Showing posts with label Turkey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Turkey. Show all posts

Thursday, June 7, 2012

This Week, Turkey Went a Long Way Toward Becoming an Islamic Republic

By Barry Rubin

“My people are going to learn the principles of democracy the dictates of truth and the teachings of science. Superstition must go. Let them worship as they will, every man can follow his own conscience provided it does not interfere with sane reason or bid him act against the liberty of his fellow men.” ― Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

Hardly surprising; deeply upsetting; and geo-strategically catastrophic, it’s official. Turkey has now passed over toward being an Islamist state. That turning point is marked by a tiny event of gigantic importance. Fazil Say is an internationally acclaimed Turkish classical pianist. He has performed with prestigious symphony orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, Berlin, Israel Philharmonic, France, and Tokyo as well as being a European Union cultural ambassador. The Turkish state is now going to put him on trial.

An Istanbul court has accepted the prosecutor's charge, which amounts to heresy. Specifically, he is accused of insulting Islam because of tweets he sent.Say suggested that since the Koran says there are rivers of drinks in heaven that makes it sound like a pub, while the beautiful women available there make it sound like a brothel. A number of his tweets are quoted here. That’s his crime, writing a couple of sentences to describe his thoughts.
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We are not talking of someone criticizing Say or disagreeing with him. We are talking about the power of the Turkish state being used to charge a man with a crime and send him to prison for exercising free speech. True, they are only asking for a sentence of eighteen months in prison but once the precedent is set their ambitions will expand.

There are already hundreds of political prisoners in Turkey today who have been in prison for over three years without any trial at all. Now if criticizing Islam in Turkey is a crime, Turkey is not a secular state. And with all of those innocent people already thrown in jail by the regime on trumped-up charges of treason and terrorism, Turkey is no longer a democratic state either. (For a study of the conspiracy charges, actually a wave of repression and intimidation seeking to quell opposition to Turkey's fundamental transformation,  see this detailed article by Gareth Jenkins. in MERIA Journal.)

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center  and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Middle East: Brave New World or Scary New Master?

By Barry Rubin

“How many goodly creatures are there here!How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,That has such people in't!”

 “Caliban has a new master….Freedom, hey-day! hey-day, freedom! freedom, hey-day, freedom!
--William Shakespeare, “The Tempest

If you want a sense of where the Middle East is going, consider this viewpoint from an unlikely source. Suat Kiniklioglu is not just a member of the Turkish Parliament for the ruling (Islamist) AK party, he’s a member of the party’s Central Executive Committee and deputy chair of the party’s foreign affairs commission. In other words, he’s a very important person in Turkey’s ruling establishment and especially foreign policy.

Yet rather than take an optimistic view about the advance of Islamic politics in the region, he’s very worried, worried enough to write a column entitled, “Back to a Barbarian Age” in the May 16 edition of the Islamist newspaper, Today’s Zaman.

What is this barbarianism? It consists of rising group hatred and looking down on others as culturally inferior and uncivilized. One might think he’s about to launch still another attack on the West as evil, imperialistic, and anti-Muslim. Not at all.

His complaint is:
“We are now back to the very primordial identities that once dominated our political behavior and determined the group to which we belonged or were seen as belonging. We are no longer socialists, conservatives or liberals. These days we are first judged by what tribe we belong to and more increasingly what faith we believe in.”

Yes, he continues, “I am constantly reminded in Europe and the US that I am a Muslim.” It is interesting to not that he was born in Germany and clearly that played a role in making him identify himself as a Muslim (and not just a Turk) that he ended up in the AK party.
But his complaints are about the Middle East:

“When I travel in the Middle East, I am reminded that I am a Sunni. The Middle East is being ravaged by barbarians who want to divide the world into Sunni and Shiite. We can no longer make any political assessment without entertaining these ethnic, religious and sectarian identities. We are truly back to the Middle Ages. All of our accumulated knowledge, sophistication and political culture seems to have been lost. The Middle East is pervaded and increasingly infected by the sectarian rivalry between the Shiite Persians and the Wahhabi Saudis, who are now fighting proxy wars all over the region. As if we are all in agreement with the Saudis’ extremely harsh interpretation of Wahhabism, we Sunnis find ourselves in the same camp.”

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Note what he’s saying here. On one hand, there  is a Shia bloc led by Iran; on the other is a hardline Sunni Islamism which he blames on Saudi Arabia but might just as well refer to the Muslim Brotherhood. These two camps are now waging war in Syria for their “primordial and primitive agenda.” These “barbarians” (Islamists) “have blatantly hijacked the push for a normal democratic order in Syria,” instead committing acts of terrorism that must be condemned

And then he concludes: “With all its sins and shortcomings, the secular order we [Turks] established over the last eight decades has taken hold and promises to support our sociopolitical order.”

Why would a leading figure in an Islamist party identify the era of rising Islamism as a “great shame…[in which the Middle East ] fell prey to the thirst of barbarian bloodshed”?.


Barry Rubin, Israel: An Introduction (Yale University Press) is the first comprehensive book providing a well-rounded introduction to Israel, a definitive account of the nation's past, its often controversial present, and much more. It presents a clear and detailed view of the country’s land, people, history, society, politics, economics, and culture. This book is written for general readers and students who may have little knowledge but even well-informed readers tell us they’ve learned new things.Please click here to purchase your copy and get more information on the book.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center  and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Turkey’s Middle East Policy of Seeking To Gobble, Gobble Up the Middle East Makes Enemies of Everyone

"Countries may vary, but civilization is one, and for a nation to progress, it must take part in this one civilization. The decline of the Ottomans began when, proud of their triumphs over the West, they cut their ties with the European nations. This was a mistake which we will not repeat."   --Kemal Ataturk, 1924

By Barry Rubin

Spinning in his grave, indeed. for now his successors not only think they can revive a Turkish-ruled imperium but have made the very mistake of turning their backs on the West that the republic's founder rightly saw as the downfall of that earlier incarnation of his country. I'd change Ataturk's wording slightly: the Ottomans turned their backs on the modern world then being developed in the West while still forming alliances with European powers.

Once upon a time there was a country named Turkey whose republic was created by Kemal Ataturk who famously said: “Peace at home; peace abroad.”

He and the Turkish people had seen their Ottoman Empire collapse after failing to modernize, engaging in chauvinistic nationalism (under the Young Turks), and entering an unnecessary war that led to 20 percent of its population dead  and the country prostrate.

