July’s post-coup crackdown by President Erdogan and AKP forces on civil society in Turkey, including intellectuals, reporters, military servicemen, and government bureaucrats has dramatically chilled the political and social climate within Turkey.
Tonight, the political climate for the minority Kurdish population has deteriorated further as Erdogan’s government issues arrest warrants and takes prisoner PMs hailing from HDP, the third largest political party in Parliament and an outlet for democratic expression for Turkey’s Liberals and Kurds. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media channels were shut down across much of the country as Erdogan loyalists stormed the houses of the HDP political representatives. Turkish security services have confirmed the arrests and claim the crackdown as part of an ongoing “counterterrorism operation.”
The suspension of the EU Human Rights Charter in the aftermath of the July coup’s failure was not only a signal to Europe of the government’s displeasure with the Wests tepid response while the coup was in progress, but has had significant internal repercussions for human rights inside Turkey as any semblance of just law & order and civil rights has broken down. The EU President Martin Schultz released a tepid press release speaking to the upstanding character of Selahattin Demirtaş, a co-leader of the HDP who was arrested in the sweep (read the full press release below).
Erdogan has rapidly advanced an agenda against any peaceful dissent or questioning of his judgments by shutting down newspapers, jailing journalists, and combing through lists of potential provocateurs within and outside government. In an effort to purge Turkey’s civil society of Gulenist sympathizers and any expression, peaceful or not, of Kurdish agency, Turkey has edged ever closer to a police state. Beyond the detention of so many citizens already, including 10,000 civil servants this week, this new concerning action is taking place. President Erdogan’s forces are rounding up Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) parliamentarians en masse.
In August 2015 I wrote that the intervention of Turkey inside Syria was aimed more at preventing Kurdish autonomy than attacking the Islamic State. Every move Erdogan made in the aftermath of Parliamentary elections that made the Secular, Kurdish HDP the third largest political party in Turkey has been about disbanding the peaceful Kurdish effort to assert their human, civil, and political rights. By launching a new war in Southeast Turkey against the Kurds after the elections, Erdogan strived to paint the entirety of Kurdish civil society as representative of the Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK). As representatives of violence, Atheism, and terrorism.
In early June 2015 the HDP, a majority-Kurdish party that is secular and liberal, ran a successful campaign in Turkey’s Parliamentary elections, yielding itself over 10% of the vote, a key threshold allowing them to spoil Erdogan’s run for a veto-proof majority that would allow him to set Turkey on the path to a Presidential Republic (Cite)
Erdogan is fighting a war on multiple fronts, against Kurds and Civil Society. At his root, his ideology is a blend of ultranationalism, Turkish chauvinism, and Islamist radicalism. His aim is more than the Presidential Republic I once speculated. It has gone much further, designing a top-down authoritarian dictatorship where free speech, peaceful political engagement, and any dissent is considered intolerable and the price of which can be detention and death. The detention of HDP PMs is a troubling sign for Turkey’s future as a democracy. The internment of Kurdish political representatives and community leaders is a dramatic escalation in the war for Turkey’s future that could result in the disbandment of an entire political party, which would be unprecedented up until now. There is little in the way of Erdogan’s ambitions; as a NATO member, the international community will be reluctant to get involved, as it has been up until now. It is clear that Erdogan’s ambitions cannot be contained.
The Iraqi PMU is now criticizing Erdogan’s treatment of his own citizens, furthering the case that Turkey has no business interfering in the affairs and military engagements of Iraq or any other nation while autocratically cracking down on peaceful political movements at home.
Additionally, in the morning after the arrests, a key Turkish political ally, President Masoud Barzani of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, has issued a statement criticizing the government and calling for the release of the political prisoners.
Martin Schultz, the President of the European Parliament, also issued a statement, warning Turkish authorities that “they are not just pushing Turkey further away from democracy, but they are also turning their backs on the values, principles, norms, and rules underpinning EU-Turkey relations.” The EU response has been tepid compared to that of the Iraqis, but the American State Department spokesman issued no comment when asked about the ongoing developments.