Why the world is worried about Turkey

Why the world is worried about Turkey


“I say this over and over again; this is
not a system that belongs to Tayyip Erdogan” It’s really never a good sign when
a person one refers to himself in the third person. “I am a mere mortal… i can die at any time.” and more importantly has to repeatedly deny that they’re a dictator. “Here we have an election, if you say a ballot box produces a dictatorship, then you are being unfair to the ballot box process”
On April 16, Turkey narrowly voted yes on a referendum that will dramatically reorganize the government. It allows changes that give sweeping powers to the President, Tayyip Erdogan. He could have complete control of Turkey’s budget and military, will be able to appoint judges to the courts without a vote, can dissolve parliament whenever he chooses, and can stay in power until 2029. This has prompted concerns that he’s becoming too authoritarian – and these concerns aren’t that outlandish. Mostly because Turkey was built by an authoritarian… What’s interesting about this vote is that
if you look at the arc of modern turkish history, it begins with Kemal Ataturk Ataturk was a military general who created the Republic of Turkey out of the collapsed Ottoman Empire in 1923. During his 15 years in office, he enjoyed
similar powers now held by Erdogan. And he used them to build Turkey into a modern and secular state. Turkey’s new government separates church and state. He banned head coverings, To Kemal, this headgear, the fez, symbolizes Turkey’s oriental fatalism and ignorance. He will abolish it. He put mosques under state control, Islamic traditions are shattered He made it basically illegal to discriminate against women. He takes pleasure in the company of emancipated women. He made women’s education compulsory, he made literacy rates rise,
he made schools opened everyone, To make a modern nation, all Turkey must be sent to school. Ataturk also industrialized his country. Under his watch, the industrial sector saw
a sharp increase. And his liberal foreign policies built a close
relationship with the West which paved the way for Turkey to join the NATO alliance in 1952. We know that Ataturk succeeded because for decades Turkey was a modern secular Western country, like he wanted it to be. Ataturk is dictator, so that Turkey will never again have a dictator. And now you have President Erdogan, President Erdogan is going in literally the opposite direction. He wants to make the country more openly religious. He wants to get rid of and has already gotten rid of much of what Ataturk had done. But how does a religious conservative leader acquire so much power in a secular country? To understand this, you have to know what
happened to Turkey after Ataturk’s death. For 5 decades, the country was constantly in a state of upheaval. Ataturk had given the military the responsibility of keeping Turkey secular. And they did so by staging coups in 1960,
71, 80 and again in 1997. While the interventions were meant to keep Turkey democratic, the instability left the country in poor shape. So in the nineties and even to the early two
thousands Turkey had a totally completely stale economy,
the GDP growth would slow unemployment was very high, it was seen as a very corrupt country, the government didn’t function. Enter Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He was the mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to
‘97. Two years later he was arrested for a public
reading of a politically charged Islamic poem by a Turkish Nationalist. Turkey was still a majority Muslim nation
and his arrest made him popular with many who felt oppressed by years of the secular,
military rule. After a short jail sentence, he formed a moderately-conservative political party, the AKP, which went on to win a landslide victory in the 2002 elections,
and he became the Prime Minister of Turkey. Erdogan went on to pull the country out of
poverty by giving more opportunities to Turkish entrepreneurs and expanding access to foreign markets. This led to a sharp rise in the GDP and inflation plummeted. Turkey’s success even prompted efforts to
join the EU. This all made Erdogan wildly popular. It was like he came onto a boat that was listing, and taking on water, and managed get the water out of the boat and made the boat sail straight again. So for many years, you could see why a man like this became as powerful as he became But then he went too far. Over the next ten years, Turkey continued
to grow economically but Erdogan started pushing more Islamist and authoritarian policies. He was quoted saying he did not believe
men and women were equal and that women are meant to be mothers. His government also began arresting protesters
and journalists under the guise of anti-terrorism laws. This stirred unrest in Turkey’s more liberal
urban areas. In 2013, there was a small, peaceful demonstration
in Istanbul’s Gezi park to protest Erdogan’s plans to reconstruct military barracks that
would include a shopping center and a mosque. Seeing the demonstration as opposition, Erdogan
sent in riot police to remove the protesters which quickly attracted more protesters. And it got bigger and bigger because it became
a proxy. From a protest over a park to a protest of
Erdogan, against how religious he was becoming… And it got violent Previsouly he had not been a brutal ruler. After this, he became a brutal one. Erdogan began removing Ataturk’s secular laws more aggressively. He ended the ban on wearing headscarves, tightened
restrictions on alcohol sales, and freed mosques from government control. Then in 2014, Erdogan was elected president
which in Turkey, is a ceremonial role with little real power. But that didn’t put an end to the arrests
made across the country, which indicated that Erdogan was still in charge. And there were two groups of people who are
terrified by this one were the kind of secular Turks who look back to Ataturk and said what
the hell is happening to our country?! And the other was the military and they were the ones, again, who believe that their core mission in life was to keep Turkey secular and that he was a threat. So in July 2016, they staged a coup and it
almost worked. There was one problem — the military couldn’t
get the public’s support this time. Erdogan had found a way to reach his supporters… I want to encourage my people to the streets and invite them to the airports. And together as people gather, to show them, by letting them come with their tanks, to see what they are going to do, do it right there to the people. Erdogan had this amazing moment where he used
face time on his iPhone to kind of rally the country defend the country defend us against the military, come Turks, come to me, come rally around me. and it worked. You had secular Turks for the first time in
years defend Erdogan. You have religious Turks literally stream
from mosques into the streets to fight the military. The military overstepped, you had Turkish
F-16s fire rockets and missiles at parliament, Turkish tanks fired on people on the streets. That was very effective for him. Erdogan emerged from the fighting more popular
than ever and ramped up his purge of the opposition. More than 100,000 journalists, academics,
military officers, and politicians have been arrested since the coup attempt; tens of thousands
remain in detention. This brings us to the recent referendum, which
follows Erdogan’s post-coup popularity. He set it in motion to acquire more power
and make it permanent. But the vote was much closer than he it was
anticipated, suggesting that much of the country wants to hold onto the secular Turkey created
by Ataturk and they are willing to fight for it. I think you’re gonna have the inevitable
tension between a president who believes he’s entitled to more power, taking more and more
of it, and what remains a somewhat secular country not comfortable giving him that power. Do those tensions
play out politically in the courts or in the streets. If it’s actual fighting and violence then
what we know as a democratic Turkey will be be over.

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