Monday

26th Feb 2018

Opinion

Erdogan’s new Turkey full of 'spies' and 'traitors'

  • The first round of Turkey's presidential elections will be held on 10 August (Photo: Lars K. Christensen)

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who holds a historic record of being Turkey’s uninterrupted leader for the last 11 years, keeps arguing that he has built a new Turkey based on solid rule of law which is envied by many, both in the east and the west.

Yet, he also insists that Turkey is now full of spies and traitors against whom every patriot should fight, a rhetoric of staggering polarisation deepening animosity and hatred among his own people.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Recently, Turkey is quite often waking up to a day during which Erdogan declares someone either a spy, an agent of the West or a traitor.

Long gone are the days when he was hailed as one of the greatest reformers of Turkey, usually the greatest after the founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. He is now compared to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban.

Freedom of the Press downgraded

The latest victim of Erdogan’s spy-hunting was the CNN’s International’s Turkey correspondent Ivan Watson who was trying to report from the Taksim Square at the anniversary of the Gezi Park incidents.

During the country-wide protests last year, at least eight people were killed and dozens injured. While reporting live, Watson was detained - though released swiftly - and taken to a nearby police station just to verify his "identity". When the news became viral causing a media ripple, the Prime Minister reacted as exactly expected calling Watson both "a spy and flunky".

Never mind, it later turned out that Erdogan himself gave interviews to Watson on more than several occasions, took him on his private plane and his campaign bus.

His accusations led to a diplomatic spat when the US State Department called Erdogan’s claims on Watson as "ridiculous". Watson who was about to leave Istanbul after 12 years for his next stint in Hong Kong called Erdogan’s allegations a "very serious accusation that has dangerous implications here in Turkey."

Another international journalist, Hasnain Kazim working for the German weekly Der Spiegel in Istanbul recently had to return to Hamburg after receiving death threats in the wake of his critical articles on the Soma disaster in which 301 miners were killed on 13 May.

The diplomatic bickering in the waiting erupted after Turkish-origin German politician and the co-chairman of the Green Party Cem Ozdemir criticised Erdogan in a speech he delivered in Cologne in late May.

A few days later Erdogan personally targeted Ozdemir during one of his party’s group meetings in the Parliament declaring him "a so-called Turk" and described his criticisms as "very ugly."

Upon Erdogan’s attacks, the Turkish ambassador in Berlin was summoned to the German ministry of foreign affairs and was informed about Germany’s unease on Erdogan’s remarks targeting a "prominent" German politician "who has always tried to strengthen ties between the two countries".

While the political rhetoric worsens both inside and outside the country, it is also accompanied by conspiracy theories. Tens of thousands of police officers and hundreds of judges and prosecutors have been purged since 17 December when a huge corruption scandal hit the government.

Though four ministers had to quit, Erdogan insists it was an attempted coup d’etat against his government, a co-organised plan by foreign powers and traitors. In the following months all corruption cases were dropped and all the suspects released.

Conspiracy theories circulated freely once again when US-based Freedom House (FH) declared Turkish press "not free" last month. In its yearly report, FH downgraded Turkish press status from "partly free" to "not free" putting EU-candidate Turkey in the same league with Zimbabwe, Somali and Angola. Pro-government media was quick to draw attention to FH’s "links" to Israel and to accuse FH of involvement in a global conspiracy against the Turkish government.

One year after Gezi Park

Erdogan has not yet declared his candidacy but almost every seasoned political commentator and expert believe that he wants to be the first popularly-elected president of the republic.

The first round of the elections will be held on 10 August. It is also assumed that Erdogan, who was quite successful in the local elections at the end of March, thinks his policy of polarising the country and his style of poisonous political rhetoric pays off and wins him elections.

A short glance at the vocabulary of the Prime Minister shows that the words "traitor ... spy ... vile ... despicable ... nefarious ... foreign enemies and domestic collaborators" have been among his favorite ones since the corruption claims erupted.

By creating and targeting enemies, Erdogan, most believe, aims to consolidate his support base. A year after Gezi Park, he still hurls insults at the demonstrators and keeps repeating his theory that there is a grand conspiracy against the rising power of Turkey.

Most argue that he may win the presidential elections but many doubt how he will manage to rule the country which is already very polarised and divided largely thanks to his political discourse.

Ozdemir, who was very well known for his strong support to AK Party’s EU reforms, argued in the speech which led to Erdogan’s ire that the government was demolishing what it achieved in the last 10 years since Gezi Park and the 17 December corruption investigations. Most in Brussels would agree with him.

Pundits talk about the possibility that some member countries emboldened by the EU-sceptic European Parliament could come up with the proposal of suspending negotiations altogether in autumn when EU institutions start working in earnest.

However, trying to suspend the negotiating process will be dead wrong at a time when Turkey and its people need EU the most.

The writer is the Brussels Bureau Chief of Zaman Daily

Greek government's steady steps to exit bailout programme

Growth predictions are positive, exports increasing, unemployment dropping and credit-ratings up, says the head of Greece's Syriza delegation to the European Parliament. Now the government in Athens is looking to design its own reform programme.

News in Brief

  1. EU calls for immediate ceasefire in Syria
  2. UK's post-Brexit vision is 'pure illusion', Tusk says
  3. EU leaders express solidarity with Cyprus in Turkey drill row
  4. EU to double funding for Sahel forces
  5. EU parliament president: 'The immigration problem is Africa'
  6. May to unveil EU departure strategy next week
  7. Pregnant workers may be dismissed, EU court rules
  8. Romanian minister demands anti-corruption prosecutor fired

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeAnkara Ban on LGBTI Events Continues as Turkish Courts Reject NGO Appeals
  2. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  3. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. EU agrees budget to focus on defence, security and migration
  2. EU leaders nix transnational lists, cool on 'Spitzenkandidat'
  3. Regions chief: calls for smaller EU budget are 'impossible'
  4. Election fever picks up This WEEK
  5. EU-Morocco fishing deal casts doubt on EU future foreign policy
  6. EU leaders put 'Spitzenkandidat' on summit menu
  7. European far-right political party risks collapse
  8. The key budget issues on EU leaders' table

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  3. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  4. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  5. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  6. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  8. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  10. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  12. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?