A month ago Turkey experienced a failed coup and since then President Erdogan’s government has been rounding up thousands of perceived enemies of the state. This purge has stripped the military, police and justice departments of many people, putting many in gaol and firing many more others from their jobs. Erdogan has pointed the finger at Fethullah Gulen, a seventy something year old imam who has been living in the United States for the last seventeen years. The President wants Gulen handed over to face trial over the failed coup.
Post-Coup Crackdowns: Despotic or Necessary?
Reports in the West are asking whether all this can be believed and is it a necessary response by Erdogan or a despotic move to crack down on political opponents. The Middle East is aflame with Islamist civil wars in Syria, Iraq and Turkey could be next. Supporters of Erdogan are saying that this purge is necessary if Turkey is to survive. Turkey is an important ally of the United States and the second biggest military power in NATO. There have been rumblings in Turkey about a perceived lack of Western support for Erdogan’s government. Erdogan met with Russia’s President Putin recently in a move, which was seen as potentially inflammatory in the West.
Turkey is a mix of secular and religious movements all vying for influence and control in a country located within a strongly Islamic region. Erdogan’s ruling party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), is a centre right Sunni Muslim nationalistic political party. The Kurdish people in Turkey add another separatist dimension to this bubbling pot of conflicting political interests. Erdogan’s party have been in power for a decade and a half, during an increasingly volatile period in this region. The United States and coalition’s invasion of Iraq has done this part of the world no favours in the long term.
Erdogan sees his party as the truly democratic influence on Turkey’s present and future. The West’s interpretation of what is democratic and what Erdogan’s is may not coincide right now. The US has a rich history of backing despots against whoever or whatever is the villain of the moment. Right now the villain is ISIS; and Russia seems to be doing more in support of Syria against ISIS than the West. The liberals in the West are obviously unsure of Erdogan’s prime motivation for this crackdown and have not openly come out in support of him. This has angered many in Turkey and has them questioning their ally.