Linda S Heard - Without doubt many who were celebrating democracy’s victory last week are having second thoughts. The Turkish President’s “gift from God” has turned his fist into iron. The coup that wasn’t gives him a blank cheque to purge the military, the judiciary, state institutions, universities and schools of all opposition with echoes of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s 1950s witch hunt for Americans suspected of harbouring Communist sympathies.

The tally of the stricken grows daily and, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promises, there’s a lot more sweeping clean to do during his announced three-month state of emergency.

More than 50,000 have been arrested, sacked or suspended pending investigation accused of disloyalty or betrayal of the state. Military officers have been paraded on television, many with faces bruised and bloody. Some 21,000 teachers have had their licences revoked. Over 6,000 schools and 15 universities have been closed. The media credentials of 34 editors and journalists have been cancelled. All academics are banned from travelling abroad. Some 10,000 passports have been revoked, their holders deemed to be a flight risk.

Anyone who has ever spoken or written against the government on social media is vulnerable to a knock on the door, which is probably why the silence of opposing voices is deafening.

The names on the dreaded list must have been collated long before the plot as expressed by Johannes Hahn, the EU Enlargement Commissioner. “I mean, the lists are available already after the event, [which] indicates that this was prepared and at a certain moment should be used,” he said. The few dissenters who agree to be interviewed on foreign networks invariably request their identities be hidden. One is left to speculate on how the families and friends of the detained and the newly jobless feel about their country’s democratic values.

It must be said that a seeming majority of Turkish citizens have been invigorated with a renewed sense of nationalism; they feel proud that people power quashed the putsch saving their country’s precious democracy. They bristle at any criticism of their heroic president, democracy’s defender whose party walked away with 52 per cent of the votes during the last election.

However, I would argue that Erdogan’s auth-oritarian bent over recent years and crackdown on ordinary folk unconnected to the coup flies in the face of all democratic principles. It’s a misconception that democracy begins and ends at the ballot box. Hitler was never elected, but he came to power in 1932 via a democratic process and the Republican pick for the presidency Donald Trump is in with a chance of making it to the Oval Office in spite of the fact he’s out to wall-off Mexico and intends to both monitor American-Muslims and bar entry to Muslim visitors.

Erdogan has not only shown vindictiveness towards sectors of his own people, he blames his former friend-turned-foe Fethullah Gulen, a billionaire Turkish cleric who lives in the United States, for having a hand in the coup and he has also cast aspersions on unspecified foreign governments. Ebrahim Karagul, the editor-in-chief of the right-wing Turkish daily Yeni Safak was more forthcoming in his op-ed headed “The US tried to assassinate Erdogan”. He maintains that “the US administration directly planned to kill the President of the Republic of Turkey and implemented this plan.”

Another Turkish newspaper The Daily Sabah polled its readers, asking them whether they agreed that the US had directly or indirectly supported the attempted coup. Almost 80 per cent answered, “Yes, I do”. Hinting at outsider interference is a sure-fire way of cementing a population behind its leadership.

Muted US criticism

Curiously, in spite of Erdogan’s insistence that Turkey’s application to the US relating to the extradition of Gulen must be fast-tracked, delivered with an implied “or else”, the Obama administration has been low-key with its criticisms.

Little has been said about Ankara’s decision to cut the electricity at its Incirlik Airbase, or the shut-down of areas of the facility, which impacted US sorties in Syria. The US Consulate in Adana revealed that movements “on to and off Incirlik Airbase” were prevented by local authorities.

Early on, US President Barack Obama praised his Turkish counterpart for his “resilience” and, since, an official from the State Department has pledged America’s support for efforts to bring the plotters to justice while mildly cautioning against “overreach”.

EU officials have been more vocal. Erdogan responded by accusing the EU of taking a “biased and prejudiced stance”. His answer to France’s Foreign Minister who advised him against silencing his opponents was “Mind your own business!”

Evidently, the US and the EU are placing their interests first. America needs access to Incirlik and is cognisant of Turkey’s value to Nato. And without Ankara’s cooperation, Europe can expect further waves of refugees and migrants heading its way. Moreover, Erdogan’s new allies, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani with whom he intends to join hands on Syria, must be causing consternation in Western capitals.

Erdogan can say or do what he likes. His “my way or the highway” approach is working... at least for now.–Gulf News