— The Erimtan Angle —

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Turkey has now been ruled by Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (or AKP) for many many years. The AKP has effectively ushered in the nation’s post-Kemalist era, with the AKP-led governments doing their urmost to undermine the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and an end to the so-called Kemalist experiment commonly referred to as “Turkish Secularism“.1 And since 2014, Erdoğan has been acting as the first popularly elected President of the Republic (hence, I like to refer to him now as the Prez).Traditionally, the post of the president was primarily symbolic in nature, with the incumbent acting as the figurehead of the state while the nation was governed by the Prime Minister and his cabinet in Parliament (or TBMM). But Tayyip Erdoğan’s has always set his sights higher and wider, and as I wrote in 2014, Erdoğan’s main goal was always “to re-introduce an overt Islamic discourse into the country’s public and political life, a situation which is all but normal in a country like Egypt, even if ruled by somebody like [General-now-President] Sisi. Turkey’s original 1924 Constitution also contained the phrase that that ‘Islam’ constitutes the ‘religion of the state’ (Article 2), which was subsequently removed four years later and might very well be set to return now that the AKP is ruling the land” for the foreseeable future.2 On a more personal level though, since 2010, rumours have been going round the nation that the ruling party then still headed by Erdoğan himself intended to alter Turkey’s political order from a parliamentary system to a presidential one, similar to the situation in neighbouring Russia or in the faraway United States. And now, at the outset of the calendar year 2017, the TBMM is in the process of accepting a series of constitiutional amendments paving the way for a popular referedum that would rubber-stamp a presidential system and turn the erstwhile denizen of the impoverished neighbourhood of Kasımpaşa into the nation’s all-powerful strongman, holding all the reins of power and wielding absolute authority. Or, as I wrote in the summer of 2014: “In the end, it is my contention that Erdogan wants to become another Atatürk for the Turkish nation. Whereas the first President (1923-38) ushered his fellow-Turks into the modern world, arguably shedding any excessive traits of their Islamic persuasion in the process, Erdogan wants to be the President of the Republic starting 2014 to complete this task by means of reviving the Turks’ ties to their Muslim creed and uniting all the ethnic groups and sub-groups living on Anatolian soil under the banner of Islam”.3

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As I posted some time ago: “On 10 January 2017 the Turkish press reported that Turkey’s parliament [or TBMM] . . . formally launch[ed] debates on a constitutional amendment package that will usher in a powerful presidential system after lawmakers from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) passed a motion through parliament. The initial vote in parliament was to decide whether to proceed with a debate on 18 articles of the constitutional amendment package, which was drafted by the AKP and MHP‘“.And now the first round of negotiations about the [constitutional] changes including the presidential system passed at Turkish Parliament and protests against these changes immediately started. People who say “We stand up against dictatorship were taking the action to stand up at 4:00 pm in their homes, offices, schools, cafes, streets across Turkey . . . [The] We stand up against dictatorship action was performed with the participation of hundreds of people from offices to cafes, houses to streets. The action, spread from social media to Street, will continue for 3 days”.5

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These protest actions are an obvious reference to the Gezi protests of the summer months of 2013: “Erdem Gunduz is a legend. And all he had to do to earn this status was to stand completely still. Gunduz, a performance artist and left-Kemalist, began to stand still in Taksim Square on Monday [, 17 June 2013] at 6pm local time. He stood, facing the Ataturk cultural centre, until 2am. It was a silent, stubborn and dignified protest against the brutality of the police response to demonstrators, which had culminated in a sinister weekend assault whose targets included medics and staff who treated the wounded. Indeed, the ministry of health went so far as to threaten to withdraw the licences of medical personnel who treated protesters injured by police”.6

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The protests taking place now have been announced as follows: On January 17 at 5:00 pm, on January 18 at 6:00 pm, thousands of people will take theaction to stand up against the presidential system . . . In Ankara, hundreds of people including CHP deputies took the stance to stand up at 4:00 pm. Deputies sitting in cafes on Kızılay Konur Street invited everyone to stand up. After the stand up action carried out by the applause, they walked through Konur Sokak. Deputies invited everyone to participate in the action to take for 3 days. Action to stand up took place in several points of Ankara, the road was closed to traffic“.7

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1. C. Erimtan, “Secularism, beer and bikinis” Hürriyet Daily News (03 Oct 2011). http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/default.aspx?pageid=438&n=secularism-beer-and-bikinis-2011-03-09.

