Turkey is turning into a paranoid one-party state

President Erdogan’s increasingly tyrannical regime is suppressing the truth about its war on the Kurds

30 January 2016

9:00 AM

30 January 2016

9:00 AM



Turkey is less and less a democracy, more and more a paranoid one-party state. If you don’t believe that, look at what happens to those who draw attention to the government’s failures and crimes. The editors of Cumhuriyet, a centre-left broadsheet, have been delivering their editorials from jail since November. A statement issued this month by the Izmir Society of Journalists claimed that 31 journalists were in prison while 234 were in legal limbo awaiting trial. Over the course of last year, they added, 15 television channels had been closed and 56 journalists refused accreditation.

Recently, a woman identifying herself as a teacher phoned in to a popular television talk show and asked the presenter, Beyazıt Öztürk, if he was aware of the terrible violence in the predominately Kurdish parts of southern and south-eastern Turkey. ‘Please, don’t let people die, don’t let children die, don’t make mothers grieve,’ she pleaded.

The next day, the TV channel — part of a group under intense pressure from the Turkish government — had to issue a grovelling apology for having aired this cry for help. ‘Doğan TV and Channel D have stood by the state from the first day to the present day,’ it read. Öztürk even delivered a personal apology on the day’s main news bulletin. But that wasn’t enough. He is now being investigated on charges of ‘making propaganda for a terrorist organisation’, and it is unclear whether his show will continue.

It’s not just journalists, either: a business group, Koza İpek, was taken into state administration and its media assets butchered on the grounds of ‘financing terrorism’ through a closeness to one of the government’s political rivals.

Why do President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the political party he co-founded, the Justice and Development party (AK party), need to suppress free speech? The AK party was swept back into single-party power in the second general election of last year with 49.5 per cent of the vote. It is now in a position where it can do almost anything it wants with Turkey. Yet it lacks the supermajority needed to change the constitution. This is problematic, because Erdoğan is now campaigning to abolish the position of prime minister and consolidate his power as president — a move he recently regretted comparing to Hitler’s Germany.

The AK party is still 13 MPs short of being able to bring the issue to a referendum, and the three opposition parties in parliament have all tasted enough AK party power to know that it is not in their interests to strike a deal. To achieve Erdoğan’s wish, the AK party must now knock the Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP) — a coalition of Kurdish and leftist groups with 59 MPs — out of parliament, and that means controlling the narrative about the ongoing war in Turkey’s southeast.

So far, the government appears to be succeeding in defining how ordinary Turks see the violence between the state and the loosely HDP-linked Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which broke out again in July after years of peace talks. Those wanting to find out the facts often have to triangulate between highly unreliable Turkish pro–government news and equally unreliable, but less accessible, reporting from the Kurdish-movement press. Perhaps the most trustworthy figures are provided by the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, which says that 1.37 million people have been affected by the government’s 24-hour-a-day curfews, which have been enforced since the violence restarted, and 162 civilians have been killed in the past five months.

Erdoğan now insists that Turkey will never again hold talks with any faction of the Kurdish separatist movement. ‘That work has finished,’ he has said. Prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, meanwhile, told a crowd outside AK party headquarters that the PKK were ‘trying to make young people the enemies of schools, of mosques and of the [holy] book… We’re up against a barbarian organisation.’

Yet the AK party is ambivalent in the way it deals with a more obviously barbarian movement, Isis. The government arrests on a whim Kurdish or Kurdish-sympathetic politicians for being ‘terrorist sympathisers’, but is curiously tolerant when dealing with actual Islamist terrorists. In the wake of an Isis suicide bombing in Ankara in October, for instance, Davutoğlu urged restraint: ‘If there’s a sleeper cell somewhere, you cannot simply round them all up and put them somewhere, hoping no one will notice. We have to behave in accordance with the law.’

Few AK party supporters hanker after the Isis way of life. Many in the party’s ranks belong to Sufi-influenced sects, which would earn them a death sentence were they to stray over the border. And the AK party could hardly ignore the bombings attributed to Isis last year in Diyarbakır, Suruç and Ankara — or the killing of 11 tourists in another bombing three weeks ago in Istanbul.

Rather than taking the dry puritanism of Wahhabism as a model, the AK party prefers the aesthetic of a new Ottoman era, an attempt to recast the most glorious days of that empire to fit their brand of political Islamism. If this approach were to be encapsulated in a slogan, ‘Making Turkey Great Again’ would not be too far off. It seeks to underline the strength of the Turkish nation, the public role of Islam, and the importance of strong leadership — and that’s where President Erdoğan comes in.

In his push for near-absolute power and his construction of a palace around three times the size of Versailles, including a bunker with direct access to police CCTV cameras, Erdoğan is clearly suffering some form of megalomania. He is neurotic about the threats facing his government, and increasingly paranoid about disloyalty within his party. He has started to replace mainstream activists with advisers who — judging by their public proclamations, at least — spend much of their time worrying about conspiracies involving sinister international financiers or telepathy. Perhaps Erdoğan’s accidental comparison of himself to the Führer was a Freudian slip.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

John Butler is a pseudonym.

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Show comments
  • Revd Robert West

    Kemal Ataturk wisely targeted the sharia and excluded it from public life: that had the effect of secularising Turkey ,even though most of its population remained nominally Moslem. And so post-Ottoman Turkey was brought into the 20th century and was, until Egypt did, practically the only majority-Mohammedan state to recognise Israel. Hurrah for that. Present developments bode ill, however, for both Turkey and for all minorities within her. She is still in denial of the genocide against Armenians and for that reason alone, it would be unthinkable to allow her into the European Union.

    • 9sqn

      Unthinkable ? They’re certainly more than ‘thinking’ about it.

      • Revd Robert West

        That would be an added reason for us, and for all of Europe to leave the European Union, leaving Turkey to have it for themselves!

        • Jacobi

          Not very Christian?

          • 9sqn

            Un-Christian but fair.

        • Eurocentric

          As the EU seems to be hellbent on its own destruction, it’s all too likely that it will opt for Turkey’s inclusion, despite it not meeting the rules for political freedom. When this happens, all of Europe – and Britain (for unfortunately, Britain isn’t going to have a majority on the Brexit referendum – fear and uncertainty will win in the end) can expect well over a million Turks to head for the opportunities and benefits they don’t get in their homeland.

          • Revd Robert West

            Thank you for your incisive remarks. We must pray, therfore, for a British exit from the EU, for a miracle in other words. Miracles do happen I believe, even today.

          • GoJebus

            Let’s not pray – that will get us absolutely nowhere.

            As for miracles, I’ll believe in those when the barmy Bishops get booted out of the House of Lords.

          • Revd Robert West

            No, I disagree: prayer does work but we must also work too. I am not out of sympathy with your feelings, however.

          • GoJebus

            I’m 100% certain that you have no evidence to share on the power and efficacy of prayer. I mean, you can’t even call prayer charlatanry as at least with charlatanry something happens – albeit some old woman bashing a table with her knee. With prayer, nothing happens. Children still die, despite the petitioning; the loving (or brutal, mass-murdering, depending on the testament) Christian deity absent, as always.

            You must know this is all bullsh*t – right?

          • Revd Robert West

            I have to disagree having witnessed the efficacy of prayer myself and many times over. Yes, sometimes the answer is ‘no” and sometimes the answer is ‘not yet” but my experience, first hand, is that often the answer is ‘yes”. Prayer is petitioning, however, not ordering; and God knows how, and how best, to answer but remember that the answer is His.

          • sussexoracle

            From my own observations as I travel around the UK, there are far more Turks here than one would expect from a non- EU country. They come in as students or to attend some function and then simply don’t go home.

            Don’t blame the Turks for that, though; blame the government and the Immigration authorities. A week or two trawling the plethora of recently opened Turkish barbers around the country would reap a rich harvest.

    • Brian Jones

      Why should the Turkish people of today apologise for the actions of people 100 years ago? Is the Roman Catholic Church apologising for the Inquisition which also killed thousands, and should they?

