Rising to power through general elections is never a guarantee of one’s democratic pedigree. The world woke up to this brutal fact on the dawn following the night of the long knives in Nazi Germany in July, 1934, when a series of extrajudicial killings sealed Adolf Hitler’s absolute hold on power.
Following the failed military coup in Turkey last month that sought to remove President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from power, he moved quickly and ruthlessly to remove thousands of political opponents from their positions.
He did not limit himself to the military personnel responsible for the coup but shockingly dismissed over 2,000 judges and 20,000 teachers. Over 130 TV and radio stations and newspapers have been shut down. He had 60,000 people arrested and 50,000 passports cancelled.
How could a president even claim such abusive powers in the first place? Due process of law has died in Turkey. Erdogan has even talked about introducing the death penalty for the leaders of the coup, which would be a breach of human rights if the new punishment were indeed to be applied retroactively. And he has had the audacity to criticise the EU for not supporting him “in the name of democracy”.
The rise of Erdogan has come at a time of deep global crisis, ranging from financial meltdown, economic sanctions in Europe and growing acts of terrorism, to mass migration into Europe, exacerbated by conflicts in Libya, Syria and Iraq. Incidentally, Daesh was caught financing its operations through the sale of stolen oil in Turkey.
So one could be forgiven, in all this chaos and confusion, for overlooking or misreading events taking place on Turkey’s side of Europe’s borders. Yet make no mistake about it, these events are serious beyond words and threaten the delicate stability in our region of the world more than we can imagine.
What used to be called the Sick Man of Europe, the crumbling Ottoman Empire, is fast becoming a resurgent Islamic State and Strong Man of Europe
So who is this new Turkish Sultan Erdogan, anyway? Could he really be likened to political figures like Hitler, or would that be an exaggeration?
Let us compare vision, mission and implementation. In Mein Kampf, Hitler expressed his visions of grandeur for a new Germany, that was to seek more territory for expansion in the east, his so-called lebensraum (living space), under the political ideology of Nazism, which took on the form of a fanatic cult. His mission was to form a one-party State, make Germany a military power once again through vastly increased military spending, and initiate incursions into neighbouring countries to build his greater Germany. At the start of the implementation of his mission, Europe was caught entirely unprepared and reacted with a policy of appeasement.
Erdogan’s road bears striking similarities. His vision 2023 is for a resurgent Turkey to become one of the world’s top 10 economies. Military spending has skyrocketed and continues to grow. Opposition politicians and critics have come increasingly under fire.
The former genocide against the Armenians has been vociferously denied. The Kurds are under an ever growing threat from the Turkish military. Plans are in the offing to change the constitution from a secular one to an Islamist one. And following the attempted coup, all opposition to Erdogan is now being stamped out, laying the path for a long reign of Turkey’s new Sultan.
So far, Europe has withdrawn into its shell in a new policy of appeasement, this time with Turkey, as it tries to come to grips with other problems of migration, terrorism and internal strife over political and financial institutions, the Brexit and strained economic and political relations with its other eastern neighbour, Russia. Yet once again, history may prove this to be an extremely dangerous game. Europe would do well to take stock of the real situation that has been unfolding across the Bosphorus.
What used to be called the Sick Man of Europe, the crumbling Ottoman Empire, is fast becoming a resurgent Islamic State and Strong Man of Europe.
Its new Sultan at the helm has made a growing and alarming number of bold moves of grave concern, ranging from shooting down a Russian plane and bombing the Kurds, to imprisoning journalists, dismissing judges and looking the other way as Daesh oil tankers and wounded militants entered Turkey.
Then there are the veiled threats to Europe if it does not kowtow to his demands, whether they be to prosecute a comedian in Germany, to opening the flood gates to Turks through travel visas which could be so easily abused.
Erdogan’s son Bilal recently fled Italy following an investigation into serious money laundering and suspicions that he is acting as his family’s bag man, hiding a whopping €1.2 billion in cash. The Italian authorities have intercepted a telephone conversation between father and son, wherein the President was instructing Bilal to immediately remove all the cash from his safe in Italy and bring it back home because the authorities were on to them and “had just launched an operation”.
Well, well, well! The plot certainly has thickened.
Could this be the reason for Erdogan’s desperate cling to power? Might this money laundering probe be the beginning of the end of the new Turkish Strong Man, who has been pushing his weight around in Europe, with his visions of an authoritarian and mighty Islamic Turkish State?
Or will Europe stumble, as principles cave in to political and economic expediency, which generally begins with short-term gain and ends in long-term disaster?
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