Is Turkey turning into a dictatorship?

After thousands of arrests and suspensions of suspected putschists above all in the country's military and education system, the Turkish government is now taking action against media and journalists. The Gülen movement provides Erdoğan with an ideal target that is enabling him to extend his power unhindered, commentators observe.

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La Tribune de Genève (CH) / 29 July 2016

Erdoğan has found the perfect enemy

Erdoğan knows precisely what he is doing in choosing the Gülen movement as his enemy, La Tribune de Genève explains:

“The secularists have little sympathy for this Islamist movement which reintroduces religious values into Turkish institutions and disseminates its ideology to the young through a network of private schools. ... The Kurds, for their part, have not forgotten that judges linked to the Hizmet movement revealed the secret [peace] talks between Erdoğan and the PKK, severing the alliance between the president and the Sufi leader. Of course the Turkish president's supporters have remained loyal. But even average Turks with no ideological affiliation are suspicious of this network and wary of manipulations on its part. In short, Erdoğan has attacked the perfect target and is using it to secure undivided power for himself.”

T24 (TR) / 31 July 2016

Why should the West back Erdoğan?

Some Turkish media have started to complain that the West isn't giving Turkey enough support after the attempted coup. Why should it? the liberal web portal T24 asks:

“In the democratic world Turkey's President Erdoğan is not exactly known as a leader who respects democracy. … This is because of the positions and practices he has adopted vis-à-vis democracy at every opportunity. The danger of a coup may have been quickly overcome but the news about how many people have lost their jobs began to spread immediately. … Then there are the videos which the government itself published of [imprisoned] people with swollen mouths, noses, arms and legs. The minister of justice explained that this was not the result of torture or the like. … What should Merkel, for instance, do now? What would the German public say if she visited Turkey only to wish these people a 'speedy recovery'?”

Yeni Şafak (TR) / 28 July 2016

We must not surrender the freedom of opinion

In the fight against the suspected putschists the Turkish government Wednesday evening ordered the closure of 45 newspapers and 16 TV stations. Earlier on the judiciary issued warrants for the arrest of 47 former employees of the once pro-Gülen newspaper Zaman. A controversial move, stresses the pro-government paper Yeni Şafak:

“The claims by the Western media that the coup was merely a pretext for systematically suppressing the opposition are of course unfounded. That said, before making their decisions the state prosecutors in charge of the investigations should not only take into consideration a single file, but an entire period, a climate. They bear responsibility for our consciences, our rights, our future. In the trial against the putschists they must show no weakness, but they should also make sure that freedom of opinion and the right to opposition are not depicted as threats.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) / 28 July 2016

Death toll for Gülen movement?

Erdoğan's reaction to the failed coup has left the Gülen movement severely weakened, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung observes and wonders whether the Muslim cleric's followers will ever recover from this blow:

“Was the attempted coup of July 15 the Gülen movement's final rebellion? That is what almost everyone in Turkey is saying. At most a few hard-core Kemalists may have joined forces with pro-Gülen officers against Erdoğan, some say. A 'final twitch' was how journalist Can Dündar described the coup - after all, the final decisions regarding appointments to the Supreme Military Council were due in August and would doubtless have seen to it that the last remaining Gülenists were removed. The massive 'purges' in the aftermath of the attempted coup have dealt the movement a far more serious blow and it is doubtful that it will ever recover.”

El País (ES) / 26 July 2016

EU must force Ankara to open up

Erdoğan's reaction to the attempted coup has been disproportionately brutal and constitutes an attack on the freedom of the Turks, Spanish jurist Baltasar Garzón writes in El País, calling on the EU to take appropriate action:

“We have very little information and need to find out what is happening in this country where the government refuses all transparency. … Europe must force Turkey to reveal the truth. It must pave the way for establishing an international committee of investigation, because we must help the Turkish people regain their freedom and fundamental rights, which I believe are at great risk. Only stringent and effective monitoring by the various European institutions and civil society can mitigate the effects of this dreadful second coup.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) / 26 July 2016

