In this week’s ‘What’s the deal with’, Tajwar Shelim discusses Turkey’s current climate, and it’s government.
Turkey. One of the oldest civilisations in the world dating back to nearly 40 000 years is still one of the largest, most influential countries today.
Known as the bastion of harmonious religion, the perfect hub of Islam coagulating with modern democracy, and the ideal unification of religion into a country, Turkey bragged a thriving secular democracy under General Attaturk after their defeat in World War One by the hands of the Allies. It was stated within this transgression that Turkey would always follow secular rule, and while Islam remained the country’s predominant religion after the demise of the Ottomans preceding them, the religion would have no place in government or politics.
Looking at today’s global events, this phenomenon is likely to change. Under President Erdogan, Turkey has seen some revolutionary, unprecedented changes to its people, borders, and its international relations. Whether it is due to their admittance to the EU, the subject of their NATO membership, or protecting their borders from the Kurds, Russia and Daesh, Turkey has been breaking the headlines in almost every trajectory.
“Turkey has seen some revolutionary, unprecedented changes to its people, borders and it’s international relations.”
The trigger to all the political on goings within Turkey, and indeed within the majority of the Middle East, can be traced back to the Arab Spring, and the rise of Daesh, known to most as ISIL. Turkey’s neighbours have all had their respective dictatorships collapse, leading to either poorly constructed democratic governments or they have opted for an Islamic system. Furthermore, US relocation out of the Middle East created a power vacuum, which brought about the emergence of many hostile groups, the most prominent being Daesh. Despite constant fighting within its borders, and the ongoing war in Syria, Turkey has remained fairly neutral within the war just South of its border.
The main issue Turkey currently faces occurred on the 15th of July, at 7pm. Turkish military generals staged a coup in hopes to overthrow Erdogan’s government. Traditionally, Turkey has had a long history of military coups. Every time the government becomes ‘too Islamic’ (against secularist ideals), the military will step in to reassert secularism. However, this time it failed. Erdogan is blaming a man named Fethullah Gulen for this attempted coup, and thinks he was the mastermind behind it, despite him being in a compound in Pennsylvania, US at the time. Turkey has subsequently requested his extradition to no avail.
Erdogan has gone as far as to call Gulen (and I here take the liberty to paraphrase him slightly) “a leader of a medieval cult of assassins.” Now, if Erdogan ever does read this, I have a piece of advice: If you want to ruin the reputation of your enemies, how about not making them sound as badass as possible. In retaliation after the supposed coup (in which Erdogan may have started to assert himself more control), the President has purged his own government, military and police, not to mention both the legal and education sectors. In a matter of days, Erdogan managed to remove/fire/imprison all, but not limited to;
- 30 regional governors
257 personnel at the Prime Minister’s office
492 state religious personnel
103 generals and admirals
An uncountable number of soldiers suspected to be in the millions
- 21 000 private teachers
1 577 University Deans (and Turkey has 1 577 universities, so if my math is correct… all of them)
3 000 000 civil servants
15 200 Ministers of Education
1 500 Finance ministers
9 000 Interior Ministers
- 393 personnel in the Ministry of Family and Social Policy
2 000 judges
40 members of the Supreme Court and 48 members of the Council of State (the highest court within Turkey)
And to top it all off several news and media companies across the country.
“A purge on this level cannot have been accomplished within a few days without extensive planning.”
Now that’s a whole lot of people. Clearly, a purge on this level cannot have been accomplished within a few days without extensive planning or knowledge of the supposed coup and its plotters. So, something within this scenario is definitely suspicious. Regardless, a purge on so many of Turkey’s essential sectors leaves the country at Erdogan’s whim, and so much uncertainty is only going to create more issues. While ISIL are slowly being extinguished from the Middle East, Erdogan is continuing his government purge. Since the start of the new year, the BBC reports that over 5 000 plotters are already standing trial, and the numbers are expected to rise.
A purge on this scale has never before been seen within the Western world at this turn of the millennium, and what the ramifications of this may be, only time will tell.
This is the second article in a weekly column on current issues and topics of general knowledge and interest, run by Marthe Rossaak. If you are interested in contributing, please email your draft to firstname.lastname@example.org