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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Erdogan uses high-handed tactics to suppress protesting Turks in the US

News Analysis |

Supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, including his government security forces and several armed individuals, violently charged a group of protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington on Tuesday night in what the police characterized as “a brutal attack.”

The altercation occurred just hours after President Trump met with the Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Read more: Is Erdoğan losing his grip on a dangerously divided Turkey

According to a New York Times story, the Metropolitan Police chief, Peter Newsham said that eleven people were injured, including a police officer, and nine were taken to a hospital.

The attack was condemned by the State Department and deemed as an action inimical to free speech. “We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms,” said Heather Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman.

Veteran US politician, Senator John McCain berated Turkey for the act. “This is the United States of America. We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this kind of thuggish behavior,” he tweeted.

Photos and videos being circulated on social media by witnesses showed ruckus and mayhem. Flying fists, feet and police batons — all was happening in the middle of rush hour traffic along stately Embassy Row. The video showed two men bleeding from the head and men in dark suits punching and kicking protesters, some lying on the ground. The Anadolu Agency, a state-owned Turkish news service, reported that members of the president’s security team were involved in the attack.

All this happened when Trump welcomed Erdogan to Washington and called him as a warrior against Islamic extremism. The White House deflected questions on the matter.

The Turkish embassy released a statement late Wednesday that refuted United States officials and video evidence and blamed the demonstrators, who, it said, had been “aggressively provoking Turkish-American citizens who had peacefully assembled to greet the president.” The president’s supporters and security forces were reacting in self-defense, the statement said.

This put the US in a predicament as it may have to start an investigation and potentially charge the embassy staff.

Read more: Welcome to the new era of authoritarian leaders: Putin, Erdogan, Modi, Trump

The fact that the crackdown was done on a peaceful protest against some of Erdogan’s domestic policies points towards the possible complicity of henchmen of the Turkish President.

Last year a similar incident took place outside the Brookings Institute where Erdogan was giving a speech. Brookings wrote on its website that his bodyguards had “behaved unacceptably — they roughed up protesters outside the building and tried to drag away ‘undesired’ journalists, an approach typical of the Russians or Chinese.”

Erdogan’s continued fear of losing power

One must not forget that Erdogan has the tendency to use force and harsh measures against his opponents. Just a few weeks ago Erdoğan deepened his assault on civil society by blocking access to Wikipedia, purging almost 4,000 civil servants, and closing down 45 civil society groups and health clinics, The New York Times reported, bringing the total number of people who have been purged to about 140,000 and the number of groups that have been banned to 1,500.

It is evident that Erdogan, having been emboldened by his victory in last month referendum feels that he needs to assert his grip on power. His crackdowns are possibly done by his persistent paranoia of Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan blamed for last year’s coup attempt. Since the July 2016 uprising, more than 110,000 people have been detained in a dissent crackdown in the country; of those, only about half have been arrested for specific charges, according to the CNN.

Last month, the Turkish interior ministry said it had arrested 1,009 members of the Gulen movement, an Islamist group that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses of being behind the coup against him last July.

Last year as the world lauded the heroic resistance put up to avert a coup, Erdogan had kicked off a cleansing campaign to teach plotters a punitive lesson. A series of arrests and detentions ensued, and it was staggering that one-third of the military’s top brass was arrested: 103 Generals and Admirals in total. Besides, one day after the coup, 6,000 military personnel were in custody. A similar course was followed in the judiciary and the police. In a vindictive spree, some 9,000 police officers, 3,000 judges, and members of the interior and finance ministry were suspended.

Read more: Erdogan’s win splits Turkey in half, opposition out on streets

A series of arrests and detentions ensued, and it was staggering that one-third of the military’s top brass was arrested: 103 Generals and Admirals in total.

Erdogan’s defenders were his people (supporters). He has to strengthen them if he has to secure himself and the state. The counter-coup, which is rather unbridled in scope and severity, can hugely dent the shield that Erdogan boasted about some time back.

The surge was of vindictiveness was out of fear, which continues till date. The virulent policies against opponents, both veritable and alleged may very well go on to strike the president back. It could all split asunder and then the survival of the incumbent could again hinge upon the military.