Erdogan: Turkey's Fall Into Fascism
Leading up to the the most bizarre and unsuccessful coup attempt in Turkey's history, Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been choking out the civil liberties of his citizens, punishing journalists and threatening the country's top constitutional court. Erdogan has taken Turkey further from secularism and closer to Islamic theocracy, which is claimed to be one of the reasons behind the attempted coup. He somehow convinced Germany to punish a writer for reciting a negative poem and has imprisoned journalists in his own country for their negative criticisms of his increasingly authoritarian rule. It is suspiciously obvious that the recent failed coup attempt has given Erdogan the excuse to stamp out opponents within the Turkish military, Turkish courts, Turkish media and even Turkish schools. Despite his slow movement toward Islamic autocracy, the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton have encouraged Erdogan's continued reign over all branches of the Turkish government.
The day after the coup attempt, media
the obvious. Erdogan's popularity was “soaring” and his
government had arrested more than 2,800 people, including judges,
generals, soldiers and activists within the first day. Anyone who
thought there was an inkling of hope for free press in Turkey also
had their hopes shattered with the
arrest of 42 journalists just two weeks following the coup
attempt. The attempted coup had done more good for Erdogan than harm,
allowing him to tighten his grip by eradicating the culprits – or
anyone he deemed a culprit.
“Those who hope that the aftermath of the coup, which has left hundreds dead, thousands arrested and untold damage on the country’s infrastructure and psyche, will lead to greater democracy and openness will be bitterly disappointed. If anything, the aftermath of the coup will see greater authoritarianism and attacks against Erdogan’s critics.” – Haaretz, July 17, 2016
None of this should come as a surprise to anyone. Recep Erdogan has been building an Islamic autocracy since he was elected in 2003 as Turkey's Prime Minister. After he was elected President in 2014, he started to take his authoritarian ambitions to the next level. To date, since the attempted coup, Erdogan has targetted more than 50,000 people.
The most innocent aspect of Erdogan's
2014 campaign was his campaign logo, which had a striking resemblance
to the Obama campaign's logo.
Beyond the logo, Erdogan's campaign and the entire Turkish presidential election were fraught with allegations of electoral fraud, corruption, intimidation and media bias. Although no evidence surfaced during the scrutineering efforts of Turkish citizens during the presidential election, the country's localized elections in the same year were riddled with evidence of fraud, and Erdogan's government, under his leadership as Prime Minister, developed a newly implemented vote counting system that was criticized as being too vulnerable to manipulation.
In Turkey's 2014 local elections, there were widespread reports of intimidation and documented instances of voter fraud. What's more startling is the fact that several Turkish news links that covered some cases of documented fraud have since vanished. These dead links once contained stories that documented voter fraud in Turkey: Turk Solu, Gazetecileronline.
On election night, Turkey was also plagued by bizarre power outages that forced vote counters to count ballots in the dark, under candle light. When confronted to give an excuse for the power outages, Turkey's Energy Minister, Taner Yildiz, blamed it on a cat. Sophia Jones, a reporter for The World Post, wrote the following:
“The statement prompted widespread ridicule and anger among Turks who are increasingly at odds with controversial Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling party. The local elections were widely seen as a referendum on Erdogan’s 11-year rule, and the party emerged victorious despite months of anti-government protests and a dramatic corruption scandal that appeared to implicate Erdogan in fraud. Many Turks are skeptical about the power outages that occurred in major city centers, with some people alleging that the government tampered with vote counting.”
Among the power outages and allegations of fraud, reports of violence at some polling stations also emerged following the elections. Voters reported being intimidated, harassed and even punched by supporters of Erdogan's “Justice And Development Party”, or AKP.
Since the coup attempt, supporters of Erdogan – inside and outside political circles – have defended him with claims that he was “democratically elected”. Obviously, that fact is questionable at best.
Not too long ago, in 2014, a series of leaked audio recordings went viral in Turkey. What was in some of those recordings stunned Turkey and the international community. The recordings contained professionally verified phone conversations between Erdogan and his son discussing ways to hide illegally obtained money. A video of the Turkish recordings, along with translations, can be accessed here.