2 C. Erimtan, “The Gezi anniversary and Turkey’s future under President Erdogan” RT Op-Edge (04 June 2014). https://www.rt.com/op-edge/163620-turkey-future-gezi-anniversary/.

C. Erimtan, “The Gezi anniversary and Turkey’s future under President Erdogan”

4 “Turkey’s New Constitution: Forging an Absolute Presidency”The Erimtan Angle (13 Jan 2017). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/turkeys-new-constitution-forging-an-absolute-presidency/.

5 “New Protests Launched in Turkey, called: ‘No to dictatorship’ standing at home, at work, on streets” Washington Hatti (16 Jan 2017). http://washingtonhatti.com/2017/01/16/new-protests-launched-in-turkey-called-no-to-dictatorship-standing-at-home-at-work-on-streets/.

Richard Seymour, “Turkey’s ‘standing man’ shows how passive resistance can shake a state”The Guardian (18 June 2013). https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jun/18/turkey-standing-man.

7 “New Protests Launched in Turkey, called: ‘No to dictatorship’ standing at home, at work, on streets”.

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On 10 January 2017 the Turkish press reported that “Turkey’s parliament [or TBMM] will formally launch debates on a constitutional amendment package that will usher in a powerful presidential system after lawmakers from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) passed a motion through parliament. The initial vote in parliament was to decide whether to proceed with a debate on 18 articles of the constitutional amendment package, which was drafted by the AKP and MHP. After lengthy and tense arguments inside and outside parliament, 338 lawmakers voted in favor of the motion while 134 voted against. Two lawmakers abstained and five cast blank votes in a secret ballot. Some 480 lawmakers in the 550-seat parliament were present for the vote. During the vote, Health Minister Recep Akdağ voted in the open in violation of parliamentary bylaws. ‘I’m committing a crime; what’s it to you? Am I going to ask you?’ he is heard saying on a video taken by an opposition MP. During the discussions, PM Binali Yıldırım said the regulations outlined in the offer would solve the problems that Turkey will face in the future . . . Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Deniz Baykal criticized the entire bill, saying the content of the charter was not known well by the public and that the charter gave the impression that it was being prepared in a haste”.[1]

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[1] “AKP, MHP win 1st vote in debate for presidency” Hürriyet Daily News (10 Jan 2017). http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-parliament-approves-launching-of-constitution-talks-by-338-votes.aspx?pageID=238&nID=108344&NewsCatID=338. .

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The quite renowned periodical Newsweek has now published an interesting piece predicting how business interests and concomitant profits appear set to dominate U.S. foreign (as well as domestic) policy under the aegis of Donald J. Trump . . . the not-so surprise winner of the recent U.S. presidential elections. The journalist Kurt Eichenwald namely posits that “Donald Trump hasn’t been sworn in yet, but he is already making decisions and issuing statements to world leaders that radically depart from American foreign policy, all to the benefit of his family’s corporate empire”.[2]  Eichenwald details how Trump’s business deals with the Philippines and Taiwan could very well compromise U.S. foreign policy, but most ominous seems his assertion that the “conflicts between the commercial interests of the Trump family and U.S. foreign policy extend beyond the many financial benefits for the next president and his children. Already, there is a situation in which the president of the United States could be blackmailed by a foreign power through pressure related to his family’s business entanglements”.[3]  Specifically, Eichenwald is here thinking about Turkey . . . and Turkey’s strongman, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (aka the Prez) and his Justice and Develpoment Party (or AKP).

