Longtime readers will remember Sabatina James, who has appeared several times in this space, most recently as a speaker at the Brussels conference in 2012. In the following article translated by Rembrandt Clancy she discusses the recent failed coup in Turkey, which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan manipulated and exploited to assist his attempts to assume dictatorial powers.
About the Author
Sabatina James was ostracised by her own family and condemned to death because she gave up Islam and professed Christianity. Born in 1982 in Pakistan, she is a publicist living today in a secret location in Germany under police protection. She is an advocate for persecuted Christians and for women in forced marriages. Among her books is Sharia in Germany: When the Laws of Islam Break the Law, which has appeared in the last year.
Erdogan’s Seizure of Power
by Sabatina James
Original German Language Source: Junge Freiheit
Translated by Rembrandt Clancy
21 July 2016
The coup in Turkey automatically reminds us of German history. The attempted assassination of Hitler, along with the endeavour to remove him from power on 20 July 1944, was planned primarily by officers who otherwise may have been unable to act against him. The event was preceded by difficult discussions.
To begin with, Hitler wished to dispense with democracy, but then decided in favour of taking the democratic route to the seizure of power. So on the one hand, he had actually sidelined democracy; yet on the other hand, he came to power electorally, and the Reichstag approved his Enabling Act with a two-thirds majority, keeping in mind that beforehand Hitler had substantially restricted freedom of the press and then also expelled the Communist deputies from parliament so as to achieve this two-thirds majority.
The Reichstag fire was in reality no danger whatsoever to democracy, but Hitler’s previous restrictions on democracy were the real danger. His subsequent purges did not lead to the preservation of democracy as he maintained, but rather more so to its abolition. After the assassination attempt, the officers were accused of an attempted coup; after democratisation, the accusation maintained that the officers had acted much too late and should have intervened much earlier, as soon as the democratic structures were being dismantled. The question of who the real putschist is, Hitler or his adversaries, has been assessed very differently at different times in Germany, even in opposite ways.
Advocacy of Sharia
In the case of Turkey, the situation appeared to be more straightforward, at least as long as one did not look at the situation too closely. Erdogan was no blank slate. As leading member of the Islamistic-fundamentalist party under Erbakan, he became the Lord Mayor of Istanbul. He drew attention with the sentence: Democracy is like a train: we ride it “until we reach our destination”, then we step off.
His public advocacy of sharia through the elimination of democracy earned him an arrest; the sentence was one year in jail and a life-long ban on political activity; in effect, he was never again allowed to hold political offices. To counter this, Erdogan managed a shrewd chess move: he re-established the banned party with fewer explicit formulations, became party leader without himself taking part in elections, won the elections by invoking Islam and had a law passed which served only one purpose: the lifting of the political ban against him.
With that, the way was clear to the highest offices of the state. However, the constitutional state, the separation of powers and democracy had been damaged, especially considering Erdogan had not become opposed to his earlier propositions.
Retention of Power on a Razor’s Edge
That from now on he strove to get rid of the military, which in accordance with the Constitution was to safeguard democracy — in particular the separation of religion and state — is not so incomprehensible. Erdogan reorganised the Secret Service into a powerful weapon, arranged for large scale spying operations against the military and eventually sent 200 leading generals into retirement on charges of corruption. Official Europe celebrated with a view to the breakthrough to real democracy; but for critics, these actions could also create suspicions in respect of Erdogan’s plans to seize power.
Erdogan’s fundamentalist approaches continued to be observed critically in Turkey. The majority in the country’s Constitutional Court took note of anti-democratic aspirations, which would have led to a ban of Erdogan’s party had the required two-thirds majority not fallen short by a single vote. Even so, the Constitutional Court, with a 90 percent majority, issued a serious warning to Erdogan’s governing party. Since then, Erdogan’s hold on power has stood on a razor’s edge. He must desist from his juridically established anti-democratic endeavours, or reckon on a renewed ban or otherwise act to forestall it.
Meanwhile, among other things, it had come out that Erdogan is delivering weapons to the “Islamic State”. The Federal Intelligence Service [Bundesnachrichtendienst] also reported it. Erdogan’s ostensibly fine words against the IS are therefore meaningless in the light of his actions. In fact, with his arms shipments, he is all the more directly complicit in atrocities against children and women, Yazidis and Christians, for slavery and crucifixion, mass rape and mass murder, to name only a few examples, — and of course sharia and jihad.
Even the extinction of several hundred million people was quite openly discussed at the time, as Jürgen Todenhöfer could document in an interview. All that is apparently no reason for the Turkish President to give up his support for the IS. Under the circumstances it is difficult to believe that Erdogan would have abandoned his former fundamentalist plans; the more so, as he officially declares a guiding intellectual force like Kisakürek as a model, a man who speaks openly in favour of “plucking out” religious minorities “like weeds”.
No Fair Election
It may come as a surprise that the military support of the Islamic State has not yet damaged Erdogan. In foreign policy, he appears to be too important to the West. Domestically, “the bombshell exploded” when the opposition daily newspaper Cumhuriyet published Erdogan’s support for the IS. Here too Erdogan proved himself the past master at turning the tables. He denounced the chief editor for breach of secrecy and had him arrested.
The Constitutional Court, however, came to an opposite decision: that the subject matter in question may quite properly be reported and that the chief editor was to be set free. Erdogan countered with the threat that the Constitutional Court will lose its legitimacy if it should once more cut him short in such a way — an undisguised threat to eliminate the Constitutional Court.
