unlawful referendum; unstamped ballots that were counted; a threatening pre-election atmosphere; country-wide states of emergency; and last summer’s failed coup as factors that influenced the final outcome of the vote. A “No” vote is considered as a type of religious affront at best; at worst as belonging to the terrorist network headed by the exiled Fethullah Gulen; or, heaven forbid, as sympathetic to Islamic State. Erdogan sold the referendum more or less in the following way: “Yes” means stability, “No” means sympathy for terror. And yet, almost half the population voted “No.”

Now the question remains: What does the referendum result mean, if the appeals fail? Erdogan will take an increasingly harsher tone. He will expand his authoritarian powers, but this time he will do so within the law. After defeating the press, the police, the army and the legal system, the time has come to change the government system. The prime minister will be become a relic of history, while President Erdogan enters the pantheon, living and breathing and at the height of his rule.

How Erdogan’s Victory Might Be Europe’s Defeat

April 17, 2017

How Erdogan’s Victory Might Be Europe’s Defeat, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Abigail R. Esman, April 17, 2017

American-Turks, however, showed the greatest resistance, with 83 percent voting “no.” Still, some prominent Islamist voices spoke out in support of Erdogan, including former Muslim American Society president and political activist Esam Omeish, who celebrated the referendum results on his Facebook page with a photo of himself holding a Turkish flag that reads “evet,” or “yes.”

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Over lunch in Istanbul last week, a friend and I spoke about the upcoming Turkish referendum. “Many European Turks are likely to vote ‘yes,'” I cautioned my friend, whom I knew was planning to vote ‘no,’ or against the measure to grant President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unlimited powers. A “yes” vote, by contrast, would end the democratic parliamentary government established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the republic, and in the eyes of most Western leaders, establish Erdogan as the Muslim world’s newest dictator.

My friend was visibly angered. “Then let them, with all their rights and freedoms, come here to live,” she retorted. “How dare they think that they can take these rights from us when we are the ones who have to live with the result?”

The outcome of Sunday’s referendum showed a Turkey split almost exactly in half, with 51 percent “yes” and just under 49 percent voting “no.”

Or did it?

It is too soon to make a full analysis of the vote results – which some rights groups have already contested – but one thing was immediately made clear: the vast majority of Turks living throughout Europe voted in support of Erdogan’s rule, even as the majority of those living in major Turkish cities – Izmir, Ankara and Istanbul – voted against it. If only the votes of Turks living in the country had been counted, would the results have been the same? Or would they show that Turkey’s residents support a secular, Western democracy while Europe’s Turks do not?

If my friends in Istanbul who voted “no” woke this morning afraid for their country’s future, so, too, should my friends in much of Europe. In the Netherlands, for instance, a whopping 71 percent of Dutch-Turks who participated in the vote chose “yes.” As the results of the referendum became known, thousands descended on the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam, waving Turkish flags and celebrating the victory of an Islamist leader who had pledged to “raise a new, religious generation,” end secular education, and who has imprisoned countless journalists, writers, artists, and others who have dared to criticize him.

It was not only in Holland. According to the Daily Sabah, 75 percent of Belgian Turks who voted opted for “yes,” as did 73 percent in Austria, 65 percent in France, and 63 percent in Germany. Only Switzerland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom showed majorities with “no” votes. And of these three, Sweden is effectively the only member of the EU.

 

American-Turks, however, showed the greatest resistance, with 83 percent voting “no.” Still, some prominent Islamist voices spoke out in support of Erdogan, including former Muslim American Society president and political activist Esam Omeish, who celebrated the referendum results on his Facebook page with a photo of himself holding a Turkish flag that reads “evet,” or “yes.”

In Europe, some have argued, as did “Volkan,” a pseudonym for the owner of the popular DutchTurks.nl blog, that the results were self-inflicted, the result of having antagonized Turkey and Erdogan in recent months. Holland, for instance, refused entry to pro-Erdogan officials seeking to campaign on his behalf. Germany, where rallies were similarly blocked, has also been outspoken in its criticism of Erdogan’s imprisonment of a German-Turkish journalist.

But such explanations do not account for the results in Austria and France, or for the similar outcome of the November 2015 election, in which majorities in Germany, the Netherlands, and France all voted for Erdogan‘s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

What I did not tell my friend, as we sat watching the sunlight dance over the Bosphorus, was that the European Turks who were voting to change the Turkish Constitution, who were effectively choosing to establish a more fundamentalist, Islamist Turkey in place of the secular, Western democracy that has been in place since 1923, have no interest in the “freedoms” that she spoke of. That they have them in Europe is meaningless: they don’t want them. They don’t want them in Turkey, where they come from; and they don’t want them in Europe, where they now live. Not for themselves. And not for anybody else.

Indeed, as the IPT noted after the November 2015 elections, of the 4.6 million Turks living in Europe, a majority seems to prefer to live in an Islamic state, and not a secular one.

This is the frightening lesson that Europe must learn from the results of the April 16 referendum. While its leaders now confer about the “proper” response to Erdogan in his new role and what they expect of him as the leader of a clearly-divided country, they might also consider their response to his supporters who are not just Turkish citizens, but Europe’s own. How to reckon with Europeans who choose against European norms and values, who actively vote against the separation of church and state, who seek a more Islamized society? What does this say about the failure of integration? More, what does it say – or threaten – about Europe’s potential future? And what can be done to save it?