The 7 Sins of Turkish Autocracy 🇹🇷

While the world is too busy fighting COVID, reassembling the economy and preparing for the most turbulent elections in a century, one man certainly had been using that volatility to push his agenda further. As they say, never underestimate the man with the plan. And Tayyip Erdogan certainly has one. A plan that we must all counteract!

Disclaimers. The Middle East is one of the most disputed regions in the world. It’s the cradle of our civilization and ethnic clashes trace back not decades, not years, but millennia. Given my incompetence in the subject and your limited attention span, we will oversimplify - enough to make a point. I hope - without major factual mistakes. Some of the narratives reference the events of early 20th and late 19th century, and they are crucial if we want to understand how impunity affected the evolution of the political climate. I will be using the word “Turkey” and “Turkish Government” interchangeably. If you are from Turkey and do not align with the national agenda - please, don’t be offended.

Erdogan’s rise to power began in 1994 when he became the Mayor of Istanbul. His radical views never were a secret. Back in 1998, he was even sentenced for 10 months for Islamist rhetoric. In isolation, he realized, that Turkey must adopt the Western model - build a secular society and respect the religious freedoms. He promised a free society, but today Turkey ranks #159 globally for freedom of the press. Reforms take time and patience. Nationalism and imperialism do not. They are easy to sell to uneducated masses, so Erdogan jumped boats. The exact turning point is unclear, but the 2016 coup d’état probably marks the point of no return. Erdogan’s example is well studied, but the whole history of upper echelons of power in Turkey is full of opportunism, manipulation and crimes against humanity across Europe, Asia and Northern Africa. I will try to illustrate it with seven short stories.

The 7 Stories

Partnership: 🇬🇷 🇨🇾 🚢

Turkey knows no partnership and opposes other NATO members.

Let’s take Greece. In 1952 they simultaneously joined NATO. 22 years later, Turkey invades Cyprus. According to the 1960 census, the population of the island was 77% Greek and only 18% Turkish. In 2020 the island is still divided between 2 nations with UK and UN controlling the buffer zone.

Cy-map.png

Moving closer to now, Turkey invaded the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus, which led to a confrontation with Greek naval forces. Some time ago, gas was found under the East Mediterranean. Most beneficiaries started peacefully negotiating plans of extraction. Turkey, on the other hand, not only targeted the 200 nmi region around occupied Northern Cyprus but also entered the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus and threatened Greece with war.

Loyalty: 🇷🇺 🛩️

Turkey knows no loyalty. It buys military equipment from Russia - the main antagonist of NATO.

In 2017, Ankara brokered a deal reportedly worth $2.5 billion with the Kremlin for the S-400 defence missile systems despite warnings from the US that buying the system would come with political and economic consequences. Since August 2019 Erdogan publicly expressed interest in purchasing the SU-35 and SU-57 fighter jets.

Responsibility: 🇦🇲 🇬🇷 🔫

Turkey doesn’t take responsibility for its crimes against humanity.

The examples are countless, but the most famous ones are the Hamidian massacres of 1894-1896, the Armenian Genocide, the Assyrian Genocide and the Greek Genocide of 1914-1923. About 1’500’000 million Armenians were killed in those ethnic cleanings. A much longer list of Turkic anti-Armenian massacres is available on a designated Wikipedia page. Turkey never paid reparations and hasn’t changed the attitude against the ancient nations, which co-existed in Anatolia for millennia before Osman I was born (in the 13th century in Central Asia). Until today, Turkey hasn’t admitted the Genocide, hasn’t established diplomatic relations and closed the land border with Armenia blocking economic activity.

Nota Bene: Some photo-albums were preserved by various museums, but I discourage people with heart or sleep problems from viewing them! Armenian Genocide Museum. Album of refugees, 1915-1916. Near East Relief Society. Library of Congress.

After the WW2 Germany was obliged to compensate the victims of the Holocaust. Until 2005 about 63 billion euros have been paid to individuals. Today, I can honestly say that Germans are some of the most amazing people I know and one of my favourite nations. They admitted the wrong-doings of their ancestors and have built a civilized society on the ruins of the previous regime. Turkey should take a page from the German book.

Tricks: ↩️

Turkey dodges and tricks states to its benfit.

After WW1 under the Treaty of Sevres, they lost lands and were forced to disarm. Later, in 1921, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk promised Lenin to join USSR, who gave up the Armenian lands and tons of Russian military equipment in exchange. Turkey never joined USSR and immediately used Russain ammunition against Greece in 1921–1922.

Treaty of Sèvres 1920.svg

During WW2, Turkey continued to sell crucial resources to Nazi Germany until April 1944. They declared their alliance only in August 1944, when the result of WW2 was obvious. No Turkish troops ever saw combat. No sanctions were imposed.

