Turkey. Under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey went on to an increasingly authoritarian regime with, among other things, media incursions and several notable arrests of journalists. According to COUNTRYAAH, Ankara is the capital of Turkey which is located in Western Asia. A new security law passed in March gave the police sweeping powers and entailed serious restrictions on civil rights. Fight broke out in Parliament before the laws were passed.
In connection with the commemoration of the 100th anniversary in April of the murders of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, new diplomatic conflicts arose with the outside world. While it was still illegal to speak of a genocide in Turkey, Germany joined the countries that formally stamped it as such. The European Parliament called on Ankara to recognize the events that began in 1915 as genocide.
Ahead of the June 7 parliamentary elections, the ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) hoped to gain a two-thirds majority and thus be able to introduce presidential power independently. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the former prime minister who has held the title of president since 2014, was already considered the country’s actual leader despite contravening the current constitution. The president would actually stand outside party politics, but Erdoğan was biased not least against the pro-Kurdish and leftist People’s Democratic Party (HDP).
However, the election was a severe setback for AKP, which with 41% of the votes, did not even manage to retain a simple majority. One of the main reasons was that the HDP, with a 13% margin, surpassed the ten percent barrier and became a fourth party with a seat in Parliament. After the election, fruitless negotiations followed to form a coalition government.
About a month after the election, 33 people were killed in a suicide attack in the city of Suruc near the border with Syria. The victims were mainly young Kurds who came to participate in the reconstruction of the city of Kobane on the other side of the border, since the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization was driven from there. IS took on the deed. Many Kurds accused the government of not taking the threat of IS seriously. Western countries had also criticized Turkey for not doing more to prevent IS supporters from accessing Syria and Iraq via Turkey.
The Kurdish PKK guerrilla then killed two policemen, prompting Turkey to reject the US request to launch a bombing war against IS in Syria and launch air strikes – but seized on bombing Kurdish forces in Turkey as well as Iraq and Syria.. The ceasefire with PKK that has ruled for over two years was thus over. Hundreds of people were killed in the near daily air strikes, rebel assaults and clashes between security forces and guerrillas that followed.
On October 10, the bloodiest assault in Turkey’s modern history occurred when two suicide bombers killed over 100 pro-Kurdish protesters and injured 400. IS again took on the blame but many angered the government.
Three weeks later, new elections were held since the attempts to form government failed. The AKP now went ahead again with 49.5% of the vote retaining its majority. The Social Democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP) gained 25%, while both the HDP and the right-wing National Action Party (MHP) backed but managed to remain above the ten percent barrier. The newly blossoming civil war and terrorist acts were believed to have contributed to increased support for the government.
In the autumn, the EU pledged EUR 3 billion to Turkey to deal with the over 2 million mainly Syrian refugees now in the country – in exchange for Turkey working to stop the flow of refugees into Europe. In the balance there was also a new start in the negotiations for EU membership.
At the end of November, the defense shot down a Russian fighter aircraft that was said to have violated Turkish airspace in connection with attacks against Syria. The incident caused fierce exchanges of words between the countries and the Russian Federation imposed sanctions on Turkey.
In December, the Kurdish government in northern Iraq discovered that Turkey had occupied areas in the northern part of the country where the rogue state had deployed troops and tanks. The Kurdish government demanded that the rogue state immediately withdraw its forces. Turkey had sent its forces in support of IS, which was under pressure from both Iraqi central government troops and Kurdish militias.
In January 2016, the Turkish president stepped up his political campaign against the Kurdish HDP as he threatened to lift the parliamentary immunity of the party’s 2 chairmen to bring them to trial for their support for Kurdish autonomy. Since the 1990s, the Turkish regime has routinely imprisoned Kurdish politicians and dissolved their political parties.
Also in January, IS fired a suicide bomber into the air in Istanbul. The bomb was aimed at foreign tourists. 12 were killed and 14 injured.
After peace talks over Syria in early February collapsed, the Syrian regime launched a fierce offensive against jihadists in northern Syria backed by Russian bombings. It triggered threats from both Turkey and Saudi Arabia to send soldiers into the country and launch bombings to protect jihadists. In mid-February, the first Saudi F-16 aircraft arrived at the Turkish Incirlik phybase, from which they could deploy to the Russian aircraft. The immediate goal was to trigger a military confrontation with Russia that could directly involve NATO in the war on jihadists. On February 17, a car boom sprang up in Ankara. It was aimed at a bus with soldiers. 28 were killed and 60 injured. A few hours later, the Turkish Prime Minister declared that it was the YPG/PYD behind it, and the authorities also had the name of the Kurdish bomber. The government’s idea was to legitimize the escalated war on Syrian Kurds. PYD/YPG rejected any interference. Unfortunately for the Turkish government, a Turkish group claimed responsibility for the bomb a few days later.
Internally in Turkey, the dictatorship tightened the grip on its opponents. In January 2016, the prosecution demanded life imprisonment for the editor of the large daily Cumhuriyet, Can Dündar and the head of its Ankara office, Erdem Gül. They had both been arrested in November 2015, accused of revealing state secrets. The reason was that they had disclosed footage of the Turkish intelligence from January 2014 carrying weapons across the border with Syria to the jihadists. (Turkish journalists face multiple life sentences over Syria report, Guardian 27/1 2016), (Jailed Turkish editor slams EU deal with Erdoğan’s ‘fascist government’, Guardian 19/1 2016).
In mid-January, authorities arrested 27 academics. Their “crime” was that they, along with 1,400 other academics, had signed a public invitation urging the Turkish state to cease its deliberate massacres and forced displacement of the Kurdish population. The academics were accused of “terror propaganda”. Among the signatories were also Noam Chomsky and Slavoj Žižek, who President Erdogan declared was a threat to Turkey’s national sovereignty. (Turkey rounds up academics who signed petition denouncing attacks on Kurds, Guardian 15/1 2016).
In May, Turkey reaffirmed its position as a non-democratic country when the AKP in parliament lifted the diplomatic immunity of 138 MPs. Including 50 members of the leftist and pro-Kurdish HDP. Dictator Erdogan’s goal was to remove the opposition from parliament so that the AKP could unabashedly implement constitutional amendments and transform Turkey into a purely Islamic state.
That same month, the dictator replaced his prime minister. Ahmet Davutoğlu was replaced by Binali Yildirim. Erdogan had in August 2014 appointed Davutoğlu for the post. First and foremost because he had a weak position in the party and was therefore completely dependent on Erdogan. But from the end of 2015, Davutoğlu increasingly came into opposition to Erdogan’s confrontation course to the outside world.