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?
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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.
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.