Turkish democracy and Obama

Turkish democracy and Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Antalya on Nov. 15. That meeting was held under the shadow of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, but after this meeting, more incidents occurred one after the other. For instance, nine days later, Turkey downed a Russian plane. Well, indeed, there were so many “strategic” affairs on the table that in the Antalya meeting the American side did not bring up the situation of democracy and freedoms in Turkey. Following this meeting, the government was thinking it had strengthened its domestic position, and then came a series of practices targeting the press. Some 11 days after the Obama meeting, with the advantage of the ongoing hustle and bustle, and also “strategic” affairs, journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül were arrested. 

Now, the reason why I started discussing the incidents surrounding the Obama-Erdoğan meeting is that I believe all of them point to the same problem: It is because Turkey is not ruled by a governing mentality based on rule of law and separation of powers where priority is given to freedoms and the safety of people’s lives. As a consequence of this, no policies are generated which contribute to regional stability. On the other hand, the only international actor which truly has leverage over Turkey, the U.S. administration, is avoiding discussing the problems of democracy and press freedom in Turkey. Instead of that, it is trying to take advantage of these distortions in Turkey for the sake of its self-interests; for instance, as they did in July in finalizing the İncirlik deal.

Well, while Turkey was shifting, democracy was eroding and press freedom was declining, were the U.S.’ interests positively affected? This is exactly the point where the Obama administration handles the thorny issue of Iran, for example, impeccably but somehow incomprehensibly fails when it is Turkey in question. On the contrary, their vital national security threats have further soared because of their “strategic” Turkey policies, the ones that ignore democracy.  

Daily Cumhuriyet was punished because they reported trucks loaded with weapons were on their way to Syria. Because of uncontrolled arms delivery, the civil war in Syria grew, leaving the region to radical components. While hundreds of thousands of people died, millions had to leave their homes creating a refugee crisis threatening Europe. 

When Europe was desperate and the Americans did not want to get engaged, then it was Russia’s turn to step in. Russia, which was squeezed under sanctions imposed because of Ukraine, thought it would turn this into an opportunity. They jumped in the region to find jihadists groups fattened with logistical support from Turkey. 

In the showdown, Ankara downed a Russian plane. Then the Obama administration started thinking of ways to get away from this. It started working hard so that the Turkish-Russian tension does not spread to them because of NATO commitments and that Russia does not hold Washington responsible for this incident.
A Pentagon official I spoke to last week said they found Turkey’s response to Russia “unproportioned and heavy-handed,” that six F-15 American jets deployed in İncirlik were only doing training flights, and none of them were and our would be doing any reconnaissance. 

How these incidents will be solved is a very difficult question. The reason they escalated is the American stance of ignoring the situation of democracy and freedoms in Turkey. 

They are continuing to do the same. 

The arrests of Can Dündar and Erdem Gül have shown us once more people fighting for freedoms in Turkey are extremely alone in their struggle. Contrary to the expectations before Obama’s Turkey visit, as it is repeatedly declared after every blow against the press in Turkey, “the deep concerns” of Washington have lost their credibility. Washington is indifferent.  

There is no other remedy but to cling on to each other without fear.