Tag Archive for democracy

The Turkey Report

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Thanksgiving but my report is not about turkey, the gigantic roasted poultry that will weigh down most American dinner tables today. Responding to popular demand (well, two people—both of them related to me), I am today introducing what I hope will become a regular posting on my blog, an update on the situation in the country of Turkey.

This Middle Eastern nation has been a focus of my life since I was a child. When I was about 12 years old, I found a book at the public library, and for reasons I don’t quite understand I felt compelled to read it. It was “Portrait of a Turkish Family,” by Irfan Orga. Published in 1950, it was the author’s memoir of a time of radical change, when the old order of the Ottoman Empire was collapsing to make way for the bold new Republic of Turkey.portraitturkfamily

My growing fascination with Turkey further compelled me to study Turkish throughout college, to get a master’s degree in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations from the University of Chicago, to live in Istanbul for more than a year, and subsequently to visit my “home away from home” on numerous occasions. In fact, I celebrated Thanksgiving Day, 2015, in Istanbul.

img_2142Turkey is once again undergoing profound changes that not only affect its citizens, but also people like me, who fear that enjoyable sojourns in that beautiful and fascinating country are no longer possible. On Thanksgiving Day, 2016, I’m thankful for the many extraordinary experiences I once enjoyed in Turkey, yet I’m in mourning because I fear that such carefree adventures are no longer possible for Americans—at least, not until the political situation changes.

Unfortunately, Americans are one of several scapegoats used by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to distract the citizens of Turkey from the disasters he himself creates. The economy is on the brink of collapse, tourism is practically nonexistent, the free press has disappeared as the government has taken control of all media, the parliamentary system is a sham as legislators are indiscriminately arrested, and the social order has collapsed as people live in fear and paranoia while thousands of their friends and neighbors are fired from their jobs or thrown in jail.erdogan

To add insult to injury, the Turkish Parliament came up with a plan to make room in Turkey’s overcrowded jails for the thousands of “traitors” still being regularly arrested long since the July 15 coup attempt, by offering a general amnesty to all child rapists currently incarcerated. Just to show that these rapists were not getting a “get out of jail free” card, the lawmakers stipulated that the rapists would be required to protect the honor of their child victims by marrying them! After uproar inside and outside the country, Erdoğan nixed the plan. He has a better idea: reinstate the death penalty. Then he can simply kill all the “traitors.”

Erdoğan came to power 11 years ago and enjoyed several years of success as he restored the country’s economy and stability. Turkey was undeniably a stronghold of democracy in the turbulent Middle East. However, a statement Erdoğan made at the time proved prescient. “Democracy is like a train: when you reach your destination you get off.”img_1865

Erdoğan has reached his destination, supreme power, and the train of democracy is left rusting on the tracks. However, because nearly all the media in Turkey is controlled by Erdoğan’s government, the population receives the news only that Erdoğan is a defender of democracy and that the perpetrators of the attempted coup [often claimed by the government to be the CIA or Americans in general] were intent on destroying that blessed democracy. He even fed that line recently to 60 Minutes’ Steve Kroft, without a challenge.

Recently some Turkish friends were discussing with me the likely fate of Erdoğan. He would fail, they surmised, only if the economy failed. Currently, the economy is being propped up by the government’s confiscation of assets of the people Erdoğan is having arrested and the businesses and organizations that he is shuttering.

It’s a house of cards, for sure. Won’t the people of Turkey–after being fed the pablum of fake, pro-government news–be surprised when Erdoğan’s leaky ship of state sinks? I already know one thing for sure: When that time comes he will blame everyone but himself.