And so Ataturk and his colleagues saved the country based on two basic principles: at home, joining Western civilization through modernization and secularization; abroad, avoiding foreign ambitions and conflicts. Whatever their faults, they did a remarkable job. Turkey made steady progress far in excess of what happened in Iran or the Arabic-speaking world.

But then came the regime of the Justice and Development Party. Pretending to be moderate and democratic it was actually a radical Islamist party seeking to -- if I may coin a phrase -- fundamentally transform Turkey. This regime was not moderate but merely patient in achieving its radical goals.

It insisted that under its rule Turkey would be everyone’s friend and no one’s enemy. And President Barack Obama thought this would be a great model for the Middle East. In fact, though, the regime didn't see everyone as an equal friend. It preferred the company of Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah.

Soon, as events developed in the region, the veneer of modesty boiled away and the aggressive ambition was revealed. And that ambition was expressed most clearly by the devious Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to parliament in late April:

We will manage the wave of change in the Middle East. Just as the ideal we have in our minds about Turkey, we have an ideal of a new Middle East. We will be the leader and the spokesperson of a new peaceful order, no matter what they say.

Wow. Off with the “everyone’s buddy” image and out comes the raving would-be dictator over the Middle East. But the problem is that there are these people called “Arabs” who don’t want to be bossed around by a Turk, even if they both are Sunni Muslims. In addition, those Arabs have their own ambitions. So when they hear stuff like this they become even more angry and suspicious.

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“No matter what they say,” intones Davutoğlu, a man who has gone even further in addressing his party’s convention in a closed meeting where he said that somebody ought to run the Middle East so why not him and his colleagues. Since his speech was reported in a U.S. embassy message it was available to the White House. Yet it has been Obama’s naiveté about Turkey that has even further puffed up the arrogance of such people.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center  and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Obama Hearts Turkish Leader Erdogan As He Oppresses His Own People and Stabs America in the Back

By Barry Rubin

President Barack Obama is continuing his love affair with Turkish Islamist leader Recep Erdogan. As Erdogan continues to undermine Turkish democracy, throw hundreds of moderates into jail, destroy the nation’s institutions, help Iran, throw hysterical tantrums about how much he hates Israel, promote Islamism in the region, and is fresh from still another meeting with Hamas leaders, Obama continues to use Erdogan as his guru.

When the two men met at the Seoul, South Korea, Nuclear Security Summit on March 25, Obama practically slobbered over the anti-American ruler, calling Erdogan his “friend and colleague….We find ourselves in frequent agreement upon a wide range of issues.” One wonders if they ever disagree.

Obama adds:

“I think it's fair to say that over the last several years, the relationship between Turkey and the United States has continued to grow across every dimension.  And I find Prime Minister Erdogan to be an outstanding partner and an outstanding friend on a wide range of issues.”

When Erdogan goes to elections or is criticized by the opposition he uses statements like this to "prove" that his policies aren't radical or anti-Western at all. Here's a man whose regime can help terrorist groups organize a violent confrontation with Israel, preside over a virulently anti-American media and then be lionized by the president of the United States.   

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What did the two men talk about? Well, they first discussed Syria, an issue on which Obama praised Erdogan’s “outstanding leadership.” In fact, Turkey has helped to engineer an Islamist leadership in the Syrian National Council that wrecked any chance for opposition’s unity. Turkey’s rulers did this not to promote democracy but to promote the Muslim Brotherhood.

Now, according to reliable sources, Obama is discouraging Erdogan from advocating a no-fly zone and safe haven in northern Syria because the U.S. government has basically decided not to help the opposition, which will ensure that the Syrian dictatorship crushes it and continues to be Iran’s main ally in the region.

Instead, Obama is opting, in his words, for “a process whereby a transition to a representative and legitimate government in Syria takes place.” In other words, Obama advocates a deal between the opposition and the dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad  If this sounds like a contradiction, remember that this is also the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood line but is opposed by both the Free Syrian Army and the moderate oppositionists.

Of course, however, this strategy will merely buy time for the regime to achieve a bloody victory.  Erdogan is now headed to Tehran where he will try to convince his friends there to stop helping their friends in Syria. Does that sounds like a mission likely to succeed?

Erdogan and Obama also discussed Iran.... 

.Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center  and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Why Is an Anti-American Islamist Obama's Favorite Middle East Leader?

This article was published in a very different form in the Jerusalem Post. I own the rights and ask you to read and link to this version.

By Barry Rubin

For the first time in forty years, Israel is not the American president’s favorite Middle Eastern ally. Instead, that role is played by Turkey’s government.

This would not be such a bad thing if we were talking about the “old” Turkey, the secular republic. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama’s favorite advisor among the regional leaders is Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Pretend all you want but Obama really dislikes—hates?—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and truth be told Netanyahu has done nothing to deserve that treatment.

The fundamental problem with Erdogan is despite being embraced by the United States, he is an enemy of the United States, the West more generally, and Israel. He is on the side of radical, anti-American Islamists who want to wipe Israel off the map. So angry and passionate is Erdogan’s loathing of Israel that the leader of the opposition mockingly but pointedly asked if the prime minister wanted to go to war with the Jewish state.

How obvious should this massive change be? Let me sum it up in one sentence: A few years ago Turkey was an ally of Israel. Now it is an ally of Hamas.

In contrast, the list of Erdogan’s dearest friends includes Hamas, Hizballah, Iran, the repressive Sudanese dictatorship, and Syria (formerly the regime there; now the Islamist portions of the opposition). Erdogan would like to be good buddies with the Muslim Brotherhood forces in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, but are suspicious of him, both because he is a Turk and not an Arab; due to memories of Ottoman rule in the past (an empire Erdogan often cites as a role model); and out of sheer competition for power and glory.

Erdogan’s record at home and abroad shows what he and his regime are all about.  Indeed, what is truly bizarre about Obama’s judgment is that Erdogan has done little beneficial to the United States and a number of things detrimental to it:

--Iraq war: Whatever you think of the Iraq war, the refusal of the Turkish government to deliver on their promise to let U.S. troops cross into northern Iraq in 2003 was unfriendly and many American officials and members of Congress were outraged at the time.

--Israel policy: Erdogan has gone to an extreme in attacking Israel and sabotaging any possibility of conciliation. His government sponsored the Gaza flotilla knowing that a lot of the Turkish participants were violent Islamists who wanted to stage a confrontation.

--Iran: Erdogan’s regime tried to sabotage sanctions against Iran in 2010. He has repeatedly defended Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and denied that Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons. While there have been some bilateral disagreements—the Turkish decision to allow in NATO installations to watch Iran and backing different sides in Syria, the two countries remain quite close and Erdogan is currently visiting Iran.

--Lebanon and Palestinians: In opposition to U.S. policy, Erdogan backs radical, openly antisemitic Islamist terrorist groups, Hamas and Hizballah. The leader of the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip has just been received as a hero by Erdogan.

--Syria: While Turkey opposes the continuation of the Asad regime in Syria, this is not out of a love of democracy but rather due to support for a Sunni Islamist takeover there. When Obama gave Erdogan the task of organizing a Syrian opposition leadership, the Turkish regime packed that leadership with Islamists.  

--Worldview: Erdogan’s foreign minister wrote a book in Turkish explaining the regime’s strategy of aligning with the Islamic world against the West. This is clearly what Erdogan has been doing. The bonus, however, is that he has been able to pretend otherwise and thus act without any real cost or pressure from the West. On the contrary, he can tell Turkish voters that Obama loves him.

Then there’s Erdogan’s domestic policy which grows worse with each day: increasing repression; massive arrests without trial; trumped-up phony charges of terrorism and treason; intimidation of the media; constitutional changes that give him control over all institutions including the courts.  The very real fear and despair within Turkey is generally not reported in the West.

Now the former army chief of staff, retired General Ilker Basbug, has been humiliated and will be put on trial for allegedly trying to overthrow the regime. One thing that's never explained is that if the hundreds of officers  arrested were working to stage a coup how come they never staged even the tiniest deed toward doing so? Meanwhile, journalists are on trial for alleged terrorism and other crimes.

Wait a minute! Maybe that's what the "Turkish model," which the Obama Administration wants to spread to the Arabic-speaking world, is: an elected government that makes itself into a dictatorship. 

Talk to almost any Turk, at least to those who aren’t regime supporters, and they’ll tell you that the only explanation they can figure out is a conspiracy in which the United States wants an Islamist regime in Turkey to prove its sympathy for Islam and possibly affect such groups elsewhere.  

One thing that the regime has done very well—or, at least, benefitted from conditions—is regarding the economy. Despite recent claims that Turkey’s economy is in trouble, the country seems to be flourishing.

Soner Cagaptay, a frequent critic of the regime, describes Turkey as in an unprecedented “sense of global confidence” not seen for centuries; a “Eurasian China;” a country whose economy grew a record 8.2 percent in the third quarter of 2011. Since 2002, he continues the economy has nearly tripled in size. Its trade is shifting from Europe to Islamic countries.  

As one journalist put it: "After suffering through eight coalition governments and four economic crises, the Turkish people have welcomed ten years of a stable…government even if it has meant entrenched single-party rule"

Cagaptay argues that to continue this economic success the Turkish government must avoid “a belligerent foreign policy.” But that’s a bit misleading. Turkey can have a radical, pro-Islamist foreign policy that is objectively anti-Western at little cost. It just has to avoid getting involved directly in wars, which it can easily do.

Now with the Turkish army broken, Erdogan needs merely complete his control of the courts in oder to be able to do whatever he pleases within the country.

And with Obama following Erdogan’s advice and trying to help spread the “Turkish model”—electing radical Islamist regimes that will be repressive at home and backing radicals abroad—things look bright for Erdogan as he steadily consolidates control.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, will be published by Yale University Press in January. Latest books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Middle East Today: August 12, 2011

Summary: Turkey moves toward Islamism; Syria heads toward bloodbath; Egypt strides toward anti-Americanism, Afghanistan heads toward a Taliban comeback. Palestinian leader threatens to murder Americans if they don’t get everything they want.  Obama Administration continues to be clueless. The good news? You’re among the first to hear about it! 

By Barry Rubin

All of these are “little stories” that reflect wider trends.

Read it all

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Turkey: Two More Steps Toward Islamism

By Barry Rubin

In Washington DC they are still ridiculing the idea that Turkey’s government is Islamist, is working step by step to transform fundamentally that country’s state and society, or that it is closer to Tehran than to the United States nowadays or more friendly to Hamas and Hizballah than to Israel.

Yet anyone who actually talks to Turks or looks at daily life there—and that includes the U.S. embassy in Ankara—knew better.

First, a bombshell. No sooner have the heads of the armed forces resigned than the regime issues an arrest warrent for seven senior officers. The Turkish army is finished as a political force--partly thanks to the European Union insisting that it withdraw from a political role--while the courts are being neutralized and the media is being bought up. There is no institution left to prevent the current regime from Islamizing Turkey and fundamentally transforming its society.

Read it all

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Obama Administration New Achievement: Messing Up Turkey, Syria, and Libya Within 24 Hours

By Barry Rubin

It's truly amazing that literally every day the Obama Administration finds a new way to mess up the Middle East. July 14-15, 2011, is a new record since it damaged Western interests and any hope for a stable future in three countries almost simultaneously!

Read more

Friday, June 17, 2011

Turkish Armed Forces: Growing Support for Islamism

My articles are featured at PajamasMedia.

By Barry Rubin

When people talk about Turkey the assumption is that the armed forces are still the guardians of the secular republic. But one of the important trends toward Islamism in the country is the infiltration of the military by Islamists or at least a growing belief by many soldiers that supporting the government party will aid their career. With the regime now reelected for four years and in a strong position to shape the new constitution, the army and the other remaining independent institution, the courts, are prime targets for fundamental transformation. A precinct exclusively used by air force personnel and their families in Diyarbakir--involving a cross-section of ranks--the vote totals are astonishing: AKP (Islamists) 67 percent; CHP (social democrats, supporters of the traditional secular republic) 17 percent; MHP (right-wing nationalists), 14 percent. Note that the backing for the AKP is far higher than what it received from the country as a whole (just under 50 percent)! Have no doubt, the Turkish Islamist revolution is comprehensive, dangerous, and largely unnoticed in the West.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Turkish Election: Voter Fraud?

By Barry Rubin

Daniel Pipes wrote an article asking if the June 2011 election would be the last free and fair election in Turkey. But perhaps it was the first non-free one. I definitely cannot prove this but questions should be raised about government fraud. The questions revolve around the phenomenal and suspicious massive increase of voters and include the following points:

Read more

Monday, June 13, 2011

Turkish Military High Command's Neighbors Takes A Step Toward Islamism

Rubin Reports articles in full are available on PajamasMedia.

