ABDULLAH – What next for Turkey?

What next for Turkey?The arbitrary arrests and growing harassment of journalists as part of the total onslaught on the right to dissent in Turkey will likely be followed by the degrading punishment of each and every critical soul against President Recep Tayyip ErdoIanand#39s authoritarian political Islamist regime under which torture, cruel and inhumane treatment, and even extrajudicial killings may become common occurrences.If the dark years of the early and#3990s — during which prominent journalists and intellectuals were killed by the Iranian-backed, deadly terrorist organization called Tawhid-Salam (also known as the Jerusalem Army) — is any indication of what is next to come in Turkey, I would say the unprecedented crackdown on major media outlets last Sunday is the harbinger of another terrible era Given that high-profile suspects from this Iranian-backed organization occupy important positions in the ErdoIan regime, it would not be surprising to see things escalate in Turkey before eventually turning for the betterAs the heat on the ErdoIan regime has been turned up with stronger pushbacks by domestic forces at home and harsher condemnation abroad, embattled leader ErdoIan has found himself in a position where the possibility of returning to the progressive agenda is no longer a viable option for survival.

He has already burnt the bridges of dialogue. While he is struggling to convince his allies in the government to stick together as the ship is sinking, ErdoIan has become much more frustrated, agitated and vindictive.

Perhaps this has also inflicted significant damage to his psychological well-being, promoting him to display irrational behavior at times.This means that peaceful protestors, human rights aocacy groups as well as critics from business communities, media and civil society organizations will all be targeted with further persecution and prosecution at the hands of the regime via blatant abuses of the criminal justice system Over the last year, the government has already subjected critical and independent journalists and media outlets to increasing pressure, resulting in a large exodus from the profession through terminations and the silencing of others through threats and intimidation.

This has however not sufficed to suppress the opposition in aance of the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in June 2015. It has not made people forget about the massive multi-billion-dollar allegations of corruption.

For this reason a clampdown on the remaining independent newspapers in the country was necessary, leading ErdoIan to take the draconian step of waging a full frontal attack against Zaman, the largest national daily in Turkey with a million loyal readers every day. In the end, ErdoIan, after accumulating a long rap sheet of violations according to the law and the Constitution, has left himself no exit strategy other than implementing a scorched earth policy to survive for at least a little while — if that is possible.

The current crackdown on the media could spell out a doomsday scenario for ErdoIanand#39s already bleak future and given that he has no chips left to bolster his image, I no longer believe that engagement with ErdoIan will work. He cannot follow through on any of his promises to address key issues in the country, be it returning to the EU path of reforms or mending fences with our partners like Egypt.

This was tested time and time again over the last year When ErdoIan promised to repair ties with Egypt in private conversations with several high-profile mediators, he quickly dropped the idea a couple of days later, returning to an agonizing discourse and harsh narrative in order to suckle core supporters of the Islamist base that help him survive.The same happened with the EU after top officials made a debut in Ankara earlier this month.

ErdoIan said Turkey does not care about becoming a member of the bloc despite a week earlier underlining that membership was a strategic goal during the visit of Federica Mogherini, the EUand#39s new foreign policy head, and Commissioner of European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn. ErdoIanand#39s erratic behavior regarding both domestic and foreign policy, which impacts government decisions and is no longer limited to merely bitter and harsh rhetoric, casts serious doubts on his effectiveness as a partner on any issue that matters to Turkeyand#39s partners and allies.

This is crunch time for determining the reaction of Turkeyand#39s traditional partners, the US and European states in the transatlantic alliance. Will they concede to ErdoIanand#39s increasingly authoritarian leadership and pay lip service to international expectations regarding the protection of fundamental freedoms with wishy-washy statements on the worsening outlook for freedoms, rights and democracy in Turkey? Will they confine themselves to measured criticisms and hide behind intergovernmental and nongovernmental groups, while focusing on extracting their own interests from the embattled leadership? Are they more concerned over Turkeyand#39s backsliding on human rights or about alienating ErdoIan? Depending on how they respond will shape Turksand#39 perceptions of their allies for years to come.

No doubt Turkey will survive the challenges put forward by an enraged, angry and vindictive man who has pushed the patience of the nation to the limit by ordering the roundup of critics and opponents with arbitrary arrests, orchestrating a media crackdown and engineering flawed elections. Turks are amazingly resilient people and have proved themselves capable of overcoming challenges on their own as a nation.

They are patient but react strongly when push comes to shove. ErdoIanand#39s venomous attacks on various political, social and economic groups in Turkey, both verbally and policy-wise, took a significant toll on democratic institutions and exacerbated human rights conditions that have already brought the nation to the boiling point.

It must be clear by now that ErdoIan has become a big liability for Turkey and a major constraint preventing the nation from embarking on urgently needed reforms in the fields of politics, economy and social policies. He has tightened his grip on power, creating further friction in the governance of the country and deepening polarization, thwarting any domestic and foreign initiative to bring about a reversal of the worrying trends regarding fundamental rights, the rule of law and democracy in the country.

ErdoIan, the chief political Islamist and highly divisive leader, is also destructive when it comes to promoting regional stability and peace. He adopts and implements policies that are highly partisan and ideological in the external affairs of the country.

He is seen as aocating involvement with arms trafficking for proxy groups in the Middle East and beyond. On the home front, he also proved himself incapable of promoting sustainable political, social and economic development goals when he deliberately triggered a domestic crisis to ride out legal and political troubles, descending the country into deep polarization and a terrible human rights climate.

ErdoIanand#39s actions — particularly the recent and unprecedented crackdown on the media — reveal the level of insecurity his regime feels. As public support erodes, he needs to further restrict democratic space, which will prompt more resentment and backlash, and raise tension in Turkey.

That means the potential for renewed protests, such as the ones we saw during anti-government Gezi Park protests last year, remains a strong possibility. Because the government failed to address lingering grievances from various segments of Turkish society, a further repression of dissent will provide more impetus for the next wave of protests, posing greater challenges to ErdoIanand#39s rule.

We have already seen fresh protests against the government across many provinces with tens of thousands of people gathering in front of the courthouses to protest the detention of the journalists. As things will get worse before they get better, ErdoIanand#39s escalation of his attacks on rights and freedoms could very well be the death knell of his regime.

It appears this dark chapter in Turkish history is about to come to the end, after which monumental work will be required for the restoration of the country in the post-ErdoIan era that awaits Turkey.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman