Erdogan’s Crimes against Humanity

Just a few hours after the commemoration of the 102nd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide on April 24, 2017, Turkish warplanes dropped bombs on the Yazidi homeland of Sinjar (Shingal) on April 25, at around 2 AM local time, according to reports from the region.

The strikes reportedly killed at least 70 people in the area, with one bomb hitting a Kurdish peshmerga post in Sinjar, killing at least five and severely wounding several more.

Yazidis say they have been subjected to 72 genocidal massacres. The latest genocide, committed by ISIS, is the 73rd and is still going on. Tens of thousands of Yazidis have been displaced and are refugees in several countries. Hundreds of Yazidi girls and women are still bought, sold and raped by ISIS terrorists — the same men who murdered their husbands and fathers.

While Yazidis are still suffering from these atrocities, Turkey, evidently still no friend of non-Muslims, has attacked them yet again.

On August 3, 2014, Islamic State terrorists invaded Sinjar, the homeland of the Yazidis in Iraq, and started slaughtering the Yazidis; many survivors fled up Mount Sinjar.

In his speech to the U.S. Congress, Mirza Ismail, founder and chairman of the Yezidi Human Rights Organization-International, described the genocide in Sinjar and pled for help:

“The entire Yezidi population was displaced in less than one day on August 3, 2014! The Yezidis and Chaldo-Assyrian Christians face this genocide together. Why? Because we are not Muslims, and because our path is the path of peace. For this, we are being burned alive. For living as men and women of peace.”

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“NATO ally” Turkey threatens to strike U.S. forces partnered with Kurds

The war of words between Washington and Ankara over the U.S. military’s partnership with Kurdish paramilitaries in Syria escalated Wednesday, when a senior aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested American troops could be targeted alongside their Kurdish allies in the country’s ongoing air war against the militias.

Senior presidential aide Ilnur Cevik said U.S. forces who are teamed up with members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, were in danger of being hit by Turkish fighters patrolling the volatile border region with Syria.

If YPG units and their American military advisers “go too far, our forces would not care if American armor is there, whether armored carriers are there,” Mr. Cevik said during an interview on Turkish radio station CRI TURK Wednesday. “All of a sudden, by accident, a few rockets can hit them,” he added, referring to partnered U.S. forces.

When asked to clarify that U.S. advisers or artillery positions would be in danger from Turkish warplanes, if they continued to support YPG operations in northern Syria, Mr. Cevik replied bluntly that they would.

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Turks Vote to Give Away Their Democracy

In a bitter irony, nearly 55 million Turks went to the ballot box on April 16 to exercise their basic democratic right to vote. But they voted in favor of giving away their democracy. The system for which they voted looks more like a Middle Eastern sultanate than democracy in the West.

According to unofficial results of the referendum, 51.4% of the Turks voted in favor of constitutional amendments that will give their authoritarian Islamist president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, excessive powers to augment his one-man rule in comfort.

The changes make Erdogan head of government, head of state and head of the ruling party — all at the same time. He now has the power to appoint cabinet ministers without requiring a confidence vote from parliament, propose budgets and appoint more than half the members of the nation’s highest judicial body. In addition, he has the power to dissolve parliament, impose states of emergency and issue decrees. Alarmingly, the proposed system lacks the safety mechanisms of checks and balances that exist in other countries such as the United States. It would transfer powers traditionally held by parliament to the presidency, thereby rendering the parliament merely a ceremonial, advisory body.

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Turkey and US Relations Sour After Kurdish Militia Attacked

A series of Turkish airstrikes targeting American-allied Kurdish militias in Iraq and Syria threaten to put Turkey and the United States on a “collision course,” experts have warned.

Syrian activists said the attacks, on Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq and a mountainous region in Syria, killed at least 18 members of the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which are at the center of bitter divisions between the two NATO allies.

The U.S. military is working closely with Kurdish fighters in Syria, considering them as the only viable force capable of seizing the city of Raqqa from the Islamic State. But Turkey regards the militias as a direct offshoot of a Kurdish militant group that poses a grave threat to Turkish security. As a result, a crisis is brewing over the U.S. partnership with the militias.