Impunity: 🇸🇾, 🇱🇾, 🇦🇲

Even today, every aspect of Turkish foreign policy is full of controversy, to put it delicately.

  • In 2011 a Civil War broke out in Syria. Given it’s physical proximity to Turkey, their involvement was only a question of time. In August 2016 Turkey announced, that it will be fighting the ISIL, but even if their ambitions were noble, their actions were horrific. In 2019 Amnesty International prepared a report with a self-explanatory title: “Damning evidence of war crimes by Turkish forces and allies in Syria”. That report mainly focuses on civilian casualties, while the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report from 2018 suggests that Erdogan wants to effectively “Arabize” the region east of the Euphrates inhabited mostly by Kurds, Turkmen and Yazidis.

  • The same year, during the Arab Spring, another Civil War broke out in Libya. Muammar Gaddafi was killed, competing militias partly legitimized themselfes within the Ministry of Defence, but failed to stabilize the country. Just like Syria, Libya is a warzone until today. Turkeys involvement in this conflict is more recent. In late 2019 - early 2020 they have sent mercenaries to support the Government of National Accord in Libya. The intel suggests, that demographic composition of the fighters are mostly Syrian Turkmen and not Turkish. Furthermore, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that at least 50 Syrian soldiers were identified as former ISIS members. Adding fuel to the fire pun intended, the only tangible consequence is the signing of Libya–Turkey maritime deal extending Turkeys economic privileges in the Mediterranean shelf. To sum up, Turkey shuffles Syrian refuges with a few ISIS members and uses them as cannon fodder to expand its economic footprint.

  • Nagorno-Karabakh became the latest adventure of Turkey. They were the first external force to join militarily and declared full support to the attacking Azeri side. After the first 3 days of the war, it’s clear, that co-orchestrated the attack with the Azeri dictatorial regime. Multiple globally trusted sources (including Reuters, The Guardian and The Times) printed that Turkey recruited & transported 2,000-4,000 Syrian jihadists to fight against the Christian population of Artsakh. The first day of the war started by them shelling the civilian population in the capital city of Stepanakert.

Ambitions: {🇹🇷, 🇦🇿, 🇺🇿, …}

Erdogan famously wants to unite pan-Turkic nations into the neo-Ottoman empire.

According to the National Pact, Turkey already claimed territories stretching from Eastern Thrace (now part of Greece) to Cyprus, the eastern Aegean islands, parts of northern Syria, northern Iraq, the entirety of modern Armenia, parts of Georgia, and even to Iran. Given Erdogans track record in Syria and that Turkey has 400,000 soldiers (only second to US in NATO) - potential clash with Iran will be a bloodbath.

The Turkic populations include Uzbekistan (25M), Kazahstan (12M), Azerbaijan (10M), Turkemnistan (4M), Kyrgyzstan (4M) and Afghanistan (3M). Those countries are poor and may benefit from the union in the short term, but not in the long one. Erdogans views are rapidly shifting towards Wahabism. If he succeeds, secularism and financial prosperity in Central Asia will become a myth.

Geographically, Armenia is the only country on his way. Luckily, politically, it goes against the interests of every major power in the world: Russia, USA, China, Iran and even Saudi Arabia, which by contrast became less radical over the years.

Priorities: 💣 & 📉

What else Erdogan does besides dreaming? Here are a few facts:

  • On August 22, 2020, President Erdogan was hosting two people, classified by the EU and US as terrorists. That was the second meeting of that kind in 2020 with the first meeting occurring February 1st.

  • Between those 2 meetings in February and August, he conducted only 5 trips to Ukraine, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Russia and Belgium.

  • Between 2010 and 2020, the Turkish Lira (TRY) lost 80% of its value against USD. That’s a straightforward numerical indication of how much poorer the people of Turkey have become.

So the economy is plunging and the international relations are falling apart while Erdogan prioritizes his illusional imperialistic ambitions over the public good. He’s not just a problem for the outside world, but also his electorate. The current Turkish government will only bring chaos to the Middle East and misery to its citizens.

The Future

Now, Turkey used Azerbaijan to reignite the war against Armenians, and both aggressors should be strictly sanctioned. The romantic and maybe childish part of me believes that the borders between all involved conflicting parties must be open for trade. We must replace dictators with civilized institutions and establish mutually-dependant economic unions. Only that will make conflicts between our hot-blooded nations financially infeasible!

Current Sanctions

  • I wrote a separate article about the Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) conflict.
  • I have found an article by BBC about mobilization in Azerbaijan dated 3 days prior to the war!
  • I have found an article by ILiveMap about Turkish involvement dated a full month prior to the war!
  • This article was visualized on YouTube: