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Turkish democracy, Western hypocrisy

In light of the recent, botched coup attempt against the Turkish government and the will of the Turkish people, many commentators in the West have been agitated by the Turkish authorities' response to those who plotted against their nation. It seems as though, as usual, the West is looking for excuses to engage in finger-pointing and to claim that the democracies of non-Western states are somehow deficient or "less democratic" than their own.

So far, and aside from about 750 judicial officials, Turkey has suspended 8,777 employees working for the Interior Ministry, include 7,899 members of the police and security services. In a statement yesterday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said: "So far 7,543 suspects have been detained…[this figure] includes 100 police, 6,038 soldiers, 755 judges and prosecutors and 650 civilians." It is important to stress that judgment has not yet been passed on the suspects, and these figures do not include those judges and civil servants – around 3,000 – who were purged in the direct aftermath of the coup attempt.

Although Yildirim has made it abundantly clear, along with other Turkish officials, that Turkey will respect the law and that those detained are currently suspects who will be interrogated before having their day in court if charges are brought against them, the Western democratic god is displeased and demands more. Whipping up its furies that take the form of the mainstream media, the West went on the attack against their supposed ally.

The dust had barely settled, and the families of the almost 300 victims of the failed putsch barely began mourning, when the BBC published a tasteless article about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with a bold title of "Turkey's ruthless president". The article goes on to, rightly or wrongly, list a number of allegations against Erdogan, while misleadingly stating that the Turkish military had overthrown governments since 1960 in order to "curb Islamist influence" – hogwash, as anyone who has studied the various coups knows. Was Adnan Menderes, Turkey's democratically elected prime minister whom the army murdered, an Islamist? No, he was a secular conservative, who started life off in Ataturk's own Republican People's Party.

The Independent has been spewing a seemingly continuous stream of vitriol and anti-Erdogan propaganda, the feelings of the Turkish people who stood against the coup be damned. The newspaper does not seem to understand that absolutely none of the political parties or anyone in civil society supported the coup, and that this was a victory for the Turkish people, irrespective of ethnic background, culture or political ideology. Nevertheless, the Independent is keen on making it seem that Erdogan is now going to turn Turkey into a new caliphate, while Robert Fisk writes that another coup is certain to occur, and to succeed.

Irrespective of what one may think of Erdogan personally as well as his sometimes controversial policies, why have hardly any of these media sources reported that Erdogan was almost the victim of an assassination attempt at the hotel he was staying at in Marmaris when this first started? According to reports, he was warned by General Umit Dundar about the coup attempt a short while before it began, giving him time to leave his hotel 20 minutes before the putschists burst in and opened fire.

Erdogan showed remarkable courage by boarding his presidential jet, and fooling two F-16s that had achieved radar lock on his aircraft that it was actually a Turkish Airlines commercial liner, allowing him to land in Istanbul. Erdogan then, through a FaceTime communication aired on Turkish television, rallied an entire nation, no matter their beliefs and political views, and together with the Turkish nation faced down those who would attempt to subvert the will of the people and the rule of law.

Yet here we are today, seeing the West question Erdogan's commitment to democracy (when he is the one who led the charge against those who sought to overthrow it) and being forced to read and listen to the "analysis" of those who would have loved to see Turkey burn and go back to the 1980s and Kenan Evren's reign of terror just because they hate one man – Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

What makes things more infuriating is having to listen to various Western officials, organisations and institutions express "concern" about the current crackdown, and suggest that the Turkish authorities are arresting people based on a pre-determined list of suspects. The EU commissioner responsible for Turkey's EU accession negotiations, Johannes Hahn, stated: "It [the crackdown] looks as if something had been prepared. The lists are available, which indicates that it was prepared to be used at a certain stage."

Hahn's comments are nothing more than utter drivel, as of course the Turkish national intelligence agency, MIT, would have lists of suspects. Following a serious attempt on democracy that led to the deaths of hundreds and the wounding of thousands, is it not logical for Turkey to pre-emptively arrest these suspects? I would take this opportunity to remind Mr Hahn that the British government, and other European countries, have laws that allow the arrest and detention of terrorism suspects without charge. Why the double standards?

The Turks are unlikely to be concerned about the possibility of the reintroduction of the death penalty quashing their chances of joining the EU. After all, they have suffered enough discrimination at the hands of the EU, the media and political parties, particularly in the latest Turkey-bashing during the Brexit referendum campaign. Talk to almost anyone in Turkey, ask them if Europeans will ever accept their nation into the exclusive EU club and they will laugh derisively at the thought. It is unlikely Erdogan is going to care either, but that does not make having the death penalty any less "democratic", as that would mean that observers would have to denounce the US' commitment to democracy as it operates its own capital punishment legislation.

Also, statements made by the US Secretary of State John Kerry and the State Department regarding Turkey's future within the NATO military alliance are highly unhelpful. How would the US government react if factions within its armed forces attempted a putsch? Would they be so forgiving? Clearly not, as the US' own penal code allows for the death penalty in the case of treason. Threatening Turkey's NATO membership on the grounds that it is somehow opposing diversity by legally pursuing and punishing traitors or other such nonsense is the pinnacle of hypocrisy.

It is time for the West to realise that its long vaunted moral high ground has descended into a dark valley of immoral, deceitful hypocrisy that holds no weight in the Middle East anymore. Before lecturing Turkey, countries such as the US may first want to consider how they treat ethnic minorities. Or does that lack of respect for diversity not disqualify Uncle Sam from NATO membership?

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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