Report: ‘Erdoğan pushes further polarization, hatred in Turkey in post-election era’

Despite the fact that the local elections are over, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has kept ratcheting up his rhetoric consisting of harsh language, reports Today’s Zaman.
In a speech to the parliamentary group of the ruling Justice and Development (AK Party) on Tuesday, Erdoğan effectively declared war against his opponents, saying that he would never forget what the opposition parties and their supporters have done to topple his government since corruption scandals were exposed on Dec. 17, 2013.

Erdoğan lashed out at his rivals among which he also cited the “parallel structure,” a reference to the faith-based Hizmet movement inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, and threatened to take action against critical media outlets, slamming them for running what he says “provocative headlines.”

“We will not forgive these kinds of vile acts, this treason,” Erdoğan vowed.

“We will never forget how the opposition parties cooperated with traitors and acted as contractors for these traitors,” he added, stressing that he cannot move on as if nothing happened during the election campaign period.

“I’m saying this in clear terms: Nobody will get away with this [treachery],” Erdoğan stated, adding that “treason, espionage, intelligence and immorality will not go unpunished.”

Responding to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli’s earlier remarks on Tuesday, Erdoğan said, even this morning the MHP chairman came out and still insulted him ferociously.

“You have to address people in a way they could intelligently understand. From now on, we’ll do so,” Erdoğan underlined, signaling that he will use harsher rhetoric against opponents.

The Turkish prime minister called on Bahçeli and other party leaders including the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) to apologize to people after their failure in the elections.

Recalling the Gezi Park demonstrations last summer, Erdoğan said those who are uneasy about a strong and growing Turkey, economically and diplomatically, wanted to disrupt Turkey’s domestic political stability, peace and democracy. He accused his opponents of employing every means available, from terrorism, vandalism, fascism and racism to hatred and discrimination.

Erdoğan also accused his opponents of the leaking of a recording of top security officials discussing possible military action in Syria onto the video-sharing site YouTube. He accused the anonymous posters of revealing scandalous conversations among senior government officials, businesspeople to his political enemies as well as the so-called parallel structure.

Attacking the critical media that reported these leaks, Erdoğan said the analysis and comments about these recordings were immoral.

“They manipulated [public] with polls,” he said, adding that the opposition tried to provoke voters since March 30 using anti-government news agencies and distorting the elections results.

“They still call me ‘dictator’ as if they have no shame,” Erdoğan said of critics in the media, asking them to question the failure of opposition parties in elections if they have the courage to do so.

He said the Turkish people saw the real intention behind the Gezi Park events just as in the case of the Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 corruption investigations, which Erdoğan describes as coup attempts. “The nation gave us a vote of confidence and confirmed our policies,” Erdoğan noted.

Witch hunt looms on horizon

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also vowed to launch a massive operation against what he calls the parallel structure, saying that the elections results have given him a mandate to go after elements of this structure.

“The nation gave us a mandate to root out this structure that clearly targeted Turkey’s future and whose treason to the motherland, espionage and intelligence activity have been confirmed,” Erdoğan said, stressing that he will not hesitate to go after this structure.

Erdoğan has kept repeating the same accusations during the election campaign period for the last three months, yet he has failed to produce a single piece of evidence to back up such claims nor asked a prosecutor’s office to launch an investigation into these claims.

The opposition parties say Erdoğan wants to distract the public’s attention away from corruption scandals and created a parallel structure lie to create an artificial enemy, adding that Erdoğan acts as if he has not been running the country as the prime minister of Turkey for the past 12 years.

Erdoğan noted that the fight with the parallel structure will be within laws and democracy, yet he underlined that those responsible for leaks will not be tried in the court of law run by parallel structure but rather in “the court of the nation.” He did not elaborate on what the “court of nation” means and what courts in Turkey are in fact allegedly run by the so-called parallel structure.

The Turkish prime minister also vowed not to remain indifferent to the espionage activities of the parallel structure in the international arena. He confirmed that he raised the issue of the parallel structure, among other issues, when he met with Azerbaijani officials last week during his first post-election trip abroad to Azerbaijan, a close ally of Turkey.

“This matter will be on our agenda in international platforms,” Erdoğan said, promising to go after global connections of the structure.

The government’s attempts to shut down Turkish schools abroad that are affiliated with the Hizmet movement have been severely criticized by opposition members, intellectuals, celebrities and diplomats.

The CHP parliamentary group deputy chairman, Engin Altay, said it is unacceptable to take a negative approach towards educational institutions that represent Turkey, its culture and values abroad and that do not receive any financial support from the government.

The faith-based Hizmet movement administers a wide network of schools and more than 2,000 educational establishments in more than 120 countries around the world. These schools provide education to thousands of students and are well known for their achievements in the International Science Olympiads.

Oktay Öztürk, deputy chairman of the MHP, said he is against the shutting down of Turkish schools overseas, which have become an international brand. He described the prime minister’s orders to close down such schools and the Foreign Ministry’s action in accordance with his orders as unfortunate. “Erdoğan should control his temper and review his decision about the schools,” Öztürk said.

Former Foreign Minister Yaşar Yakış also criticized the government’s attempt, saying such schools have always been a “source of pride” for Turkey and that closing them down would be a big mistake.

The attempt to shut down the schools comes at a time when the Hizmet movement is being subjected to a smear campaign by the government, whose prime minister and many high-level officials are implicated in a sweeping corruption scandal that became public on Dec. 17 last year.

Former Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay also expressed his concerns over the closure of Turkish schools overseas, saying government leaders including Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu have visited these schools and boasted about the quality of the education provided.

Erdoğan also said his government will crack on what he called “illegal economic activities” of the structure. He called on public to inform state officials about any person suspected of belonging to the “parallel structure,” a move that sparked fears of a witch hunt among critics.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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