International

Turkey two years after the abortive coup

Turkey last week commemorated the second anniversary of an abortive coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that left nearly 290 people dead and hundreds wounded.

On July 15, 2016, renegade factions within the military used tanks, warplanes and helicopters in an attempt to overthrow President Erdogan.

Clashes took place in Istanbul, Ankara and Marmaris, where Erdogan was on holiday and barely escaped capture. Fighter jets bombed parliament and other spots in Turkey's capital.

Turkey has blamed U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen for being behind the coup attempt. For many observers Gulen is seen a CIA asset living in USA since 1999. Tellingly Gulen was given permanent residence in the US at the recommendation of three former CIA operatives [Wikipedia]

In February 2014, the Foreign Affairs magazine published an article about Gulen with the following title: “The Muslim Martin Luther? Fethullah Gulen Attempts an Islamic Reformation.” The magazine said: In a video posted on his Web site in December 2013, Gulen called on God to curse Erdogan. Gulen declared in a sermon broadcast on Turkish television, “Those who don’t see the thief but go after those trying to catch the thief: may God bring fire to their houses, ruin their homes, break their unities.”

Some 150,000 people have been sacked or suspended from jobs in the civil service and private sector and more than 50,000 detained for links to the putsch. On July 13, the government said it had dismissed 7,000 more police, civil servants and academics for suspected links to Gulen.

According to the Turkish news agency Anadolu, nearly 2,400 people have been convicted for links to the coup attempt and 1,624 have received life sentences. More cases are pending.

“Nobody who betrays this nation can remain unpunished,” President Erdogan said, promising again to restore the death penalty if parliament votes to bring it back.  

With a referendum last year and early presidential and parliamentary elections in June this year, Erdogan has transformed Turkey's ruling system, like the US, into an executive presidency.

President Erdoğan: West hypocritical on freedoms, rights

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized last week the West for having double standards and being hypocritical on rights and freedoms when it comes to Turkey. Speaking in Ankara during an event marking the failed coup attempt, Erdoğan commented on the recent decision by the United States to ban banners on July 15 and some European countries' banning Turkish ministers from attending July 15 events organized by the Turkish community.

"We see the U.S. does not allow July 15 posters displayed on subways. We see similar things in Europe. We went to the G20 summit and wanted to meet our citizens in hall meetings. The applications were submitted, however, they did not allow the president of Turkey, they did not allow the ministers. When it comes to it, they talk about freedoms. What kind of freedom is this?" Erdoğan said.

Vowing that the fallen victims and those injured on July 15 will not be forgotten, Erdoğan also said those aiding-and-abetting coup plotters will not be forgotten, nodding toward Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) members who have not been extradited by some EU countries and the United States.

"The West asked documents from us. What more documents do you want? We have 250 martyrs and 2,193 veterans. What documents are you talking about?" he added. Ankara  says that concrete evidence has been submitted to Western allies for the extradition of FETÖ members in their countries, however due to political reasons, there have been no legal steps taken against FETÖ members.

22 world leaders attend Erdogan’s inauguration

On July 9, 2018, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was sworn in under the country’s new presidential system. Twenty-two heads of state attended, including key Ankara allies such as Qatar, Venezuela and numerous Balkan and sub-Saharan African states.

Erdogan’s new term promises to seek to revive Turkey’s influence on the regional and world stage after years of turmoil that saw a coup attempt in 2016 and widening Turkish involvement in the conflict in Syria.

Turkish media highlighted the attendance of the 22 foreign heads of state as well as “special friends” such as former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Tunisia Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi

In the Balkans, where Turkey’s influence is a remnant of Ottoman-era rule, Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Moldova, Kosovo and Bulgaria sent their presidents. In Africa, Turkey has sought to widen its influence, and the leaders of Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Zambia, Somalia, Sudan and Mauritania came. Ankara’s key ally, the emir of Qatar, also came, as did Pakistan. The only high-level leader from the Americas in attendance was Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro.

Prime Minister of Russia Dimitry Medvedev and Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah also attended the inauguration of President Erdogan.

On June 24, 2018, Turkish voters re-elected President Erdoğan to another term in office in elections whose outcome is likely to shape the country for years or even decades to come.

The president, who has already ruled Turkey unopposed for 16 years, was sworn in to another five years in power, leading up to the centennial of the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 , which caused the reduction of the geography of the modern Turkish state, and forced it to give up its large territories after the First World War.

Erdogan seeks revision of the Lausanne Treaty of 1923

Erdogan has raised the issue of the Lausanne Treaty's possible revision. In 2016, he complained that the Treaty saw Ankara "give away" Turkish islands in the Aegean. "They were ours. There are our mosques, our shrines there," he said, adding that Turkey's territorial disputes with its neighbor in the present are a consequence of the treaty.

According to Amman-based Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told the Turkish mayors that Turkey wants to get rid of the effects of the Convention and the restoration of its rights, which were usurped by the Allies and Turkey considers also the texts of the Convention are unfair to its rights?

And by 2023 the period of the treaty ends , which has passed a hundred years, and here we understand Erdogan ‘s comments, as Turkey will enter a new era, and will begin oil exploration and drilling a new channel linking between the two seas Black and Marmara as a preparation to start collecting fees from passing ships, Rawabet Center said.

Erdogan has said that “opponents of Turkey” forced it to sign the “Treaty of Sevres” in 1920, and the signing of the “Treaty of Lausanne” in 1923, and because of that Turkey has abandoned the islands in the Aegean Sea to Greece. Erdogan describes the Treaty of Sevres, as the first fork in the Ottoman back, because it forced Turkey to concede vast areas of land which were under its influence.

Erdoğan assumed vast new powers approved in a referendum last year, including the power to appoint senior judges and vice presidents, and to issue decrees with the force of law.

Erdoğan struck a defiant tone in his victory speech, saying Turkey had set “an example” for the rest of the world, vowing to carry on military campaigns in Syria, fight terror groups and raise Turkey’s international prestige. “We have received the message that has been given to us in the ballot boxes,” he said. “We will fight even more with the strength you provided us with this election.”

The Anadolu Agency said Russian president Vladimir Putin called to offer congratulations and praised Erdoğan’s “authority.” Iranian president Hassan Rouhani also congratulated Erdoğan in a statement, saying he hoped ties with Ankara would thrive.

Reaction from Turkey’s western allies was muted, according to the Guardian. Only Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s Secretary General, congratulated Erdoğan and Turkish citizens on the high turnout. Ties with the EU have been strained for years over lack of advancement on Turkey’s EU accession talks.

Erdoğan clinches victory in Turkish constitutional referendum

In April 2017, The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, achieved victory in a historic referendum on a package of constitutional amendments that will grant him sweeping new powers.

The yes campaign won at least 1.25m more votes than the no campaign, according to official results.

According to the Guardian, the result of the referendum sets the stage for a transformation of the upper echelons of the state and changing the country from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential republic, arguably the most important development in the country’s history since it was founded on the ashes of the Ottoman Republic.

Results carried by the Anadolu news agency showed the yes vote had about 51.3% compared with 48.7% for the no vote. Turnout exceeded 80%.

In a press conference in Istanbul following his party’s declaration of victory, Erdoğan said foreign powers should respect the referendum’s outcome. He said: “We’ve got a lot to do, we are on this path but it’s time to change gears and go faster … We are carrying out the most important reform in the history of our nation.”

Prime Minister, Binali Yıldırım delivered a victory speech from the balcony at party headquarters in Ankara. He said: “Our nation has made its decision and said yes to the presidential system. The ballot box result showed we will not bow to traitors and terrorists. Turkey has won; our nation has won.”

Gulen movement declared a terrorist group

Reverting to Fethullah Gulen, the alleged mastermind of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt to overthrow President Erdogan who in June 2016 officially designated the Gulen movement a terrorist group.

Gulen, described by Pape Escobar as a CIA asset, has long been accused by leading Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers, President Erdogan and his inner circle of forming and heading a terrorist organization to topple the Turkish government through insiders in the police and other state institutions.

Critics point to a video that emerged in 1999 in which Gulen suggested that his followers should infiltrate mainstream institutions. "You must move within the arteries of the system, without anyone noticing your existence, until you reach all the power centers. You must wait until such time as you have got all the state power, until you have brought to your side all the power of the constitutional institution in Turkey."

According to the Diplomat, in May 2015, Tajikistan had become the latest Central Asian country to close schools linked to the Gulen movement. In fact, Tajikistan's decision to close the schools reflected a wider trend in the region. The Turkish Daily Sabah reported in mid-May 2015 that Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kazakhstan, Somalia, and Japan have all begun procedures to close Gulen-linked schools. In July 2014, Azerbaijan closed Gulen schools on fears of a parallel government. Uzbekistan shut down its Gulen schools in 1999.

In Russian Chechnya and Dagestan regions Gulen-backed schools were once banned by President Putin. The Gulen website says that the schools are back in operation. In 2016, Pakistan also closed all schools run by Gulen organization.

A Turkish court in December 2014 issued an arrest warrant for Gulen. Turkish government has asked for his repatriation.

Gaza Freedom Flotilla

Tellingly, in 2010, Gulen shocked Turkey when he supported brutal Israeli operation on May 31, 2010 against the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, which was part of six ships of the "Gaza Freedom Flotilla" in the international waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The Turkish led flotilla, organized by the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (degreesHH), was carrying humanitarian aid and construction materials, with the intention of breaking the illegal and inhumane Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip.

During the raid, nine activists were killed including eight Turkish nationals and one Turkish American, and many more were wounded. Volunteers had come from over forty countries, united by the simplicity of their mission: to publicly deliver aid to Gaza in order to challenge Israel's illegal blockade on small, densely populated Gaza strip.

In his 2010 Wall Street Journal interview, Gulen commented on the incident, saying, "It is not easy to say if they [the IHH] are politicized or not". He continued by insisting that the IHH should have sought permission from Israel before transporting aid to Gaza.

During his interview with Cuneyt zdemir in 2010, Gulen refused to refer to the victims of the Mavi Marmara as 'martyrs': "It is out of the question to call these people martyrs. They knew they were going there to get killed and went at their own discretion".

Moreover, his followers tried to portray the involvement of Mavi Marmara in the Flotilla as a form of "jihadism", or radical militant Islamist action. Consequently, the stance of Gulen and his movement vis--vis the flotilla has been and still is a subject of criticism in Turkey.

Not surprisingly, Gulen calls for shredding five percent of Islam to make it acceptable to the West. One of his popular mantras is: "Build schools instead of mosques."

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America  (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011@gmail.com

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