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Friday, June 10, 2011

Disaster ahead in Turkey

There are elections in Turkey on Sunday, and barring a last minute miracle, they're a disaster in the making. The AKP party seems poised to ride to victory and continue the Islamization of Turkey and the repression of dissent. Barry Rubin explains.
If the regime gets a big enough majority it will rewrite the Turkish constitution. Turkey, as we have known it, a secular democratic state since the 1920s, will no longer exist. Of course, not everything will be obvious and happen overnight, but the repression we have already seen will increase. The courts, the armed forces, and other institutions will be taken over by this Islamist government.

It will be a disaster for Western interests. And coupled with the same thing happening in Egypt, these events will catapult the region back a half-century or more into strife.

Meanwhile, the West snores on. Western media coverage of the Turkish regime is glowing. Yet if one actually looks at what’s happening in the country, reading the Turkish-language media and talking to the many Turks horrified by these developments, the picture is horrifying.

Here is an example of life in contemporary Turkey. The town of Hopa received a visit from Prime Minister Erdogan. Opposition banners are removed by the police. When local people resisted, the police attacked. A retired teacher who had been trying to negotiate with the police died.

Scores of journalists have been arrested and thrown into jail. One-third of the media has been bought up by the regime; much of the rest intimidated. Military officers, college professors, union leaders, activists, and peaceful critics of every description are thrown into jail on trumped up charges and kept there for months, years. The waiting time for a trial during which people are jailed is now three years. Yes, three years without proof of any wrongdoing.

A respected investigative journalist is arrested and accused of terrorism. His crime? Writing a critical book on Fathi Gulen, Turkey’s leading Islamist cleric. All of the copies of the manuscript are confiscated. Gulen controls the police.

Two other journalists are arrested. Their crime? Saying that they were about to publish documentation showing that the government’s claims of conspiracy, used to arrest so many, are bogus. Gareth Jenkins, a serious scholar, has gone through thousands of pages of court documents and shown that the hundreds of people imprisoned have not even been accused of any specific act. I know of a half-dozen journalists fired for daring to criticize the government. There are many more.

How to intimidate the media? Tax officials arrive and take over offices, going through all of the documents trying to find some technicality on which to bring charges. The largest media group in Turkey, the Dogan Group, was told that it owed $2.5 billion in penalties. That is not a typographical error. It is several times the worth of the entire company. The government demanded that they pay the fines first and then if they wanted they could go to court. To provide a partial payment and bank guarantees, the Dogan Group had to sell two newspapers.

People feel that they are watched, wire-tapped, and spied on. Turkey was never a perfect democracy. Yet this atmosphere is closer to that of a country under Communism than the Turkey they have known all their lives.
Read the whole thing.

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At 4:10 PM, Blogger Juniper in the Desert said...

Iran Mark II.


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