Not living in a dictatorship yet

The news coverage in the Western media in the wake of the failed coup in Turkey is unbalanced and anti-Erdoğan, complains the columnist Barçın Yinanç in the centre-left Hürriyet Daily News:

“Since July 15, the Western media seems to have underestimated the fact that the Turkish nation passed a democracy test by stopping an attempted military coup. ... I will not deny that from the first day after the failed coup I have been among those arguing that we face the risk of Erdoğan using this opportunity to consolidate his authoritarian rule. There is enough in Erdoğan's track record to make us suspect that while chasing the coup plotters he might use this occasion to intimidate all types of legitimate dissent. For certain European journalists and commentators, there is no such suspicion; it is already a reality. 'Good luck to you in that dictatorship,' one foreign colleague wrote to me. The direction Turkey will take moving forward might not be clear, but all shots are not yet called and Turkey is not yet a dictatorship.”

T24 (TR) / 26 July 2016

The power struggle escalates

Turkey is embroiled in a brutal power struggle, the liberal web portal T24 comments:

“What we are witnessing now is not a struggle for democracy. It is a conflict between political Islam (the AKP) and sectarian Islam (the Gülen movement). And no matter which side wins the result will not be democracy. What we are seeing is not a process of democratisation but an operation carried out by the stronger side (Erdoğan) and aimed at eliminating the weaker side (Gülen) using the coup as a pretext. … Ever since it was first founded Turkey has been governed by the Sunni majority. … The others have been deprived of their basic rights and freedoms. This situation has worsened under the AKP government. … The Gülen movement was the junior partner in this deeply rooted 'Sunniisation operation' … It was one of its driving forces and moderators. The conflict broke out when it became too strong and tried to seize power from the hands of the AKP.”

Agos (TR) / 22 July 2016

Revenge more important than justice for Turks

Turkish society's thirst to punish the insurgents is deeply worrying in the eyes of Agos, the weekly paper of Turkey's Armenian minority:

“It's unclear whether those who have been detained and arrested will be given a proper trial or not. The mood that prevails - or is being stirred up - in the country tends towards hanging the lot of them without trial. Nor is it clear whether or not the death penalty will be reintroduced. And even if it is, it can't be applied retroactively. But we have already reached the point where publishing photos of the prisoners being tortured is considered the norm. … Society is leaning towards a consensus that anyone suspected of belonging to the Gülen community deserves unlimited violence and every kind of punishment - without a trial.”

La Repubblica (IT) / 22 July 2016

West all bark and no bite

The proclamation of the state of emergency in Turkey has resulted in a partial suspension of the European Convention on Human Rights. What has been the response of Europe and the USA? They are soothing their consciences by issuing warnings, La Repubblica states:

“In politics what counts are interests; they are often used synonymously with responsibility, while real principles are banished to the sphere of words. Turkey's case is no exception. The country is stopping the flow of refugees to Greece and so far no one has questioned the deal between the EU and Ankara. It is a mainstay of Nato and the largest military power after the US. Its geographical position makes it an indispensable base in the fight against the 'Islamic State'. Democratic principles can remain simply a slogan to be used at will by prime ministers and foreign ministers. They save the face that, in international relations, counts more than the conscience.”

Financial Times (GB) / 21 July 2016

Erdoğan at a crossroads

The Financial Times can understand why Erdoğan has decreed a state of emergency:

“A state of emergency can be justified, given the brutality of the rebels, who launched air strikes on the capital and shot at civilians. Some of them may still be at large. The question now is whether Mr Erdoğan will use this occasion to form a new national consensus and rebuild Turkey's fractured institutions, or take the opportunity to redouble repression and realise his ambitions of fully-fledged autocracy. … The crisis offers Mr Erdoğan an opportunity to return to the moderate style that served him well in the early years of his premiership, when Turkey's economy and society thrived in an environment of greater tolerance. His fears of a military coup have proved founded, but the path to autocracy is more perilous still.”

L'Opinion (FR) / 21 July 2016

Putin-style ambush tactics

The Turkish president's actions leave L’Opinion with a clear sense of déjà-vu:

“Turkey's key partners, especially the US, seem paralysed. This is mainly because President Erdoğan is acting so swiftly and unscrupulously. Like Vladimir Putin he is exploiting the situation for his own goals: he is restoring order after the attempted coup, brazenly using blackmail as a weapon, relying on the element of surprise and forcing the crippled Western diplomats to match his pace. Like the Russian President he is taking advantage of the size of his country and his indispensable role to dictate his own rules. Like Russia, Turkey is becoming a neighbour Europe would rather do without.”

Pravda (SK) / 21 July 2016

Frontal attack on the secular state

Europe mustn't entertain any more illusions about Turkish President Erdoğan, Pravda warns:

“Observers who accuse Erdoğan of staging a 'witch hunt' still haven't understood what's going on. A witch hunt is synonymous with the senseless persecution of imaginary enemies. Erdoğan's reprisals are a targeted and by no means improvised frontal attack on the modern secular Turkish state. Even before the attempted coup a dangerous trend was evident. The purges and the calls for the reintroduction of the death penalty have only exacerbated this trend. But Erdoğan's coup is real and successful. The international community shouldn't hesitate to put the Turkish president and his regime in quarantine. The longer we wait the worse it will be for Turkey, and it might be the end for us too.”

Der Standard (AT) / 21 July 2016

Opposition fights for survival

The opposition parties in Turkey are in a desperate situation after the failed coup, Der Standard comments nervously:

“The party's rare consensus against the coup is now cracking under the pressure of the enormous 'purge'. The largest opposition party, the social democratic CHP, as well as the pro-Kurdish minority party HDP reject the reintroduction of the death penalty. They want to keep Turkey in Europe. The fact is that the opposition is now fighting for survival. Court investigations against leading opposition parliamentarians has already been launched before the coup. The elimination of the Kurdish party is just a matter of time. The social democrats are rising up in rebellion. They have announced a rally for Sunday at Istanbul's Taksim Square. But Erdoğan's people have it under their control. The worst-case scenario now is civil war.”

Duma (BG) / 21 July 2016

Erdoğan wants a nation of brainless followers

The purges against academics in Turkey suggest that Erdoğan wants to break the resistance of the intelligentsia and create a nation of brainless followers, Duma writes:

“The Khmer Rouge did something similar in Cambodia when they slaughtered anyone wearing glasses according to the logic that anyone who can't see properly reads too much, and anyone who reads too much knows too much, and anyone who knows too much will be dangerous for the regime. Hopefully Erdoğan will not draw similar conclusions, but who knows? ... It seems that no criticism from abroad can calm the furious Turkish president. He is neither interested in the EU nor in relations with the USA. ... But obviously he didn't pay attention in his history lessons, or he had poor teachers. ... Because if he had listened, he would know that dictators never live long.”

Népszabadság (HU) / 19 July 2016

Erdoğan's black list was drawn up long ago

Erdoğan's lightning-speed disposal of large sections of the judiciary, police and military after the coup indicates a plan hatched long ago, according to political scientist Zoltán Lakner in the newspaper Népszabadság:

“Just a few days after the failed coup more than 6000 people have been thrown into prison. Nearly 8000 police have been sacked. What's more almost 3000 judges and public prosecutors have been taken into custody. The raging head of state and his followers are now sifting out all those standing in his way without proper investigations. In each case the pretext is the same: that those concerned may have had contact with the rebels. ... Erdoğan's retributions are running so smoothly that you cannot help but think that this 'black list' was drawn up long ago. And it was just a question of waiting for the right moment.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) / 20 July 2016

Turkey is well on its way to becoming an Arab state

Turkey is becoming increasingly Arabized, according to an article by US military strategist Edward Luttwak in Corriere del Ticino (originally published in Slate):

