Turkey on Monday detained 10 retired admirals after they openly criticized a canal project.
https://www.jpost.com/-By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends a meeting of his ruling AK Party via video link in Ankara, Turkey March 4, 2021.
(photo credit: PRESIDENTIAL PRESS OFFICE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Turkey increased its crackdown on anyone who critiques the ruling party with a new round of arrests. This time it is targeting former admirals from the navy who expressed criticism about Turkey potentially building a new canal.
Seems like a banal policy discussion, but in Turkey there is no critique permitted of anything the ruling party of Recep Tayyip Erdogan does, the country increasingly jails people for tweets and calls people “terrorists” for protests at universities.
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Turkey on Monday detained 10 retired admirals after they openly criticized a canal project, said France 24. The project is “dear to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a country where the hint of military insubordination raises the spectre of past coups.” The actual criticism is quite mild and the actual issue appears banal.
“The official approval last month of plans to develop a 45-kilometre (28-mile) shipping lane in Istanbul comparable to the Panama or Suez canals has opened up debate about Turkey’s commitment to the 1936 Montreux Convention,” the report reads.
The admirals prefer a Turkey that is part of international agreements and follows them. Turkey has increasingly been threatening its neighbors in Greece and causing controversy with the US and NATO by acquiring Russian weapon systems.
It has also fueled conflict in Libya, Syria and Azerbaijan and used Syrian refugees as mercenaries. Increasingly any critique of Ankara’s drift toward authoritarianism, religious extremism and extremist rhetoric is treated as “terrorism” and people are arrested in Turkey even for tweets that are many years old.
Turkey’s ruling AK Party controls most of the media in Turkey and the government uses the media as AK party mouthpieces, from TRT to Anadolu and other major media. This makes it difficult for any discussion in Turkey to include any critique of government policy. Turkey’s retired admirals had merely expressed concern about the country’s obligations to a convention. For that they may be imprisoned.
This follows a New York Times Story that shed light on the plight of Turkish trainee pilots now sentenced to life in prison for a 2016 coup attempt they had no role in. The poor young men happened to be at a military base that was used by coup plotters, but didn’t take part and were merely trainees. For being in the same area as the coup plotters the young men are now all in prison for the rest of their lives.
They were some of Turkey’s promising F-16 pilots, leading to questions about how many pilots the country now has. It appears who classes of trainees were imprisoned. Turkey has purged more than 150,000 people since the coup attempt and used the coup attempt as an excuse to go after Kurdish minorities, and attack gay rights protests, basically silencing everyone in the country.
In another case Turkey detained a student from Canada’s Carleton University. He has been kept in prison for six months for a tweet he wrote seven years ago. Most western democracies are afraid to critique Ankara’s crackdowns and don’t stand by Turkish students who attend western universities.
Even though those universities talk about democracy, they are often willing to look the other way when it comes to Ankara’s dictatorship. Western diplomats have often partnered with Turkey’s ruling party, some of them becoming lobbyists for it after ending their diplomatic career or during stints at think tanks between jobs.
Former US diplomats during the Trump administration were key supporters of Ankara’s drive toward authoritarianism over the last decade, with some even openly supporting Turkish-backed extremists who have ethnically cleansed northern Syria of minorities. The ability of Ankara to reduce critique in the West is key to its ability to crack down on dissent.
People are imprisoned in Turkey for minor criticism that might not land them in prison in China, Russia or Iran, leading to questions over where NATO-member Turkey is now one of the most authoritarian regimes in the world.
One of NATO’s values used to be democracy, it is not entirely clear if Ankara’s continued role in NATO has meant a reduction in the alliance’s support for democracy. The detention of admirals, imprisonment of trainees and arresting students for tweets is the latest crackdown.