By Barry Rubin

Compare the election results from voters in the neighborhood where several Turkish generals live to that of the overall population: 138 CHP (Kemalists); 50 MHP (Nationalists); 46 AKP (Islamists); 2 SP (even more radical Islamists). So on one hand while the population gave 50 percent to the Islamists, the high-ranking military officers and their neighbors gave them just 20 percent. On the other hand, such a high vote for Islamists even in that fortress of secularism as the traditional Turkish elite indicates the gradual infiltration of Islamist supporters into that sector. They might be sincere or opportunistic, of course, but in a sense it doesn’t matter. Four years from now, after another term for the AKP, it might well be far higher.

The Outcome of the Turkish Election: Exclusive Report From Istanbul for Rubin Reports

Introduction: This assessment is a bit more optimistic than mine, suggesting ways to limit the new government's power. I'm doubtful that this is going to succeed but clearly it is the proper course to pursue. At the same time, the article points out that the turnout is so high as to be possibly suspicious. Again, the problem is that after four more years of AKP rule that regime may be well enough entrenched to stay in power a very long time--or change the political structure of Turkey to do what it wants. --Barry Rubin  

By Okan Altiparmak

Let's put everything in perspective:

2007 Voter turnout: 85.1%
Total number of votes: 35,017,315

2011 Voter turnout: 87%
Total number of votes: 42,906,852

2007 election: 46.6% (21.4 Million votes)...... 341 MP's (62% of the parliament)

2011 election: 49.91% (16.3 Million votes) ..... 326 MP's (59% of the parliament)
Up 3.31% tallying 5.1 Million more votes......... 15 fewer MP's

2007 election: 20.84% (7.3 Million votes)...... 112 MP's (20.4% of the parliament)

2011 election  25.91% (11.1 Million votes)..... 135 MP's (24.5% of the parliament)
Up 5.07% tallying 3.8 Million more votes....... 23 more MP's

2007 election: 14.26% (5 Million votes)...... 71 MP's (12.9% of the parliament)

2011 election: 13% (5.6 Million votes)..... 53 MP's (9.6% of the parliament)
Down 1.26% despite tallying 600,000 more votes...... 18 MP's fewer

BDP-backed Independents [Kurdish party]
2007 election: 4.4% (1.5 Million votes)...... 22 MP's (4% of the parliament)

2011 election 6.6% (2.6 Million votes)..... 36 MP's (6.5% of the parliament)
Up 2.2% tallying 1.1 Million more votes.......... 14 more MP's

Votes for parties that didn't gain parliamentary representation
2007: About 4.6 Million votes (12.9%) under the 10% threshold to enter the parliment
2011: About 2 Million votes (4.5%) under the 10% threshold to enter the parliament

The increase of 7.9 million voters (from 2007 to 2011) and the 2.6 million votes which went to parties under the 10% threshold in 2007 approximately correspond to the increase of 10.6 million votes that the parties that got into the parliament in 2011 tallied, with the AKP receiving 5.1 million of these 10.5-10.6 million additional votes.

However, the increase in the number of voters between 2007 and 2011 is rather strange because for it to be possible, there would have had to be such a jump in the birth rate between the years of 1989 and 1993. When we check the population of Turkey in those years, we notice an increase of 8.3 million from 56.5 million in 1990 to 62.9 million in 1997, i.e. less than 1 million per year. Nor can we find a jump in the Turkish population at a later point in time, a fact which would make an increase of 7.9 million voters in four years impossible unless a good number of voters did not get a chance to vote in 2007 when the AKP had its first huge break-through, jumping from 34% to nearly 47% in five years.

On the more positive side, the first-ever Syrian Orthodox ("Süryani" in Turkish) MP (an independent) was elected.

The number of female MP's has gone up from 50 to 78 (an increase of 56%). Ironically, 45 are from AKP, 19 from CHP, 3 from MHP and 11 from the BDP-backed independents. This is a historical peak for the Turkish parliament.

In summary, the AKP stayed in power, but lost a little (yet crucial) ground as did the MHP by a much larger margin, by 25%. On the other hand, the CHP increased its number of MP's by 20.5% and the BDP-backed independents by 63.6%. Hence, while the AKP has much to cheer about for staying in power and the CHP for improving its lot, albeit to a much lesser degree, the BDP-backed independents and women are the real winners of these elections.

Moreover, there is a chance, however little, that the Turkish people may also win if the opposition parties and the independents behave responsibly and force the AKP into governing the nation democratically. But don't count on it on either end. It is more likely that trouble looms ahead with the AKP continuing its authoritarian ways and the opposition failing to bond together. Nor can we, based on the last nine years, expect the USA and Europe to pressure the AKP into responsible governance.

The AKP has been the baby the Western publications and think-tanks (those leaning left in particular) love to spoil and is likely to stay that way until Erdogan and the AKP self-destruct or the West totally loses Turkey as an ally.

Okan Altiparmak, an alumnus of Northwestern University in the field of economics. He is a consultant and filmmaker based in Istanbul.

Turkey's Election: An Islamist Revolution

This article appears in the Jerusalem Post but I own the rights.

By Barry Rubin

Remember this: By the end of 2011 more than 250 million people in the Middle East may well be living under what are in reality anti-American Islamist governments, mainly in Iran, Turkey, and Egypt, plus the Gaza Strip and an allied (but not Islamist) Syrian regime. Might this be a problem?

The elections in Turkey mark a revolution. When Iran’s revolution happened and the Islamists took over in 1979, everyone knew it. In contrast, Turkey’s revolution has been a stealth Islamist operation. It has succeeded brilliantly, while Western governments have failed shockingly to understand what has been going on.

Now we are at a turning point, an event every bit as significant as the revolutions in Iran and now in Egypt. Of course, it will take time but now Turkey is set on a path that is ending the republic established by Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s. The Turkey of secularism and Western orientation is finished. The Turkey that belongs to an alliance of radical Islamists abroad and of Islamism at home has been launched.

Here are the numbers from the parliamentary election:

The stealth Islamist party, Justice and Development (AKP), received almost exactly 50 percent of the vote. Under the Turkish system this will give it 325 members of parliament, or about 60 percent of the seats.

On the opposition side the social democratic Republican People's Party (CHP) got about 26 percent of the vote and 135 seats. The right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) took 13 percent giving it 54 seats. There are also 36 independents, all of them Kurdish communalists. Eleven parties didn't make the minimum ten percent barrier (they received only about 1 percent or less each).

Now is this good or bad?

The AKP won 363 seats with a bit over 34 percent of the vote in 2002; 341 seats with 46.58 percent of the vote in 2007; and 325 seats with almost 50 percent of the vote in 2011.