“To predict what will happen next is all too easy. First, the failure of the coup and the arbitrary arrests now underway will induce many of the more talented Turks to try to emigrate, instead of remaining around in a country that is becoming increasingly Islamic and increasingly repressive. Much capital will leave with them, slowing down the country’s economy. Second, Erdoğan will pursue the war against the country's Kurds. … Because Kurds dominate Turkey's eastern provinces that border on Kurdish-ruled territory in both Iraq and Syria, separatism and the fracturing of Turkey's territory is the likely outcome. Third, if there is another coup attempt, it will start with an attack on Erdoğan himself instead of pointless road-blocks on bridges. All this means that he is being very successful in a way: His highest aim after all is to Arabize Turkey, which is indeed becoming more like Iraq and Syria every day.”

Ta Nea (GR) / 19 July 2016

Erdoğan leading his country into isolation

Political polarisation and the concentration of power is strengthening Erdoğan but hurting Turkey, writes former Greek minister of education Konstantinos Arvanitopoulos in Ta Nea:

“In this way the country is sealing itself off from the rest of Europe, Turkish society is increasingly divided and chaotic conditions are being created for the post-Erdoğan era. The constant instability will cause the economy to shrink. … Turkey alienated the West and severed its strategic ties with Israel and its privileged relations with Russia. This geopolitical deterioration in combination with the constant weakening of the armed forces were the main reasons for the military coup. The diplomatic deadlocks led Erdoğan to normalise relations with Russia, Israel and the US. But this normalisation didn't dispel his partners' distrust of his true agenda, which is essentially Islamist.”

Delfi (LT) / 17 July 2016

The real putschist is Erdoğan

Writing on the news website Delfi journalist Rimvydas Valatka sees the massive wave of arrests in the wake of the failed coup with a sense of foreboding:

“Turkey, once a model of democracy in the Islamic world, is saying farewell to Europe and democracy. Instead of generals educated according to Atatürk's principles we see a narcisstic, vengeful Islamist caliph. … Why did all the EU leaders congratulate Turkey on having defended democracy against the soldiers? Was it 'defenders of democracy' who decapitated helpless soldiers with knives? After such victories of 'democrats' the word 'terrorist' sticks in your throat. Erdoğan has already dismissed 3,000 judges. This brings to mind the purges carried out in the Soviet Union in 1937. Why did he do this? What is the connection between the judges and the soldiers? There is none. This assault on the judges proves that Turkey is becoming a dictatorship in which the judges must obey the government's orders. Is that not the real coup?”

Milliyet (TR) / 19 July 2016

Who is to maintain public order?

Following the wave of dismissals and arrests in the military and the judiciary Milliyet asks whether the state can even still function:

“The Turkish armed forces seemed to have suffered a terrible blow, especially with respect to morale and their reputation. Even the most essential military exercises will from now on arouse suspicion of a coup. ... How will the damaged armed forces, which have lost many personnel, be able to continue the fight in the southeast [against the PKK] with this kind of morale? Will they be able to at all? ... On the other hand, the dismissal of 7,000 police and 3,000 members of the judiciary will no doubt weaken these institutions as well. It will be difficult to maintain public order. Cases will mount up in the judiciary. Particularly in the armed forces and the judiciary it will take years to train a new generation to fill the ranks again. ”

Népszava (HU) / 18 July 2016

Not even the power of autocrats lasts forever

After the failed coup Erdoğan will no doubt pursue his goal of establishing an autocracy, but he will have to watch out, the daily paper Népszava warns:

“Turkey has long since ceased to be a real democracy. Nevertheless, Erdoğan needn't worry too much about criticism from abroad. For the US, Turkey is an important ally in the fight against the terrorist Islamic State, while for the EU the country is an indispensable partner for solving the refugee crisis. The coup has removed the last obstacle preventing Erdoğan from fulfilling his great dream: the introduction of a presidential republic so he can rule over his people like Muammar al-Gaddafi once did in Libya and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. … History, meanwhile, has taught us that the power lose touch with reality. The Turkish sultan would do well to bear this in mind.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) / 17 July 2016

