On June 13, 2013, the Huffington Post published a long comment by Stanley. E. Weiss, Founding Chairman of Business Executives for National Security, a nonpartisan organization based in Washington, DC that I consider a must-read to understand what is happening in Turkey. Here are the highlights (to read the whole text, click here):
As has been expressed repeatedly in this space, since taking power in 2003, Erdoğan's Islamist Justice and Development Party has imprisoned more journalists than any nation on earth. For good measure, it has also incarcerated more than 2,800 students, most for the crime of exercising free speech. Similar offenses have led to more than 20,000 complaints filed against Turkey's government in the European Court of Human Rights.
[...] Erdoğan has used public funds to build more than 17,000 mosques while announcing plans to create a super-mosque overlooking Istanbul.
Last month, to celebrate the 560th anniversary of Istanbul's conquest by the Ottomans, Erdoğan broke ground on a third Bosphorus Bridge linking the Asian and European sides of the city, naming it after the controversial conquering Sultan Selim I-who adopted Sunni Islam as the official religion of the Ottoman Empire, and then ordered the murder of 45,000 Alevites for not being Muslim enough. Along the way, he has ordered the separation of boys and girls in primary and secondary schools; lowered the age requirement for religious schools to 11 while tripling enrollment; and ruled that tens of thousands of graduates of Islamic madrassas have the equivalent of college degrees so they can be hired for high civil service posts.
What upsets secular Turks the most is what Turkish scholar Seyla Benhabib calls Erdoğan's "moral micromanagement of people's private lives." Saying he wants to create a "pious generation," Erdoğan has spoken out in favor of keeping men and women apart on beaches; supported announcements last month urging subway passengers to refrain from kissing in public; and led the passage of surprise legislation to ban the sale of alcohol while publicly calling Atatürk a "drunkard." After famously overturning a 90-year ban on headscarves in public, Erdoğan also called on all Turkish women to have three children while restating his opposition to day-care centers, interpreted by the Economist as "women should have babies and stay home." Erdoğan is precisely the kind of Islamic fundamentalist that Ataturk warned against, and the very reason he entrusted Turkey's military with the responsibility of safeguarding the nation's secular traditions.
Indeed. Erdogan has worked on several fronts. He has systematically thrown dissident journalists and students in prison, he has brought to justice and jailed the most prominent generals on trumped up accusations. When he had attacked the army, it had been viewed at first as a liberal move and many among the young and the intellectuals supported him. They saw it as a measure meant to defend democracy and one demanded by the European Union...
Well, he had everyone fooled.
Once the secular forces in Turkish society were stymied, there was only one way out, and as Weiss wrote, this is why secular Turks took to the streets two weeks ago: it's the only forum for redress they have left...As Erdoğan undertakes a high-profile campaign to bring the most extensive changes to Turkey's political system since Ataturk - re-writing the Turkish Constitution to give the President more power while brilliantly working to end a 30-year war with Kurdish separatists to win the support he needs to pass it - he will be in position to run for President in 2014, just as he is term-limited out as Prime Minister. If this month's protests don't derail those efforts, there is no telling what Turkey will look like - or who it will be allied with-by the end of two likely terms of an Erdoğan presidency in 2024.
Since Weiss wrote, as we now know, the protests were derailed. What is seriously disturbing is that protesters were not just dispersed, they were thrown in jail. Exactly who was locked up and what happened to them is not known. Erdogan was lucky, just as he moved against the leaders of the protest, the world media was full of the news of Brazilians taking to the street. Everyone started to forget about Turkey. How convenient for Erdogan! Yet he is clearly following the example of Iran when it successfully ended the liberal revolt in 2009.
In all likelihood Erdogan will succeed now in his intent to islamize Turkey and return it to its Ottoman past. If only the access of Turkey to the European Union had been accelerated some 10 years ago when the process was started, we might have avoided this outcome. But we all know how Merkel and Sarkozy did their best to slow it down and discourage Turkey...
Now it is probably too late, what we will soon have at the doors of Europe is an Islamic colossus, 90 million people strong, following the rule of the Shariah, as imposed by Sultan Erdogan.
Post scriptum: For the moment, I am only publishing a post once a week (on Sunday) because of the work I must do on Forever Young, my new science fiction serial novel. Part Three, The Immortality Trip, is now at the editing stage...But Part One,I Will Not Leave You Behind and Part Two, You Will Not Take My Place are already available on Amazon, here and here (priced at 99 cents each, like WOOL). The novel, which was ranked at the top in Science Fiction/Adventure in May 2013 (Kindle free bestseller list), will have 5 parts and once they are all published, an omnibus edition will become available.