Whether or not the attempted coup against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last Friday night was an internal military response to his repressive authoritarianism and ongoing flirtation with fundamentalist Islam (which goes against the very core of the secular principles set down by the modern republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk), or a self-engineered theatrical spectacle intended to justify the use of even more oppressive measures against his foes and the media (as some critics have suggested), the Turkish president is taking full advantage of the post-putsch situation to demonstrate to the world once again his megalomaniac wrath.
Known for his compulsive despotism and vengeful persecution of his enemies, Erdoğan wasted no time rounding up more than 1,5000 soldiers and throwing them into prison, warning that they and their cohorts would “pay a heavy price” for their “treason and rebellion.”
He even went so far as to prompt his party’s deputy leader to demand the reinstatement of the death penalty so that the guilty instigators could be executed (so much for Ankara’s courtship of EU membership).
And rather than acknowledge that his heavy-handed approach to dealing with the dissenters and nonstop barrage against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have only provoked further dissidence and violence in Turkey (the country has suffered 11 major terrorist attacks in the last 18 months), Erdoğan is now looking to blame the social and political instability in his country on Europe and the United States.
He has already put pressure on Greece (not a particular Turkophile to begin with) to return eight alleged members of the plot who fled to the Hellenic Republic in a helicopter when things began going south for the coup.
Athens responded by stating that their extradition could pose a violation of international law since they could face execution.
Erdoğan will no doubt continue his tantrums and rage against Greece and Europe with threats to end the March migrant agreement that has helped slow the tide of refugees across the Mediterranean if Athens does not comply with his demands.
And Erdoğan has also called on Washington to extradite Fethullah Gülen — a a Muslim cleric with whom he had a falling out in 2013 and who subsequently took asylum in Pennsylvania — on grounds that his nefarious preachings incited the coup.
(Not for nothing, but Gülen publicly condemned the coup on Saturday, but, hey, when you are a master at playing the blame game, you don’t need to bother with trivial little details like facts.)
The wrath of Erdoğan is sure to be felt not only abroad but also in Turkey, where press freedom and individual human rights are already taking a heavy hit under the current regime.
And as long as the outside world is willing to acquiesce to his arrogant huffings-and-puffings — whether it be to stem the tide of migrants or because Ankara is seen as a key strategic ally — the Turkish people will continue to see their republic erode under the weight of a tyrannical autocrat.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.