Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The Case for a Coup in Turkey

In July Turkey experienced a failed military coup against the elected government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, leader of the conservative Justice and Development Party (in Turkish, Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi or AKP).  The Turkish government blames the coup on Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish preacher living in exile in the United States whom the government regards as a terrorist. It is demanding his extradition, but the United States has to this point refused to comply without hard evidence connecting Gülen to the coup. In the meantime, the Turkish government has declared a state of emergency and begun suspending, imprisoning, or firing tens of thousands of political opponents, including 9,000 police officers, 21,000 private school teachers, 10,000 soldiers, nearly 3,000 judges, 1,500 university deans, and more than 100 media outlets have been forcibly shuttered. This political purge is an escalation of a pattern of behavior that existed before the coup. For a long time Erdoğan and the AKP have concentrated power, acting against the press and against Turkey’s civil society and eroding Turkey’s secular norms. Those who support Erdoğan tell a story in which an embattled democratically elected president is beset by a would-be junta, but the situation in Turkey is considerably more complicated than that, and there is a strong case that Turkey’s constitution is not up to the task of protecting Turkey’s political system from increasingly unlimited abuse.

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Relax: Turkey and Russia Will Not Go to War

Turkey has shot down a Russian jet that strayed into its airspace. The Turks claim they issued 10 warnings, while the Russians claim they never heard one of them. Over the last few days, many people have speculated on social media that this may lead to World War III. This needlessly stirs up fear–Russia and Turkey will not go to war over something like this. Instead both countries will say bellicose things to stir up support at home while trying to deescalate the situation with relatively muted, token responses. Those claiming otherwise are drastically overestimating Russia’s power and consequently its aggressiveness.

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Evaluating Erdogan

Recently there have been demonstrations against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The demonstrations began because the government was intending to demolish a park in Istanbul (not Constantinople) and replace it with a shopping mall. This relatively pedestrian protest escalated when the Turkish government removed the protesters in a violent police raid. The target of the protests has now expanded from the park to the policies of Erdogan more broadly, specifically the social conservatism of his government and its tendency to give preference to Islam in its legislation. A lot of people in the media in developed states have begun referring to this as a “Turkish Spring”, and the default reaction has been to support the protesters, assuming that they are under governments similar to those that prevailed in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and other such places. The instinct is to view Turkey as just another Middle Eastern country protesting a generically malevolent government. A poor job has been done of evaluating the Turkish situation specifically, of giving the Erdogan government a fair evaluation. Today, I’d like to contribute to rectifying that.

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Erdogan and Zionism

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently said this in a UN address against racism and discrimination:

In addition to indifference vis-à-vis the Muslim countries, we also see harsh, offending, insulting behavior towards Muslims who live in countries other than their own, and this continues to be an unconscionable act that has been ongoing around the world.

We should be striving to better understand the beliefs of others but instead we see that people act based on prejudice and exclude others and despise them. And that is why it is necessary that we must consider — just like Zionism or anti-Semitism or fascism — Islamophobia as a crime against humanity.

This has managed to infuriate, among others, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. So the question of the day is whether Erdogan is correct in characterising Zionism as politically similar to anti-Semitism, fascism, and Islamophobia, or whether, in falsely equating Zionism to these other things, he is himself guilty of anti-Semitism as his critics suggest. Let’s have a look.

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