’Refugee-phobia’ lays ground for the selfish EU to be duped into abandoning democratic values

To understand, first, the gravity of the developing story in Turkish politics, let’s have a look at the spot-on wrap up by David Gardner in Tuesday’s edition of the Financial Times:

“Since his ascent to the presidency in August last year, Mr [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan has continued to expand his power at the expense of the rule of law and basic freedoms of expression and assembly. The president is issuing writs for defamation like confetti.

“With [Justice and Development Party] AKP-incited mobs attacking [Peoples’ Democratic Party] HDP party offices and independent media operations, and daily xenophobic outpourings against the international conspiracy supposedly out to get Mr Erdoğan, the military he had defanged is edging back into the circle of power. Army commanders… have been handed effective control of a dozen southeastern provinces. ‘Because of Erdoğan’s intoxication with power we lost the opportunity to democratize this country under civilian rule,’ says one leading analyst.”

Against this background, the HDP’s departure from the already problematic interim government was only a matter of time. It happened on Tuesday when two ministers from the pro-Kurdish party, the minister of the EU and the minister of development, arranged a hasty press conference (which was totally censored by the so-called ‘mainstream’ media) and declared that the path to the polls were under full control of the “palace” — referring to President Erdoğan and his team. They repeated “we shall not allow you to have executive presidential powers” and walked out.

When the political situation in Turkey deteriorates day after day, tumbling into an “ungovernable state,” its president is fully determined to engage all in his reach to instrumentalize in his personal favor.

Domestically, he successfully managed to carve a divide between the three main opposition parties, using the timidity of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) on the Kurdish issue, and the fierce hostility of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) towards the HDP. Riding on the divided opposition, the media and large swaths of the electorate, the pressure on dissenting voices mounts with every passing day, as the civil society remains unwilling or unable to unite on the most basic common denominator over human rights. This sort of national confusion perfectly serves all the ambitions for a shift towards fascism.

Internationally, the conditions also seem ripe for the Erdoğan team’s manipulations. When the deal over the Incirlik Air Base was sealed, and the written objectives pointed to a joint battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Turkey’s allies were to a large extent shocked to instead see a wide front opening against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), one of the key allies of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia fighting on the ground against ISIL.

This has led many independent columnists and media outlets to criticize the White House for letting itself be thoroughly duped by Ankara. This issue is now slowly building up to a nasty conflict between Turkey and the US, adding problems rather than helping to prepare solutions.

Now, another critical moment — wide open to abuse — is approaching.

It has to do with containing the Syrian refugee problem within the borders of Turkey.

It was reported on Monday that “EU officials hope the emergency summit on Wednesday” will deliver concrete pledges of support for Turkey and other nations housing some 4 million Syrian refugees, as well as for the 11 million Syrians now homeless inside their own country. The European Commission had said it was ready to come up with an estimated 1 billion euros for Turkey, more than five times what the EU has already mobilized for the 2 million refugees there…

It is clear that some of the EU members — particularly those in Central and Eastern Europe, whose democratic mindset is still immature — see the Syrian refugee influx as a burden to be shuffled over to Turkey. Their selfish sense of urgency raises doubts among Turkey’s already pressurized reform circles that in what may be seen by Ankara as a perfect negotiating moment to consolidate authoritarianism.

It may be in the EU’s short-term interests to keep the refugee crisis limited to Turkey, but if it is not put in the context of long-term interests — which is a democratically stable Turkey — we are doomed to see deeper troubles ahead.

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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