Category Archives: Turkey

In ISIS’ Shadow, LGBT Kurds Take A Stand

Barring a few exceptions, the outlook for LGBT individuals in the Middle East can be bleak, or even outright deadly.

The Kurds stand apart from their fellow Muslim-majority neighbors because of their progress on women’s equality — boasting the only all-female units taking on ISIS — but are there signs that the Kurdish areas could someday be a relative sanctuary for LGBT people?

Read the rest at: Huffington Post

Smashing Gulen Is Just Next Step In Erdoğan’s Consolidation Of Power

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is right to fear cleric Fetullah Gulen and his Hizmet movement, but the recent failed coup has given him a golden opportunity to crush them for good. Erdoğan never tolerated the continued existence of serious rivals, and the Gulenists had long outlived their usefulness to him. Since being elected in 2003, Erdoğan has systematically co-opted, weakened, or destroyed every alternative power base throughout Turkey. Like other populist authoritarians such as Putin, Erdoğan centralized executive control in the name of nationalism, economic growth, ethnic pride, and an appeal to memories of past imperial and religious glory. This has worked well for him, and, like Putin, he will continue to eliminate any threats to his vision for the state and society, including fighting the Gulenists no matter the cost.

In 2003, after Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) first won national elections, Gulen and his Hizmet movement had been their allies and coordinated to dismantle the threat of the secular military to a more religious Turkish state. Erdoğan was given increased powers, and Gulen’s movement gained followers and influence in the civil service, especially among the judiciary and police. Four times in modern Turkey’s history, the military had led a coup to restore institutional stability or to prevent the Islamification of the state. Erdoğan had been a member of a previous party toppled by a coup in 1997 and saw the military as a threat ever since. Gulen also feared the military and fled Turkey to live in the U.S. shortly after the 1997 coup. Thus, it is no surprise that Erdoğan and Gulen saw the importance of taming the military, which they did with a series of show trials with trumped-up evidence of an alleged coup. Hundreds of officers were sentenced, and the top military leadership was replaced, securing Erdoğan’s control of the armed forces.

Continue reading at Eurasia Review.

A Marriage of Convenience

Relations between Turkey and the European Union have become increasingly tense in the aftermath of July’s failed coup against Erdogan.

Hence, when Russian president Vladimir Putin welcomed his Turkish counterpart in St. Petersburg this week, Western observers intently followed the meeting, fearing the two leaders’ first meeting in nearly a year could lead to a dangerous partnership of anti-Western autocrats.

Yet, the emergence of such a partnership is highly unlikely.

Relations between both countries are fraught, anti-EU and anti-Western sentiments cannot unite them in any meaningful or threatening way. One just needs to revisit their opposing stances on Syria to understand their intractable differences.

Last November, Turkey shot down a Russian airplane on the Turkish-Syrian border for violating Turkish airspace. In retaliation, Russia imposed sanctions on Turkey, hitting the country’s economy hard.

The sanctions were lifted a month ago, following a half-hearted apology from Erdogan and an apparent rapprochement between the two countries.

The tensions that led to the downing of the Russian jet remain, Moscow and Ankara have positioned themselves on opposite sides of the region’s crucial geopolitical question: the future of Syria.

Continue reading at EUobserver.

Turkey must not be allowed to blackmail Europe on migration

Europe once entrusted Muammar Gaddafi with controlling the amount of people crossing the Mediterranean into Europe – we must ensure the same mistake is not made again with Erdoğan, writes Leopold Traugott.

Whenever solutions for Europe’s refugee drama are proposed, it’s never long before fingers are pointed at Turkey. This is understandable, since Turkey is the point of entry for most refugees coming to Europe.

Clearly there is a need for Turkish cooperation on this issue. But Europe must be extremely careful about how closely it associates itself with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey, and what doors it’s prepared to open. While Turkey might be the most stable country to negotiate with in the region, its leaders have continuously proven undemocratic and unreliable.

A lot has been offered to Turkey over the recent weeks in return for their aid with Europe’s refugee disaster: a restart of EU membership negotiations, despite known German and Cypriot rejections; visa-liberalisation for Turkish citizens, despite significant internal debate about the EU’s free movement policy and concerns over levels of immigration; and an acknowledgement of Turkey as a “safe country of origin,” despite it being the world’s leading incarcerator of journalists, and its waging of internal wars on supposed ‘enemies of the state’.

The European Union has made many compromises and disregarded many of its own principles in order to find an external solution to cure its own problem. Whether this is the right strategy and whether Erdoğan’s AKP is the right force to partner up with, remains questionable on both pragmatic and moral grounds.

Unfortunately, this didn’t stop the EU from playing an important role in supporting Erdoğan in his November election campaign.

Read the full article at EurActiv.

Let the Kurds Mind Their Own Business So We Can Mind Ours

US interventionists may have good intentions, but it is extreme hubris to believe that our government can redraw the world map on a whim.

In his August 4 article for Rare, Tyler Koteskey highlights the Turkish government’s recent offensive against Kurdish militia groups, who have been our strongest allies in the fight against ISIS.

Unfortunately, Koteskey seems to buy wholesale into the idea that the United States should be the almighty arbiter of justice in the world. As a result, his analysis is off track.

Right from the beginning, the portrayal of the Kurds is incorrect. There is no doubt that as a whole the Kurds are friendly to the United States and have had a large amount of success fighting ISIS. But the Kurds are not a monolithic political entity.

Kurds, like almost every other group, have different ambitions and interests, which often conflict. In the 1990s, rival groups of Kurds fought a civil war. These divisions continue today, and affect their fight against ISIS. Unfortunately, because of the romanticized view journalists present of the region, there is little scrutiny and understanding of what goes on behind the facade of the potemkin village.

Read the rest on PanAm Post blog here.