Fighting Words

Erdogan's Abuses Go Beyond The 'Now'

 
on June 20 2013 1:37 PM
Erdogan
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan steps on top of a bus to address his supporters as police guard him upon his arrival to Esenboga Airport in Ankara on June 9, 2013. Reuters

The New York Times editorial board has written a pretty much true piece on the "turmoil" going on in Turkey, saying that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has had "many opportunities over the last three weeks to resolve the political crisis in Turkey peacefully and quickly. However, with almost every statement and directive[,] he has made the situation worse, increasing concerns at home and abroad over his authoritarian tendencies and Turkey's future as a democratic model in the Muslim world."

I have no great umbrage to take with the piece; I agree with it. But if I may, I'm going to be a smidge nit-picky, and it has to do with this bit here: 

"Mr. Erdogan has worked hard to promote Turkey as a democracy aligned with the United States and Europe. Yet he is now intimidating the local news media, attacking the international news media, making veiled anti-Semitic remarks and suggesting that undefined 'foreign forces' are behind the unrest."

The word in contention is "now." Cause, really, all of the above is normal behavior. I'm going to keep these examples short, otherwise I'd be here all day. So let's tackle the intimidation of the local media first. 

At the end of 2011, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that as many as 5,000 criminal cases were pending against journalists. In October 2012, a CPJ report found that "Erdogan has publicly deprecated journalists, urged media outlets to discipline or fire critical staff members, and filed numerous high-profile defamation lawsuits. Turkey's press freedom situation has reached a crisis point."

When the CPJ report came out, Turkey had more imprisoned journalists than China and Iran combined, and it's still No. 1 in freedom of press abuses. While we're on the topic of Erdogan's assault on the local press, let's broaden it to the international stage. I'll give you a short example.

Talking to his supporters in the Anatolian province of Kayseri last July, Erdogan deemed the time appropriate to call out the Wall Street Journal for its "biased" reports on the June 22, 2012, downing of a Turkish military jet by Syrian air defense because it was in Syrian airspace. Erdogan rejected that report, claiming the jet was shot down in international airspace.

Because of WSJ's report, Erdogan challenged the paper to reveal its sources while calling it "despicable" and accusing it of "covering the truth of their stories. They have published lies earlier as well." 

As for making "veiled anti-Semitic remarks," Erdogan's remarks haven't always been, err, subtle, as Samuel Westrop pointed out earlier this year for the Gatestone Institute.

"In November 1998, the Institute for Jewish Policy Research released its annual report on current trends in anti-Semitism across the world. In the section for Turkey, the journal quoted the then-mayor of Instanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in June 1997, at a meeting organized by the municipality to celebrate the city's conquest by the Ottoman Turks, remarking: 'The Jews have begun to crush the Muslims of Palestine, in the name of Zionism,' the mayor said, 'today, the image of the Jews is no different from that of the Nazis.'"

Westrop goes on to name a few more, which you can read here

In short (somewhat), the New York Times is correct in its editorial, it's just that Erdogan's behavior is not anything new, but "now" thrust onto the world stage for all to see.

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