Turkey’s expulsion of Western ambassadors cements authoritarian shift

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Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ordered ambassadors from 10 major democracies to be declared “persona non grata”, cementing Ankara’s turn towards authoritarianism and alliance with countries that oppose the United States and the United States. the West.
The attack was carried out by Ankara after the United States and other countries criticized Turkey for continuing to imprison philanthropist Osman Kavala.

Kavala is among tens of thousands of Turks who have been jailed on trumped-up charges by Ankara as part of a purge led by the ruling AKP party that targets liberals, students, LGBT activists, Kurds, operatives of the HDP opposition, women, media and critics of all stripes.

Recently, the Ankara government returned in 2013 and 2014 to find activists involved in protests against the AKP and imprison them. Turkey is the world’s largest jailer of journalists. Despite being a member of NATO, Turkey has regularly crushed the media, razed Turkish neighborhoods in cities as part of the fight against “terrorism” and launched invasions of Syria, ethnically cleansing the Kurds. , Yazidis and other minorities.

Emissaries from a number of key democracies have highlighted the Kavala case as a serious miscarriage of justice. Turkey has now threatened to expel ambassadors from the United States, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and New Zealand.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a meeting of his ruling AK party via video link in Ankara, Turkey on March 4, 2021. (PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE / DOCUMENT VIA REUTERS)

Erdogan said that foreign ambassadors “cannot dare to come to the Turkish Foreign Ministry and give orders… I gave the necessary order to our Foreign Minister and said what to do: these 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata at the same time ”. He was also quoted as saying “they will know and understand Turkey. The day they do not know and understand Turkey, they will leave.

It’s part of Ankara’s growing extremism. Already a repressive authoritarian state, Ankara has become increasingly hostile to NATO and to Western countries. He often threatens Greece and has threatened France. In October 2020, last year, Ankara’s incitement against France likely radicalized a terrorist who caused an attack in Nice. The incident came after Ankara rulers began fabricating new allegations of offense by French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Turkish leaders, who support the Muslim Brotherhood, have tended to use religion as a unifier and as a weapon. He sought to encourage Turkish society to become more Islamist and to view “Islamic” causes as their own, whether it was Ankara’s interference in Kashmir or trying to claim that it supports them. Palestinians. Turkey has hosted Hamas officials on several occasions, leading to condemnation of the United States, and two-year reports indicated that Hamas had planned attacks from Turkey. Turkey has also hosted the Taliban and extremist groups from Syria.

Support for extremists is part of Ankara’s shift towards authoritarianism. In Syria, Turkey not only ethnically cleansed Afrin in 2018, expelling 150,000 Kurds and Yazidis, in October 2019, it threatened the United States in Syria and invaded an area where the United States-backed Syrian Democratic Forces – United were present.

Turkey-backed extremists of Ahrar al-Sharqiya, who have now been sanctioned by Washington, murdered democracy activist Hevrin Khalaf, an unarmed young woman. Turkish media called her a “terrorist” and said she was “neutralized”. Turkey also instigated US official Brett McGurk and accused the US of training “terrorists” in Syria. In recent months, Turkey has stepped up its drone strikes, targeting the SDF and others in northern Syria as well as in Iraq’s Yazidi region of Sinjar.

Turkey is also providing arms to the Syrian groups it supports in northern Syria and encourages them to bomb Tel Tamr, an area held by the SDF and also an area with a Christian community. As such, Turkey has destabilized minority groups across northern Syria in areas once threatened by ISIS, now threatened by Ankara.

In the meantime, Ankara has moved closer to Russia, China and Iran. He is seeking more arms sales with Russia and wants an alliance of more authoritarian countries like Malaysia, Pakistan, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Qatar.

Turkey has reduced some of its most extreme incentives against Israel since 2020. This is largely because Trump, a key Erdogan ally, has stepped down. When Trump left, several American diplomats who were the pro-Turkey AKP also left. This meant Turkey had to work towards reconciliation after several years of blank checks for authoritarianism as Erdogan worked closely with Trump’s White House. Turkey sought to move closer to Egypt and the Gulf states, feeling that Egypt, the Gulf and Greece were moving closer to Israel and that all of these countries were tired of Turkey’s aggressive behavior and threats. For example, during the Abrahamic Accords, it was Turkey that threatened to sever its relations with Israel.

In recent days, the incitement against Israel has returned as Ankara claimed to have detained members of the “Mossad”. It comes more than a year after Ankara claimed it would “release Al-Aqsa”, a reference to the Islamic mosque in Jerusalem. Pro-AKP media in Turkey claimed that Ankara is now expelling foreign ambassadors to prevent them from interfering in Turkey.

It should be noted that while Ankara has sought to expel and harass ambassadors from major democracies, Israel is hosting several of those countries this week as part of the Air Force Blue Flag exercise. The air forces of the United States, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, France, India and Greece are in Israel. The United States, Germany and France are among the countries Turkey is currently threatening. Sweden also recently paid a high-level visit to Israel. Outgoing German leader Angela Merkel was recently in Turkey, an exception in Europe in relations with Erdogan, she appeared to support Turkey’s authoritarian leader. But she is stepping down and Germany is one of the countries Turkey has criticized despite her recent trip.

Ankara’s global posture puts it more and more at odds with democracy and Europe. He tends to use his far-right media and the rhetoric of his ruling party to denigrate Europe. Europe and the United States are seen as the enemy in Turkey, while Russia, Qatar, China, Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, Azerbaijan and other states are seen as allies and friends. Groups like the Taliban and Hamas are receiving a welcome in Ankara that is never accorded to Western democracies. It is symbolic of Ankara’s turn towards extremism. The country increasingly employs poor Syrian refugees as mercenaries.

Although some argue that this is just another rant from Erdogan and a threat designed to gain concessions, the effect is that the Turkish currency is weakening again. and it will hurt the middle class and in particular the more open-minded Turkish voters who are linked to Europe, while increasing poverty and dependence on government. The party in power is betting that this helps it to assert its power.

Turkey has also threatened a new conflict in Syria if that doesn’t do enough to increase populism. Increasingly, the ruling party in Ankara increases tensions with NATO, the West and the United States whenever it wants votes, positioning itself as one of the main anti-Western countries.

Even Iran, Russia, and China don’t have the same levels of extreme rhetoric. Curiously, Turkey remains a member of NATO despite these incidents.

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