Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan gives the Muslim Brotherhood 4-fingered "Rabia" sign in solidarity with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. (Photo: © Reuters)
Turkey may be viewed by the developing countries as well as by the Muslim world as an advanced industrialised country very much in tune with the Western democratic system. But this perception is largely misplaced and very much out of date now.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a supremely enigmatic nationalist and visionary leader, picked up Turkey from its darkest hour in 1923 when the Ottoman Sultanate was abolished and a modern, secular republic was born. He became the first president of the republic and run the country as president until his death in 1938.
He introduced a number of revolutionary reforms to the Islamic state, such as the abolition of all out-dated Islamic institutions, the emancipation of women, introduction of Western education system, legal codes, dress and the replacement of Arabic script with Latin ones. It was not for nothing that he was accorded by his countrymen the title ‘Ataturk’ – Father of the Turks.
Fast forward time by 80 years from 1935 to 2015 and you would see Turkey in exact reverse situation to that of 1935. Islamism is ripe in the country, women are in veils, Muslim Brotherhood is all but in name running the country and Islamic terrorists are patronised by the incumbent administration.
How did this unprecedented reversal of Turkey’s predicament take place, even though Kemal Ataturk is still highly revered and the country maintains a façade of Western democracy? The answer lies solely with the mind set of present president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who over the past 12 years or so has taken Turkey away from the secular state into the fold of Islamism.
Erdogan, a semi-professional footballer in his early life, comes from an Islamist political background who founded the political party called AKP in 2001. As an aggressive and manipulative politician, he managed to become the prime minister within just two years in 2003 and remained in that position until 2014 when he became the president.
Only a month ago, he managed to get re-elected (by duplicitous means) and gain the overall majority in the parliament. Now, it is feared, that his autocratic streak will be unleashed to the full.
The Syrian war just across the border has pushed Erdogan’s Turkey to the forefront of the conflict, more like Pakistan in 1979 in the Afghan war. Whereas the Afghan war had only a limited number of protagonists – Islamists comprising mujahedin (jihadi fighters) supported by Pakistan, Arab States and America against the Afghan government supported by the USSR – the Syrian conflict is infinitely more complex and convoluted. The number of protagonists is literally endless and alliances and adversities between them keep changing all the time.
Although the FSA was started by the Syrian people to oppose Assad, it did not come about spontaneously. Foreign powers encouraged and instigated its formation, with Turkey one of the key players.
The main objective of the FSA is to depose the legitimate government of Bashar al-Assad (as legitimate as any of the Middle Eastern dictators are).
Erdogan’s administration and Wahhabi Arabs (both Sunni) had visceral antipathy towards the Alawite Assad (Shiia) and hence it can be said that the centuries old internecine Shiia-Sunni conflict is being played out in Syria now.
When America and the West started supporting the FSA, the cheerleader Erdogan allowed jihadists from across the globe and war materials from the Arab states to pass through his country undeterred. Only when ISIL/ISIS was spawned about two years ago declaring their ambition to create an Islamic caliphate coving not only Iraq and Syria but also Saudi Arabia and other smaller Arab States, Arabs did realise that they have created a monster, a Frankenstein and gradually pulled back. Erdogan had nothing to fear from this but all to gain as the Islamic State was planning to swallow the Kurds.
The arrival of Russia had changed the whole complexion of the Syrian conflict completely, to the detriment of Erdogan. Erdogan wants to destroy Assad and the Kurds and help the Islamic State, whereas Russia (as well as Iran) want exactly the opposite. America and the European Union want to demolish the Islamic State, but do not want to be seen in the company of Russia!
The downing of Russian bomber plane last on November 24, 2015 by Turkey was nothing but a vicious step by him to provoke Russia into a direct conflict with the NATO and thereby let the Islamic State get respite from the Russian assault. The Russian plane was, even according to Turkish version, in the Turkish territory for only 17 seconds and when it was shot down it was outside its border. It may be pointed out it is the first time a Russian war plane had been shot down by a NATO member state since the end of Korean war in the early part of 1950s.