But prior to this Erdogan had lost his parliamentary majority in the election of 7 June 2015. He arranged for negotiations with the other parties to fail and announced new elections for 1 November 2015. This time things were supposed to improve. The state television threw massive support behind the President’s party, as the OSCE and the Council of Europe confirmed in unison through electoral observers. As it happens, recovering the parliamentary majority was a success, but by unfair means, according to the OSCE and the Council of Europe.
Strike against the Kurdish Party
But regaining the majority was not enough for Erdogan. His plans to transfer power from parliament to the president required a two-thirds majority. His hope of pushing the Kurdish party below the ten percent hurdle failed to work out. Erdogan found a solution for this problem also: 138 freely elected democratic Members of Parliament were indicted and expelled from Parliament. The Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, Elmar Brok (CDU), had the following to say about it in the FAZ [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung]: “It is not an acceptable method to remove deputies from the Parliament in order to bring about a sufficient parliamentary majority for a change in the Constitution.”
For Erdogan the majority situation is ripe for the transfer of power to him now; his goal is within reach, leaving only the danger of a ban by the Constitutional Court for anti-democratic unconstitutionality. Journalists and Members of Parliament must be protected by the Courts and the Constitutional Court in particular, and the latter in turn by the military. If Erdogan wished to prevail in his intensely self-initiated altercations with the free press and parliamentary representatives, he had to burst open the protection they enjoyed under the judiciary and the military.
Lists of Arrests already in Existence
A reversal in the courts, with a military seizure of the party on behalf of the judiciary, could have ended in a loss of legitimacy for Erdogan. Something had to happen to hand him the weapon to oppose his adversaries; only in this way was the course he had taken to be brought to its conclusion.
A small manageable coup without real danger was virtually ideal for this purpose. It need only be initiated by a person under his control. But it would also be enough to convey the impression among several officers who are gravely afraid for democracy, that the mass of their colleagues would be involved, even though it is not true. Indeed that is precisely how the so-called coup proceeded. The methods of the putschists were so abysmally wanting, that they only make sense if the coup leaders were grievously mistaken about the true majority situation among the military leadership.
The secret service had clearly been conducting meticulous surveillance for a long time on all persons deviating from the party line; otherwise, with the best will in the world, the immediately available and comprehensive lists of dismissals and arrests cannot be explained. It should not have been very difficult for the secret service to bring about a fatal error for the putschists at a time favourable to the President.
Large Scale Purging
The enormous scale of the purging is indicative of the ambitious objectives that must be bound up with it. That the military and judiciary, after the so-called coup, can protect journalists and parliamentary representatives who are under urgent threat from Erdogan is in fact no longer conceivable. As far as Erdogan is concerned, this battle can be considered won.
What is currently known about the scale of the purges? According to Prime Minister Yildirim, since the so-called attempted coup, 7,543 persons have been arrested, including 6,038 members of the military, of whom more than 100 are generals; and in addition, there are 100 police officers, 755 judges and public prosecutors as well as 650 additional civilians. More than 13,000 civil servants were suspended, including 7,899 police officers and 2,745 judicial officers who are by and large made up of judges, but also include public prosecutors.
There is also mention of 262 suspended judges and public prosecutors of the military court. Other sources speak of tens of thousands being arrested or suspended. Twenty-four radio and television stations had their licences revoked. In addition, a state of emergency was declared. Faculty members everywhere were prohibited from leaving Turkey. Whether the democratic structures of Turkey can recover once from this blow appears more than questionable, and is perhaps not even the intention. Under these circumstances the question must be asked whether this is really a question of a coup against Erdogan or whether it indicates instead a seizure of power by Erdogan.
Concern for Christians
Erdogan thought ahead: It was he who organised the conversion of more and more state schools into Koran schools, whereby he has been contriving for years to bring entire armies of indoctrinated young people to an uncritical support for his fundamentalist policies. This Islamisation is skilfully accompanied by attacks on religious minorities such as Christianity, which was still professed a good 100 years ago by 20 percent of the population in Turkey. Today Christians constitute only 0.2 percent, and even that is apparently still too many to be left in peace.
Erdogan is now trying to take land and buildings away from Syrian Orthodox cloisters, although these are the “aboriginals”, and were already there long before Turks and Islam. In any case, the vehement denial of the Armenian genocide, accompanied by blatant threats, is not exactly conducive to special insight. The more recent murder of the leading Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink, remains unsolved and unpunished.
The murderers of the three Christians of Malatya were, however, apprehended. But the long drawn-out indictment was so successful that the perpetrator, due to this delay, had to be turned loose again, although he quite openly justified the murders with reference to the Christian faith of the victims. This method of operation does not bode well for the Christians in Turkey. Also they do not have much to expect from the silence of the federal government and the European Union.
Erdogan Threatens with the Direst Consequences
Erdogan has by now cleared away everything that is necessary for a functional democracy and the protection of minorities; from an independent judiciary to a free press up to parliamentary immunity, nothing remains. The German Federal Chancellor has condemned “in the strongest terms”, in an undifferentiated manner, any strong sanctions against Erdogan; however, coming to terms with the precedents appears warranted given the situation. Even if Erdogan with his fundamentalist policies were to have the majority of Turks behind him, that would be no recommendation for a visa- travel for Turks coming to Germany.
The unrestricted and unchecked admission, even of Islamic fundamentalists, negotiated by Merkel with Turkey is virtually unparalleled when it comes to contempt for democracy. The agreement is based on the fully illogical idea that the European states must not defend their borders themselves and must therefore cede that function to Erdogan, paying millions for it as well, without themselves being allowed to set conditions: a declaration of political bankruptcy.
Erdogan meanwhile threatens the direst consequences, should Europeans dare to defend their democracy against the admission of fundamentalists within the framework visa-free travel. The democrats in Turkey have already felt the seriousness of the intent behind his pronouncements.