      • Revd Robert West

        That is a very good point. However, my point is that the Republic of Turkey is in denial of the genocide of Armenians carried out by the State to which it is a successor, about one hundred years ago. As I understand it they are virtually saying that it did not happen. That is surely outrageous.

        • Eurocentric

          Agreed. In the same way they blamed Israel only for the Marmara incident, but if they were on a peaceful humanitarian mission, it wasn’t evident by the cache of weapons discovered on the boat. The weapons discovered on a Turkish ship bound for “Libya” and disguised as “aid for Syrian refugees in Europe” also arouse suspicion on Turkey’s real role in the migration invasion.

          • Toy Pupanbai

            Be careful with Israel, a two edged sword.
            Remember the USS Liberty attack as an example of which way the dice fall when a choice of self interest has to be made!

      • Eurocentric

        Why not? The Pope apologized for Catholic teachings that led to the persecution of Jews, Germany apologized for both WWI and the Holocaust, Japan apologized for Pearl Harbour, America, Canada and Australia apologized for their treatment of the indigenous peoples and President de Klerk apologized for apartheid. There are dozens of examples of apologies for past wrongs, some going back hundreds of years. The Catholic Church did, in fact, apologize for the Inquisition and many other wrongs. So why should Turkey not take responsibility for its genocide of a million Armenians? The answer appears to be nothing more than arrogance, and the Islamic sense of superiority and blamelessness we’re all beginning to see now.

      • Toy Pupanbai

        The Turkish people don’t need to apologise for what happened 100 years go but they do need to admit the massacre of the Armenians!

    • Eurocentric

      I believe that Erdogan has indeed become a paranoid and fanatical Islamist. He certainly changed Turkey’s stance towards Israel. It can no longer be trusted as an ally of the West.

      • Revd Robert West

        I appreciate your comment but I am not happy with this term ‘Islamist’ as it suggests that this revived Mohammedanism is not a re-hash of the original force, which I believe it is. Islamic State is just like reading Gibbon on the ‘Rise of Mohammed and the Arabs’ in his Vol VI of the “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”.; it is well worth a read if you have not done so already.

        • Toy Pupanbai

          “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”.
          Yes, worth a read, or re-read?
          There’s an Audio Book version, online, if you find reading a burden.

    • marvin

      Turkey is fully welcome to join the EU – provided the UK come out of it and pretty damn quick!

  • Toy Pupanbai

    Poor old Attaturk must be really fuming!
    Worth a look!
    ‘A Rational Study of Radical Islam’. Dr Bill Warner. (Youtube.)

  • Frank

    Totally corrupt, should be booted out of NATO, Russia has produced lots of evidence of the leadership’s deals with ISIS as regards oil.

  • voidist

    well ..it is an islamic country….and erdogan was once EUs poster boy…..another one that the

    EU got wrong and the islamists got in

  • Cyril Sneer

    Disgusting country. Boot them out of NATO, refuse EU membership, arrest the Islamist Erdogan and his cronies.

    • Tom Cullem

      Ah, but haven’t you heard? The EU is about to funnel him huge amounts of cash to continue failing to stem the tide of Muslim migrants heading for our shores . . .

  • Owen_Morgan

    It’s a bit rich of the Turks to call the Kurds “barbarians”.

    • sidor

      And for the Persians “turk” is synonymous for a moron.

  • sidor

    Turkey is not “turning to a paranoid state”. It has always been, at least since 100 years ago. Ataturk’s changing the script was an exceedingly clear symptom of schizophrenia. The underlying problem is quite deep and rather old. The last 500 years Turkey has been oscillating between at least three civilisations: Arabic in the South, Persian in the East and European in the West. Although the official form of Islam in Turkey is Sunny, it is not the original one: it was just a political trick in order to separate itself from the Persian culture after Safavi revolution in Iran. As a result, of this civilisational confusion, Turkey remains mentally unstable. Anything might happen overnight.

