Turkey's Descent into a Crime Epidemic under the Islamist AK Party

When the AK Party (Justice and Development Party) took office in Turkey during late 2002, the nation was relatively stable. Unemployment stood at 9 percent, higher than it had been during the past few years but at a level within the bounds of the post-1980 period. Real per capita GDP was volatile on a year-to-year basis, but increasing overall by 16 percent over the previous decade. The country's debt had spiked but was starting to come down again, and inflation was declining rapidly from its peak in the mid-1990s.

All was not perfect, but the socio-economic trajectory appeared headed in the right direction.

Since 2002, inflation continued to drop, and by 2004 it had reached its lower boundary of 9 percent -- where it has remained. Government debt also kept declining, and by 2012 was in the favorable range of less than 40 percent of GDP. The unemployment rate peaked during the height of the financial crisis, but in general, it too has remained constant in the 9 percent range. Real per capita GDP has done well, increasing by almost 43 percent since 2002.

The economy has done well under the AK Party, which further highlights the major crime epidemic that has swept the nation during the past decade and the resulting social upheaval underway.

Although party officials reject the label, the AK Party is often characterized as Islamist, having Pan-Islamic domestic and foreign policies, all the while retaining alleged connections to -- and support for -- the Muslim Brotherhood.

In the years before the AK Party came to office, the violent crime rate was increasing, but only modestly. From 1996 to 2002, the violent crime rate increased by 35 percent. Clearly a problem, but nothing compared to what has occurred since the AK Party assumed power. During the last decade, the violent crime rate has exploded by 130 percent, including a 15 per cent increase since 2009 -- a period in which the unemployment rate dropped from its financial crisis high of 13 percent down to just 8 percent and real per capita GDP increased by 17 percent.

The violent crime rate is rising four-fold faster after the Islamist AK Party took office than it was before the transition into a quasi-Islamic state.

Looking at traditional economic indicators cannot explain the discontinuity in the violent crime rate. In fact, these would suggest that violent crime should be rising more slowly than it was before the AK Party came to power, or even declining. Instead, it is headed in the other direction.

We see this pattern repeated across Europe. Increasing Islamist influence correlates strongly with increasing violent crime rates. In the case of Turkey, the pressures are coming from within. Turkey's international migrant stock as a percentage of total population (a measure of net immigration and refugee movements over time) has been constant since 1980. In other areas of Europe, the pressures are arriving from outside the nation states. But in all cases the results are the same: rapidly rising rates of violent crime.

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