Thugs defended the government

In resisting the tanks the Turks were by no means defending democratic principles, the German radio station Deutschlandfunk warns:

“What at first sight look like courageous resistance by democrats turned out to be a crowd of thugs who were prepared to kill, or if necessary even to die, for their leader Erdoğan. They killed soldiers and urinated on their corpses in front of the cameras, and in a manner highly reminiscent of the barbaric IS they even decapitated one soldier. ... Erdoğan’s followers stormed onto the streets chanting Allahu Akbar at the top of their voices, and gave the Islamicist and fascist salute. In Istanbul they ran through neighbourhoods inhabited by Alevis and neighbourhoods where young people drink alcohol in cafés and bars. Whoever organised this attempted coup and whatever their reason for doing so, it has produced a clear outcome: it has helped Erdoğan to consolidate his power and to boost the self-confidence of his Islamicist supporters.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) / 18 July 2016

Erdoğan is the lesser evil

Although no fan of the Erdoğan government, columnist Yusuf Kanlı writing in the liberal Hürriyet Daily News is relieved that the attempted coup in Turkey has failed:

“The worst civilian government is far better than a coup administration. ... The government in office is an elected one and must be replaced at the ballot box. Turkey should achieve that this time. ... As odd and paradoxical as it might be, the Erdoğan governance was indeed saved by the Turkish media he has been so vigorously harassing over the past 14 years. If not for CNN Türk, NTV and other channels who defied the coup orders, continued broadcasts and not only informed people of the developments but provided a platform for Erdoğan and his cabinet to reach out to the masses and ask them to take to the streets, the coup would most likely have succeeded and instead of the junta and their men some other people would be in prison today.”

Mediapart (FR) / 16 July 2016

The opposition is still active

Even after the failed coup the opposition to President Erdoğan still hasn't disappeared entirely, journalist and poet Jean-Noël Cuénod comments optimistically on his blog with Mediapart:

“Erdoğan has been strengthened in elections and on the streets. He won't hesitate to accelerate the process of turning Turkey into a sultanate and dismantle all that remains of secularity in the country's institutions. … Urban Turkey has a middle class that still believes in the importance of religious freedom. Although the media are being forced to tow the government's line the Turks still have the social networks and their foreign connections to help them stay informed and exchange views. The reaction of a certain section of the army to Erdoğan's 'democracy-dictatorship-regime' is proof that even if the opposition has been severely weakened by the failed coup it hasn't yet been completely eradicated.”

Cyprus Mail (CY) / 17 July 2016

Time would have set things right

The putschists in Turkey followed the wrong example, the Cyprus Mail points out:

“The coup leaders made the same mistake as the Egyptian liberals made when they asked the army to overthrow the elected president there in 2013. Egypt had a president whom they feared and hated, but they also had a democracy which provided a peaceful means of ousting him. Erdoğan’s popularity would have dwindled with time. The Turkish economy is stagnant, his Syrian policy is a disaster, and the flagrant corruption of the people around him is getting hard to ignore. Sooner or later he would have lost an election. But like the Egyptian liberals, the officers who led the Turkish coup didn’t trust democracy enough to wait.”

El País (ES) / 18 July 2016

Stop drift towards authoritarianism

Erdoğan must focus on strengthening democracy and unifying his country now, El País stresses:

“Now that the major tensions have dissipated and we have had to witness some deplorable images of rebel soldiers being lynched, it is vital that the justice system takes sole and independent control of the investigation against those who carried out the coup and their supporters. Therefore the dismissal of thousands of judges and prosecutors and the arrests of ten Supreme Court judges the day after the attempted coup worries us. This could further weaken the separation of powers which had already been undermined before the coup as a result of Erdoğan's permanent drift towards authoritarianism. The failed coup should serve to strengthen democracy, consolidate the rule of law and unite the country against the serious challenges it faces rather than to polarize its society even more.”

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