  • Terry Field

    No, all Turkey is doing is throwing off the legacy of Ataturk and reviving its Islamic past. That is a shocking reality to the hordes of the lunatic Euro post-Christian Left who have both dominated and largely wrecked both Britain and continental Europe, and who have absolutely NO knowledge of what Islam ACTUALLY is, but it is, nonetheless, what is happening.
    You ignoramuses need to rediscover what your ancestors knew of the nature of Islam. The bomb, so-called ‘peace,’ feminisation of politics and fat living with no hand to hand combat (except between the few non-gays and the monstrous dykes) has washed your minds of reality.
    But not in the minds of your muslim opponents. They are tough; they believe; they see you as placid grubs ripe for the taking.
    And they are not wrong – are they?
    (Fancy them in the EU??? – now because of Merkel, you may live to see that……. “hold back on sending Syrians to us, and we will accelerate your EU candidacy,” etc.)

  • Jacobi

    Turkey under Erdogan is now seen to be an outright Sunni Muslim dictatorship, whatever its
    minorities, either in or without the AK, think.

    It is also now clear that Turkey is part of the whole Sunni/Saudi/ISIL collusion to completely Islamise the Middle East and by doing so create and enormous flow of religious migrants to Europe to Islamise Europe. Turkey is an integral part of this flow, driving as many Muslim religious migrants to Greece and therefore into Europe as the Europe system will tolerate or accommodate before breaking down.

    I do not think Erdogan is a megalomaniac, whatever that is. He is simply a clever, committed, Sunni Muslim, obeying the will of he who he sees as his prophet.

    • justejudexultionis

      Which is why Turkey, along with all the other Islamic bigot states, must be prevented from destabilising Europe and establishing their Sharia tyranny over Europe.

  • Beauceron

    I live in the US.

    We appear to be turning into a paranoid one-party state, although they haven’t started arresting the opposition–yet. But our DOJ and IRS will investigate them, just to see what they can scare up or at least intimidate them.

    • AnonyMan

      They haven’t arrested the opposition in Turkey as well. But regarding journalism. Can Spectator reveal to us where the wikileaks founders currently live? Yep so shut up. We know too well now to buy this anti-Turkey propaganda popular among Western liberal media, I thought the AKP spectacular elections comeback taught you a harsh lesson — especially after the Economist openly urged Turks to vote for opposition a day prior to the election. But seems to me you’re asking for another humilating event, hopefully when Erdogan succeeds in rewriting the military-drafted constitution, you’ll suffer an irrecoverable heartattack then.

    • Terry Field

      No we are not – we are just junking the bland me-too professional politician class – except for the ‘it’s all about MEEEEE!’ Madame Clinton

  • And Cameron wants Turkey in the EU. Don’t forget that Turkey buys ISIS oil, and is still occupying half of Cyprus.

    • Patrick Lilley

      Henrik while I loath the idea that your opinions may enourage prejudice you are welcome to them.
      I dont know how you got this angry but it not my problem. I sincerely believe we need to support people like Sadiq who are secular muslims to be successfull and treated equaly based on their actions and policies and Sadiq has already proven at be an ally of our community.

      Imagine the signal it would send to others.

      As long as you dont trip the line into hate speech or actions you are welcome to say what you want. Id like to show you that many left leaning Arab/Muslim countries had moderate social policies prior to the conservative ascendancy in some places. But the same is happening with Christian fundamentalist in Africa financed by US pastors.

      I have also been engaged in dialogue and support evangelicals who are trying to educate their peers on LGBT equality. We need advocates in all faiths. I would think we would benefit having Sadiq at Mayor. And that lots of gay people will support him will help our city 🙂

      • Are you now trying to find all my posts on Disqus? You’re a sad troll.

    • Gokce Kavak

      Upon to your disbelief, Turkey will be able to enter the EU, whether you accept these criticisms or not, as Mustafa Kemal said, most of the Europeans hate Turkey and that’s why they can’t hold down their insanity towards Turkish people. You don’t know what has passed in the news? I think you had better follow it instead of strictly criticising Turks and their minority! This government had spent all the WW1 deficits and budgets and also pay-off, even totally to the United Kingdom! I think you should comment back about the Turks do not enter the EU, if you do not, strict criticisms will be waiting for you!

