Posted tagged ‘Turkey – protest march’

A challenge to Erdogan

July 6, 2017

A challenge to Erdogan, Israel Hayom, Eldad Beck, July 6, 2017

As leaders of the world’s biggest economies, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, gather in Hamburg this weekend to discuss global issues, In Istanbul, the biggest protest march in modern Turkey’s history will conclude.

Intensifying the persecution of regime opponents, the Turkish president is turning his country into a perfect democtatorship, where the people are only allowed to vote in favor of what the leader desires and anyone who objects is thrown in prison and accused of terrorism. This reality has led the leader of Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), to call for a so-called Justice March from the capital Ankara to Istanbul. Until the march, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a bland politician who lacks charisma and strongly resembles Mahatma Gandhi, was unable to brand himself as a worthy opponent to Erdogan. But the 450 kilometers (280 miles) between Ankara and Istanbul have bestowed upon him an aura of an opponent capable of putting up a fight.

Holding a small sign bearing a one-word slogan — Adalet (“Justice”) — and followed by thousands of marchers (with hundreds more expected to join along the way on each day), the leader of the republican, pro-secular party is posing a major challenge to the “sultan of Ankara”: He is bringing the battle to Erdogan’s home court, the Turkish street, and showing him that his grip on the people is not absolute.

A few days from now, the regime will mark a year since it quashed an attempted military coup, which made it possible for Erdogan to hunt down en masse everyone who opposed him: the Islamist Gulen Movement, the Kurds, republicans, military officers, politicians, journalists, government functionaries, police and teachers. Under a “state of emergency” that is still in effect, sweeping arrests have been made, over 100,000 people have been fired, and according to numbers from Turkey’s Justice Ministry, nearly 50,000 investigations have been launched this past year against people and institutions suspected of offending the president. The Justice Ministry approved trials for almost 5,000 suspects. Over 1,000 were convicted for crimes that carry sentences of up to four years in prison.

Erdogan’s and his government’s hysterical response to the opposition’s Justice March suggests that even in the grand presidential palace in Ankara, they feel the ground shaking beneath their feet. Erdogan accused Kilicdaroglu of supporting terrorist organizations and involving himself in crime by opposing court orders — when in reality he had opposed rulings by the justice system that facilitated the incarceration of several associates of the opposition leader on the pretext of terrorism. “The platform represented by the CHP has crossed the line of political opposition. They have reached the point of working with terrorist organizations and with forces that encourage them to operate against our country,” Erdogan declared. In other words: treason.

A spokesman for Turkey’s ruling party accused Kilicdaroglu and his party of trying to use the Justice March to drag Turkey into chaos in the service of “foreign interests” that are working against Erdogan and his government. That is: People are still trying to oust Erdogan, and such circumstances justify increased persecution of his opponents. But turning up the dial on the incitement against the opposition could nudge supporters of the president to commit violence against the marchers and opposition leaders. The marchers have already encountered the fury of the masses.

The Justice March is scheduled to conclude at the gate to the prison where a parliamentary delegate from the CHP, Enis Berberoglu, is incarcerated for giving the media information on Turkish intelligence agencies giving aid to terrorist groups in Syria. Berberoglu, a former journalist, was sentenced to 25 years behind bars for “revealing state secrets.” But the Justice March won’t really end so long as Erdogan continues to terrorize Turkey.

Will the opposition now take advantage Kilicdaroglu’s momentum and unite? Will it become possible to change the political atmosphere in Turkey? If Turkey wants to protect itself, it doesn’t need a military coup, it needs a popular one. Erdogan has done everything he can to prevent that from happening, even at the cost of military, political and foreign conflicts.