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Archive for the ‘Europe’ Category

Turkey: Post-Referendum Blues

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Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (aka the Prez) and his AKP henchmen rapidly declared victory in last Sunday’s referendum vote (16 April 2017), with only the slimmest of margins (51.3%). Subsequently, te CHP MP Selin Sayek Böke went on live television to make some remarkable statements: “Have no doubts that we are going to use all of our democratic rights in this regard. And, when we say ‘all rights’, this includes both continuing to work in the parliament or to withdraw from it! . . . What is stolen is the will of the people. There is a perception operation carried out with hurried up balcony speeches. We do not recognize this declared result of the referendum and we are not going to recognize it . . . This referendum must be renewed . . We are not going surrender to this fait accompli”.i

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CNN’s Laura Smith-Spark, for her part, adds that “Turkey’s top electoral board [or YSK] is considering objections Wednesday [, 19 April 2017] to the way the country’s referendum was run, according to Turkey’s semi-official Anadolu news agency . . . A narrow majority of voters in Sunday’s referendum backed the 18-article constitutional reform package, which will transform the country’s parliamentary system into a powerful executive presidency”.ii But, it remains to be seen whether the Prez and his AKP henchmen will pay much heed to the opposition and Sadi Güven‘s YSK . . . After all, the most powerful man in the world has already congratuled him over the phone as well as his best buddies from Hamas and Ahrar al-Sham.

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Turkey’s AKP has long been allied to the Palestinian reistance movement Hamas. And lest you’d be wondering about the latter and their intentions: ‘the group itself posits that “The Islamic Movement of Free Men of the Levant [or Ahrar al-Sham] is an Islamist, reformist, innovative and comprehensive movement. It is integrated with the Islamic Front and is a comprehensive and Islamic military, political and social formation. It aims to completely overthrow the Assad regime in Syria and build an Islamic state whose only sovereign, reference, ruler, direction, and individual, societal and nationwide unifier is Allah Almighty’s Sharia (law)”’.iii

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And there are those who would argue that the AKP’s long-term strategy goals for Turkey and its environs are remarkably similar to those entertained by Ahrar al-Sham for Syria . . .

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And then there is the other Islamic ally of the Prez and his AKP: “Talaat Fahmi, spokesman of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency that Turkey gave a lesson in democracy to the world”.iv

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i “Turkey’s main opposition party CHP signals consideration of withdrawal from parliament”BirGün (19 April 2017). http://www.birgun.net/haber-detay/turkey-s-main-opposition-party-chp-signals-consideration-of-withdrawal-from-parliament-156139.html.

ii Laura Smith-Spark, “Turkey referendum: Electoral body hears objections” CNN (19 April 2017). http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/19/europe/turkey-referendum/.

iii “AKP Turkey’s Favourite Terrorists in Syria: Ahrar al-Sham” The Erimtan Angle (12 Feb 2017). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/akp-turkeys-favourite-terrorrists-in-syria-ahrar-al-sham/.

iv “Islamic world congratulates Turkey – from Hamas to Ahrar al-Sham” KomNews (19 April 2017). https://komnews.org/islamic-world-congratulates-turkey-hamas-ahrar-al-sham/.

From the End of History to the End of Democracy

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When the Cold War was at a supposed end and the West was in a triumphant mood, the American philosopher Francis Fukuyama penned the book The End of History and the Last Man (1992). As such, a book carrying such an hyperbolic title should have been met with derision but was instead celebrated across the world. Fukuyama’s thesis was couched on “a belief that, after the fall of communism, free-market liberal democracy had won out and would become the world’s final form of human government”, as articulated by the journalist Ishaan Tharoor.1 The book starts out as follows: “[t]he distant origins of the present volume lie in an article entitled ‘The End of History?’ which I wrote for the journal The National Interest in the summer of 1989. In it, I argued that a remarkable consensus concerning the legitimacy of liberal democracy as a system of government had emerged throughout the world over the past few years, as it conquered rival ideologies like hereditary monarchy, fascism, and most recently communism. More than that, however, I argued that liberal democracy may constitute the ‘end point of mankind’s ideological evolution’ and the ‘final form of human government,’ and as such constituted the ‘end of history.’ That is, while earlier forms of government were characterised by grave defects and irrationalities that led to their eventual collapse, liberal democracy was arguably free from such fundamental internal contradictions. This was not to say that today’s stable democracies, like the United States, France, or Switzerland, were not without injustice or serious social problems. But these problems were ones of incomplete implementation of the twin principles of liberty and equality on which modern democracy is founded, rather than of flaws in the principles themselves. While some present-day countries might fail to achieve stable liberal democracy, and others might lapse back into other, more primitive forms of rule like theocracy or military dictatorship, the ideal of liberal democracy could not be improved on”.2

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Fukuyama’s words are literally bathing in a pool of hybris and American Optimism and Exceptionalism . . . a philosophy book acting like a cheerleader for the ‘Greatest Nation on Earth’. The social scientist Selcen Öner wrote a critique of the book, analysing the thesis and its ramifications, starting off by stating that “[t]he victory of the West and Western idea is evident firstly with the collapse of systematic alternatives to Western liberalism. [Fukuyama] states that, in the past decade, there have been important changes in the intellectual climate of the world’s two largest communist countries (Russia, China) and reform movements have begun in both. Also it can be seen in the spread of consumerist Western culture. As a result of these indications, he reaches to his main idea: ‘What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War or the passing of a particular period of post-war history; that is the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.’ But as we see from the beginning, [Fukuyama] states his arguments without a strong basis [in fact-based reality] and with a lack of evidence. After expressing his main argument, he makes some references to Marx, Hegel and Kojeve. He says that his main concept ‘the end of history’, is not an original concept. This concept was firstly used by Hegel. According to Hegel, history is a dialectical process, with a beginning, a middle and an end. On the other hand, Marx, believes that, the direction of historical development was a purposeful one and would come to an end with the achievement of a communist Utopia that would finally resolve all prior contradiction”.3

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Öner concludes that Fukuyama “tried to make a long-term civilizational analysis, but with only analysing short-term indicators. So he [should have rather used] the term ‘civilizational transformation’, instead of ‘end of history’. The era which was tried to be analyzed and defined by Fukuyama was only one of the turning points in the world history. As we can see . . . history is within an ongoing transformation process which needs further analysis. Consequently we can say that, Fukuyama wanted to give a name to the situation after the collapse of [C]ommunism. He [coined] the [phrase] ‘the end of history’, with one-dimensional, ethno-centric perspective. He was too quick to claim such an assertive thesis. Probably he did this to legitimize and formulate the theoretical framework of the New World Order. Because to create a new world order, the old one must have an end. To legitimize US’s leader role, he uses Hegel. Because he also ends history with the victory of one state. To show US’s ever lasting victory, he had to create a very optimistic perspective. His main contribution is, after his article [and subsequent book]’s [publication] there has been an acceleration in critiques about the post cold war world”.4

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And now, the philosophical cheerleader of American Optimism and Exceptionalism has apparently had a brush with reality, as he told Ishaan Tharoor during a telephone interview that “[t]wenty five years ago, I didn’t have a sense or a theory about how democracies can go backward,” adding insightfully, “[a]nd I think they clearly can”.5 In the next instance, Fukuyama turns to the current U.S. President, Donald J. Trump (aka the Drumpf),6 stating apparently in a somewhat dejected voice: “I have honestly never encountered anyone in political life who[m] I thought had a less suitable personality to be president . . . Trump is so thin-skinned and insecure that he takes any kind of criticism or attack personally and then hits back“.7 Taking developments in Europe and beyond into consideration, Fukuyama muses philosophically that “We don’t know how it’s all going to play out“.8 It now seems that the the philosophical cheerleader of American Optimism and Exceptionalism has now become resigned that his earlier predictive utterings turned out to be fallacious . . . in fact, in his famous book published more than two decades ago now, Fukuyama did say that “this very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again”.9

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1 Ishaan Tharoor, “The man who declared the ‘end of history’ fears for democracy’s future” Washington Post (09 Feb 2017). https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/02/09/the-man-who-declared-the-end-of-history-fears-for-democracys-future/?utm_term=.dd78f5d1fa73.

Francis Fukuyama, “By Way of an Introduction” The End of History and the Last Man. https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/us/fukuyama.htm.

3 Selcen Öner , “A BRIEF ANALYSIS OF FUKUYAMA’S THESIS “THE END OF HISTORY?” Istanbul Journal of Sociological Studies, 27 (2003). www.journals.istanbul.edu.tr/iusoskon/article/download/1023005867/1023005391.

4 Selcen Öner , “A BRIEF ANALYSIS OF FUKUYAMA’S THESIS “THE END OF HISTORY?” .

5 Ishaan Tharoor, “The man who declared the ‘end of history’ fears for democracy’s future”.

6 “Make Donald Drumpf Again, #2” The Erimtan Angle (08 March 2016). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/make-donald-drumpf-again-2/.

7 Ishaan Tharoor, “The man who declared the ‘end of history’ fears for democracy’s future”.

Ishaan Tharoor, “The man who declared the ‘end of history’ fears for democracy’s future”.

9 Ishaan Tharoor, “The man who declared the ‘end of history’ fears for democracy’s future”.

Forging an Absolute Presidency: Moving towards a Referendum

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The whole world at present is experiencing a shift towards authoritarianism, with Donald Trump’s formal inauguration as the 45th U.S. President arguably acting as an ominous portent of things to come. Trump, or the Drumpf, as I like to call him in reference to his “grandfather Friedrich Drumpf [who] came to the United States in 1885”,has a clear counterpart in the figure of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s first popularly elected President, whom I like to refer to as the Prez.Since about the year 2010, Erdoğan has been arguing that Turkey’s parliamentary system should be replaced by a presidential one and the day following the Drumpf’s inauguration, on Saturday, 21 January 2017, he seems to have overcome yet another hurdle blocking the way: Turkey’s “parliament voted 339-142 to make the president the head of the executive and abolish the job of prime minister, triggering a referendum on the proposal and putting Erdogan one step away from building a power center unrivaled since the days of parliamentary founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. In Turkey’s system, amendments to the constitution need to be approved by 367 of 550 members to become law. Proposals that receive between 330 and 367 votes can be referred to a plebescite”.3

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In the wake of this momentous parliamentary vote, Tayyip Erdoğan gave another televised speech: “It’s still early to call a referendum date, we will share it when we pick up some momentum . . . We see that our people favour a constitutional referendum and a president with party ties. We wouldn’t attempt this otherwise”.Ever since he emerged on Turkey’s political scene in the early 1990s, it has been Erdoğan‘s fervent desire to stifle and eventually obliterate the seeming secularization of society and the personality cult surrounding the figure of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. And his favoured line of reasoning in this respect has always been referencing the fact that the Turkish population-at-large had been largely left untouched by Atatürk‘s reforms that had transformed the religion of Islam into the state’s obedient handmaiden via the Directorate of Religious Affairs (or Diyanet, in Turkish) and propagated a lenient and permissive attititude towards the Prophet’s many rules, regulations and restrictions. As I wrote in 2014, “Tayyip Erdogan is . . . determined to re-introduce an overt Islamic discourse into the country’s public and political life . . . 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” and Tayyip Erdogan is set to become the nation’s first Absolute President. After all, “Erdogan also appears determined to fashion his own personality cult”.His ultimate goal thus appears to be replacing the figure of Atatürk in the hearts and minds of the Turkish citizenry.

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Bloomberg’s Hacaoglu and Kozok explain that “even before Saturday’s vote, Erdogan had already arrogated to himself powers unusual for his ceremonial post [of President of the Republic]. He’s led sessions of the policy-making cabinet, and forced out the previous prime minister, [his erstwhile advisor and mentor] Ahmet Davutoglu, after he tried to assert his authority as head of the executive branch. While the AK Party [or AKP] lacks enough seats to carry parliament alone, the package was approved with backing from the nationalist opposition MHP. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Jan. 17 that his party was making the changes together with the nationalist MHP . . . If the legislative package is approved in a referendum, Erdogan’s ties to the ruling AK Party will be immediately restored while most of the measures, including powers granted to Erdogan to call elections or declare a state of emergency, will go into effect when the presidential and parliamentary elections are held Nov. 3, 2019. The legislative package, meanwhile, limits the parliament’s oversight over the executive branch and allows the president’s office to issue decrees with the force of law . . . Bulent Turan, a [parliamentary] whip from the Islamist-rooted [AKP], which Erdogan co-founded, rejected opposition claims that the amendments would create an elected dictatorship, saying they sought to allow for greater government oversight and to speed up decision making”.Turan also told the Anadolu Ajansı that parliament has fulfilled its task. Now it’s the people’s turn. Whatever decision our people take, we will all accept that decision“.7

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In contrast, the scholar of constitutional law Prof. Dr. İbrahim Özden Kaboğlu opines matter-of-factly that the proposed amendment effectively “phases out the parliament and takes power away from the hands of the government. The president moves to the center of executive power, reshaping the country’s regime around one man”.8

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1 “Make Donald Drumpf Again, #2” The Erimtan Angle (08 March 2016). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/make-donald-drumpf-again-2/.

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/.

3 Selcan Hacaoglu and Firat Kozok, “Turkey Parliament Triggers Referendum on Presidential System” Bloomberg (21 Jan 2017). https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-21/turkey-parliament-triggers-referendum-on-presidential-system-iy6kd8n6.

4 Selcan Hacaoglu and Firat Kozok, “Turkey Parliament Triggers Referendum on Presidential System”.

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

6 Selcan Hacaoglu and Firat Kozok, “Turkey Parliament Triggers Referendum on Presidential System”.

7 Hatice Özdemir, “AK Parti Grup Başkanvekili Turan: Milletimiz ne karar verirse hepimiz o karara razı olacağız”AA (21 Jan 2017). http://aa.com.tr/tr/politika/ak-parti-grup-baskanvekili-turan-milletimiz-ne-karar-verirse-hepimiz-o-karara-razi-olacagiz/732157.

8  Selcan Hacaoglu and Firat Kozok, “Turkey Parliament Triggers Referendum on Presidential System”.

Forging an Absolute Presidency: Standing Protests across Turkey

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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”.

Turkey’s New Constitution: Forging an Absolute Presidency

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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. .

The Russians are Running the DHSS

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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.

Establishing the New Turkey: Tayyip’s Dream

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The momentous events of 15 July 2016 have shaken the Turkish nation to its core, in the process even awakening hitherto unknown reserves of popular courage and unquestioning obedience. The official narrative has it that the people of Turkey, supported by their political leadership (government as well as opposition), resisted the country’s military and so thwarted a coup that would have spelled the end of Tayyip Erdoğan’s political career and life.[1]  And now, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (aka the Prez) and his ruling Justice and Development Party (or AKP, led by the hapless PM Binali Yıldırım) have emerged stronger than ever, and Turkey will never be the same again . . .

Terror Distractions and Other Threats

A little more than a month later, a terror attack occurred that was to have serious consequences in the weeks and months to come: “[o]n August 20, 2016, ISIS carried out a suicide attack in Gaziantep, Turkey targeting a Kurdish neighborhood wedding ceremony killing fifty‐one people and wounding sixty‐nine others.” And, as always seems to happen in Turkey Tayyip Erdoğan personally entered the controversy, this time by means of blaming a child suicide bomber for the attack (August 21), only to have his proxy deny this claim subsequently. Speaking to reporters in Ankara, the hapless PM stated namely that “[w]e do not have a clue about who the perpetrators behind the attack were. Early information on who did the attack, in what organization’s name, is unfortunately not right.” In other words, this terror attack is now quite cosily fulfilling the function of a distraction, with the news media happily participating in the frenzy. Yet another factor that always seems to occur in Turkey whenever the Caliph and his Merry Men (aka the IS or ISIS/ISIL) are involved, “[n]o group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.” The weekly news magazine Newsweek‘s Jack Moore muses that “ISIS rarely claims attacks in Turkey, which analysts speculate to be because of its use of Turkey as a transit country to get foreign fighters into its self-proclaimed caliphate in Syria.”

But Moore’s statement seems rather weak and unconvincing. The Turkish state under the AKP has namely had warm relations with many, if not all, Islamist factions across the border in Syria. But, last year the “suicide blast in the Turkish border town of Suruç” (20 July 2015) was then the first effective spill-over of violence from the Syrian theatre into Turkish territory.[2]  That particular “attack was targeted at a meeting organized by the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations (SGDF), bringing together young people from all around the country planning to travel across the border in order to offer aid and support for the re-building of the recently liberated Kurdish town of Kobanê.” The terror attack was thus specifically aimed at Turkey’s Kurdish minority, its sympathizers and political representation. Even though AKP-led Turkey was quick to blame ISIS or the Islamic State for the outrage, responsibility for the attack was never claimed and this suicide blast effectively brought an end to the Kurdish Peace Process. Following this first foray into Turkish territory many more suicide attacks followed, particularly in Ankara and Istanbul — attacks which the government was always keen to blame on the Caliph and his Merry Men, though following renewed hostilities with the country’s Kurds, the name PKK also managed to pop up occasionally. The parallels between the Suruç and Gaziantep attacks appear striking, the latter taking place exactly a year-and-a-month after the former. And in both cases, the official narrative has it that Islamist terrorists hailing from across the border were targeting Turkey’s Kurds . . . Last year, I wondered whether “the Suruç suicide bombing [was] a false flag attack?? [Whether] the Turkish Army [would] now enter Syria to fight the IS and the Assad regime??” . . . In the end, Turkey’s Armed Forces (or TSK in acronymized Turkish) stayed put and, according to Russia, Turkey traded freely with the Islamic State, importing stolen oil and reaping huge profits. The relations between the Prez, the Caliph and the Kurds seem most tangled up. Or is AKP-led Turkey merely using the name ISIS (or ISIL or the IS or DAESH, the Arabic acronym now also popularly used by Turkish politicians and media alike) to deflect attention from those really responsible for inflicting grave harm on the Turkish Kurds??  And this question would then lead us to ask who is hiding behind this government-sponsored obfuscation . . . For one thing, the local Kurds seem rather clear about the matter: following the recent Gaziantep suicide attack, “AKP members were protested and expelled from the funeral of 42 people that had been massacred in [Gazi]Antep,” as reported by the Kurdish news agency Ajansa Nûçeyan a Firatê (ANF), even adding that the massacre was perpetrated by “ISIS gangs supported by the AKP.”[3]

A Policy of Sunnification or Tayyip’s Dream

It really looks like the Prez and the current hapless PM Yıldırım are keen to insinuate that the Republic of Turkey is under constant threat from either foreign terrorists, Kurdish separatists or, as recently witnessed, from apparently U.S.-directed “traitors,” as the coup-plotters have been termed now. And these threats are all sneakily used to deflect attention from the fact that Tayyip Erdoğan is in the process of establishing a new land on the Anatolian peninsula, a New Turkey (as the AKP now self-assuredly also boasts), a new country completely at odds with the state founded by Mustafa Kemal [Atatürk] in 1923. From late 2013 onwards, I have been using the term “policy of Sunnification” to describe the AKP’s domestic agenda.[4]  In fact, Turkey’s affairs next door in Syria are but a continuation and sounding-board of this self-same policy, as the Assad regime in Damascus is supposedly led by an Alawite clan, though in reality, the Syrian government appears to be much more inclusive than that, counting its fair share of ethnic and religious minorities among its members, in addition to a number of Sunni Muslims.[5]  Arguably, a circumstance most displeasing to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the self-proclaimed champion of Sunni Islam, arguably forever dreaming of a revived Islamic Turkey emboldened by righteous and obedient believer-citizens pledging allegiance to the Prophet and his representative on earth, Tayyip Erdoğan. After all, as long ago as 20 January 2004 the then- U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman penned a confidential report for his masters in Washington, D.C. describing Erdoğan as “a natural politician,” possessing an “unbridled ambition stemming from the belief God has anointed him to lead Turkey.”[6]

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At the outset of his political career, on 22 November 1994, to be precise, when he was Mayor of Istanbul the then 40-year old Erdoğan participated in a television programme via the telephone and proclaimed in a loud and clear tone of voice, “alḥamdulillāh [or praise be to God or Allah], I am a Muslim . . . alḥamdulillāh, I am a proponent of the Shariah.”[7]   As a result, it should not come as a far-fetched idea to assume that the ambitious (yet also apparently equally avaricious)  Tayyip Erdoğan would someday like to overthrow the Kemalist consensus and even venture to re-introduce the Shariah in Turkey. Some have argued that the AKP’s long-term goal for the year 2023, the centenary of the Republic’s foundation, has always been to “transform the nation state Turkey into an Anatolian federation of Muslim ethnicities, possibly linked to a revived caliphate” and a re-introduced Shariah legal system . . . The botched military coup of 15 July came as a “gift from God [or Allah],” offering the opportunity to effectively emasculate, if not extinguish, the opposition and other unwanted adversaries. That fateful night, when the Prez used his FaceTime interview on CNN Türk to call upon the people to take to the streets, they responded in huge numbers filling the main squares of Istanbul, Izmir, and Ankara imbued with a religious zeal that, according to some, seemed to mirror the fanaticism displayed by the Caliph’s suicide commandos (ISIS/ISIL or IS) and other religiously inspired agitators. The masses took to the streets, proclaiming their allegiance to the Prophet and his cause by means of shouting “God is great” (or ‘Allahu Akbar’) over and again. The political scientist Professor Alpaslan Özerdem, present in Ankara during the coup attempt, relates that, following Erdoğan’s FaceTime words of encouragement, “members of the public stormed the state TV studios in Ankara, and the same broadcaster who read out the coup statement only a few hours before announced that the state TV had been brought back under civilian control. However, an army unit then stormed the studios of CNN Türk just after 3.30am, and the Turkish public were treated to the bizarre spectacle of a military coup taking over a TV broadcast and journalists fighting back. Half an hour later, the public stormed the CNN building too, chanting ‘Allahu Akbar.’ A man entered the studio itself from the fire escape and asked his fellow protesters to join him there, apparently without realising that all cameras in the studio were broadcasting live – instantly making him something of an unwitting national icon.”[8]

The news agency Reuters adds that “[m]ore than 290 people were killed in the violence, 104 of them coup supporters, the rest largely civilians and police officers.” And that means that about 186 Turkish individuals have now joined the ranks of martyrs, arguably residing in heaven in clear reciprocal sight of Allah. The AKP-led government after all ensured that Turkish civilians-perishing-for-the-cause-of-Turkey would join their military martyr brethren: “as explained by Erdoğan himself (March 2012): now ‘[w]e are including civilians who died in terror events into the category of martyrs. Civilians who become invalid or die by reason of a terror event and their relatives will receive compensation and a monthly allowance’. In this way, the Turkish state takes on the responsibility to take care of those who have died (or suffered) for the cause of the fatherland, which has now become equal to the cause of God.”[9]  In this way, the Prez encouraged his followers to become Mujahids (or individuals striving for the cause of Allah) and potential martyrs (or Shaheed), with 186 civilians actually sacrificing themselves for the sake of their leader, the Prez or rather Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: “This uprising is a gift from God [or rather, Allah] to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army” and the whole of the nation of opposition-minded antagonists, desperately clinging to the memories of Atatürk and the achievements of Kemalism.

The Turkish Bin Laden or Pennsylvania

The Prez and the whole of the AKP apparatus immediately blamed the self-exiled former government employee-or-cleric Fethullah Gülen, and, capitalizing on the Ankara judiciary’s inventive phraseology (7 May 2015), accused a “shadowy, clearly elusive, and possibly even non-existent, organization” known only as the supposed terror group FETÖ (Fettullahçı Terör Örgütü or Fethullahist Terror Organization) of being behind the coup attempt.[10]  In fact, for all intents and purposes, one could put forward that Gülen has now become Turkey’s very own Usamah bin Laden, as the shadowy figure veiled in a cloak of Islamic learning and authority threatening life and limb across the nation from behind the scenes, supposedly orchestrating last July’s momentous Friday happenings: but “[b]y 5am, [on Saturday morning 16 July] it [had] bec[o]me clear that the coup attempt . . . failed” and Erdoğan made a public announcement, addressing Gülen by means of a rhetorical flourish: “I have a message for Pennsylvania: You have engaged in enough treason against this nation. If you dare, come back to your country” — using the name of the Keystone State as a means to directly appeal to the figure of the fugitive former government employee-or-cleric Gülen (totum pro parte). The same night, quite some time after all was said and done, a clearly relieved Prez stated confidently that “[t]he army is ours . . . I am the Commander-in-Chief.”

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Post-coup-attempt, Erdoğan, his proxy Yıldırım, and the whole of the AKP establishment immediately started a concerted campaign to ensure that the momentum was not lost, encouraging citizens to take to the streets in so-called “Democracy Guards” and giving speeches left, right and centre — television sets as well as purposefully erected large screens in public squares constantly airing the figure of the Prez admonishing his followers and threatening his opponents. The press reported on 25 July that a “total of 13,165 people have been detained in connection with the foiled coup attempt in Turkey, President Erdogan said on Sunday [, 24 July]. He mentioned that 8,838 of those arrested are soldiers, 2,101 are judges and prosecutors, 1,485 are police officers, 52 are local authorities and 689 are civilians, as reported by the Hurriyet daily. He added that 934 schools, 109 dormitories, 15 universities, 104 foundations, 35 health institutions, 1,125 associations and 19 unions were closed as they belonged to what he described as the ‘Fethullahist Terrorist Organization’.” And the authorities also determined then that “8,651 members, or 1.5%, of the nation’s armed forces took part in the failed coup on 15 July.”

Official Backlash: Purging the State

Following the successful suppression of the coup attempt, the official reaction has been nothing but a severe continuation of the repression that occurred in the wake of the corruption scandal, commonly referred to as #AKPgate.[11]  But now, these purges are much more severe, as a three-month  State of Emergency has been proclaimed on Wednesday, 20 July 2016, following a five-hour meeting of the National Security Council and a meeting of Erdoğan’s privy cabinet. The Prez then told the press that the “aim is to rapidly and effectively take all steps needed to eliminate the threat against democracy, the rule of law and the people’s rights and freedoms.”[12]  It seems ironic that an act allowing the president and the PM “to bypass the parliament in enacting laws” is cited as a means of protecting and safeguarding democracy. On the same day, two members of Turkey’s constitutional court were arrested, in addition to more than 100 judiciary officials also taken into custody. In early October then, the Turkish cabinet agreed to extend the State of Emergency for another 90 days, as then made public by the government spokesman Numan Kurtulmuş. According to the Turkish Constitution, a state of emergency can only last for a maximum period of six months and this could mean that a possible constitutional amendment could by the end of January 2017 very well turn the current State of Emergency into the new normal and the Republic of Turkey into a veritable AKP-led police state, known as the New Turkey.

Thousands of private schools, charities and other institutions were forcibly closed down on Saturday , 23 July. At the same time, the authorities immediately set out to purge the ranks of government officials and employees, abolishing vacations and restricting foreign travel. While, the “licences of 21,000 staff working in private schools have been revoked, [and] more than 20,000 employees at the education ministry fired, and the state-run higher education council demanded the resignation of 1,577 university deans. The Turkish education ministry [also] announced the closure of more than 600 state school across the country,” as expressed by the journalists Josie Ensor and Zia Weise. The much-anticipated meeting of the High Military Council of Turkey (or YAŞ, in acronymized Turkish) in early August was moved forward as a clear means to cull the ranks of suspected (or possibly unwanted) members — in short, a grand total of 149 generals and admirals, more than a thousand commissioned and 436 non-commissioned officers have been made redundant or nearly 1,700 military personnel have been summarily discharged. The five-hour Council meeting, headed by the hapless PM Yıldırım and the Defence Minister Fikri Işık, came to an end Thursday night (28 July) and was greeted by numerous “democracy supporters” taking to the streets to celebrate in honking cars. The news agency Reuters‘ Ece Toksabay and Daren Butler remark insightfully that Tayyip Erdoğan “wants the armed forces and national intelligence agency brought under the control of the presidency,” moving towards an absolute presidency. Also 45 newspapers, 16 television channels and 23 radio stations have been shut down, muffling the free press basically. And on 31 July an emergency decree effectively closed down all military high schools and military academies, venerable institutions going back to the Ottoman era and representing a tradition that seems to be at odds with the current regime. These institutions used to furnish an officers’ class steeped in Kemalist ideology and thus ensured that the Turkish Armed Forces be led by a cadre that saw its function primarily as safeguarding the status quo. Or, as expressed by the BBC in 2007, “[t]he army sees itself as the guardian of Turkey’s secularism.”

Forging an Absolute Presidency for Turkey

But those days are over now, and talk of “defending democracy” and of reintroducing “capital punishment,” as oftentimes voiced by anti-coup protesters as well as the AKP machinery, should really be understood as coded messages. I would argue that the use of the term “democracy,” invariably accompanied by enthusiastic proclamations that God is great or ‘Allahu Akbar’ by Erdoğan supporters is nothing but a veiled call for the re-introduction of Shariah law in Turkey. And in this context, the return of capital punishment could very well function as a catalyst that would convince wider swathes of the population that stricter and more stringent laws are in order . . . an no law is stricter than the law of God, or the Shariah in an Islamic context. And the strongman that is Tayyip Erdoğan, as the “anointed” leader of Turkey is the one to achieve this feat, something that seemed all but unthinkable and even unimaginable just ten years ago. As voiced by an anonymous intellectual in Istanbul interviewed by the veteran journalist Patrick Cockburn: “Erdogan’s lust for power is too great for him [to] show restraint in stifling opposition in general,” and pursuing his ultimate policy aims, no doubt.[13]  And in this connection, his first goal has to be seen as a changed constitution and the introduction of a presidential system to replace the parliamentary one, in place since 1923 (or 1908, if you want to include its Ottoman forebear). In other words, Tayyip Erdoğan seems intent on turning “15 July” into a symbolic date, comparable to “31 March” in reverse. The so-called ’31 March Incident’ (or in Turkish, 31 Mart Vakası) refers to the defeat of a 1909 countercoup, a countercoup that would have abolished the constitutional regime introduced the previous year and reinstated Sultan Abdülhamid II as an absolute autocrat ruling the Ottoman lands. At the time, counter-revolutionary army units were joined by hordes of theological students (softa) and turbaned clerics (ulema) shouting, “We want Shariah.” Future history books might very well relate the events of “15 July” as a successful counter-revolution that established Tayyip Erdoğan as Turkey’s first absolute president, overseeing Turkey’s successful return to its Islamic roots of yesteryear.

On 24 August, the Prez addressed a crowd of disabled citizens at his residence, the so-called Beştepe Palace in Ankara, boasting more than a 1,000 rooms,[14] making an announcement befitting an absolute ruler guiding the state’s ship: “This morning at 04:00 our army, our security forces have begun an operation in the north of Syria, aimed at terror organizations posing a continuous threat to our country from there.” And in this way, following years and years of looking for a convincing casus belli,[15] Erdoğan has now taken the initiative and unilaterally invaded Syria (the military operation receiving the moniker ‘Euphrates Shield’ and its own requisite English-language twitter feed. . . and one could argue that he has in this way started acting as Turkey’s absolute president, making do without any constitutional amendments or parliamentary approval . . . at one fell swoop, Tayyip Erdoğan has now established a new Turkey, the New Turkey that is not afraid to invade its neighbours for political gains at home.

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[1] http://theduran.com/failed-coup-attempt-dawning-sharia-law-turkey/

[2] https://www.academia.edu/27954206/False_Flag_Terror_Attack_in_Suru%C3%A7

[3] http://kurdishdailynews.org/2016/08/22/akp-members-expelled-from-the-funeral-ceremony-held-in-the-kurdish-city-of-antep/

[4] https://www.rt.com/op-edge/role-of-turkey-syrian-crisis-826/

[5] http://bostonreview.net/blog/dangerous-illusion-alawite-regime

[6] https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/04ANKARA348_a.html

[7] http://journal-neo.org/2016/05/13/insulting-the-prez-tayyip-erdogan-satire-and-islamophobia/

[8] https://theconversation.com/turkey-struggles-to-make-sense-of-a-surreal-failed-coup-detat-62596

[9] http://journal-neo.org/2015/12/02/putin-tayyip-erdogan-and-the-issue-of-sunnification-a-duel-of-words/

[10] http://theduran.com/failed-coup-attempt-dawning-sharia-law-turkey/

[11] https://www.rt.com/op-edge/turkey-scandal-erdogan-247/

[12] http://bianet.org/english/politics/177013-content-of-bans-restrictions-in-state-of-emergency

[13] http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/08/04/after-the-coup-turkey-is-being-torn-apart/

[14] http://journal-neo.org/2016/03/08/turkey-in-turmoil-moving-towards-an-authoritarian-sultanate-of-kitsch/

[15] https://www.rt.com/op-edge/turkey-military-attack-kassab-696/