Turkey’s Islamist president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, appears as the sole person in his country’s politics who knows what he wants. Erdoğan seeks absolute power and acts against all obstacles to his ambitions. He is eager to identify new “enemies” whose purported conspiracies he believes justify his harsh rule.
Through the end of October and most of November, Erdoğan has carried out a spree of enhanced repressive measures. This latest onslaught reflects his current fixation on a referendum, proposed for spring 2017, to ratify or reject constitutional amendments that would provide a dramatic increase in his presidential powers.
To hold the referendum, Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) must first gain a parliamentary majority authorizing its placement on the national ballot. The party needs 330 legislative votes, out of 550, to permit the referendum. AKP won 317 deputies in the national elections of November 2015. AKP lacks the two-thirds majority, or 367 parliamentary seats, to allow immediate enactment of the constitutional changes.
Erdoğan hopes to win a referendum next year to dramatically increase his presidential powers.
Erdoğan is promised a coalition majority of 357 for a referendum by joining with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which has 40 seats. MHP is an extremist party with a background of anti-secularist violence during the 1970s and anti-Kurdish agitation.
From 2012 to 2015 the Turkish authorities conducted a “peace process” with the Turkish Kurds. Erdoğan sought backing from the Kurdish-dominated People’s Democratic Party (HDP)—the third biggest force in the national legislature, with 59 deputies, after the November 2015 election—for his reinforcement of the presidency. When the HDP declined to support him, the ceasefire collapsed and fighting resumed in Turkey’s Kurdish southeast.
On November 4, HDP chairperson Selahattin Demirtaş was arrested, as noted by the Guardian, with at least 10 of his colleagues in the party’s leadership. The HDP representatives’ parliamentary immunity from prosecution was abolished this year.
HDP Chairman Selahattin Demirtaş was arrested on November 4.
According to Erdoğan’s government, the HDP, as a Kurdish-interest party, is a front for the radical Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). But as the London Independent pointed out, the HDP alleges they are under attack for “daring to oppose” the new presidential system. HDP chief Demirtaş had made defiance of the scheme a priority for his party, denouncing it as leading to a dictatorship.
On November 17, the New York Times observed that the number of journalists arrested in Turkey since the coup attempt in July has reached 120. Of them, 10 were employed by Cumhuriyet (Republic), the country’s leading newspaper and a pillar of the secular tradition known as “Kemalism” for Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who modernized Turkey beginning in the 1920s. Cumhuriyet is the last independent media institution under Erdoğan’s rule.
At the end of October, the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet, Murat Sabuncu, was arrested with a group of his colleagues. On November 11, Cumhuriyet’s chairman, Akin Atalay, was detained at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport. All are charged by Ankara with terrorism.
The assault on Cumhuriyet, the favorite media of the secular elite, suggests that in the wake of the crackdown on the HDP, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), which represents the Kemalist legacy in politics, will be a fresh target of Erdoğan’s rage. Removal of parliamentary immunity for the HDP could be extended to the 134 CHP deputies.
Turkey’s ruling party filed a criminal complaint against CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu on November 8.
The CHP is an opposition party, but it has echoed the AKP in blaming the failed July coup on the followers of the Sufi preacher Fethullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania. Yet already on November 8, Erdoğan and the AKP filed a criminal complaint against CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and several CHP elected representatives for allegedly “insulting the president.” The CHP luminaries had expressed concern about the consequences of Erdoğan’s post-July state of emergency, which remains in effect.
Erdoğan pursues his aims step by step while his critics merely repeat their familiar rhetoric. The opposition appears disoriented when their habits are compared with the tactical finesse of Erdogan and his capacity for opportunistic cooperation. The AKP’s history is one of forming temporary coalitions, then turning against its partners in fulfillment of Erdoğan’s whims.
From 2002, when the AKP first assumed power, until 2013, the party maintained its most important alliance with the religious Gülen movement, in repudiation of the secularist tradition. But once the secular establishment had been curbed, Erdoğan turned on Gülen, declaring the exiled cleric and his followers to be “terrorists” in the wake of the July attempt against the regime.
Erdoğan pursues his aims step by step while his critics merely repeat their familiar rhetoric.
The anti-AKP forces seem incapable of an effective defense for the detained Kurdish parliamentarians and the journalists, to say nothing of the Gülenists. Since the July events, Erdoğan’s regime has arrested some 37,000 people, fired or suspended 100,000 from government and academic employment, and shut down 170 media enterprises.
Leading politicians in the European Union, for their part, have protested against the arrest of the HDP legislators and the Cumhuriyet journalists. Austrian federal chancellor Christian Kern, a Social Democrat, condemned Erdoğan in a Facebook post for leading Turkey “away from the European values of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights.” Kern called on the EU to stop financial assistance to Turkey under an agreement to halt migrants from using the country as a platform for illegal entry to the European mainland.