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Eichenwald explains in the following manner: in “2008, the Trump Organization struck a multimillion-dollar branding deal with the Dogan Group, a large corporation named after its influential family, for a two-tower complex in Istanbul. In 2012, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan presided over the opening ceremonies and met with Trump. But in June of this year, Erdogan called for the Trump name to be removed from the complex because of his anti-Muslim rhetoric; the Turkish president also said presiding over the dedication had been a terrible mistake. Erdogan later told associates he intended to impede America’s use of a critical Air Force base in Turkey should Trump win the presidency, a Middle Eastern financier with contacts inside the Turkish government told Newsweek. The financier spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid jeopardizing relations with his official contacts. In July, members of the Turkish military attempted a coup. Erdogan crushed the plotters, and his government has arrested more than 36,000 suspected participants and shut down 17 media outlets. The primary culprit, Erdogan declared almost immediately, was Fethullah Gülen, a 77-year-old Muslim spiritual leader who has lived in Pennsylvania’s Poconos region for many years. Erdogan demanded that the Obama administration extradite Gülen to face charges related to the coup”.[4]  But during his phone call, the Drumpf made the tactical error or heaping praise on Aydın Doğan’s son-in-law, Mehmet Ali Yalcındağ.

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Eichenwald goes on to say that “[a]ccording to [a] Middle Eastern financier with contacts in the Erdogan administration, Trump’s casual praise of a member of the Dogan family prompted Erdogan to believe this relationship might give him leverage over the president-elect. In the past, Erdogan has placed enormous pressure on the Dogan Group, which owns media operations that have been critical of him, by imposing a $2.5 billion tax fine and calling for supporters to boycott its newspapers and television stations. Then, just weeks after hearing Trump’s kind words about his Dogan business partner, Erdogan lashed out at the Turkish company again. On December 1, authorities detained Barbaros [Muratoğlu], a 28-year veteran of Dogan who was the company’s representative to Ankara. His alleged crime? Maintaining links to the movement led by Gülen, thus connecting the Dogan executive to the attempted coup. In response, Dogan shares fell 8.6 percent. (The purported evidence against [Muratoğlu]: public accusations from an editor at a newspaper owned by a company that competes with Dogan.) Once again, follow the dominoes as they tip over. Erdogan is frustrated in his efforts to grab Gülen; Trump praises a Turkish executive who works with his business partner there, Dogan. A few weeks later, a senior Dogan executive is detained on threadbare allegations. If Erdogan’s government puts more pressure on the company that’s paying millions of dollars to Trump and his children, revenue flowing from the tower complex in Istanbul could be cut off. That means Erdogan has leverage with Trump, who will soon have the power to get Gülen extradited. The financier with contacts in the Turkish government explained the dynamic to Newsweek: “Erdogan has something he believes Trump wants, and Trump has someone Erdogan desperately wants.” . . . With U.S. security and foreign policy already jeopardized by the president-elect’s conflicts, a few horrifying instances of potential corruption and abuse of power seem quaint by comparison”.[5]

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[2] Kurt Eichenwald, “How Donald Trump’s Business Ties Are Already Jeopardizing U.S. Interest” Newsweek (13 Dec 2016). http://europe.newsweek.com/donald-trump-foreign-business-deals-jeopardize-us-531140?rm=eu.

[3] Kurt Eichenwald, “How Donald Trump’s Business Ties Are Already Jeopardizing U.S. Interest”.

[4] Kurt Eichenwald, “How Donald Trump’s Business Ties Are Already Jeopardizing U.S. Interest”.

[5] Kurt Eichenwald, “How Donald Trump’s Business Ties Are Already Jeopardizing U.S. Interest”.

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The Russian news agency TASS reported that Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russia’s Vladimir Putin engaged in a telephone conversation on Wednesday, 14 December 2016. The Kremlin issued the following press release: “The two heads of state continued the exchange of opinions on the Syrian problem. Specifically, they discussed the situation in Aleppo. They made emphasis on the importance of a buildup of joint efforts to improve the humanitarian situation and to give a start to a political process in Syria in practical terms. In the wake of a large terrorist attack committed in Istanbul on December 10 that resulted in numerous casualties, the Russian president once again expressed heart-felt condolences to the leadership and people of Turkey. The two sides reaffirmed readiness for further joint actions to neutralize the terrorist threat in the Middle Eastern region”.[1]

