The Turkish Love-Hate Relationship with America

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: About the same proportion of Turks view the US (72%) and ISIS (73%) as a threat to their country. That’s weird. Erdoğan’s generation of Islamists were anti-American largely because of the Arab-Israeli dispute – although they feared Soviet communism more than American imperialism. Future generations of Turkish Islamists will hate America even more because they will have gone through long years of anti-American indoctrination by a beloved leader and his powerful propaganda machine.

Turks often expose degrees of confusion when asked about their foreign policy preferences. A public opinion poll in the mid-2000s found that most Turks viewed the US as a threat to world security – but the same poll found that Turks expected the US, before every other ally, to come to Turkey’s help if needed.

Conspiracy theories have always been abundant in the Turkish psyche. Schoolchildren grow up hearing maxims like “A Turk’s only friend is another Turk” and “Our Ottoman ancestors had to fight seven worlds (the big powers).” According to this worldview, the world’s major powers construct intricate conspiracies as they tirelessly plot to stop Turkey’s rise.

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Turkey and Germany: A Worsening Crisis

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The harsh measures taken by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since the failed coup attempt last year have led to a deepening crisis with a host of Western states, first and foremost with Germany. Since the coup attempt, relations between Ankara and Berlin have been at an unprecedented low. However, in light of their history of close relations, the volume of stable economic trade over the years, and Turkey’s ability to stabilize the waves of immigration to Europe, the countries may yet find a channel of communication in order to contain the crisis.

In the wake of the failed coup attempt against him last year, Turkish President Erdoğan has sought to consolidate his status and convey a message of unity under the banner of democracy against “Turkey’s enemies at home and abroad.” In practice, however, Turkey is experiencing profound internal upheaval. With the object of tightening the regime’s grip on power, the authorities are persecuting public figures and members of the media.

The coup attempt and its failure constitute a political turning point for Turkey. Erdoğan’s oppressive measures have contributed to the strengthening of Islamic and anti-Western circles inside Turkey and exacerbated Ankara’s friction with the West, which strongly opposes the regime’s trampling of individual rights. In addition, geopolitical fluctuations and Washington’s enduring weakness in the Middle East have prompted Ankara to warm its relations with countries such as Russia, Iran, and Qatar, a shift that can have a great impact on Turkey’s energy ambitions and economic needs.

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Victims of Turkey’s Islamization: Women

On Feb. 6, 1935, Turkish women were allowed to vote in national elections for the first time, and eighteen female candidates were elected to parliament – a decade or more before women even in Western countries such as France, Italy and Belgium. Eight decades later, Turkish women look like unwilling passengers on H.G. Wells’ Time Machine traveling back to their great-grandmothers’ Ottoman lives.

Turkey’s strongman, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once proudly said that “Women should know their place,” and that “Gender equality is against human nature”. His deputy prime minister said that women not to laugh in public. It was not shocking to anyone when Turkey’s Ministry of Family and Social Policies found in 2016 that no fewer than 86% of Turkish women have suffered physical or psychological violence at the hands of their partners or family. According to the ministry’s findings, physical violence is the most common form of abuse: 70% of women reported they have been physically assaulted.

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A Lesson in Democracy for Turkey’s Islamist President

When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Washington, D.C. this past May, he was greeted outside the home of the Turkish ambassador by a small group of protesters concerned about his crackdowns on civil rights and antagonism towards Turkey’s Kurdish population. Within minutes, his bodyguards sprang into action, accompanied by others in the Turkish posse, beating and kicking the protesters – who included women and senior citizens. A 61-year-old woman later told the Guardian she had feared for her life after guards punched her in the face, and when 60-year-old Turkish-American Reza Dersimi tried to assist her, he, too, was assaulted.

Local police quickly intervened, arresting several of the attackers, including Erdogan’s guards. Some of those who ran off were apprehended in the days that followed but many remain at large.

The arrests infuriated Turkey’s president. “They have incarcerated our citizens!” cried Erdogan, who has regularly thrown foreign journalists and human rights leaders into Turkish prisons. “How is that possible? What type of legislation is this, what type of law?”

Now the U.S. government has indicted 19 attackers for their violent abuse of the protesters, whom Turkish leaders accuse of having been members of the Kurdish terrorist group PKK. (There is no evidence to suggest any protester had terror ties.) Turkey’s Foreign Ministry described the indictments as “unjust and biased,” and claimed they included “names of people that have never been to the US.” The indictment against 15 Turkish security guards, two Turkish-Canadians, and two Turkish-Americans, contains 21 counts of assault and hate crimes, and describes the incident as a “conspiracy to assault protesters and law enforcement officials.”

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Turkish Education: Jihad In, Evolution Out

Turkey’s Islamist strongman, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, draws such a rosy picture of his war-torn country that his audiences might think the world’s youth, in envy, should be flocking to Turkey to breathe an air of academic excellence and freedoms. On the other hand, however, he complains of a massive brain drain in the Muslim world, including Turkey, heading to the Western countries, which he explicitly despises. A gross contradiction? Just an Islamist’s usual ideological impasse.

In a recent speech, Erdogan said that the Muslim world has been losing students to the West in a brain drain, and that this intellectual emigration must be prevented:

“On top of that, we are transferring very serious amounts of money to Western countries for this. After these students complete their academic studies, we naturally expect them to return to their countries and serve their own people. But most of the time, those finishing their schools do not return to their homelands, but stay where they received education”.

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Erdoğan’s Turkey: A Step Closer to the Orient

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Despite Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s charisma as a politician, he has failed to promote stability in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East due to his maximalist ideas. Erdoğan’s negligent decision-making in foreign affairs is leading Turkey away from the West and closer to the instability of the Orient.

In politics (unlike war), chance plays a minor role, if any. Great historical personalities are not merely the products of their times, but shaped their ages through conscious decision-making. And while charisma is vital to any politician to face the challenges of public life, not every charismatic politician survives in the demanding arena of applied politics.

There is no doubt that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the child of a middlebrow family from Kasimpasa, is equipped with a plethora of skills that proved vital to his ability to charm the Turkish electorate. But do they serve the interests of the state?

Initially, not only Turkey but the whole of the western world fell under the spell of Erdoğan’s charms. The young mayor of Istanbul (1994-98), who had been imprisoned by the Kemalists because he recited verses by Islamist poet Ziya Golkap, managed an impressive electoral win in the general elections of 2002. He became the first Turkish Islamist politician to form a one-party government in a state where a reference to its Ottoman past could have put you in prison.

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Anti-Semitic Academics: Where is the Outrage Against Turkey?

In Turkey, academics are currently at the mercy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who demands their compliance and threatens dissenters. After last July’s failed coup (for which Erdogan blamed an American scholar), a series of emergency decrees have specifically targeted Turkish academia. One would think this assault would raise ire from the ivory towers, but as Turkey slides deeper into totalitarianism, academia yawns. The failure of many professors to stand up vigorously and publicly for what they profess is especially notable in those whose careers are focused on the demonization of Israel through various attempts to destroy Israel by suffocating it economically.

All right, it is summer break and everyone is off doing research, writing novels and looking for grant money. But Erdogan’s crackdown is not new. Most of it was ignored until January 2016 when he targeted a group of Turkish scholars who called themselves “Academics for Peace” for producing a petition demanding that the Turkish government “end the massacre of the Kurdish people.”

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