In statistical terms, the AKP lost 6 MP's despite getting 5 million more votes, the MHP lost 18 MP's despite tallying half a million more votes while the CHP gained 33 seats adding 3.5 million votes. On paper, then, while the AKP stays in power, it is very slightly weaker than before.

But the outcome is nonetheless overwhelmingly bad. As you can see above the AKP's percentage of voters keeps rising. Most of the people who back the party don't want an Islamist regime and they don't think of the AKP in those terms. It rather seems to them to be a strong nationalist party respecting religious tradition that is making Turkey an important international power and is doing a good job on the economy.

The AKP got almost--remember that almost--everything it wanted. It increased voter support more than any other party and will be in power for four--and perhaps many more--years, infiltrating institutions, producing a new constitution, intimidating opponents, altering Turkish foreign policy, and shifting public opinion to dislike Americans and Jews to a larger degree.

The only point on which the AKP  fell short is that it didn't get the two-thirds of the seats, 357, that would let it pretty much write Turkey's new constitution any way it wanted. It is, however, close to the 330 needed to take a constitution that it produced to a referendum.

But so what? Deals with a few willing parliamentarians from other parties could provide the five additional votes needed for subitting an AKP-authored constitution to a referendum. The government can offer individuals a lot, including what I will delicately call here personal benefits for their support. And given the way the parliamentary elections went, the AKP can almost certainly win that referendum.

In short, the AKP is entrenched in power and can now proceed with the fundamental transformation of Turkey.

The AKP has become famous for the subtlety of its Islamism, disguised as a "center-right" reform party. Some people in the Arab world are starting to talk about this as a model. Notably the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is fascinated by the strategy. Yet as the Islamist party gains more and more power and support--Turkey has demonstrated this--it becomes more ambitious, daring, and extreme.

This would include:

--A constitution that would take the country far down the road to a more Islamist state and society.

--A more presidential style of government empowering the mercurial (a nice word for personally unstable and frighteningly arrogant) Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to become the chief executive.

--The government can now infiltrate, take over, and transform the remaining hold out institutions, especially the armed forces and courts, along with the remainder of the media that has not yet been bought up or intimidated by the Islamists.

--A government whose policy is to align with Islamists like Iran, Syria (not Islamist but part of the Tehran-led alliance), Hamas, Hizballah, and perhaps the Muslim Brotherhood.

--A government against U.S. and Western interests.

--A government that, to put it bluntly, hates Israel and many of whose members hate Jews.

--For Israel, any dreams of restoring the alliance with Turkey, or even a friendly relationship or normal diplomatic relations are finished. This is the regime that sponsored the first Gaza flotilla and is now behind the second one. From an Israeli interests’ perspective, Turkey’s government is now on the other side, the side of its enemies.

It is hard to place these unpleasant realities and many will not want to face them. There will be no shortage of soothing analyses and encouraging talk about Turkish democracy succeeding, moderate Muslim politics, and how “great” it is that the army’s political power is destroyed.

Don’t be fooled.

This is a disastrous day for the United States and for Europe; for the prospects of stability and peace in the Middle East. And it isn't great news for the relatively moderate Arab states either.

It is the end of the republic as established by Kamal Ataturk in the 1920s and modified into a multi-party democracy in the 1950s.

Yet how many people in the West actually appreciate what is happening? How many journalists will celebrate the election as a victory for democracy? Lenin once reportedly remarked that he would get the capitalists to sell him the rope with which to hang them. The AKP has gotten the West to provide that rope as a gift.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Turkey's Election:Last Exit Before Toll

Note:: Because Turkey's election Sunday is of such huge importance, not only for Turkey but for the region as a whole, Western interests, Israel, and just about everybody, I asked a Turkish friend who is a keen observer of the situation to write a letter from Turkey. The author asked to be anonymous which I think makes perfect sense given what's going on in Turkey. I have edited it very slightly for grammar and clarity.

To summarize, a victory by the ruling AKP is likely that would give it tremendous power to reshape Turkey's future in an Islamist and more repressive direction. But that outcome is not inevitable as a number of constituencies may give enough support to the social democratic CHP to block the regime continuing or at least to keep its control of parliament low enough to stop it from unilaterally writing a new contitution for Turkey.

By Anonymous

On Sunday, June 12th, Turkish voters go to the ballot box to decide if they want to extend to Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the AKP another four years in charge of the nation. The international media - though more hesitant to get behind Erdogan this time after watching the already flawed Turkish democracy turn into an authoritarian state with tens of journalists and even more opposition figures jailed in increasing numbers in the last three years - anticipates another easy victory for the AKP.

However, the Economist and several other publications have expressed their concern about Erdogan running haywire and turning into an unmanageable dictator if his party is able get a super-majority that would allow them to change the constitution without having any regard for others' perspectives on the issue. This will certainly be the case if the AKP indeed wins 367 seats (out of 550).

But not so fast. Facts in Turkey are not as they seem from the Cihangir cafes (all within 10 blocks or so) where the foreign journalists in Turkey hang out and think they then know everything about Turkey because they interview the same fifteen (approximately) people over and over again - nearly all of them pro-AKP. The same goes for the so-called experts at U.S. and European think-tanks who regard themselves as such because they have read the pieces by those international journalists in the trendy neighborhood of Cihangir in Istanbul.

I believe Sunday's elections are, though not guaranteed, ripe for a, not huge, but sufficiently significant upset that will change the political balance in Turkey. For many Turks, these elections represent the last exit before toll since, after seeing the uncontrollable behavior of Erdogan and the AKP in the last two years in particular, another Erdogan victory means real commotion on the horizon.

First, Erdogan appears afraid and thrown off balance all of sudden.His usual swagger is gone. Instead anger toward all segments of the society dominates his rally speeches. He is even flustered at times: He froze for almost a minute without any ad-libbing - not a single word - when his teleprompter stopped working in Antalya and then while in Bingol said  he was in Diyarbakir - not just once, but four times in a row. He has become overly aggressive, making him seem the aggressor and not the oppressed as he successfully claimed to be in the past.

Secondly, the sex tapes that were leaked against the MHP (nationalist opposition party) in May appear to have worked in favor of the MHP, which according to Metropoll - a pro-AKP polling firm, seems to have gone from 10% to 15% in May with the AKP, dropping five points to 35% prior to allocating the undecided votes. As the AKP was trying to attract the MHP votes via nationalistic and anti-PKK (Kurdish leftist nationalist group that fought a terror-laden war with Turkey) talk lately.

People appear to have held the AKP responsible for the dirty tricks pulled and also gained the impression that the Gulen (a separate Islamist movement with much power in the police force) movement is behind it, following the imprisonment of two writers apparently for writing books exposing the infiltration of the Gulenists into the government including the police force and the judiciary.