Erdoğan, according to the state Anadolu news agency on November 6, repeated his argument that the HDP is merely a political tool of the PKK. “If you [the HDP MPs] act like a terrorist instead of a lawmaker then you are treated like terrorists… I’m clear. I have no worries about these international attacks. Only the nation matters to me,” he thundered. He went on to charge that “Europe recognizes the PKK as a terrorist group but acts as an accessory to them.”
Turkish minister for EU affairs Ömer Çelik defended the mass arrests in his country. He asserted that the Gülen movement are “more dangerous than Nazis.”
But other prominent EU figures have applied the Nazi comparison to Erdoğan’s regime, rather than to his opponents. As reported by Deutsche Welle on November 7, Luxembourg foreign minister Jean Asselborn has said of the Turkish government actions, “To put it bluntly, these are methods that were used during the Nazi era.”
In response, Çelik repeated the Erdoğan line, saying “The Nazis are like apprentices when compared with Gülenist terror organizations.”
Stephen Schwartz, a fellow at the Middle East Forum, is executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington, DC. Veli Sirin is European director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism.
A Sa’ar 4.5-class Corvette of the Israeli Navy fires its canons during a naval exercise off the coast of Israel.
Israel’s Defense Ministry on Sunday announced a series of deals for the purchase of combat systems from local defense industries in the amount of $420 million by the end of this year. This is part of a project to acquire warships whose mission would to protect natural gas platforms within Israel’s “economic waters” in the Mediterranean against military threats.
An Israeli soldier training in Krav Maga.
Several dozen members of the Indian military are currently learning how to protect themselves using the Israeli martial art of Krav Maga, India Today reported this weekend.
“I brought Krav Maga to India in year 2002 after intensive training in Israel,” Vikram Kapoor — the head instructor at the International Krav Maga Federation — was quoted as saying. “This is the only self-defense technique that is being evolved every moment and that is why it is the best.”
Culminating a three-year process, delegates at the Mennonite Church USA assembly in Orlando on Thursday adopted a resolution titled “Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine,” with approximately 98 percent voting in favor. The resolution calls on members to “avoid purchase of products associated with the occupation or produced in settlements in occupied territories.” It also establishes a process for the church to review its investments “for the purpose of withdrawing investments from companies that are profiting from the occupation.”
Rabbi Steven Wernick says Netanyahu recruited progressive Jews to find a compromise for the holy site; now that the PM has reneged, world Jewry won’t be silent
The fight for pluralistic prayer at the Western Wall is a battle already won by Jewry’s Conservative movement. For some 20 years, Conservative Jews have inhabited a spiritual home at Jerusalem’s contentious holy site, which they won through a series of Supreme Court cases — in a section allocated to the Davidson Archaeological
Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. (Photo credit: hebron.com)
In a secret ballot held at the World Heritage Committee’s 41st annual summit in Krakow Poland, on Friday, UNESCO voted twelve to three in favor declaring the Holy City of Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs “Palestinian world heritage sites”.
The resolution described a Muslim history of the city while blatantly ignoring the Biblical narrative describing 3,000 years of Jewish connection to the site. Six countries abstained from the controversial vote which, at the request of Poland, Croatia, and Jamaica, was a secret ballot; a first for such a vote.
During last month’s 2017 Chicago Dyke March, the true face of “inclusion” among “progressives” finally surfaced. According to the Chicago based newspaper Windy City Times, the march proceeded calmly with people “of all races, genders and gender identities” attending, until “the Dyke March Collective ejected three people carrying Jewish Pride flags (a rainbow flag with a Star of David in the center).”
Something is terribly broken in the relationship between American and Israeli Jews. I say this as an American Jew who has lived in Israel for almost half a century. But if anyone thinks this started with Women of the Wall or PM Netanyahu’s recent – and I believe unfortunate – backtracking on the agreement over egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel, he is suffering from selective memory, if not total denial.
gentleman from times gone by. He was soft-spoken, courtly, and wore his pants hoisted high and held up by suspenders; clearly, a European who had personally endured horrors in the last century.
Indeed, he had personally survived the Holocaust in Poland. Therefore, I could not immediately understand why he now attends a very left-wing synagogue—but, totally incomprehensible, was his unexpected and rather passionate defense of Poland and of the Poles. He argued on their behalf as if his very life still depended upon it.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s decision to visit Jerusalem but not Ramallah has prompted much comment.
The expectation of equal treatment goes back to the Oslo Accords’ signing in Sep. 1993, when the prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, represented his government in the handshake with Yasir Arafat, the much-despised chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. No one found it strange or inappropriate at the time but things look differently nearly a quarter century later.
Matthew Healy at the Atlantic, one of the few remaining liberal anti-censorship magazines, offers a disingenuous counterpoint to the debate over political correctness.
The attempts to silence dissenting points of view are counter-speech, according to Healy. And counter-speech is an important form of free expression.