This madcap Erdogan is taking Turkey backward, which is a direct opposite of what Kemal Ataturk had intended. Turkey’s prospect of joining European Union is all but gone and its existence in the NATO should be severely questioned.
There is the uncanny similarity between the Turkey of today and Pakistan of the 1980s. Like Pakistan, Turkey will be the hotbed of Islamic terrorists and that will devour the whole country. It is sad to see an advanced Muslim state reverts to primitive conditions only due to religious blockheadedness of a single person.
Dr. A Rahman is a retired nuclear scientist and columnist.
Turkish police with shields in Taskim Square (Photo: Lonna Lisa Williams)
This article blog appeared originally on Digital Journal
On live television, Turkish police closed a TV news station in Istanbul allegedly linked to a foe of President Tayyip Erdogan. Is this the end of journalistic freedom in Turkey or the end of Islamist leader Erdogan?
I watched a live TV broadcast on YouTube yesterday; it was more riveting than a spy film. I could not stop watching history play out before my eyes. Samanyolu Haber showed the invasion of the Kanalturk TV news station by Turkish police. The police, dressed in combat helmets and body armor, pressed their shields against Istanbul citizens and journalists. They sprayed mace across a barrier erected to protect the news station, and some of it deflected against clear plastic umbrellas. An armored police combat vehicle, that would be illegal in Europe or America, shot streams of water from its rooftop canon nearby.
No court of law or parliamentary procedure could defend AK Party leader Erdogan's dictator-like actions. As I saw a plain-clothes police officer shoving a water-soaked journalist who was close to tears, I wondered if such scenes played out in Nazi Germany before World War II. However, there was a difference: this police officer sported a full Islamist beard, which was previously forbidden among public employees during the secular democratic influence of Ataturk, the founder of the modern Republic of Turkey.
My Turkish husband watched with me, pointing out details I would have missed on my own. We sat at our dining table in China where I teach Journalism and Writing for CyberSpace at an American-style university. It was almost noon here near Shanghai but only 7 a.m. in Istanbul.
"See, that is a CHP (People's Republican Party) Parliament Member in that gray suit. It is illegal for the police to touch him, but they just shoved him. He comes from Ataturk's own democratic party and is there at the news station to show support for free speech."
Ordinary Istanbul citizens, who live in apartment buildings near Haberturk news station, clapped their hands in peaceful protest of the police actions, as if to say, "Good job, Erdogan. You've really done it this time."
Inside the station, the news team continued their live broadcast until the last possible moment. Police called in a firefighter who cut the steel barrier's lock outside. I saw big metallic shears and bare hands trying to stop them. Then armed hordes entered the building. Police stood guard outside the door as journalists, looking stressed and full of sorrow, walked out in a single line, their press badges dangling around their necks. Other news stations continued covering their downfall, focusing on the faces of the men and women who walked silently past.
People held up banners that read "Free Speech Cannot Be Silenced" as the crowd chanted those words in Turkish and continued clapping. News sources from around the world covered this story and shared these images.
As those reporters walked out of their occupied station, it looked like the end of free journalism in Turkey. I remembered my own experiences in Istanbul, where my husband was tortured at a police station, we were both attacked by police during a peaceful street rally, and I was nearly arrested for a photo I'd published. I covered this news for Digital Journal and turned it into a Kindle book. I walked with them in 2013, and I walk with them now.
"Maybe Erdogan has lost his mind through his lust for absolute control. Maybe the effects of chemotherapy from his cancer—that he tries to hide—have affected him," my Turkish husband observed. "In any case, this is a dark day for Turkey."
Lonna Lisa Williams teaches English, Writing for CyberSpace, and Journalism an American-style university in China. She writes books about surviving cancer, travel adventures, Turkey, science fiction, and fantasy. Lonna was a journalist and photographer for a California newspaper, and she regularly contributes news articles and photo essays to “Digital Journal” and “Yahoo.” Follow her blog or find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.