“Listen, my children and you shall hear,
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere…”
So begins, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride,” once one of America’s best-known, most-often-recited poems, which continues with words which were soon to become ironic, if they weren’t already:
“On the 18th of April in Seventy-Five,
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.”
Well, substitute, the 16th of April, 2017, and you have for people in Turkey a day and year few are likely to forget – that was the date of the recent referendum which resulted in a ratification of tyrannical powers for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Especially considering the political absolutism which has followed it, the vote was close, and perhaps fatally flawed. The official count showed Erdogan’s Constitutional revisions being approved by 25 million 157 thousand votes, and opposed by 123 million 779 thousand. But that count shows 862 thousand votes invalidated, and makes no mention of the estimated 1.5 million unapproved ballots which did get retroactively validated. Clearly the finagling was more than enough to throw the vote Erdogan’s way.
Another smudge on the outcome, the vote was held during a state of emergency, in force since a mysterious military coup was foiled in July 2016. During that emergency, which, by the way, continues today, tens of thousands of people had already been jailed and more than 100,000 fired or suspended from their jobs. If these people voted in the referendum they did in a state of fierce intimidation.
Since the referendum vote, the emergency has been used to justify still more imprisonments and firings. The latest count by the news agency Reuters shows 50,000 people arrested and 150,000 sacked or suspended, including soldiers, police, teachers and public servants. More than 150 newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations have been seized, many of them turned into pro-government, pro-Erdogan platforms.
In the past few days, a chief spokesman of a pro-Kurd political party, and a former top advisor to the current Prime Minister have been arrested, as has the father of NBA basketball player Enes Kanter. Dr. Mehmet Kanter had denounced his son for his support of the anti-Erdogan cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused to masterminding the failed 2016 coup, and had to tried his job at a top Turkish medical school, but he was fired first, and now is in the hands of Turkish law enforcement.
The reality of the coup, by the way, is itself suspect, since it has now been revealed that the conspiracy was penetrated, and the coup itself was triggered by Erdogan’s own intelligence service.
This is a matter for historical debate, what IS real is that the coup led to the state of emergency and the referendum vote and the radical increase of President Erdogan’s powers. What this is doing to Turkey is our subject for today with our guest Pinar Tremblay, a Turkish-American scholar and columnist for the respected news website Al-Monitor.
50K arrests, 150K firings, news outlets shut, 120 journalists in jail… this has all the hallmarks of a tyrannical dictatorship….how has daily life changed since the referendum ramped up President Erdogan’s powers?
People can feel the pressure within their own families, neighborhoods, communities..,.but how much national and international news now gets through to people?
The arrest of Birol Erdem, who currently advises Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, was taken into custody in Ankara Saturday along with his wife….explain its significance…who is Birol Erdem and what does he represent?
Enes Kanter may be even better known as a player in the NBA…Turkey tried to have him arrested in Malaysia and Romania…and now they’ve arrested his Dad…impact?
The protests around the human rights memorial in Ankara…how did they start?…how did the govt (over)react? Then a hunger strike…and now the 2 strikers have been put in jail? Is this story being followed by the Turkish news media?
YPG/SDF ready to tighten the noose on ISIS “capitol” Raqqa…
Meanwhile Turkey refuses to let German parliamentarians visit troops at Incirlik AFB…they’ll move to Jordan, but this will have an impact on the allied war v ISIS?
A lot of this due to Germany’s refusal to extradite “Gulenist” suspects…now Turkey wants to seize their citizenship making extradition even less likely…still no evidence produced for US extradition request for Gulen himself.
More on this coming from US investigation of Michael Flynn and his corruption by Erdogan pal Ekim Alptekin.
Turkey and Qatar…suddenly banned by Saudis and UAE (for spreading terrorism!!)…
Qatar is one of Turkey’s chief financial supporters.
Turkey to Shanghai Cooperation Group (SCO) the “anti-NATO”? China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan _ Pakistan, India and Iran.
Pinar Tremblay is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Turkey Pulse and a visiting scholar of political science at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She is a columnist for Turkish news outlet T24. Her articles have appeared in Time, New America, Hurriyet Daily News, Today’s Zaman, Star and Salom.