How Dangerous Is Turkey?

The modern republic of Turkey was founded as a secular state in 1923 However, since 2003 the country has become increasingly conservative under the leadership of Recep Erdogan [ree-sep err-duh-gan]

Following the rise of Daesh, the country has become increasingly unstable and unpredictable In 2016, evidence emerged that connected the terrorist organisation to the Turkish government The subsequent growth of Islamic extremism in Turkey has led political journalists like the BBC’s Paul Kirby to argue that it is becoming extremely dangerous Turkey has very significant military capabilities Its armed forces include 315,000 army personnel, 60,000 air force members, and 48,600 naval force staff

And, despite not being an official nuclear state, US defense organisations claim it has a covert nuclear arsenal With a huge annual military budget of over $18 billion, in terms of hard power, Turkey is a formidable player on the world stage The country also occupies a unique political position As a quasi-Middle Eastern state with membership of NATO, Turkey has long been viewed as a strategic link between the East and the West Internal political uncertainty therefore poses a significant security problem for many of its allies

Fears that the government is tightening its grip over the country have existed since the Taksim Square protests Between May and September 2013 the Erdogan administration responded to environmental protests with state-sanctioned violence, tear gas and police brutality It resulted in 11 deaths and 8000 injuries, many of which were critical The government’s willingness to butcher its own people signalled a sinister break from the old guard Then, in July 2016, rebel sections of the Turkish military orchestrated a coup, which was crushed in less than 24 hours

Turkish authorities say Fethullah Gülen, a US based cleric, organised the coup But Gülen denies this He believes that Erdogan staged the coup himself

According to Gülen, the coup was an elaborate government plot to tighten its grip on the country If this was a government plot to remove disloyal troops, it certainly worked In September 2016, it was revealed that 32,000 people allegedly connected with the uprising had been imprisoned and were awaiting trial By October 13,000 police officers and over 100,000 government workers were dismissed or suspended Alongside increasingly antagonistic behaviour towards its citizens, the Turkish government has reportedly been preparing to assert itself more aggressively on the world stage

In February 2016, US news outlets claimed that Turkey was considering going to war with Russia Initially, tensions arose after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter plane in November 2015 The American Free Press claimed that Turkey calculated this move to provoke a war with Russia The goal was supposedly to help Turkey weaken Russia’s position in Syria More disturbingly, in July 2016, evidence of a Turkish pact with Daesh came to light

Kurdish news agencies ANF and ANHA revealed that under interrogation, Daesh fighters said they had been provided with financial, logistical and military support by the Erdogan regime These accusations are not completely surprising given Turkey’s historical mistreatment of the Kurds Up until the early 2000s, political organisations representing the Kurds were banned Human rights abuses against the Kurds have been recognised by the European Court of Human Rights, which has condemned Erdogan’s systematic executions of these people These fears were heightened in October 2016, when Turkish authorities shut down a pro-Kurdish news agency for allegedly “spreading terrorist propaganda”

With no evidence to support these claims, it appears to be yet another part of the ethnic cleansing initiative against the Kurdish people Despite his treatment of the Kurds and evidence of his support for Daesh, Erdogan has publicly condemned terrorism and the wanton butchering of innocent civilians There is reason to doubt that Turkey has a pact with Daesh In 2016 alone, the terrorist group committed two suicide bombings in Turkey, which collectively killed 16 civilians This followed previous attacks in 2013, 2014 and 2015

In response to the latest attacks, the Turkish government launched a large-scale tank and artillery campaign in Syria These retaliatory strikes killed 200 Daesh fighters In August 2016, animosity between Russia and Turkey calmed Russia lifted the ban on charter flights between the nations, which had been in force for nine months Putin and Erdogan shared a cordial telephone conversation, and Erdogan made a formal apology for shooting down the Russian plane

These were publicity events intended to re-establish their friendship Moreover, although the origins of the military coup are not without controversy, there is insufficient evidence to prove that it was a government plot The source of these claims – Fethullah Gülen – is a former Turkish leader, with his own agenda for criticising the Erdogan regime Nevertheless, the Taksim Square protests and Erdogan’s response to the coup are a clear indication of a new, more right-wing way of thinking in Turkey’s government Turkey is no shrinking violet

And the incidents where it has behaved in a threatening or dangerous way should not be overlooked Its shift further and further towards the right has had dangerous repercussions, both internally and for its international relations Turkey’s military capabilities and unique geopolitical identity mean it can be a danger to its citizens without serious retaliation from the international community Its treatment of Kurdish communities is appalling, as are its actions since the attempted coup Turkey’s keenness to fight in Syria is also a cause for concern

However, instances where it has acted aggressively – for example, with the Russian plane attack – have been rectified, and diplomatic friendship has been restored Similarly, more exaggerated claims of Turkish links to terrorist organisations cannot be definitively proven

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