Erdogan’s Show Trials

by David Pryce-Jones

In the course of the recent National Review cruise someone suggested to me that Turkey ought to be a member of the European Union. Why anyone would wish to join the EU and be caught up in a crisis that might well blow up this whole experiment is a mystery — but let that pass. In any case, the Turkish invasion and continued occupation of half of Cyprus, a genuine EU member, always rules out EU admission. Nor does it help that on a recent visit to Germany Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, advised, indeed ordered, the 3 million or so Turks in that country to have nothing to do with Germans but to stick to their language and to Islam.

The Ergenekon isssue may show that EU membership is no longer a Turkish ambition. Over the last five years something like 300 senior officers, some journalists, and politicians have been summarily arrested on charges of planning a coup. Secular and Westernized, they were no doubt opponents of Erdogan’s more and more single-minded Islamism. However, there is no hard evidence against any of them; the whole thing looks like a show trial on the old model set up by Stalin. But 275 of the accused have just been sentenced, some of them to life imprisonment, and only 21 reprieved.

In short, Erdogan has taken a decisive step in Islamizing the country. The timing is significant. Erdogan shares the Islamist ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and the former Egyptian prime minister Mohamed Morsi. The Egyptian army deposed Morsi, and the Turkish army might similarly depose Erdogan. A huge crowd of secular protesters have massed in Istanbul and elsewhere in Turkey, and a huge crowd of secular protesters have massed in Cairo and elsewhere in the country. The Ergenekon trial serves the purpose of proving that Erdogan will stop at nothing to be a winner in this test of strength. The Muslim Brothers share that outlook; and so does Bashar Assad, and the Iranian clerics, the rejuvenated al-Qaeda, and Hamas and the rest.

Erdogan is furious that the West by and large approves General Sisi’s takeover in Egypt, or at least turns a blind eye. He had been intending to pay a visit to the Gaza Strip where Hamas seized power and runs a grim little tyranny on behalf of the Muslim Brothers. A couple of years ago, Turks and others tried to run the Israeli blockage and nine Turkish Islamists were killed in a skirmish. A vast international scream of rage followed, with the United Nations in the lead, heads of state and Western politicians in tow. Now the Egyptians are blockading Gaza, and the press reports that Egypt will not allow Erdogan into Gaza. A Hamas spokesman says that the Egyptian authorities have turned Gaza into a “big prison.” A brave Palestinian journalist asks, “Where are all the press, human rights groups, activists?”

And what, I ask in turn, is the explanation of this double standard?

David Calling

The David Pryce-Jones blog.