Will the Istanbul nightclub massacre lead to "The End of Democracy in Turkey"?
Turkish journalist Ahmet Sik, reportedly now under arrest, told The New Yorker's Dexter Filkins in August, early in the Turkish-government crackdown following the failed coup against the regime, that "he had little doubt that [President] Erdoğan aimed to remove all impediments to his rule" -- and that he himself expected to be arrested "very soon."
Although I refrained from fobbing off my amateur speculations in taking note of the bloody New Year's Eve assault on that Istanbul nightclub -- at least 39 killed, scores injured -- you didn't have to be either clairvoyant or an expert on Turkish domestic affairs to call this one: that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would use what seemed clearly another act of violence against the Turkish state to clamp down even further on the remaining opposition, as he did in the wake of the strange coup attempt against him perpetrated by elements in the Turkish military in July.
To be sure, as The New Yorker's Dexter Filkins writes in a newyorker.com post today, although "the shooter has not yet been identified,"
the Islamic State claimed that one of its soldiers had done the job. In its typical deranged language, the group said that it had happily struck the revellers, “turning their joy into sorrows.” The attack, the group said, was in retaliation for air strikes and other military operations carried out by the “Turkish apostate government” against isis in Syria.Filkins's post, it should be noted, is called "The End of Democracy in Turkey."
"Since July," Filkins notes, "thousands of civilians have been arrested and jailed -- many, if not most, with no apparent connection to [Pennsylvania-resident Muslim cleric Fethullah] Gülen [whose followers may have been behind the coup attempt] or ISIS or Kurdish militants," and "hundreds of thousands of others have been either fired or suspended from their jobs," among them "university professors, career bureaucrats, leaders of the democratic opposition, and journalists."
Last week brought word that Ahmet Sik, one of the country’s most fearless investigative reporters, had been arrested and detained; apparently, Turkish officials charged him with spreading “terrorist propaganda” through a series of tweets. In 2010 and 2011, he served a year in prison, in a blatant (and futile) attempt by Turkish authorities to halt publication of his investigation into the secretive activities of Gülen -- who, at the time, was Erdoğan’s most important ally -- and his followers. I saw Sik this past August, after the purges had begun, and he told me he had little doubt that Erdoğan aimed to remove all impediments to his rule. “Very soon, I think, they will arrest me, too,” he said.Filkins also notes the awkard role the Erdoğan government has played in the fight against ISIS, which it eventually joined -- but only after having offered various kinds of support to the opposition, in hopes of seeing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad overthrown. "Turkey’s leaders," Filkins notes, "bear a heavy responsibility for the rise of extremists across the border—and inside Turkey, too. ISIS, allowed to operate inside Turkey for years, is now well established there."
Filkins concludes his piece:
Following the New Year’s Eve attack, Erdoğan asked his countrymen to remain calm. “We will retain our coolheadedness as a nation, standing more closely together, and will never give ground to such dirty games,” he said.I don't think Filkins or anyone else is holding his breath for any such development.
If only Erdoğan would follow his own advice.