“The collision course is coming. It’s already come in some respects and it’s a question of how badly this deteriorates,” says Michael Hanna, a senior fellow at the New York-based Century Foundation. “There are U.S. personnel on the ground. In the worst case scenario you’re having Turkey, a NATO ally, a close traditional partner of the United States, could kill American personnel on the ground,” he tells TIME.

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Turkey’s Barks and Bites

Turkey’s foreign policy and the rhetoric that presumably went to support it, has, during the past several years, aimed less at achieving foreign policy goals and more at consolidating voters’ support for the Ankara government.

Self-aggrandizing behavior has predominantly shaped policy and functioned to please the Turks’ passion for a return to their glorious Ottoman past.

Assertive and confrontational diplomatic language and playing the tough guy of the neighborhood may have helped garner popular support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), but after years of “loud barking and no biting”, Turkey has effectively become the victim of its own narrative.

In 2010, Turkey froze diplomatic relations with Israel and promised “internationally to isolate the Jewish state”, and never to restore ties unless, along with two other conditions, Jerusalem removed its naval blockade of Gaza to prevent weapons from being brought in that would be used to attack Israel. Turkey’s prime minister at the time, Ahmet Davutoglu, said Israel would “kneel down to us”.

In 2016, after rounds of diplomatic contacts, Turkey and Israel agreed to normalize their relations. The blockade of Gaza, to prevent shipments of weaponry to be used by Gazans in terror attacks remains in effect.

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“The Erdoğan Enigma”

I nominate Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, president of Turkey, as the most inconsistent, mysterious, and therefore most unpredictable major politician on the world stage. His victory in a referendum last Sunday formally bestows him with near-dictatorial powers that leave Turkey, the Middle East, and beyond in a greater state of uncertainty than ever.

Here are some of the puzzles:

Mystery #1: Holding the referendum. The Turkish electorate voted on April 16 in a remarkable national plebiscite that dealt not with the usual topic – floating a bond or recalling a politician – but with fundamental constitutional changes affecting the very nature of their government: Should the country continue with the flawed democracy of the past 65 years or centralize political power in the presidency? Under the new dispensation, the prime minister vaporizes and the president holds vast power over parliament, the judiciary, the budget, and the military.

Turks generally saw the 18 proposed changes to the constitution as a momentous decision. Famed novelist Elif Şafak spoke for most when she wrote that Turkey’s referendum “could alter the country’s destiny for generations to come.” After the referendum passed, some of those opposed to it cried in the streets. “Turkey as we know it is over; it is history” wrote Yavuz Baydar, a journalist. Defense & Foreign Affairs assessed the referendum as perhaps “the most significant and transformative change in Eurasia, the Middle East, and parts of Africa since the collapse of the USSR in 1990-91.”

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Erdogan’s Referendum Victory Leaves Turkey More Divided

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed victory on Sunday in a referendum on a proposal to massively expand his power, while dismissing the objections of opposition parties who challenged the outcome of the vote.

Erdogan’s victory sets in motion a transformation of Turkish politics, replacing the current parliamentary system with one dominated by a powerful presidency. According to preliminary results, a small majority of Turkish voters approved the set of 18 constitutional amendments that limits parliament’s oversight of the executive, eliminates the office of the Prime Minister, and expands presidential power over judicial appointments. Erdogan and his supporters say the constitutional changes are needed to ensure stability, while opponents denounced the amendments as a step toward an era of autocracy.

The narrow, disputed outcome of the vote also sets the stage for a bitter struggle over the validity of the referendum results. According to Turkey’s state news agency, the yes vote won by a margin of 51.2% to 48.8%. However, two opposition parties said they would challenge the result, citing violations in the vote-counting procedure. The campaign also took place in the wake of a vast political crackdown in Turkey following a failed military coup last July. The questions about the referendum’s results now promise to sow even more division in a country already deeply polarized over the figure of Erdogan and the merits of his proposed presidential system.

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