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This telephonic rapprochement between Russia and Turkey appears highly significant in view of the fact that the interaction took place against the backdrop of the “liberation” of the Syrian city of Aleppo – the city’s liberation from the clutches of Jihadi terrorists hell bent on the removal of Bashar al-Assad, Jihadi terrorist enjoying the overt and covert support of AKP-led Ankara. Turkey’s close ties to Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra are long-standing and well-documented. On 15 December 2016, the Writer and Contributor at 21st Century Wire Vanessa Beeley published the following on her facebook page: “The Old City. #Aleppo. The long walk from the upturned vehicles that marked the dividing lines between SAA soldiers and Nusra terrorist fighters, literally fighting from next door and facing houses. Walking towards the battle scarred Umayyed Mosque that less than 24 hours previously had still harboured Nusra snipers. We were also told that terrorists were still sheltering in the basements of one of the surrounding buildings during our walk..the SAA soldiers were dispatched to find them. Apologies for the wobbly footage. I was trying to pick my way through the debris from the fierce street battles to liberate this ancient and culturally iconic Old City from the Nusra Front desecration and destruction of this jewel of history. Thank you to Fares Shehabi for organising everything for us. It was an incredibly poignant moment to enter the Mosque past the destroyed Minaret, strewn with Nusra black flags and Ahrar Al Sham pennants. It is hard to imagine the ferocity of the fighting to regain Syria’s territory but East Aleppo is now freed from its NATO and Gulf state terrorist infestation, thanks to the SAA and its allies”.[2]

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[1] “Putin, Erdogan discuss Syria, situation in Aleppo ― Kremlin” TASS (14 Dec 2016). http://tass.com/politics/919457.

[2] Vanessa Beeley on facebook (15 Dec 2016). https://www.facebook.com/vanessa.beeley?fref=ts.

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‘Attila The Stockbroker performs “Russians in the DHSS”, “Asylum Seeking Daleks” and “Attila The Stockbroker Cleans Up the City” live at the Cherry Red Records 30th Anniversary Party at Dingwalls London. Uploaded on 14 Jan 2009’.

On his Twitter account, the Stockbroker posted the following: “’Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people’ (Adrian Mitchell) I write poetry for people who don’t like poetry. BHAFC, JezWeCan!”.[1]

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[1]attilathestockbrokerTwitter. https://twitter.com/atilatstokbroka?lang=en.

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‘On this episode of The Geopolitical Report, we look at Donald Trump and the alt-right movement and the attempt by the establishment to portray them as dangerous fascists. Behind the sensationalistic and misleading headlines designed to frighten the American people and widen the political divide, there is another story: how the United States has consistently supported, enabled, and coddled real fascists in Europe under Operation Gladio and backing fascist dictators in Latin America. We also examine the fascist and authoritarian character of the corporate oligarchy. Published on 12 Dec 2016’.

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‘Investigative journalist Will Potter is the only reporter who has been inside a Communications Management Unit, or CMU, within a US prison. These units were opened secretly, and radically alter how prisoners are treated — even preventing them from hugging their children. Potter, a TED Fellow, shows us who is imprisoned here, and how the government is trying to keep them hidden. “The message was clear,” he says. “Don’t talk about this place.” Published on 9 Nov 2015’.

‘Very little is known about the units, which were introduced a decade ago during the George W. Bush administration’s launch of the “war on terror.” It is estimated that about 70 people are being held in CMU units in two federal penitentiaries – in Terre Haute, Indiana and Marion, Illinois. They were created to isolate and segregate certain prisoners from the general prison population, and to restrict and monitor communications between inmates and the outside world. Once assigned to the CMUs, prisoners are banned from any physical contact with friends or family, and phone calls and letters are restricted too . . . Inmates describe visits, phone calls, and letters they receive as “the flecks of light in the darkness that is prison,” according to [Will] Potter. He said the Prison Bureau acknowledges how important those community and family contacts are to inmate wellbeing and quality of life, and also for their adjustment once they are released’.[1]

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[1] “Little Guantanamos’: Super-secret US prison units axe communications for inmates” RT (2015). https://www.rt.com/usa/319325-little-guantanamo-secret-us-prisons/. “