  • Johann Kingson

    “More than two decades after 33 intellectuals perished in the torching of the Madimak Hotel in the Turkish city of Sivas, those who believed that Turkey has matured and such violence is now left in the past have been proven wrong.”

    the above was written by a turkish journalist. it’s about a turkish nationalist mob who rioted for seven hours this past september against minorities while the police force did nothing. google ‘Kirsehir al-monitor ultranationalist ‘. only four months ago.

    while at it, google ‘istanbul pogrom 1955’. also google ‘madimak hotel sivas’

    let’s not even get into the armenian, assyrian, and greek genocides

    turkey, where ethnic hatred keeps going and going and going…

    • Eurocentric

      Unfortunately, Greek acts against Turks were also pretty horrific before the Smyrna massacres and expulsion of Greek Turkish inhabitants.

      • Johann Kingson

        maybe because they were second-class citizens on their own land and fighting for their freedom? you should treat your minorities better

        but it’s always everybody else’s fault. by the way, alevis, kurds, armenians, and assyrians are not greeks

        • Eurocentric

          I think that I was making it quite clear that I was referring to the Greeks, which is not to say that other peoples didn’t suffer at the hands of the Turks, including eastern Europe.

          • Johann Kingson

            when black people bring up slavery and maltreatment, i (a white) don’t bring up haiti and other cases, and say but unfortunately black people committed horrific acts too. one was fighting for their liberty, while the other was fighting to keep them as second-class citizens, as is still happening with turkish-sunni supremacists (see my original comments re recent events, Kirsehir, Sivas). i hope you see the difference.

          • Johann Kingson

            by haiti, i mean the haitian revolution where many whites (“masters”) were killed or expelled

          • marvin

            Johann Kingson – White people were the first slaves and they suffered far greater hardships than the black people. In fact when the white slaves were shipped over to the Caribbean, thousands were drowned/murdered/tortured on the crossings and the survivors became second class citizens to the black people. That is also how the term ‘Mulatto’ came into being.

    • King Kibbutz

      Also the 1974 invasion of Cyprus. Still occupied and thousands of Greek Cypriot men missing.

    • Pioneer

      It is called diversity.

  • RobertRetyred

    “… Erdoğan is clearly suffering some form of megalomania.”

    He should phone Merkel, and compare symptoms.

  • John Andrews

    The Turkish people voted for Erdoğan so you need to blame them at least as much the man they voted for. The EU should follow Russia’s example: stop tourists going to Turkey and stop buying Turkish products.

  • jim

    “Turkey is turning into a paranoid one-party state”
    Put it another way: it’s just another muzzie kip.

  • King Kibbutz


  • virgile

    Erdogan is a sick man as he and his smiling hamster are taking Turkey onto the path to division and auto-destruction. It seems that the Turkish spring is getting closer by the day and the end of Erdogan too.

  • hyemarsh

    “Turning” into a paranoid state? It was paranoia, among a few other items, that allowed them to invent genocide, back in 1915.

    • ptaipale

      In between 1915 and 1995, there was considerable reform in Turkey. Like, getting rid of the sultanate and moving towards a secular state right after the first World War and losing the Ottoman empire.

      Now Atatürk’s achievements are cancelled. Yes, they never quite got to admitting what they did in 1915, but still, what we’re seeing now is a bad case of falling back to autocratic rule.

  • justejudexultionis

    Bigotry and tyranny – the fruits of Islam.

