Turkey’s Erdogan Echoes Nemesis Assad: West ‘Gives Support to Terror’

AFP/File Adem Altan
AFP/File Adem Altan

In a speech Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the EU and United States for being “on the side of coups and terror,” echoing criticism of the West by longtime rival, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

“Does the West give support to terror or not? Is the West on the side of democracy or on the side of coups and terror? Unfortunately, the West gives support to terror and stands on the side of coups,” Erdogan told potential investors during a speech in the nation’s capital, Ankara, asserting that Turkish officials were expecting more “support” from European and American officials than what they have received since Erdogan’s government crushed a coup attempt on July 15.

“A coup was staged in a country ruled by democracy and there are 238 martyrs and 2,200 wounded so far. You still say, ‘We are concerned.’ How can you show affection to the perpetrators of such a thing?” he asked, possibly referring to reports of major human rights violations occurring following the end of the coup attempt. According to Amnesty International, suspected coup plotters were beaten, tortured, and raped in Turkish prisons following the attempt, and at least 62 “coup plotters” arrested were schoolchildren.

An estimated 50,000 people, most civilians, have been imprisoned, fired from their jobs, or arbitrarily detained under suspicions of having participated in the coup attempt, which Erdogan blames on Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen. Gülen resides in the United States, and Turkey has made two official demands to Washington to extradite Gülen since the coup attempt.

Erdogan condemned American officials for demanding proof that Gülen was behind the coup attempt. “Documents have been sent to the U.S. When you demanded the handover of a terrorist we have not asked for documents from you,” he asserted Tuesday.

Erdogan also condemned Germany for not allowing him to teleconference into a massive pro-Erdogan rally in Germany this weekend, and EU foreign policy head Federica Mogherini for not visiting Turkey following the coup to show solidarity with him. “When an incident happens in Belgium or in Paris, when five or 10 people get killed, they all crowd together, don’t they?” he asked the audience. “A coup against democracy was staged in Turkey, and now we have 238 martyrs. Unfortunately no one from Europe, the EU or the [European] Council came to Turkey.”

Erdogan’s criticism of the West echoes that of Bashar al-Assad, a leader Erdogan has repeatedly referred to as a “terrorist” and has been accused of waging proxy war against by allegedly arming Syrian rebels. In response, Assad has referred to Erdogan as a “fascist” who is “personally responsible” for the Syrian Civil War.

On Western allies, however, the leaders agree.

“If you are worried about [Syrian refugees], stop supporting terrorists,” Assad said in September 2015, addressing the EU. “That’s what we think regarding the crisis. This is the core of the whole issue of refugees.” Of the United States, Assad has said the Obama administration is “not serious” about fighting the Islamic State and has conducted airstrikes that are “illegal and counterproductive” against jihadist groups.

“We wanted to defeat those terrorists, while the United States wanted to manage those groups in order to topple the government in Syria,” he asserted.

While Erdogan has accused American officials of supporting the coup, newspapers friendly to his Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) have taken this a step further and accused the CIA of explicitly organizing the coup attempt. Yeni Safak, a pro-AKP newspaper, accused retired General J.F. Campbell of personally plotting the coup. (Gen. Campbell responded by noting that he could not have done so because he was drinking beer with Geraldo Rivera the night of the coup.) Sabah, another pro-Erdogan newspaper, ran a poll asking readers whom they believed plotted the coup: the CIA won the poll with 69 percent of the vote, The New York Times notes.