Turkey and the slide towards totalitarianism

“Elected to office for a fourth term in 2015, and enjoying a strong parliamentary majority, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has demonstrated a growing intolerance of political opposition, public protest, and critical media. Government interference with the courts and prosecutors has undermined judicial independence and the rule of law. The breakdown of a peace process and escalating conflict between Turkish security forces and the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in towns across the Southeast has led to mounting civilian deaths and multiple rights violations. Turkey hosts 2.2 million Syrian refugees, many of whom face obstacles accessing education and employment, and is the main transit route for asylum seekers trying to reach the European Union. Border restrictions and visa requirements impede the ability of Syrians to seek protection in Turkey.”
Human Rights Watch

As the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has increasingly seemed to take the country towards a more totalitarian form of government. Over the last many years, journalists in Turkey have been increasingly persecuted, Turkish media has become a medium to glorify President Erdoğan and academics have been suppressed with enhanced vigor.

Then came the supposed coup in Turkey on July 15th, where President Erdoğan quickly declared a state of emergency for three months. What happened next?

  • More than 600 schools have been closed
  • Thousands of state workers sacked in a crackdown by the president.
  • Turkey’s higher education council has banned academics from leaving the country for academic purposes and urged those overseas to quickly return home, with Turkish officials saying that: “Universities have always been crucial for military juntas in Turkey, and certain individuals are believed to be in contact with cells within the military.”
  • Thousands of people in the judiciary, police forces and military have been sacked or detained
  • 2,745 judges are facing arrest

While it is understandable that such an event could cause the Turkish government to vigorously seek to ascertain the cause of the coup, and arrest and punish those responsible, there seems to be an overt effort by Erdoğan and the Turkish government to use the coup as a means to further its own anti-democratic objectives. This could be speculation, but if universities and their professors, judges, media and journalists are the very first to be targeted for arrest and interrogation, then the actions speak for the real intent.

The next question is, how could these same methods be used in any country around the world? Those who are power hungry will always seek to solidify control, one way or the other. It’s only the means to wrest democratic processes from citizens that remains to be seen. How is this happening around the world in other countries? How is this happening in your country? Comments welcome.


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