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Let’s talk Turkey about Turkey – By Reuben Abati

Reuben Abati

The piece titled “Nigerians and the Failed Coup in Turkey” (The Guardian, Sunday, July 17) had fetched a mail and direct messages from a concerned Nigerian who objected to my description of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a bad guy- an intolerant, arrogant, temperamental dictator who after July 15 could become even more authoritarian.  

The fellow praised Erdogan and spoke glowingly about how well the Turkish economy has fared under his watch.

 I also got a list of current economic indicators on Turkey sent to me. 

I assured the fellow that I was not in any way in support of any anti-democratic move, and that the article was not about the Turkish economy but Erdogan’s politics and leadership. 

I added that while he was perfectly entitled to his admiration of Erdogan, I had no reasons to change my views and that he should beware of Embassy propaganda. 

It was a polite, private discussion. But there was nothing polite about the other reaction that caught my attention.

It was in form of a scurrilous, very badly written press statement titled “Reuben Abati Should Keep His Stinking Pen” by a so-called Center for Human Rectitude, posted on Facebook, and signed by one Yusuf Jimoh Aweda, with the pompous title of a Director.

Aweda’s abusive statement praises Erdogan, defends Turkish Airline, and lists Erdogan’s achievements as the President of Turkey. 

I smiled, wondering why Aweda is yet to relocate to Turkey. Since the failed coup, President Erdogan has behaved true to prediction. 

Over 15, 000 persons have been detained in connection with the coup. 

More than 140 media houses have been shut down. Arrest warrants have been issued for about 90 journalists. 

A total of 934 schools, 15 universities, 104 Foundations, and 35 health institutions have also been closed down.  

Over 60, 000 civil servants have been sacked; 50, 000 passports have been cancelled.  

More than 40% of military chiefs have been fired. Erdogan obviously has more enemies outside the coup plotters.

Curiously, any foreigner who has tried to criticize or advise the Turkish government and Erdogan has also been told to mind their business. 

“Some people give us advice. They say they are worried. Mind your own business!” says President Erdogan.  

As at last week, about 18, 000 persons have been detained at various times since January, for allegedly insulting President Erdogan – the victims include a German satirist, a Dutch-Turkish journalist, a former Miss Turkey and a UK artist. 

But in what he calls “a one-off gesture of goodwill”, Erdogan now says he will “withdraw all the cases regarding the insults made against him.” 

How magnanimous!

Yusuf Aweda certainly knows that it is “an act of felony” to say anything against President Erdogan, and so, he had to tell Abati to keep his stinking pen and mind his business. 

Sorry to disappoint you, Erdogan lover, your hatchet piece is in the dustbin where it belongs.

The attempted coup in Turkey stands condemned, nonetheless, and it is perfectly within the rights of the Turkish government to fish out the perpetrators and ensure that justice is done, but it seems Erdogan is personally using this as an opportunity to witch-hunt his perceived enemies and enforce a form of “political cleansing.”

The official Turkish position is that the brain behind the coup is US-based, Islamic preacher and writer, Fetullah Gulen, 75, founder of the Alliance for Shared Values and the Gulen Movement (known as Hizmet Hareketi in Turkey). 

Gulen is Erdogan’s arch-rival and nemesis. He has been accused at various times in the past of trying to topple the Erdogan government in conspiracy with the American CIA and FBI. 

Ironically, Erdogan and Gulen were both friends until they fell out in 2013, and Gulen became a marked target, and Turkey’s “most wanted man.” 

He fled to the United States. 

Erdogan has asked for his extradition but the Americans do not believe that Gulen, who has spoken openly against violence, and terrorism, and who is a progressive Muslim, with a large following in Turkey, is the terrorist Erdogan claims he is. 

It also does not matter that both Gulen and the United States promptly condemned the July 15 coup attempt and that US authorities have spoken about how important Turkey is to the United States.

Erdogan has ordered a witch-hunt of anyone or any institution associated with the Gulen Movement.  

Turkish officials, trying to give a dog a bad name to hang it, refer to the movement as Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), thus reducing Turkish politics post-July 15 to a contest between two prominent political rivals.

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