  • Edip Yuksel

    Well, what else you would expect from someone who admires the Turkish sultans who made a tradition of suffocating their brothers and children to protect their throne? I was friends with both Tayyip Erdogan (from high school and then the political party) and his Vezir Ahmet Davutoglu (from Bosphorous University) and I know them very well. Both are delusional Ottoman-lovers. They will destroy Turkey to keep their power and keep their diabolic delusions alive…

  • Dave R

    WRONG. Its strongmen like Erdogan and Putin who keep their states from descending into tribal anarchy. Have you people learnt nothing from Iraq and Libya? In both Russia and Turkey you have the militant communists on one side (hiding under the banner of Kurdish nationalism in Turkey) and the Imperialists on the other. They may not be ideal, but, for the foreseeable future, they are the only ticket in town. However bad they are, the alternatives are far worse.

    • Adam Bromley

      Turkey was a functioning democracy before the arrival of Erdogan. Under his rule it has become markedly less free, the initial surge of growth has faded and the country is moving backwards by many indices. It suits Putin to claim he is better the alternatives, but we’ll never know. Putin has presided over a collapse in a the standard of living, the introduction of a police state and Russia becoming an international pariah. Not much of a legacy.

    • Sue Smith

      In general, there’s a lot of truth to these comments. Take dictators’ feet off the necks of sectarian states and you get anarchy and violence. I’ll lay bets Merkel fails to understand any of it.

    • marvin

      Dave R. I think you had better read the newspapers printed in other countries before you comment on Erdogan! Erdogan smuggled weapons across the border to insurgents in Syria and was paid for this by the allies of the EU. When Turkish journalists began printing the truth about Erdogan and the fact that he allied himself with and sheltered insurgents – he threatened them all with torture and imprisonment – in fact anyone who disagrees with Erdogan may find themselves imprisoned. In fact, there have been thousands of Turkish migrants who have left Turkey! Erdogan will remain friendly with the West while there is the opportunity of obtaining money from them, but it is a false friendship and one that should never be trusted!

      • Dave R

        At what point did I say Erdogan is a good guy! There are no good guys here, there is simply a semblance of order, or anarchy. A few tortured journalists, however regrettable, is preferable to a bloody and potentially long civil war. Of course I don’t trust Erdogan, but he is a man with something to lose, and as such, predictable. I cannot say the same for the other forces at work within Turkey.

  • jeffersonian

    ‘Turkey is less and less a democracy, more and more a paranoid one-party state.’

    Shhh Mr Butler or you will have Daniel Hannan or Douglas Carswell after you.

  • Terence Hale

    “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” Luke 10:19. With his big boots Mr. Erdogan tramples on what’s left of Turkish democracy. With the seat of his power being in the south of the country in the north he is not well spoken off. With an Ottoman Empire mentality bordering on a psychosis he peruses a politic of a cellular automaton not to be trusted.

    • Sue Smith

      Yep, Terence, it beats “turning the other cheek” hands down doesn’t it? (Sorry for the mixed metaphor.)

  • victor67

    With his Syrian policy failing and the strengthning of the Kurds on his Syrian and Iraqi borders there is a good chance Erdogan will intervene directly in the conflict given his unpredictability

  • Sanchez

    So is Germany, Sweden and Scotland already is.

  • Ciaran Twitterless

    Some years ago I was in a brief relationship with a Turkish guy who worked in his uncles Kebab take-away. He told me that Turkey was fast becoming a bad place and that many anti government people just disappeared.

    • Sue Smith

      Maybe it was the kebabs. People will go to extraordinary lengths to get away from them!

  • George

    Turkey’s acting more and more like an Apartheid state,even using similar tactics?? Oh the irony.

    • Sue Smith

      Yep, when it isn’t ‘safe’ for ‘refugees’ I think we can deduce quite a lot. Not enough to deter Mama Merkel, however. She’s a bright spark, isn’t she??!!!

  • William Brown


  • Sue Smith

    Come on now, who’d have thought Turkey would become primarily theocratic and paranoid??!!

  • marvin

    Turkey has been that way for many years – i can’t believe that a newspaper has only just published that fact in consideration of the number of journalists in Turkey who were threatened and gagged from publishing the truth! Turkey is not a democracy, it is under a dictatorship that is why the people have been refused access to the internet and many who have disagreed with Erdogan have been imprisoned. Erdogan shows one face to the West to obtain free and easy money – and a completely different face to the East.