The rapid decline of civil liberties under the authoritarianism of Turkish president. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been a regular point of discussion on this blog. He has been gradually arresting or threatening the dwindling number of independent journalists in Turkey and this prosecution may succeed in forcing the remaining reporters into silence or living in exile. The latest victim of his abusive rule is Turkey’s largest-circulation newspaper which was seized by the government. The newspaper, Zaman, was one of the most read sources of criticism of Erdogan and this government. The government has now silenced that voice and taken over the newspaper. The very next issue under government control was a markedly pro-government publication.
It takes very little now to be arrested in Turkey if you are critical of Erdoğan or his government. With the support of religious parties in the destruction of secular values in Turkey, Erdoğan has had a free hand (including with continued U.S. support) in erasing civil liberties in Turkey after the election of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his coalition of Islamic parties. Just last month, we discussed the arrest of Mehmet Emin Altunses, 16, who allegedly committed the crime of “insulting” Erdoğan, calling people who use birth control “traitors” and saying Muslims discovered America. You are not allowed to be disrespectful or insulting in discussing Erdoğan. Then there was the prosecution of model and former Miss Turkey Merve Buyuksarac, 26, for criticizing Erdogan by quoting a few lines from a poem called the “Master’s Poem” from weekly Turkish satirical magazine Uykusuz. Erdoğan’s totalitarian measures have earned him the nickname “Buyuk Usta” (the Big Master). Even a joking reference to Gollum and Erdoğan is enough to land you in jail today in Turkey.
After the government raided the Zaman opposition newspaper Friday, there were protests. However, the most chilling development was the transformation of the newspaper into a pro-Erdoğan publication in the very first issue under his government’s control. The top story glowingly described how Erdogan attended a ceremony marking a key phase in the construction of a bridge in Istanbul.
It is a disgraceful legacy for Erdoğan but there remains the equal question of our legacy in supporting his abusive and authoritarian rule.