Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, March 6, 2018.
(photo credit: UMIT BEKTAS / REUTERS)
Double standards and hypocrisy are nothing new for Turkish President and neo-Ottoman strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
On one hand, Erdogan uses threats and intimidation to stifle international efforts to recognize Turkey’s role in committing a genocide against the Armenian people. On the other, he has no qualms about distorting the memory of the Holocaust. Just last week, for instance, a Turkish newspaper strongly supportive of Erdogan portrayed German Chancellor Angela Merkel on its front cover as Adolf Hitler – complete with moustache and Swastika armband – and claimed she has a “Nazi mentality.” (On several occasions, Erdogan has also called Merkel a Nazi.)
While Erdogan has cracked down on all forms of dissent in the media, among intellectuals and in the universities, he insists on Turkey’s admission to the European Union. When European politicians such as Merkel oppose admitting Turkey as long as Erdogan’s Islamist-inspired government tramples basic human rights, jails independent-minded journalists, purges intellectuals from the universities and intimidates opposition politicians and secular businessmen, he labels her a Nazi.
Turkey under Erdogan – as a NATO ally – receives military support from the United States. Yet Turkey is using American F-16s to murder Syrian Kurds, the most important ally of the US in its war against Islamic State and one of the few truly democratic forces operating in Syria.
So when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exchanged barbs with Erdogan on Twitter on Sunday and noted the Turkish strongman’s hypocrisy in criticizing Israel for defending its border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, he was stating the obvious.
What is less clear, however, is the enduring international legitimacy of Erdogan’s regime. In 2016, an incompetently-staged military coup played into Erdogan’s hands. He used it to wipe out the vestiges of Turkish democratic institutions and to launch a purge of his political opponents. Well over 100,000 people have been punished in various ways, ranging from firings to imprisonment.
Last April, a referendum marred by charges of voting fraud, replaced Turkey’s parliamentary government with a presidential one that allows Erdogan to remain in office indefinitely. The “Yes” vote was restricted to the Turkish countryside where illiteracy, gender inequality and religious fundamentalism flourish.
Yet European leaders of nearly every political stripe have argued for Turkish membership in the EU. Just last week the EU’s top brass hosted the Turkish strongman at Varna on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast. The summit enabled Erdogan to keep alive the admittedly distant hope that one day Turkey would join the EU.
How can the EU, purportedly a bastion of liberalism and openness, even contemplate the candidacy of Turkey? The country’s anti-democratic, Islamist regime now controls all major media outlets and the legal system, while it conducts a military offensive against Syria’s Kurds, one of the few pro-democratic forces in the Middle East.
How do the US and other Western nations continue to condone Turkey’s membership in NATO, the most important military alliance the Western powers have?
Part of the reason has to do with Turkey’s role in stopping the waves of Syrian migrants into Europe. Instead of taking responsibility for their own borders, Europeans prefer delegating the task to Turkey, which is exploiting this fact to extract aid money from the EU and pressure it to jump-start a new bid to allow Turkey to join the EU.
This is an unhealthy relationship based on fear, not trust or common interests and values. As Israel discovered in its own failed attempts at reconciliation with Ankara in the wake of the MV Mavi Marmara incident, Erdogan sees himself as a representative of an anti-Western, pro-Islamist agenda popular in the Muslim world. He has no interest in adopting Western, democratic values.
The time has come for more international leaders – particularly in Europe – to join Netanyahu in public condemnation of Erdogan’s hypocrisies. Through his actions, Erdogan has removed Turkey from the community of democratic nations. He should face the consequences.