Gülen

The Failed Coup in Turkey: Comments & Predictions

Here comes some of my personal comments and predictions following the failed coup attempt in Turkey. Some important points have been missing in the media reports:

Turkey Coup 2016

1) The denouncements of the coup by world leaders are natural. But why has the world not as strongly denounced the coup that Erdogan already executed, by gradual taking control of all institutions, including the judiciary? In practice he has made himself a dictator. Also denounce that!

2) The blaming of Fetullah Gülen by Erdogan has its obvious reasons, and should not be repeated in the media as if it was a truth. By blaming his arch enemy, a single guy and a “few” officers, Erdogan wants to take away focus from the fact that about 50 percent of Turkey’s population despise him, and maybe not supported the violent coup, but at least wants a change away from his authoritarianism. 

3) The failed coup attempt is not a victory for democracy. On the opposite, Erdogan will use this failed attempt to take even more control over institutions and make himself into a dictator, now also in writing. Already he has fired about 3000 judges as a result and wants to implement death penalty to scare any opposition to complete silence.

4) Last but not least, the turkish society will most likely become even more divided, and in the long run, I have a hard time seeing how such a divided country can continue to be a functioning unit. With that said, things will probably get much worse before they get any better. However, the world leaders, not the least the ones of EU, have to stop cuddling with Erdogan by silently accepting his hate speech rhetorics and crack down on all opposition. Again: Erdogan’s gradual coup over the last couple of years, has to be denounced in the same fashion as the coup of yesterday was denounced.

Turkey Coup 2016

Part 3: Victory?

Erdogan victory akp

The day after the local elections I stood on the sidewalk with my bags waiting for a taxi. I was on my way to a friend where I would stay during my last days in Istanbul. It was clear that AKP had won, even though the votes were still being counted.

After putting my luggage in the backseat, I sat down next to a smiling taxi driver, who immediately, as most strangers asked about my nationality, after wrongly assuming I was from Germany.

The radio was playing loud. Every second minute, parts from Erdogan’s victory speech, in which he promised to crush all his opponents, was aired. Now and then, the radio station also played pieces of the song specially written for the local elections with the simplistic but telling refrain “Reeeecep Taaaaayyip Errrrdooogaaaaan!”

“How is it going in Ankara?” I asked the driver. “Have they counted all the votes yet?”

“AKP won!” he answered while taking his right hand off the steering wheel, raising his thumb up in the air.

“45% percent they got” he continued.

“So what do you think will happen to Fetullah Gülen now?”

He again lifted his right hand from the steering wheel, this time imitating a razor blade cutting against his throat.

“He is finished!” he said.

We continued to talk about other things, but as the taxi came closer to my final destination, I wanted to ask him one last question.

“So, do you think there were any corruption? Do you think Erdogan is corrupt?”

He did an upwards nod.

“No! There is no corruption!” he said with certainty in his voice.

I sat in silence for a while, watching the expression on his face. He looked friendly.

“But…” I started, discretely smiling. “… This is Turkey. Aren’t most politicians corrupt here in some way? The CHP also, I mean.”

His face changed somewhat like he was preparing to say something, but he remained quite.

“Do you really believe he is not corrupt?” I continued and smiled.

At this point his facade broke down.

“You are right. He might be! He might have taken some money” he said almost in a whispering tone.

“So what do you think about that?”

“Well, he is the best we have!” he continued after a while. ”I like him! He is doing great things for people like me!”

As I stepped out of the taxi, grabbed my luggage and said god bye to him, I thought about the fact that AKP has had constant wind in their sails since they came to power in 2002. And when they were faced with their first real challenge, the Gezi protests, they managed to ruin their entire worldwide reputation as a progressive democratic party in less than a couple of weeks. After the corruption allegations, they now only have the poor and uneducated people left to vote for them. This is enough to win the elections under todays political circumstances, but is Erdogan able to provide another ten years of economic success and reforms, that these poor voters hope for?

That is the burning question.

Diyanet – a state within the state

Diyanet – a state within the state

Mehmet Görmez, the president of Diyanet, the ministry of religious affairs.

Erdogan has accused the Gülen movement of forming a state within the state. However, a majority of the Turkish people  believe that this is an exaggeration. About 60 percent of people asked in polls think that Erdogan instead is trying to cover up the corruption within his own government by blaming the Gülen movement.

But something that could be called a state within the state actually exists in Turkey, sponsored with the tax payers money. Its name is Diyanet, The Ministry of Religious Affairs. It serves directly under the prime ministers office.

Ataturk founded Diyanet in 1924 as a replacement for the caliphate, that was managing the religious affairs during the Ottoman era.  Diyanet’s role thus became to support the building and management of mosques and to teach citizens about religion in different ways.

