Kinzer is not an enemy of Turkey and neither am I

Last week former New York Times journalist and Turkey expert Stephen Kinzer was due to receive honorary Turkish citizenship at a ceremony in Gaziantep.
Unfortunately, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan apparently called for the ceremony to be cancelled. According to reports, the mayor of Gaziantep received a fax saying that Kinzer had been identified as an enemy of the government and of Turkey.
Kinzer wrote an article that criticized Erdogan. The piece that appeared in the Boston Globe in January states, and”Erdogan sacrificed much of his countryand’s strategic power in the past year andhellip with amazing suddenness [Turkey] has become the ally from hell. By wrecking Turkeyand’s carefully constructed relations with Egypt, Israel and Syria, Erdogan has weakened his country and helped destabilize the Middle East.andquot
These days, it is increasingly the case that there is a price to pay for criticizing Erdogan, who seems to spend an absurdly large amount of time scanning the media. The consequences can be anything from a tongue-lashing and being labeled an enemy, to being barred from Turkey or arrested. Consequently, real investigative journalism has almost disappeared.
This is a sad situation. As the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) looks to win a fourth term at the June 7 parliamentary election, it is hardly recognizable as the party that first won in 2002. During their first term, the AKP and Erdogan were viewed as reformers and democrats. As Mustafa Akyol recently wrote, and”Turkey was widely seen as the shining star of the Muslim world — an increasingly liberal democracy and a booming economy led by a cadre of reformist Islamists.and”
In an article, penned in the aftermath of the 2002 election, Turkish scholar Soner Captay writes: and”Turkey has 60 years of democratic elections, 80 years of secularism and more than two centuries of modernization under its belt. Today, Turkish democracy is testing the AKP. It would be an encouraging development indeed if the party continued on its moderate path, avoiding political Islam and promoting democracy and secularism instead. AKPand’s success would not only be a positive test for Turkish democracy, it would also inspire optimists in the global debate about the compatibility of Islam and democracy.and”
Unfortunately the AKP has failed to meet this challenge, veering from the path of democracy towards increasingly authoritarianism.
The Gezi Park protests of May-June of 2013, which took place during the AKPand’s third term in office, were a significant milestone. Erdogan did not view Gezi as a spontaneous social phenomenon but as a conspiracy that had been created by the West and certain actors in Turkey to undermine his rule. Hence, while Gezi Park remained a park, Erdogan did not adopt — despite promises — a more inclusive style of governance but rather the contrary. He began to close in on those that criticized the government, slowing minimizing the space for freedom of expression.
The situation deteriorated further when the government launched its witch-hunt against anybody or anything associated with its former ally, the Hizmet movement, following the Dec. 17, 2013 corruption scandal, which Erdogan labeled a parallel state, aspiring to oust him and his government. Even the think tank where I work in Brussels, which has a long history of cooperation with the AKP including hosting Erdogan and numerous AKP ministers, has absurdly been branded as part of the so-called parallel state.
In a lecture at Harvard University in January 2003 about democracy in the Middle East, Erdogan stated: and”Paramount is the need to secure human rights. The form of rule should be such that the citizen does not have to fear the state, but gives it direction and confidently participates in its administration.and”
Unfortunately, he did not apply his aice to himself. Today more than half of Turkish society fear what is happening to their country. The government would almost certainly say my criticism makes me an enemy of Turkey. I am anything but that. This country, which I dearly love, has given me so much and as many others, I feel deeply saddened and concerned over developments and how it affects the lives of my family, friends and colleagues. It did not have to be this way, it could have been very different, but as the saying goes, power corrupts and Turkey has become a casualty of this.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman