Last week, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defied his western allies, who have called for restrain and the rule of law in the wide ranging purge of the country after the failed coup. With the basic human rights hindered, his ruthless cleansing of the military, the judiciary, the public administration, the education system and the civil society organizations, will be facilitated. Very clearly it’s not only those involved in the coup to be purged.
The Erdogan system is actually cleansing the state institutions of everybody, who may voice a different opinion on the way the country is governed and the young generation is educated. More than 60,000 soldiers, judges, prosecutors, police, civil servants, teachers and academics are so far dismissed, detained or investigated. He also decreed the close down of hundreds of schools, charities and businesses related to the network of the US based self exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, a strong opponent to Erdogan, accused by Ankara for having masterminded the failed coup.
Ruthless political cleansing
The ‘purification’ operation is destined to create new control structures in the armed forces, the state machine, the education system and the civil society organizations. The new constructions will be staffed by Erdogan’s AK party followers. The President himself described this scheme and clarified that he will start from the military. Already, one third of around 200 generals are dismissed or accused of treason and more than 20,000 soldiers are suspended or detained. Erdogan explained that the organizational structure of the armed forces will be reshaped, in order to avoid new mutinies in the future.
However, the truth is that he introduces new chains of command in order to subordinate the military to people personally loyal to him. The same patent will soon be applied in the judiciary, the police, the administration and the education system. In short, Erdogan has decided to wipe out not only the many followers of Imam Fethullah Gulen, but to get rid of every democratic or western oriented agent. In the past, Erdogan was greatly supported by Gulen and the latter has helped organize the AK party win the first electoral fights.
Headscarves and lies
However the cleric distanced himself from Erdogan, when the politician started to openly use religion to secure and perpetuate his grip on Turkey, by transforming a secular country into a religious construct. It is characteristic that on Erdogan’s instructions the public exchequer regularly subsidizes all the adult women who wear a headscarf with a monthly allowance.
The world was also surprised to learn that all along the past years Turkey had officially ratified the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). For years though in practice, this hasn’t prevented Erdogan from closing down newspapers and TV networks, imprisoning academics and journalists and terrorizing his political adversaries.
This appalling reality was indirectly revealed, when last week Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced the decision to declare a ‘state of emergency’. On the same occasion, he also said that the application of the ECHR is suspended, as if Turkey had ever truly applied it. This is one more proof that the Turkish government wouldn’t hesitate to openly lie on everything.
The West’s U-turn
For all those reasons, the West has decided to put a big question mark on Turkey. The US and Europe no longer consider Erdogan as a reliable and dependable ally. Understandably, this fact greatly perplexes the Western strategy in two fronts; primarily on the fight against the ISIS murderers and, secondly, vis-à-vis Putin’s Russia. So, the West needs a trustworthy partner in this region and it seems that they found this in Greece.
Jack Lew, the United States Secretary of the Treasury, was very eloquent about that. Last Thursday in Athens, he praised Greece for being a factor of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean area and the wider Middle East region. He said very plainly that after the coup in Turkey and the instability following it, this country cannot be considered as a steady ally. This comes as a normal result after Erdogan indirectly accused the West in general and the US in particular, if not of being involved in the coup at least of protecting the mastermind of it, Fethullah Gulen.
Lew’s statement by being issued in Athens, takes a special connotation because Greece and Turkey are long time rivals, with largely conflicting interests in the Aegean Sea and in Cyprus. This direct US hit on Turkey and the clear praise of Greece is a major change of the, until now, balanced American policy towards the two countries. The Secretary of the Treasury went even further and underlined his country’s stand for a generous curb of the Greek debt.
This is a major revision of the US policy towards Turkey. Surely, there will be more of that, because Washington has additional leverage to use against Turkey. For example, the US can easily boost its support to the Syrian Kurds and favor their aspiration for the creation of a semi autonomous state in the north of this country. Such a prospect would certainly harass Turkey.
On the European side, there is also a clear change of attitude towards Turkey. In Brussels, the European Commission has bluntly accused Ankara of having prepared the blacklists of those to be purged, long before the coup. It has also clarified that, if Turkey reintroduces the death penalty, the country will be definitely locked out from Europe.
Erdogan has proposed to the Turkish National Assembly, where he controls an absolute majority, the reinstitution of the death penalty, in order to kill the mutineers. As he said it quite bluntly, “there is no point to keep feeding them in prison”. Apart from that there is currently a wide ranging discussion in Germany questioning Turkey’s membership of NATO. Until now Turkey was a stout member of the Atlantic Alliance. However the US has also questioned Turkey’s NATO membership, by underlining that a member state has to apply the rule of law and protect the basic human rights.
All in all, the West has drastically changed its attitude towards Turkey and this has already started producing results.