Third, the main opposition party, the CHP (social democrats), has gone through a serious makeover and has surprised everyone including me with the hard work they have been putting into their campaign. The CHP and its leader Kilicdaroglu has come up with numerous quality ideas and projects - 41 clearly defined projects in all, which if the media was not either controlled by pro-AKP outlets or intimidated by the ruling party (see the journalists in prison and taxes imposed upon an adversary, the Dogan Group) would normally dominate the headlines.

The CHP's executive team has appeared to be extremely deft, and Kilicdaroglu's command of his speeches has improved considerably. The CHP leader has had rallies in 81 cities and visited 200 smaller districts while Erdogan has had 72 rallies and the MHP's Bahceli 40. In comparison, in 2007, it was 59 for Erdogan, 19 for the then-CHP leader Baykal and 11 for Bahceli. An experienced businessman, Inan Kirac, of the traditional business elite reportedly expects - and he says he will even bet on it - that the CHP will come up with an upset and emerge as the top party. Erdogan has confronted Kirac and warned him of risky consequences for his prediction.

On the other hand, while Erdogan has a loyal mass of supporters who will vote for him no matter what he does or does not do, some cracks may have emerged in the alliance of the Islamic brotherhoods that support the AKP. The prominent Iskenderpasa cemaat of the Nakshibendi tariqat - to which Necmettin Erbakan, Turgut Ozal and Tayyip Erdogan himself among other important political figures all belonged - have recently declared their support for the MHP instead of the AKP, possibly due to their unhappiness with the dominance of the shady Gulen movement in the AKP.

Concerns over the possibility of voter fraud have emerged, unfortunately, as hundreds of voter records belonging to dead people have recently been discovered. The printing of a total of 69 million ballot forms when there are a maximum of 52 million possible voters including those living abroad is another matter people are questioning. The dirtiness of the election campaign by the AKP and its supporters has rendered cheating a serious probability against which the opposition parties will have to take precautions and the CHP has confirmed its readiness to do so. There have also been cases in which the AKP municipal governments threatened their constituents with fewer services if they vote for any other party.

With the three wild cards being the extent of the break-down of the Islamic brotherhood alliance behind the AKP, possible voter fraud and the final preference which the swing-voters (see below) will make, a map similar to the 2009 local election results ( ) is likely to emerge with the CHP tightening the race in most cities won and likely to be won again by the AKP, challenging the past dominance of the AKP in the two biggest cities Istanbul and Ankara and possibly overtaking the AKP in some other smaller cities.

In the most recent local elections in 2009 when Kilicdaroglu emerged as the CHP's last-minute mayoral candidate in Istanbul, the AKP received 39% of the vote, the CHP 23%, the MHP 16% and the Kurdish party (who will run as independents in these general elections) 5%. The CHP with its new leader Kilicdaroglu is destined to increase its votes by 5-10% while the MHP is likely to stay in the 13-18% range. The Kurdish independents will get around 5-6% capturing the same cities and possibly a couple more. The difference will be in how the rest of the votes, from 11 to 22%, will be allocated between the AKP and the CHP.

Looking at it from a totally different angle is also interesting. Kilicdaroglu is both Kurdish and Alevi (a religious group paralleling the Druze, for example, that tends to support secularism and are strong CHP voters), which means he will attract the majority of the Alevi votes (Alevi population - not the number of voters - is estimated at around 15 million) and may also get some Kurdish votes - certainly more than what the CHP received under Baykal, a conclusion Adil Gur, the president of the A &G Research polling firm has stated on TV.

The neglect of the retired population by the AKP and the resulting economic hardships in the last nine years will bring an overwhelming majority of their 9 million votes to the CHP as well. At least half of the 3 million university students have grown to be anti-AKP as have at least a segment of the agricultural sector (easily over 12 million people), which has been devastated by the AKP's preference for imports. When we add up the traditionally CHP-voting coastal areas and highly-educated urban districts, it is (not easy but also) not out of the question for the CHP to receive over 15 million votes.

If we assume the turnout to be high somewhere around 80-85% as in the last two elections, we come up with 41-44 million votes. Nevertheless, the importance of these elections could produce an even higher turnout and about 45 million voters. If the MHP and the Kurdish independents receive their usual 5-7 million and 1.5-2 million votes respectively and we assume the rest of the parties total about 10% and 4 million votes, we come up with a tally of 26 million votes which would leave the AKP with 19 million votes 3 million more than it has ever received and with a percentage of 42%.

To reiterate, nothing is a foregone conclusion as people make it out to be. Anything can happen but an upset may also be in the making if the Turkish people happen to be on a good day with a clear mind and take the last exit before toll.

Friday, June 10, 2011

U.S. Government Cheers As Turkey Goes Islamist and Anti-American

Will 250 million people live under revolutionary Islamist regimes by the end of this year?

My caption: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gives a "high-five" to Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoğlu on June 9. Davutoğlu authored a Turkish foreign policy designed to align an Islamist Turkey with the Islamic world and turn against America and the West. His government has broken with Israel and made openly antisemitic statements, too. It voted against sanctions on Iran to try to stop that country's nuclear program and has violated the UN sanctions systematically. So here's the key figure in aligning Turkey as an ally of Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah, yet that's no problem for Clinton, laughing it up with one of America's most dangerous  enemies.

By Barry Rubin

On Sunday, June 12, Turkey will hold what might well be its most important elections in modern history. It may also be the worst thing that’s happened to the country in modern history. If the current regime is reelected—and it could do so, given Turkey’s electoral system, with less than thirty percent of the vote, the emboldened Islamist regime will hit the accelerator in transforming Turkey into as much of an Islamist state as possible.

The ruling AK Party has been cautious, concealing its aims and pretending to be a "center-right" reform party. Many Turks have also accepted this notion. Roughly only 12 percent want an Islamist state and around 30 percent will also vote for the current regime in the belief that it won't give that to them.

Yet as the AK has entrenched itself in power, put its cadre into institutions, undermined democracy, and paid virtually no international cost for doing so it has become more confident. One might better say, arrogant. This election could well be the last straw pushing Turkey over the edge of the cliff.

Whether or not anyone in the U.S. government recognizes it now, that development will spell the end of a U.S.-Turkish alliance that has endured 55 years. Turkey, arguably the Muslim-majority country with the most advanced infrastructure and greatest military capability in the world, will be in the enemy camp.

Already, the Turkey-Israel alliance is long over and will not return under this regime in Ankara. The Turkish government supports Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah. The regime officially sponsors antisemitic hatred. The hatred of the regime for Israel and Jews is pathological. Nothing like it has been seen in Turkey during all of the centuries since the Turks arrived in Anatolia. Many Jews are leaving or are getting prepared to do so.

If the regime gets a big enough majority it will rewrite the Turkish constitution. Turkey, as we have known it, a secular democratic state since the 1920s, will no longer exist. Of course, not everything will be obvious and happen overnight, but the repression we have already seen will increase. The courts, the armed forces, and other institutions will be taken over by this Islamist government.

It will be a disaster for Western interests. And coupled with the same thing happening in Egypt, these events will catapult the region back a half-century or more into strife.

Meanwhile, the West snores on. Western media coverage of the Turkish regime is glowing. Yet if one actually looks at what’s happening in the country, reading the Turkish-language media and talking to the many Turks horrified by these developments, the picture is horrifying.

Here is an example of life in contemporary Turkey. The town of Hopa received a visit from Prime Minister Erdogan. Opposition banners are removed by the police. When local people resisted, the police attacked. A retired teacher who had been trying to negotiate with the police died.

Scores of journalists have been arrested and thrown into jail. One-third of the media has been bought up by the regime; much of the rest intimidated. Military officers, college professors, union leaders, activists, and peaceful critics of every description are thrown into jail on trumped up charges and kept there for months, years. The waiting time for a trial during which people are jailed is now three years. Yes, three years without proof of any wrongdoing.

A respected investigative journalist is arrested and accused of terrorism. His crime? Writing a critical book on Fathi Gulen, Turkey’s leading Islamist cleric. All of the copies of the manuscript are confiscated. Gulen controls the police.

Two other journalists are arrested. Their crime? Saying that they were about to publish documentation showing that the government’s claims of conspiracy, used to arrest so many, are bogus. Gareth Jenkins, a serious scholar, has gone through thousands of pages of court documents and shown that the hundreds of people imprisoned have not even been accused of any specific act. I know of a half-dozen journalists fired for daring to criticize the government. There are many more.

How to intimidate the media? Tax officials arrive and take over offices, going through all of the documents trying to find some technicality on which to bring charges. The largest media group in Turkey, the Dogan Group, was told that it owed $2.5 billion in penalties. That is not a typographical error. It is several times the worth of the entire company. The government demanded that they pay the fines first and then if they wanted they could go to court. To provide a partial payment and bank guarantees, the Dogan Group had to sell two newspapers.

People feel that they are watched, wire-tapped, and spied on. Turkey was never a perfect democracy. Yet this atmosphere is closer to that of a country under Communism than the Turkey they have known all their lives.

As a Turkish professor writes to me:

“There has been an air of terror where people are afraid to talk anymore, in public or over the phone or even behind closed doors against the government or Gulen movement. Who knows [whether] your words will be used against you in the future?”

Four prominent parliamentarians of the MHP party, the nationalist opposition, were forced to withdraw their candidacies in the forthcoming election after a mysterious website published video and audio of their involvement in illicit sexual activity. America has had its scandals recently. But the government using its intelligence assets to destroy its opponents systematically is something quite different.

Actually, since the process has not advanced so far, one can read about all of these things and more in some Turkish newspapers or be told of events by credible sources. The campaign of anti-Americanism is in the open. The daily preaching of hatred against Jews and Israel is in the open. The tightening links with Islamist movements and regimes is in the open.

As we know from leaks, the U.S. embassy in Turkey has reported many of the kinds of arguments and analysis I’m making. Yet the White House and the president are blind. On that reporting, check out Okan Altiparmak and Claire Berlinski, “The Wikileaks Cables on Turkey: 20/20 Tunnel Vision,” MERIA Journal, Vol. 14, No.4 (December 2010).

I don’t want to overstate the threat so feel free to assume I’m exaggerating. Subtract the proportion you want, take another look, and you’ll still see a great deal to be alarmed about.

The View from the White House

Perception of this revolutionary Islamist threat by Obama White House: Close to zero.

Actions taken by the Obama White House to counter it: Zero.

Principal enemy according to White House: Al-Qaida, which rules no population.

Main problem in the Middle East according to White House: Israel’s presence on part of the West Bank, ruling about 30,000 Palestinians directly (in Hebron) and the existence of settlements with about 300,000 Israeli settlers.

The View from the Middle East

Egypt has 82 million people; Iran has 78 million people. Turkey has 79 million people. Total: By the end of this year, almost 240 million people in those three countries alone will live under Islamist or radical anti-American regimes allied to them. Adding in the Gaza Strip, those under Hizballah control in Lebanon, and Syria brings the total to about 250 million. One-quarter of a billion people are going to be—many of them involuntarily--in the enemy camp. Call it the Crescent Curtain if you wish.

These countries and groups will not work together in every respect but they will work against the West, stability, democracy, and Israel’s existence.

The loss of Turkey—yes, I said it, loss—would be a tragedy of tremendous proportions to the West and, of course, the loss of liberty and democracy in Turkey would be most of all a tragedy for the Turkish people.

The event would be a tragedy; the failure to see what’s happening is shameful. In policy and analytical terms, it is the equivalent of criminal.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at

Monday, June 6, 2011

Turkey's Regime: Openly Antisemitic, Allied with Iran, Anti-American...And Glorified in the Western Media

This article is published in PajamasMedia.

By Barry Rubin

Why is it that Anthony Shadid, the same New York Times reporter who has constantly whitewashed Syria and Hizballah now writing a glowing portrait of Turkey's Islamist Prime Minister Recep Erdogan on the verge of Turkey's June 12 election?

Shadid frequently quotes only pro-Hizballah sources in his articles on Lebanon without mentioning their political views but giving them cover under a variety of misleading affiliations, including a think tank that doesn't actually exist.

Erdogan has led Turkey out of its 65-year-long alliance with America; allied with Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah; fundamentally transformed Turkish society; taken over or intimidated the media; presided over massive repression, including the arrests of many journalists on trumped-up charges; and is seeking to destroy Israel and make Turkey the closest possibleapproximation to an Islamist state.

Once he is reelected, if that happens, he will go much further in destroying Turkish democracy. If he has a two-thirds' majority he will rewrite Turkey's constitution. In short, he is an enemy of the United States and of democracy while being a friend to its foes.

Yet the Times' profile, and much other media coverage, makes him and his regime sound wonderful. The New York Times followed this up as another profile appeared now praising Turkish Islamist leader Fathi Gulen!