Since AKP came to power in 2002, the size and influence of Diyanet has increased dramatically. Its personnel has doubled to almost 120 000 people, and more than 2000 people from the Diyanet has been positioned within other state ministries, without clear reasons. The ministry’s tone against other religions has also become more harsh; it publishes propaganda books against christianity as one example. 

But the most jaw-dropping thing with this ministry is its budget. During the AKP rule, it has skyrocketed to an astonishing TL 4.6 billion in 2013 and it is going to increase to TL 5.4 billion in 2014.

To get the impression of how much money Diyanet is given each year by the AKP, lets compare its budget to the budgets of other ministries in 2013.

A budget of TL 4.6 billion is:

1.6 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of the Interior

1.8 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of Health

1.9 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of Industry, Science and Technology

2.4 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning

2.9 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

3.4 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of Economy

4.6 times larger than the budget allocated to MIT – Secret Services

How this enormous amount of money is spent is far from known. In 2009 it was reported that only  TL 3 million went to support the building of mosques. The rest seem to be put into religious education, religious services towards families and providing each mosque with an Imam. But its hard to find any reason how this can add up to TL 5.4 billion. If you don’t consider corruption, that is.

In short, Diyanet is a discriminative, religious institution, employing 120 000 people with a jaw-dropping budget that is not properly accounted for.

From my point of view it is the closest you can come a state within the state in Turkey.

Three Ministers Allegedly Took 63.5 Million Dollars in Bribes

According to the newspaper Cumhuriyet, the three ministers that were recently fired because of corruption charges, have received a total of 63.5 million dollars in bribes. Former economy minister Zafer Çağlayan allegedly received a total of 52 million dollars at 28 occasions. Former interior minister Muammer Güler recieved 10 million dollars on 10 occassions and the EU minister Egemen Bağış 1.5 million dollars on three occasions. 

To put 63.5 million dollars in perspective, an average Turkish household has a disposable income of about 12 000 dollars. Consequently, the bribes correspond to the yearly income of 5292 families!

Three Ministers Took 63.5 Million Dollars in Bribes

Three Ministers Took 63.5 Million Dollars in Bribes

A Gezi protest within the AK Party?

It is easy to forget that the AK Party is a political unit that most likely would function without it’s leader Tayyip Erdogan. The way that Erdogan rules the party, reminds more of a military commander directing his troops on the battlefield than a democratically elected leader that listen, learn and argue. Those who question Erdogan are immediately expelled from the party. Given that, it is natural that Erdogan takes all criticism personal. Criticizing AK Party means criticizing him.

Lately, however, we have witnessed some interesting signs of resistance against Erdogan in a way that was unthinkable just one year ago. It started with the former famous football player and deputy Hakan Şükur, who resigned December 16, publicly slamming Erdogan for his plan to close down the prep schools, seen as an direct attack on the Islamic scholar Fetullah Gülen, who Hakan Şükur stands close. And after the graft probe was initiated one day later, additionally eight deputies resigned, as a protest against Erdogan’s way of interfering in the ongoing probe, trying to obstruct the justice. Even the finance minister, Mehmet Şimşek, criticized the sacking of police officers initially, but suddenly became very quite on the issue. Most likely, these objections are the tip of an iceberg, and if the political unrest continues, we might witness a Gezi protest within the AK Party. Such a protest would probably erupt equally unexpected as the Gezi protests that took place in Taksim in June 2013. That’s the way it works in Turkey. People are friendly and patient, but there is always a limit. I know that not least from personal experiences.

The critical point that has to be reached for this to happen is that members of the party start to see Erdogan as more of a liability than an asset. Because of the way Erdogan dominates the party, it is easy to forget that not all leading members are corrupt and democratically blinded by a will for power. The AK Party is not the problem. Erdogan is! His response to the graft probe clearly signals that he is more interested in saving his own family than developing Turkey into a true democracy. If he continues along that path without managing to stabilize the political situation, that critical point might be reached much sooner than anyone would guess.

So, what is Erdogan afraid of? Is it to lose the money he has stacked away? Most likely! But even if it weren’t for the corruption charges against his family, he would still be deadly afraid of losing his political immunity. Considering the amount of enemies he has created over the years, not the least within the military because of the Ergenekon trial, staying in power is the only way to survive in a country like Turkey. Thus, Erdogan stepping down voluntarily is not a likely scenario. Excluding the opportunity of an enormous failure for the AK Party in the upcoming elections of 2014, a Gezi protest within AKP is the most likely way forward for democracy in Turkey!

A Gezi protest within the Ak Party

A Gezi protest within the Ak Party