Sunday, March 6, 2016

Turkey is cracking down hard on opposition press.

The headquarters of Zaman newspaper, surrounded by police barricades. Reuters. 

Turkey has taken over the largest newspaper in country in an extension of its campaign to control the press. Reuters. A day after taking over the Zaman newspaper, the formally highly critical headlines that used to be in the paper have been replaced by pro-Erdogon ones. Police raided the paper after accusations that the paper was funneling money to Fethulla Gulen, a US based Islamic preacher. Gulen, a moderate, progressive Muslim, has called for reform in Turkey. The Turkish government in turn has accused Gulen and his followers of being terrorists, especially after they leaked information about an investigation into Tayyip Erdogon's family. Supporters of Gulen and the Zaman newspaper protested the closure but were driven off by water cannons and rubber bullets. Rights groups condemned the closure and new editorial direction. 

My Comment:
With friends like these, who needs enemies? Seriously, this is our biggest ally in the region? Turkey is not a country we should be working with and this action shows why. Though I am no expert on Fethulla Gulen, he seems like one of the good guys. He's one of a handful of secular Muslims that are actually trying to make the world a better place. Instead of being rewarded for that, his supporters are banned from getting their message out there. In comparison, ISIS has long been allowed to funnel new recruits through Turkey. Though Turkey is officially at war with ISIS, it seems they are doing much more against the Gulen movement then ISIS. 

I understand why Turkey's government is upset. After all, Tayyip Erdogon is quickly slipping into a full dictator. The Zaman newspaper is one of the largest papers in the country, and perhaps is the largest one, but it was never in the bag for the Turkish government. The people at that paper regularly criticized Erdogon and the Turkish government. Erdogon couldn't have that so this crackdown isn't all that unexpected. 

As for the accusation that the Gulen movement is a terrorist one, I really doubt that. I guess in Turkey they consider disagreeing with the government to be terrorism, but I haven't found anything linking them to actual terrorist attacks. Gulen is a secular Muslim and has rejected terrorism, and I am guessing the vast majority of his followers have done the same. Remember, Turkey also accuses the Kurds of being terrorists. Some of them are, but others are just people fighting against ISIS and other terror groups. In Turkey, I am guessing the term "terrorist" has been co-opted to mean "anyone even slightly critical of the government".

Turkey has been cracking down on the media for quite some time now. This is not the first time the Zaman paper has been targeted. In 2014, many journalists at the paper were arrested by the government on terrorism charges. I think that it's pretty clear that those charges were false. With Turkey now fully taking over the paper, one of the larger outlets of criticism against them is gone. Turkey already censors websites like Twitter and Facebook as well. It makes me wonder if there is going to be anyway for anti-government Turks to get their message out there. 

Again, this is a huge ally for the United States. Turkey is a member of NATO and is attempting to join the EU. Why on Earth would we want them to join? The crackdown on freedom of speech alone would be enough, in theory, to prevent Turkey from joining either organization. And this isn't even the worst thing Turkey has done...

Turkey has had a long and bloody history of involvement in the Syrian Civil War, and they are a major reason why the country is so screwed up. Not only are they bound and determined to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad, but they are also making war against the Kurds. The Kurds are, of course, one of the most effective fighting forces on the ground in the fight against ISIS. And Turkey has been accused of buying oil from ISIS as well. 

Worst of all, they almost started a war with Russia. A while back, Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet for violating Turkish airspace. Such violations happen in war, and the proper response would have to have warned the fighter off. But instead, they shot down the plane while their Syrian rebel allies on the ground murdered the pilot as he was floating to the ground in his parachute. The entire situation was extremely dangerous and incredibly stupid. Being a member of NATO, Turkey could have dragged us into a war with Russia for no real reason.

If I was president, I would be re-evaluating our relationship with Turkey. Until things change in their leadership and their record on human rights starts to improve, we should not be allies with them. They should not get into the EU, and if it is possible they should be kicked out of NATO. Their crackdown on the press, their war against the Kurds and their tacit support of ISIS all should be more then enough to disqualify them as civilized state. 

I know that I am biased against Turkey, but it's clear to me that Tayyip Erdogon needs to go and needs to go soon. He's so opposed to Bashar al-Assad, but he's taking more then one page out of Assad's playbook here. But for whatever reason, Assad is portrayed as a monster while Erdogon mostly gets a free pass. My guess is that it's because Assad is an ally of Russia, while Erdogon is our ally. I don't know about you, but that's not a good enough reason to ignore everything that is wrong with Turkey right now... 

No comments:

Post a Comment