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Is Erdogan being given or taking enough rope?

Has the world pretended to understand or has it, all along, underestimated Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan close to daredevil prowess? Alternatively, has it, by design, been trying to put up with his unpredictable personality? Or has it, in default, been giving the country’s presidency enough rope to hang the government and the ironic ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections?

Tracking recent Turkey-linked trends in the Middle East and North Africa, the East Mediterranean and Aegean, the Arab world, the U.S. and NATO Alliance, the Finnish and Swedish NATO membership joint application process, the recent NATO Summit in Madid, the European Court for Human Rights (ECtHR), and the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, my mind sort of got trapped in a crossfire between solutions to the above three equations with no apparent answers coming to light, not even in the horizon.

Does the world pretend to understand or does it underestimate implications of Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s without borders ubiquitous incidents? A once-upon-a-time model on the democratic path, Erdogan has, over the about two decades he has been in power, not only defied but also parted with almost all it takes to build a delivering democratic system.

Having adopted a proven ethically deficient self, immediate family members’ and friends’ enrichment path, the December 17-25, 2013 investigations report confirmed him for the slot of corruption, the mother of all evils and number one enemy of democracy. He set on a civil servant purging spree via presidential decrees targeting those deemed dissident and the Hizmet Movement partakers who pursue teachings of exiled Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, once his big supporter. This he has done until today, sometimes even to the extent of crossing borders into world shocking human rights and freedoms violations.  


As we say in Africa, “aikukumanya niwe akwita” – meaning,it is the one who knows you that kills you. There is nothing short of this African indigenous knowledge tragedy that the Erdogan regime has not meted out on Gulen and his deemed followers – age and gender, profession and occupation notwithstanding.

As far as the democracy path building of is concerned, where the world may not have got Erdogan right is when he compared democracy to a tram – a vehicle used by a railway line maintenance groups – “from which one disembarks upon reaching his destination.” Through a referendum of 2018, he instituted the executive presidency system, making himself Turkey’s all-performing, all-knowing, all-powerful head of state.

Could this explain why Erdogan has abandoned the democratic system of separating the legislative, the judiciary and the executive powers? The parliament, besides being an AKP and ally majority, still serves as his rubber stamp. He is the Turkey’s complainant, investigator, prosecutor, and judge. For practical purposes, the Turkish Constitution, under Erdogan, has been pushed to the sideline, if not ignored, by the presidential executive system in place.

The judicial power is not exercised by independent and impartial courts. It is no longer true that provisions of basic human rights and freedoms pertaining to international treaties that have been ratified by the Turkish Grand National Assembly prevail over domestic codes and statutes.

 Thus, global statutory rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) are no longer binding. Turkey has snubbed the court and pursued ulterior purposes to hold, prosecute, persecute and jail philanthropist and human rights defender Kevala and elected opposition leader Demirtas plus 107 others, including of members of parliament from the People’s Democratic Party (HDP).

By a single stroke of the Erdogan pen, Turkey quit the global Istanbul Convention safeguarding the rights of women. As a result, according to We Will Stop Femicide Platform, “160 women have been killed in Turkey this year and 423 in 2021, with many murders committed by family members. In April alone, 24 women were murdered and 16 others had died in suspicious circumstances… nobody is willing to talk about. There is an increase in femicide (going) under the pretext of suicide.” A law suit has been instituted to ban the platform.

At the breakout of civil unrest in Syria during the Spring of 2016, Turkey initially condemned the government. This turned into military assistance for the Free Syrian Army in 2011, growing into border clashes in 2012, direct military involvement and eventually Turkish occupation of Northern Syria since 2016.

As of now, Turkey is planning a special military operation in Syria’s North-Eastern territory against Kurdish ‘rebels’ and establish a 30-kilometre “safe zone” inside Syria and combat U.S.-backed and armed Peoples Protection Units (YPG) Ankara takes for a “terrorist” group and linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has been waging a war against Turkey for decades.  The world has not come out in the open to comment on this plan, which Iran already sees as a further regional destabilizer.

The story of Turkey’s presence in Libya is all about how countries become involved in foreign crises to protect their interests for non-justifiable reasons. At one point in time, for example, there were even questions as to whether Egypt and Libya could go to war in Libya. The move was definitely not for the peace of the Libyan people but an attempt to secure the resources and maritime boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean as part of Turkey’s Blue Homeland Doctrine following the ratification of the Libya-Turkey maritime deal.

The game particulars date 2-January 2020 when the Turkish parliament approved an official military presence in Libya, subsequent to signing a deal on the delimitation of the maritime jurisdictions areas in the Mediterranean with the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA). This further frustrated European relations with primarily Cyprus and Greece contesting Turkey’s drilling rights in the waters.

Turkey Foreign minister said the deal provided Ankara with two objectives.  “First to protect the rights of Turkish Cypriots and secondly to protect our interests in our continental shelf.” Despite protests from Europe Turkey has been drilling for natural gas off the northern coast of the divided island of Cyprus. Reserves are estimated to be worth $700 billion.

By June of the same year, Turkey had deployed its military forces and   Syrian militants to Libya as Erdogan cried foul saying “history will judge those who cause bloodshed and tears in Libya by supporting putschists.”  Expert opinion was that Erdogan hoped to shape a Libya that can preserve Turkey’s political and economic dominance in the region rather than being swayed by Egypt and the UAE which would have been a blow to Ankara’s geostrategic and economic interests not only in Libya but also in the East Mediterranean. If Erdogan’s words bear any weight, will history spare him over his involvement in the Mediterranean and Arab region? 

Within tremors of the Russia-Ukraine war, a joint Finnish and Swedish application for NATO membership and the Madrid NATO Summit in Spain, Erdogan sort of stuck out his neck on the global screen. A lot has been said and written about his meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden and the tripartite agreement signed between him and Finland and Sweden.

Joe Biden hopes to secure the Congress clearance to sell F-16 jets to Turkey. The Nordic countries have recognized concerns of Turkey, lifted an arms embargo and promised to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

On the face value this is a big feat for Erdogan as it is for NATO. What matters is what takes place thereafter on the ground. The lifting of arms embargo by the Nordic countries put aside, how likely are they to contravene their countries’ laws on extradition? Who are the terrorists Ankara wants extradited?

Heading towards the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, Erdogan needs to create new public enemies and maintain the good name he has seemingly been making for himself of late on the foreign front. All is not well at home. Africa indigenous knowledge holds: “Obulahya, bubanza kara” translating into the festival that would tick starts from the very beginning.

The Turkish people need more than a president who can stand at the NATO Summit and come back with an arms package and political dissent extraditions promises. They need bread, improved economy and justice for all as promulgated in the national constitution. It is not enough to promise them cakes instead.

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Felix Kaiza is a Tanzanian journalist with more than 50 years of experience currently working as an independent media consultant. Learned in agriculture, journalism, political science and international relations, his main fields of consultancy, besides the media, are good governance, nature conservation, tourism and investment. He was the first Tanzanian Chief Sub-Editor of an English daily newspaper in 1970, he has been behind the establishment and growth of the national independent media since the early 1990s. He is UNFAO Fellow Journalist since 1975 and has wide experience on regional integration. He worked on the Information Directorate of the original East African Community on whose ashes survive the current one. His ambition is to brand Tanzania in the inbound market with made-in-Tanzania brands, including information, almost all of which is currently foreign brewed.

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