As a Turkish friend put it some months ago, such people aren't just fools, they are on the enemy side.

Yet Erdogan is unhappy with the coverage, even though it has been overwhelmingly supportive of him and his party. When The Economist--a magazine not noted for its friendship toward Israel--actually called on Turks to support the opposition, Erdogan exploded:

"The international media, because they are backed by Israel, wouldn't be happy with the continuation of the AK Party government," Erdogan said, according to Turkey's official news agency.

At first glance, this is nonsense. But think about that second glance. Remember when Turkey's leadership was modern, pro-Western, enlightened, even European! Today, the prime minister of Turkey, the country's most powerful politician, openly spouts antisemitic hatred and nobody even seems to notice.

Let me repeat that: The prime minister of Turkey and his government are openly spreading antisemitism (for those who don't know what that means it refers to the systematic hatred of Jews). A large dossier could be assembled on this point. It would include the antisemitic website backed by the Education Ministry, officially sponsored billboards, and much more.

Might this disturb Western governments or the international media that is--according to Erdogan--controlled by the Jews? Obviously not.

When I say that this regime is destroying Turkey, dragging it backwards, moving toward Islamism, is essentially antisemitic and anti-American, and undermining Turkish democracy that is no exaggeration.

And that's what they're doing before the election. Imagine what they'll do after they win and especially if they get to rewrite the country's constitution.

[Optional joke: Maybe Erdogan's complaint referred to Rubin Reports since that's about the only publication I've seen that calls for the electoral downfall of his terrible, repressive, stealth Islamist regime.]

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at

Monday, April 11, 2011

What Country in the World Has the Most Journalists Imprisoned?

This article was published on PajamasMedia. Please link to PajamasMedia if you quote or reprint. The full text is presented here for your convenience.

By Barry Rubin

What country in the world has the most journalists imprisoned? The answer might surprise you. According to a recent study, China and Iran are tied at 34 each. But that's only second place.

In first place is Turkey with 57. Yes, that supposed model for Arabic-speaking states, that supposedly ideal example of a moderate Muslim democratic state, NATO member, and candidate for European Union membership is in first place according to the International Press Institute.

And how many journalists there are facing legal proceedings? Hold onto your fedora hat: Between 700 and 1,000.

According to the Institute:

"Vedat Kurşun and Emine Demir of the Azadiya Welat newspaper were sentenced to 166 years and 138 years in prison, respectively, while Bayram Namaz and Ibrahim Çiçek of the Atilim newspaper each face up to 3,000 years in prison. Mustafa Balbay of Cumhuriyet newspaper, Mehmet Haberal of Kanal B Television and Tuncay Özkan of Kanal Biz Television all face dual life sentences, plus further time."

Halit Güdenoğlu of Halit Yürüyüş magazine currently faces 150 court cases.

Western media and governments continue to ignore the growing repression of the Islamist regime in Turkey even as the noose tightens and the subversion of democracy grows daily. On June 11, Turkey will be holding elections. If the ruling AK party wins, the number is going to go a lot higher.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Turkey: Excellent Article on the Democratic Opposition

By Barry Rubin

Here's a great article on the CHP, the social democratic leader of the opposition in Turkey. On June 11, elections will determine whether Turkey will continue with the current repressive and Islamist-oriented regime or not. And if this government wins the election, Turkey might go beyond a point of no return for an anti-American and pro-Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah Islamist policy.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Turkey: Less Democracy But An Alternative

By Barry Rubin

For several years I've been telling you that under its current Islamist regime, Turkey has become less and less of a democratic state. Dissidents are arrested on trumped-up charges; the media is bought up or intimidated into shutting up. Hundreds of peaceful dissidents--including many journalists--have been arrested, imprisoned, and accused of treason or terrorism without evidence. The regime has moved into an alliance with Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizballah. It has bought up much of the media and intimidated much of the rest.

Yet the idea that somehow this regime is a model of democracy in a Muslim-majority state--something for others to emulate, for goodness sakes!--has remained dominant in the West.

Still, one abuse has followed another, with the nature of this anti-democratic would-be dictatorship becoming increasingly apparent. Following on the arrests of journalists and closing of a publication merely because it asserted that it was about to publish proof that the arrests have been made on trumped-up charges, even the U.S. government finally protested, albeit very mildly.

But now the regime has trumped even that human rights' violation.

An investigative journalist named Ahmet Shik has been working on a book about Fatitullah Gulen. But Gulen, a controversial Islamist who has huge amounts of money, his own media empire, has bought off some American Middle East experts, runs lots of schools, practically owns the Turkish police, and engages in a variety of covert activities aimed to transform Turkey into an Islamist state. Apparently, Turkish journalists do not have the right to criticize or investigate the movement.

So not only was Shek arrested--as an alleged terrorist!--and all the copies of his manuscript seized by the police, but the authorities then went on to raid his publisher's office and two of his friends homes and offices. They deleted the versions on all of their computers. Then, realizing that an expert can restore deleted files, the police returned and took the hard disks with them.

One wonders how much repression is going to have to happen in Turkey before foreign media acknowledge and Western governments admit that the regime is oriented toward dictatorship and Islamism, making it an enemy of Western interests and certainly only a negative role model for the Arab world!

The leader of Turkey's opposition says that the current, Islamist regime's supposed policy of getting along with everyone--though really it means aligning with radical Islamist forces in the Middle East--has actually led to bad relations with a lot of countries.

And he also discusses relations with Israel:

Question: "Does the deterioration of relations with Israel...serve Turkey’s interests?"

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu: "The answer is no. In the first place, the deterioration of our relations with Israel has caused significant losses....Trade and tourism went down....But the greater loss is of a strategic nature and affects the entire region....[The fact that Turkey is] no longer enjoying the trust of Israel puts it out of the Middle East equation, further weakening the prospects of peace and stability in this key region [and]...could unexpectedly lead to situations that might hurt Turkey’s vital national interests."

And here's another brilliant article by Soner Cagaptay which gave me a new perspective on Turkish issues. Briefly, he points out that the current, Islamist regime in Turkey has dropped all the good things from Kemalism (secularism, gender equality, good relations with the West) and simply adapted all the problemmatic aspects (hardline stand on the Armenian and Kurdish issues; unbending nationalism, etc.)

Finally, the current Turkish regime--which likes Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi--is refusing to support NATO involvement in the Libyan crisis. Instead, it wants to mediate. Whose side is this regime on? Not that of NATO or the West. But it is on the side of Iran, Syria, Libya, Hamas, and Hizballah.