Turkish Gov’t arrests 15 Opposition MPs in Further Descent into Dictatorship

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The Turkish government has detained 11 members of parliament from the leftist, feminist and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP),including the party’s co-chairs. This step is intended to give Erdogan the majority in parliament he needs to make himself president for life, and to give Turkey (currently a parliamentary government) an imperial presidency on the Egyptian model. The pretext was that these MPs declined to testify in a witch-hunt inquiry. I.e., this is precisely McCarthyism.

Since the failed July 15 coup, the Turkish government of President Tayyip Erdogan has fired 110,000 people–10,000 of them just last weekend– from the police, judiciary and other government offices. He has had 12,000 professors fired. Some 15 private universities have been summarily shut down on the grounds that they have some Gulen link. If all of them were involved in the coup, that action might be understandable. But manifestly, all were not. It is true that the rightwing religious Gulen cult has seeded covert agents throughout the Turkish government and business sector. But surely there are hundreds of them, not 110,000. Among the authoritarian steps he has taken is the lifting of parliamentary immunity, setting the stage or his current coup d’etat.

Erdogan has also closed down 45 newspapers, 16 television channels and all told, 130 media organizations. Some were accused of having Gulen tendencies. Others are pro-Kurdish. Still others are secular. Many are just sometimes critical of Erdogan, which apparently is no longer going to be allowed.

In modern democratic law, you can’t fire or arrest someone for thought crimes. The arrestees need to have actually done something wrong. Erdogan is trying to criminalize entire groups, and suspiciously enough the only group left that is not taboo is followers of Erdogan–i.e. right of center, at least somewhat religious Sunni Muslim Turks, who make up about 40 percent of the population. Secularists are likely at least 25%, Kurds are 20% and Alevi Shiites are 20 percent (many Alevis are also secularists, and some religious Kurds vote for Erdogan, so you can’t just add these groups up–they overlap). So Erdogan is engineering a dictatorship on behalf of a minority.

Erdogan moreover isn’t understanding when the rest of the world won’t arrest people for thought crimes. He had demanded that PKK members and Gulenists be extradited from Germany, but the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel declined. Erdogan then went on a rant accusing Germany of giving material aid to terrorism. I mean, this behavior is unhinged.

Erdogan now has three big domestic political struggles going on: 1) against the old secular Kemalist movement, now a shadow of its former self with only a quarter of the seats in parliament; 2) against all the major Kurdish political groupings; and 3) against the rival “Gulen” Muslim fundamentalist movement

Saturday’s arrests targeted the moderate pro-Kurdish HDP, which has stood for feminism, gay rights, and a multi-cultural Turkey with a place for both Kurds and Turks (hence it is the Democratic Peoples’ Party, with peoples in the plural).

In June of 2015, the HDP won 13% of seats in parliament and left the ruling AKP or Justice and Development Party, Erdogan’s party, with only about 40 percent. This development threw a spanner in the works as far as Erdogan’s aspirations to become a powerful president for life went. He needed an absolute majority for his party in parliament. Whether he deliberately engineered a renewal of the war with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a group that in the past has been radical and separatist but that had said it was moderating, is a matter of dispute. What is clear is that the polarization resulting from new hostilities hurt the HDP. Erdogan’s party refused to make a coalition with any of the other three major parties, causing snap elections. On Nov. 1, 2015, the AKP got a little over 50% of seats in parliament and the HDP shrank to only 10%. That outcome allowed Erdogan’s AKP to form a government without a coalition partner, but did not allow it to amend the constitution by fiat.

If the HDP members of parliament are permanently removed, perhaps even jailed, then Erdogan may argue that he has a majority of the remaining MPs and can move forward with his coronation as dictator in chief.

Unfortunately for Turkey, Erdogan’s erratic behavior is likely to tank the economy. The tourism sector has collapsed. Foreign Direct Investment depends on confidence, which is slipping away.

Every new assault that Erdogan launches on democracy in Turkey has brought queries as to whether Turkish democracy is now definitively dead. The answer each time is yes.


Related video:

Euronews: “Turkey: pro-Kurdish HDP leaders ‘arrested in counter-terrorism probe’ – world”

Posted in Featured,Turkey | 14 Responses | Print |

14 Responses

  1. Being bothered how other countries manage their political life is but a short step from trying to make them fall in line with your own. It is a key cause of global unrest and completely ignores the process wherein each stage is simply a link. Evolving processes, like those that take the grub to butterfly, are best left without interference. One of the things Kerry specifically mentioned about the current presidential campaign making his job difficult and embarrassing was the faces of other leaders when he brought up the subject of democracy. Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?

    • There is such a thing as a global civil society, that has long expressed itself with organizations such as AI. When people lose their freedoms in a country like Turkey it is a moral imperative to speak up.

      Too bad, that all you are compelled to is finger pointing.

      • It was not my intention to point a finger, simply to identify the fact that criticism can lead to interference and interference can have negative consequences, not the least of which is moving events that are contained within a country beyond their local boundaries. There are really only two ways to bend peoples to your cultural ideals, by your example or by inducing fear. The difficulties of the first are illustrated by my reference to Kerry’s ’embarrassments’, and I think few would deny the second is losing traction. I understand those convinced the US holds some kind of global moral high ground feel an imperative to speak up; it is a matter of perspective, freedom of the press is not a moral issue for most of the world, and doesn’t become one because the intelligentsia in one group says it is. If, as Kerry does, calling the situation ‘worrisome’ and expressing ‘serious concern’ had the potential to reorientate the situation to your perspective, fair enough, but it doesn’t. Since, according to Obama, ‘universal values and democratic institutions are the core at the NATO alliance’ why not instead advocate throwing Turkey out of NATO on the grounds of its non conformity with those values and institutions?

        • if we kicked them out of NATO,
          where would we move the Nukes stored there ?
          from whence would we launch drone attacks on Syria, or MLRS missiles ?

        • Agreed, I’ve been in favor of expelling Turkey from NATO for quite some time. And the talks of EU membership need to aborted ASAP.

      • Unfortunately, the “moral imperative to speak up” seems frequently to evolve into a moral imperative to intervene militarily and “regime-change” a country.

        The death, destruction and misery brought upon Iraq, Libya and Syria is magnitudes greater that any ever caused by Saddam, Khadafy or Assad.

        Antoinetta III

        • Actually of the 400,000 Syrians killed, most have been killed by al-Assad, not the rebels. It is also not clear that more Iraqis have died since 2003 on an annual basis than under Saddam, who started two wars and committed genocide (typically it is said he killed 300,000 Iraqis, and that’s not counting people in other countries.) I wouldn’t judge these things this way, but just so you know, I don’t think your statement is statistically correct.

        • The US uses its military might to hastily, since you have this shiny hammer every issue seems to look like a nail to the US.

          The point is, I strongly believe the democrats in Turkey make up the vast majority of the people, and you want to strengthen them against their overreaching government, not kill them.

    • Are you really suggesting that Juan Cole is somehow wanting to make Turkey like the USA? Really?
      It is then a short amount of time until you accuse him of being a leading FETO spokesperson and a coup plotter.

    • At least foreign leaders are spared being lectured by the State Department on the evils of torture, summary executions or holding suspects indefinitely without trial these days

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