Last November, the Turkish Islamist Justice and Development (AK) party won a victory at the polls. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s thin-skinned Islamist president, and an increasingly intolerant persecutor of his many critics, had refused to accept losing the AK majority in the June general election. He ramped up the war on the Kurds in the Turkish south east and then ran on a platform of defending the security that he himself had undermined.
Recently, in May, Can Dündar and Erdem Gül of the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet got five year prison sentences for writing about the Turkish security service’s support for Islamist militias in Syria. Many journalists have been jailed for “insulting” Erdogan. State prosecutors have opened 1800 cases against people accused of insulting Erdogan. The crime of insulting the President can carry a four year jail term. 900 journalists have lost their jobs in the first four months of 2016.
On 20 May the parliament lifted the immunity of its members, allowing the prosecution of 50 of the 59 Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MPs on trumped-up terror charges. The HDP opposition is liberal and pro-Kurdish. On 22 May, Erdogan replaced his own Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, with the loyalist Binali Yildirim, ensuring an ever firmer grip on power. This week Erdogan has called on Muslims to reject contraception; he says he expects women to have at least three children.
Already, in 2010, Erdogan had publicly rejected the equality of men and women. He has condemned male violence by saying men are the custodians of women and have to protect them. Since the Turkish state renewed operations against the Kurdish PKK militia in July 2015 it claims to have killed 5000 PKK militants in Turkey and northern Iraq. Hundreds of civilians have died and scores of curfews have been imposed as the army has fought and repressed Kurds in towns and villages across south east Turkey - using tanks against its own citizens, and patrolling with armoured personnel carriers inside its own towns. The Turkish signatories of an open letter to Erdogan, which denounced the war on the Kurds as a crime, have all been placed under investigation. In January 14 Turkish academics were arrested for signing the letter.
The area Kurds call Northern Kurdistan is effectively occupied by special units of the Turkish state. The violence against the Kurds is largely ignored by Obama and the EU leaders, who are more concerned with Turkish support to stop Syrian refugees getting to Europe than they are with the democratic rights of Turks and Kurds.