After the recordings made their rounds, Erdogan acknowledged that his phone had been tapped, but claimed the recordings were fabricated by splicing together different conversations. More than one expert, including an American named Josh Marpet, verified the authenticity of the recordings and claimed that if they were indeed fake, they were faked with a level of sophistication “not yet seen”.
At the time, Erdogan was Prime Minister and his AKP were in full control of the Turkish parliament. So, of course, a crackdown on social media ensued.
On March 28, 2014, CNN reported the following:
“The Turkish government banned YouTube on Thursday, less than a week after Ankara made a similar blackout of the social networking site Twitter, which is estimated to have more than 10 million Turkish users. Neither website can be reached on Turkish internet networks. The crackdown comes just days before Turks are expected to go to the polls in nationwide municipal elections. The Turkish government said its YouTube block came as a response to the leak of a conversation between top government officials purportedly discussing the possibility of going to war with neighboring Syria.”
Before this, several members of Erdogan's AKP had been implicated in a massive, wide reaching corruption scandal. Following several arrests and resignations over proven cases of fraud, bribery and money laundering, Erdogan blamed the entire investigation and its outcomes on an “international conspiracy” involving Israel and Fethullah Gulen. Erdogan forced some resignations inside his cabinet to clean up the mess, but refused to resign himself. Turkey's Minister Of Environment, Erdogan Bayraktar, claimed that Recep Erdogan had approved of everything that was done and should also resign. But, Recep Erdogan refused to resign and remained in power as Prime Minister following the scandal.
The corruption scandal not only led to crackdowns on social media, but crackdowns on government departments and courts. In classic Erdogan fashion, the scandal was used as a reason to purge Erdogan's enemies and naysayers from prominent posts. The aftermath of the corruption investigation led to several arrests and two mysterious suicides. A police commissioner in Ankara named Hakan Yüksekdağ was found dead in his car in an alleged suicide; and the assistant chief of police for Isparta, Abdi Altınok, was also found dead after an apparent suicide on December 24, 2013.
Everything that Recep Erdogan has been doing since he became Prime Minister have been eerily reminiscent of what Adolf Hitler did in 1933 and on. By the time Hitler was finished purging his enemies, Germany was no longer a democracy.
In 1933, Paul von Hindenberg issued the Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State, which is better known today as the Reichstag Fire Decree. The decree was issued on the advice of Hitler and it aimed to eliminate most of Germany's civil liberties under the fear of rising communism. No real similar decree has been signed into law in Turkey, but Erdogan's post-coup purge proves that such a decree isn't even necessary in modern Turkey. Without his own Decree, Recep Erdogan has managed to achieve everything Adolf Hitler set out to achieve with the Reichstag Fire Decree.
The next step for Hitler was the Enabling Act of 1933. The law was passed in the Reichstag with the required majority after Hitler had over 80 opponents (“communists”) arrested and barred from voting. The new law allowed Hitler's cabinet to enact laws without the approval of the democratically elected Reichstag. Similarily, Recep Erdogan – as we've learned since the attempted coup – has targetted over 50,000 opponents across an even wider spectrum than Adolf Hitler. While Hitler targetted and removed only a few hundred opponents within one year, Erdogan has taken aim at over 50,000 individuals inside schools, media outlets, courts, private organizations and government ministries.
Hitler's final step was the criminalization of opposing political parties and trade unions. Erdogan's Turkey hasn't yet reached this point in its history, but with widespread electoral fraud becoming the new normal, such a move might not even be necessary.
If Recep Erdogan achieves a complete fascist takeover of Turkey, he will have the world's 8th largest military at his disposal. Turkey currently has over 30 million men and women fit for military service, 410,000 active personnel, over 10,000 armed and armoured vehicles, 200 combat jets and almost 300 million barrels in proven oil reserves. Turkey was called the “next big energy juggernaut” by the Wall Street Daily in 2014, it's the second most powerful NATO country behind the United States, and its military budget has been steadily rising. As of a few days ago, it has been reported that Erdogan has requested full control of Turkey's military.
If Erdogan achieves a fascist takeover and continues building a hostile relationship with the United States and Europe, a withdrawal from NATO and a series of new tensions might be on our global horizon within the next decade.