Turkish government cracks down on journalists with threats, beatings
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's one party state recently lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since 2002. But that didn't phase the Islamist president who promptly blew up negotiations for a coalition government with the leading opposition party, forcing another election on November 1.
Erdogan is seeking an "executive presidency" - sort of an Obama presidency on steroids. This was massively rejected by the Turkish people as Erdogans Justice and Development party barely received 40% of the vote.
But to ensure a victory in the November 1 polls, Erdogan and his party have taken to going after the press, who are almost universally appalled at the president's actions. This has resulted in blood curdling threats to journalists, as well as the beat of at least one popular columnist.
Referring to Hurriyet columnist Ahmet Hakan [and to Hurriyet's editor-in-chief, Sedat Ergin], Boynukalin says: "They had never had a beating before. Our mistake was that we never beat them in the past. If we had beaten them..."
Well, last week, Hakan was beaten by four men, three of whom happened to be AKP members. The popular columnist, who has 3.6 million followers on Twitter, had to undergo surgery for his broken nose and ribs. Members of the group confessed to the police that they had been commissioned by a former police officer to beat Hakan on orders from important men in the state establishment, including the intelligence agency and "the chief." Of the seven men involved in plotting and carrying out the attack on Hakan, six were immediately released.
It remains a mystery who "the chief" is. It is highly unlikely that police will find any evidence that the attack was ordered by the AKP or by any of its senior members. Nor will any police or intelligence officer be indicted for ordering it.
Pro-Erdogan and pro-AKP vigilantism is increasingly popular among the party's thuggish Islamist loyalists. Columnist Mustafa Akyol writes:
"[I]t is already worrying that the culture of political violence, which has dark precedents in Turkish history, is once again showing its ugly face ... the campaign of hate that is going on in the pro-government media (and social media) inevitably calls for it. Deep down, the problem is that the AKP era, which began as a modest initiative for reform, has recently recast its mission as a historic 'revolution.' Just as in the French Revolution, it demonized the 'ancien régime' and the 'reactionaries' that supposedly hearken back to it. And now, just as in French Revolution, we see these 'Jacobin' ideas taking form in the streets in the hands of the vulgar 'sans-culottes.'"
Since the beginning of the 20th century, Turkey has seen a collapsed empire, the birth of a modern state, a one-party administration, multi-party electoral system, several elections, three military coups, civil strife along political and ethnic lines, oppression by one ideology or another and dozens of political leaders. But one feature of Turkey's political culture persistently remains: Violence.
This is hardly the time for Erdogan to be engaging in thuggish practices, with his government involved in a low level war with the Kurds, Islamic State becoming increasing prevelant, and refugee crisis that boggles the mind. Unlike the past when the military might be expected to step in and restore order, Erdogan has spent the last decade purging the military of all but the most loyal officers. What was once a bastion against Islamic extremism has become little more than Erdogan's lap dog.
The worry is that Erdogan will engineer large scale vote fraud and be returned to power with an absolute majority. In a fair vote, this wouldn't be likely. But the current political atmosphere in Turkey, with threats of physical violence against regime opponents, anything is possible.