The judiciary, media organisations, opposition parties, civil servants, charity groups, just to mention a few, are being subjected to a daily dose of massive abuses and suffocation in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The recent catch to the abuse list is the sacking of medical professionals, scientists, and other academics from universities.
Erdoğan was born to a relatively poor family in Rize, along the Black Sea. His father was in the coast guard and worked at sea. Erdoğan at one point even sold snacks on the street to make extra cash. He graduated from a religious school in 1973, and immediately embarked on a political career, eventually becoming first mayor of Istanbul. So here’s the question: How did a man like Erdoğan become a billionaire several times over?
What happened to Recep Tayyip Erdogan? The Turkish president came to power in 2003 promising economic and political liberalization. But under his rule, Turkey has instead moved in a profoundly illiberal, authoritarian direction, which some feared was Erdogan’s true agenda, given his background in Islamist politics. Rather, Erdogan has become something more akin to a traditional Middle Eastern strongman: consolidating personal power, purging rivals, and suppressing dissent.
The recent unjustified arrest, detention, traumatization and subsequent release of 50 Nigerian students in Turkey by that country’s government must rank as a most unfortunate low in the Nigerian – Turkish relations. Seen in context, it constitutes an instance of unjustified victimization of innocent foreigners, out of misplaced grudge by a government that had no cause for such act of indiscretion.
To extradite Gulen would not only imply a high chance of an unfair trial, but would also sound the death knell of a blueprint for global peace. Gulen’s ideas have all the potential for a global approach to peace-building. John L. Esposito, a professor at Georgetown University and a highly respected expert on Islam, called Gulen’s initiatives “extraordinarily unique”, and suggested it would be “wise” for other Muslim movements to emulate them.
We can reasonably hope that there won’t be any large-scale bloody purges, Stalin-style. But Turkey is likely to grow further away from Europe. The convenient travel visas to the rest of Europe, which many Turks have hoped for, may be a long time away.
We strongly condemn the arrest, detention and deportation of some Nigerian students from Turkey’s capital city, Istanbul, over the botched coup in the country. The harassment and intimidation of our students by the Turkish Government over a matter that does not concern them is undiplomatic and utterly reprehensible. The Turkish government should not visit the punishment for the alleged actions of its political enemies on innocent Nigerian students.
As a law-abiding citizen, I knew I had done nothing wrong to be stopped at the border. But in Turkey being a journalist from Zaman media group was enough for me to be considered an “enemy of the state.” And I was the editor-in-chief of Today’s Zaman which had been brutally taken over a few days earlier, earning me a suspended jail sentence for my tweets criticizing then-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.
As Erdogan moved on the Islamic path of authoritarianism with political ambition of becoming of leader of Muslim world, it has adversely impacted the stability of Turkey — both internally and externally. By crushing the Gulen movement it undermined the Islamic ideational resources needed most to fight Islamic terrorism.
It has now been almost three months since the failed coup in Turkey. The events of July 15 were predictable, but they nevertheless mark a watershed in modern Turkish history. Still, it would be a mistake to view the coup as a single event. Turkey actually experienced two coups, but it will be the third and coming coup which could be the most violent and might very well cost Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan his life.
The U.S. and Turkey have faced difficult days before, such as after Turkey’s 1974 invasion of Cyprus and the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, yet American and Turkish leaders managed to find their way back. This time will be different. The failed coup was a clarifying moment. Ankara and Washington don’t share values or interests.
The purge was in the making well before the attempted coup, but took a massive shape, unprecedented in entire history of the Turkish Republic. The scale and nature of post-coup purge gives legitimate suspicion for critics that President Erdogan is not solely after coup plotters, but for anyone he deems non-loyalist. As the coup plot was falling apart, Erdogan described the putsch as a “gift from God” to cleanse the army.
A Turkish professor who was my father’s colleague and frequently visited our house is now incapable of counting right amount of money to pay for a bottle of water at a prison canteen. He is traumatized as a result of days of harsh treatment during the interrogation. He is sharing a prison cell with my father, longtime friends, in western Turkey.
More troubling is evidence emerging that his government is now using the attempted coup as a pretext to round up all manner of troublesome opponents, not just the Gulenists. It is also damaging the fabric of Turkish society and undermining its institutions, including the security forces. That is a dangerous move in a country whose immune system is already weakened by jihadism and which is battling armed opponents on several fronts.