Turkey Moves to Silence Dissenters, but With One Eye on Its Image Abroad – NYTimes.com

Is Turkey, a top candidate for European integration, a regional power, and a country forging a new foreign policy identity–backsliding?

For the government, the answer seems clear, Mr. Muhcu said: to silence the opposition.

“It has come to a point where members can’t even tweet without fear of being investigated for their thoughts,” said Mr. Muhcu, one of the few activists still willing to offer a public critique of the government.

As the memory begins to fade of those sweeping protests, which began to save Gezi Park in central Istanbul from being razed and became the most serious challenge to Mr. Erdogan’s decade in power, the government has moved aggressively against its perceived adversaries. More than a thousand students, teachers, doctors and activists — even mosque imams — have been hauled in for questioning for their role in the civic unrest.

Dozens of journalists have lost their jobs for reporting on the demonstrations, and one of Turkey’s wealthiest families now has an army of tax inspectors digging through its accounts, apparently for giving refuge in a fancy hotel it owns to demonstrators escaping clouds of tear gas last summer.But in a country with a long history of military coups, police brutality, torture and disappearances, many Turks and outside experts said they were actually expecting a more brutal crackdown after the protests. They note that while many people have been questioned for their participation, comparatively few have been charged with crimes, although a prosecutor in Ankara has threatened to charge nearly 500 people in a single court case.

via Turkey Moves to Silence Dissenters, but With One Eye on Its Image Abroad – NYTimes.com.

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8 thoughts on “Turkey Moves to Silence Dissenters, but With One Eye on Its Image Abroad – NYTimes.com

  1. eebashaw says:

    Although it would be a bummer if Turkey backtracks somewhat, it certainly wouldn’t be surprising to me. With entrance into the EU very unlikely at the moment, they do not have much to motivate them to further westernize their country and view of freedoms. Located in a very contentious part of the world, Turkey does remarkably well on being a peaceful state. However if the government really is working hard to silence all opposition that is worrisome again. That is a sure step down the slippery slope to oppression. Freedom of speech is something I think Americans take for granted. Most of the places Americans travel even have very free speech and so it seems to us like the world is full of these freedoms. Tips like this are reminders though of just how precious that freedom is. Whether one supports the current president or not, he is not going to send out people to silence someone for sharp, even well publicized, criticism. If he did, Fox News certainly would NOT still be in operation..! Let us hope that for the people’s sake, this does not become the norm in Turkey once again.

    • Taylor Shippen says:

      Anyone who attended the lecture with the Consul-general of Egypt saw first hand how strong handed and repressive regimes affect their populace, Turkey is certainly no exception. For those that weren’t there, a young woman from Egypt stood up during the Q&A session with a diplomat from the Egyptian embassy and began yelling/crying in front of the audience about the Egyptian military’s takeover of the government. Despite her interrupting the meeting and getting into a shouting match with the guest speaker, I was shocked at how passionately and openly she used her right to free speech. I’ve taken advantage of that right for my whole life, but here is an Egyptian woman who has not had that privilege, who showed me how powerful free speech really is. In two minutes, two Egyptian students drastically diminished the credibility of the Egyptian’s current military regime with other audience members.

      If there was any doubt in my mind about the necessity of the right to free speech, it was removed. Governments need to be challenged and held accountable if they are to rule effectively. Period. If Turkey is afraid of its own shadow, perhaps Mr. Erdogan needs to shine a brighter light on his government rather than thrust the country into further darkness.

  2. I’m having trouble differentiating between cause and effect in Turkey right now. Is the stronger Islamist movement contributing to riots and government oppression, or do riots and government oppression fan the flames of Islamism?

    Regardless, Turkey has many years of relative stability and peace under its belt. This is a real test of its ability to maintain that track record, but I agree with those who said that they expected a harsher response. I think this can serve as a small testimony that though Turkey may be on a small backslide right now, they are still riding on an upward trend.

  3. Obviously Turkey has a long way to go if it is headed towards consideration into the EU again. The problem with Turkish tactics in firing/dismissing so many journalists is that that does not stop the flow of information. It may hinder internal news, but Turks have the whole internet to tell them that their government is constraining their media. In this technological age there aren’t many secrets, and Erdogan would do well to remember this considering the Presidential elections that are approaching.
    The rise in antisemitic sentiment by the government is also a concern, as that seeps into the minds of Turkish citizens. Hopefully Turkey will self correct before something else occurs and sends the country into chaos.

  4. oliviaronna says:

    Yes Turkey, forcefully silencing your opponents will make the EU want you to join it. Joke. Granted, Turkey is a lot more peaceful than its neighbors, but if it is so worried about its image abroad, maybe it needs to clean up a bit. I highly doubt that the EU will let them join anytime soon, but even if they were considering it, the oppression from the government, the radical Islam, anti-Semitic acts, and the revolutionary acts will not help Turkey make Western friends. I like what the first commentator said about the freedom of speech. Unless we have really lived in an country with an oppressive government, we cannot even fathom how difficult it would be if our basic rights were stripped from us. Hopefully, Turkey can clean up its act a bit more before worse things happen.

  5. I used to be a strong proponent of Turkey accession to the EU. It is sad to me that Turkish authorities are doing exactly what many EU officials needed in order to justify their reluctance: giving the EU more reasons to delay the accession process. Van Rompuy said, before he became the president of the European Council, that Turkish accession is a threat to Europe’s christian values. In other words, his and other European officials’ words on the matter resulted in a de facto definition of the EU as a christian club. Turkey already had two major obstacles to overcome: (1) the fact that it is primarily muslim, which Western European officials dread, and (2) its invasion and non-recognition of Cyprus. There are other issues, such as its fiscal policy, but those can easily be fixed.

    It is obvious why Turkey has been shifting away from its EU goals and is now seeking a leadership role in the Arab League. However, there too Turkey faces obstacles (i.e., it is not an Arab nation). Either way, I believe a seat at the EU sounds more attractive to most Turks.

    Erdogan and co. have repeatedly shot themselves in the foot. I am eager to see what will happen at the next election, in 2015.

  6. Articles like this further demonstrate the fact that Turkey is not a European country. Though it has a small area technically in Europe, its cultural and political norms stand in contrast to the norms of the European Union countries. Turkey is not doing what it needs to to meet the criteria for admission, and its probably a good thing. Germans are wary that the addition of the Turks to the Union will make it even easier than it already is for them to flood into countries and take the jobs of Europeans. I can’t see Turkey joining anytime soon with such blatant human rights violations.

  7. dbaker24 says:

    Turkey with its current behavior regarding its violent and severe crack down on its citizens specifically when it come to self expression and the ability to use free speech, will be hard pressed to be allowed back into the European Union. The ideas and norms that they are currently supporting are not in alliance with those of the European Union. Thus in order for them to be seriously considered for admittance, Turkey must change their fundamental nature regarding human rights.

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