The world has condemned the referendum that narrowly gave near dictatorial powers to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Not only was the government accused of tampering with the close results, but the referendum represents the final demise of democracy in Turkey. Erdogan is also responsible for destroying the separation of church and state. However, Erdogan did get one call of congratulations . . . from the President of the United States.
In addition to Trump, Erdogan received another congratulatory call from Vladimir Putin.
We have followed the rapid destruction of the secular government and civil liberties in Turkey under the authoritarian rule of Erdogan. Erdogan used the recent failed coup to push his effort to create a de facto Islamic regime and to complete his work in arresting his critics, including forcing the resignation of thousands of secular academics, and suspending all civil liberties in a proclaimed state of emergency. Recently, Erdogan threatened the United States that he wants his greatest critic, US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, delivered to him and that a failure to yield to his demands would be a “big mistake.” Now, he has ordered the round up of journalists despite the fact that journalists helped him stay in power during the coup by bravely continuing to broadcast during the coup. In addition, his government is now arresting people who express doubt (with many internationally) about the coup. Erdogan has been known to use trumped up events to expand his power and many believe that he is not only using the coup as an excuse but engineered the coup. What is clear is that he has used the coup attempt to arrest dozens of journalists and thousands of opponents and critics.
Trump discussed the U.S. operations in Syria and the call reflected how important Turkey is to the United States — a strategic arrangement that Erdogan knows will forgive his converting one of the few secular democracies in the Muslim world into an Islamically based dictatorship.
While President Trump congratulated the authoritarian leader, the State Department was expressing reservations over irregularities in the close vote — concerns also raised by our European allies. The call is likely to go over poorly with millions of Turks who are continuing to fight for democracy, free speech, and the free press — all rights curtailed by Erdogan.