World View: Relations Between Germany and Turkey Spiral into Crisis

Merkel Erdogan Germany Turkey
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This morning’s key headlines from

  • Relations between Germany and Turkey spiral into crisis
  • Turkey commemorates first anniversary of attempted coup

Relations between Germany and Turkey spiral into crisis

Young men stand on a Turkish army tank in Ankara on July 16, 2016, the day after the attempted coup. (Reuters)
Young men stand on a Turkish army tank in Ankara on July 16, 2016, the day after the attempted coup. (Reuters)

The diplomatic crisis between Germany and Turkey deepened on Thursday when Germany’s foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel told a press conference that it was no longer safe for German people and businesses to travel to Turkey. The announcement was triggered by Turkey’s detention of a Germany human rights defender and two German journalists with no credible charges or supporting evidence.

Gabriel broke off his summer vacation and returned to Berlin to deal with the crisis that arose out of the arrests, particularly of German human rights activist Peter Steudtner for allegedly aiding a “terror” group.

Gabriel declared a “re-orientation” of Germany’s Turkey policy, and said that the country’s actions show it’s “departing from the basis of European values.”:

[Steudtner] never wrote about Turkey, he had no contacts in the political establishment … and never appeared as a critic.

One can’t advise anyone to invest in a country when there is no legal certainty and where companies, completely respectable companies, are presented as terrorists. I therefore do not see how, as the government, we can still guarantee German company investments in Turkey if, as has happened, arbitrary expropriations for political reasons have not only been threatened but have already taken place.

German citizens are no longer safe from arbitrary arrests in Turkey. We have no other choice – because we are responsible for the protection of our citizens of our country – but to adapt our travel and safety advisory to Turkey and let Germans know what can happen to them when they travel to Turkey.

We can’t go on as we have before. … We have to be clearer than before so that those in charge in Ankara understand that such a policy won’t be without consequences.

Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said:

We think these are domestic political statements for the upcoming elections in Germany. Unfortunately, this has become fashionable in Germany. People are being anti-Turkey and demonstrating their paranoid animosity against our president to score political points.

We are strongly condemning suggestions that German nationals visiting Turkey would not be secure. We think that those unfortunate statements are an investment for internal politics aimed at the approaching elections in Germany.

How come Germany tolerates this? When we talk about them, they respond ‘We have justice and independence.’ Well, why don’t they respect Turkish justice? This is disrespectful to Turkey. They will respect our justice.

There was direct interference in the Turkish judiciary and the comments used overstepped the mark. The comments again show the double standards in their approach to the law of those who prevent terrorists from being brought to justice while embracing members of terrorist groups who target our country.

Germany’s actions were triggered by Steudtner’s arrest, and also because Turkish authorities had, several weeks ago, handed their German counterparts a list of 68 German companies they accused of having links to Erdogan’s enemy Fethullah Gülen. Deutsche Welle and Al Monitor and Hurriyet (Ankara)

Turkey commemorates first anniversary of attempted coup

Life in Turkey has changed dramatically in the year that has passed since the failed coup attempt on July 15 of last year. Well over 100,000 people have lost their jobs or been arrested with no credible charges and no supporting evidence.

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan says all of these people were involved in the coup attempt because they had a connection to his former friend and now enemy Fethullah Gülen, a 76-year-old imam living since 1999 in self-imposed exile in the Pocono Mountains in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, after splitting with Erdogan.

Gülen is a Muslim cleric with a worldwide network of schools and businesses, run by his followers. For Erdogan, this worldwide network was for many years a good thing, a sign of a progressive Turkey, fighting extremism, and providing education and jobs. But relations between Erdogan and Gülen started to sour in 2012 and were severed completely in 2013. Since then, this huge international network has turned in Erdogan’s eyes from a good thing to a bad thing, promoting terrorism instead of fighting extremism. Erdogan now claims that last year’s coup was planned and executed under the direction of Gülen and the Fethullah Terror Group (FETO).

Gülen’s name is linked to large numbers of schools and businesses, and Erdogan is accusing anyone linked to these schools and businesses, as being linked directly to Gülen and to last year’s coup. For example, anyone who has an account in the Gülen-linked Aysa Bank, who has placed children in Gülen-linked schools, who has participated in fund-raising events for Gülen linked humanitarian causes can be fired or arrested and jailed. Anyone having a phone with the encryption application BYLOCK, allegedly used by the Gülen organization, is also assumed to be guilty of participating in the coup.

There are many reasons why Erdogan’s reasons for firing and jailing over 100,000 people do not make sense:

  • Obviously, no more than a dozen or so people could have been involved in coup planning, or the details would have leaked out.
  • Few people find credible the claim that 76-year-old Gülen orchestrated the coup from his easy chair in the Pocono mountains of Pennsylvania.
  • In fact, Erdogan has repeatedly demanded that the US extradite Gülen back to Turkey, but Erdogan has been unable to provide any evidence that would meet American court standards to satisfy an extradition request.
  • Erdogan started his purge well before the coup attempt. In particular, four months before the coup, Turkey and the world were shocked when Erdogan shut down Zaman, the country’s major opposition newspaper, the largest newspaper in the country.
  • In the days following the coup attempt, an extremely large and complex purge was put into place, with Erdogan giving himself increasingly dictatorial powers. Many analysts believe that the purge was in the planning stages for several months, waiting for the right opportunity to implement it.
  • For years, starting long before the coup attempt, Erdogan has been aggregating power to himself and has been changing Turkey’s character from a secular state to a conservative Islamist state. This made him popular with millions of pious Turks who had felt ignored by the old secular elites. This all came to a head in 2007 over the issue of women wearing headscarves. However, Ataturk, the revered founder of Turkey after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, declared that Turkey would be a secular state, with freedom of worship for people of all religions, including Jews and Christians. Ataturk asked the army to be the preserver of the secular state, and many in the army today see it as their job to stop Erdogan’s changes. In fact, this split within the army between those who honor Ataturk and those who honor Erdogan may have been the reason that the coup was attempted in the first place.

During the last year, Erdogan’s Turkey has been arresting tens of thousands of Turkish citizens, and only occasionally a foreign national. The arrest of German national Peter Steudtner appears to have been a “last straw” for the Germans. Irish Examiner and Hurriyet (Ankara) and AFP

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