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Opinion: Erdogan’s “Inner Stalin”


tayyip-erdogan1-890x395Erdogan’s “inner Stalin” is unleashed.

After last week’s failed coup attempt, Erdogan warned: “This latest action is an action of treason, and they will have pay heavily for that.

This move is a great favor from God. Why? Because it will allow us to [purge] the armed forces, which need to be completely cleansed.

Erdogan is turning Turkey into a giant gulag.

In the past 5 days, 50,000 military officials, police, judges, journalists, governors and civil servants have been detained, suspended, or fired.

People are being arrested and jailed with no legal authority. Their whereabouts unknown.

Every university dean – more than 1,500 – have been forced to resign; 15,000 educators have been suspended.

People are prevented from leaving the country. No one with an official passport can travel. Employees at state institutions need special permission.

Progressives and “oppositionists” are at-risk. Background checks are underway to investigate their ties to Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based preacher who Erdogan accuses of plotting the coup.

There is no end in sight. Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency.

The Obama administration rightly condemned the coup. Takeover by the military is not the path to democracy. Now US officials are speaking out against purges in Turkey, but they have little leverage.

Secretary of State John Kerry warned, “There must be no arbitrary purges, no criminal sanctions outside the framework of the rule of law and the justice system.” Kerry said NATO would “measure” Turkey’s actions. “NATO also has a requirement with respect to democracy.” He raised the possibility of reviewing Turkey’s NATO membership.

When Erdogan suggested Turkey might reinstate the death penalty, which it abolished in 2004, EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, cautioned: “No country can become a partner state if it introduces the death penalty.” She added, “We call for the full observance of Turkey’s constitutional order and we…stress the importance of the rule of law. We need to have Turkey respect democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Mogherini’s warning has apparently fallen on deaf ears. Coup plotters are being tortured and paraded on television. Erdogan threatened to hang those involved in the coup. A young soldier was beheaded, his execution broadcast on social media. It is unknowable how many others have been tortured or killed.

The fact of the matter: Erdogan could care less what is said.

Exposing Erdogan’s corruption is the only way to influence his conduct.

Reza Zarrab, a dual Turkish-Iranian national with close ties to Erdogan, was arrested at the Miami
International in May. The US attorney in charge of prosecuting the case, Preet Bharara, has promised to expose Zarrab’s money laundering and gold sales, which sought to evade sanctions on Iran.

Zarrab may testify against Erdogan, his son Bilal, and Erdogan’s inner circle. The US attorney should quickly publish Zarrab’s indictment, naming beneficiaries of his crooked business.

After the indictment is unsealed, the US should impose sanctions on everyone implicated in the indictment. It should freeze their overseas assets and ban their travel and the travel of their family members.

History teaches us that dictators ignore toothless warnings. Hitler and Mussolini were democratically elected, like Erdogan. They were oblivious to international pressure.

Criminal indictments for corruption and targeted smart sanctions are the only available tools to mitigate Erdogan’s sweeping crackdown.

David L. Phillips
Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights, Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He served as a Senior adviser and Foreign Affairs Expert to the US Department of State during the administrations of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama.

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