I’ve been waving my arms and trying to draw attention to the situation in Turkey ever since the coup last July. By this point I’ve lost count of how many articles I’ve published on the subject. The rapid downward slide of a once very promising democracy in a primarily Muslim nation and the public rise to power of an aspiring tyrant is a very real tragedy playing on the world stage in front of us all. Unfortunately, it’s one which hasn’t attracted very much attention in the mainstream media. That situation seems to finally be changing (a condition which actually began around Christmas) at the editorial board of the Washington Post. They have another opinion piece out this week decrying the “downward spiral” of conditions in that nation.
About 150 journalists have been thrown in jail, and about 170 media organizations closed down. University professors are being marched in chains to prison. The government fired more than 3,000 members of the judiciary, and thousands more civil servants have been ejected from their jobs. Smartphone users are being arrested for using an encrypted app. Sound like a purge in China or Russia? Think again. This is Turkey, a NATO member that a decade ago was regarded as a model Muslim democracy. Now, under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it has become one of the most repressive regimes in the world.
Since a July 15 failed coup attempt, Mr. Erdogan has launched waves of purges, claiming that the self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, was behind the overthrow effort, and accusing thousands of people of subversion and belonging to terrorist organizations.
That would have been enough of an indictment against Turkey, but check out how the Post chooses to finish up this editorial broadside.
Since President Trump took office, the State Department has been largely silent about Turkey’s downward spiral. While the 2016 human rights report was filled with detail about the crackdowns, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson didn’t attend the March 3 release of the report. Mr. Tillerson has asserted that he cares about protecting human rights abroad, but what will he do about it?
As I mentioned above, this actually isn’t the first piece that the editors of the Washington Post have published on that subject. They had another one back in December. While I’m pleased to see more professionals in the journalism trade calling attention to the deplorable scene unfolding in Turkey, one is left to wonder what took them so long. Things were already beginning to go pear-shaped over there even before the coup, but it really kicked into gear in July and August. But it seems to me that as long as Barack Obama was still in office and Hillary Clinton looked to be the heir apparent there wasn’t much of an appetite for calling out the failure of the United States to engage on this important subject.
But once the election was over and we knew who the next president was going to be, it seemed to become something of a hot topic. And now, as I highlighted in the second quoted section above, the editors of the Washington Post are demanding to know “what the government plans to do about it.” Perhaps a better question might be, why didn’t Barack Obama do anything about it? The majority of the time that Pastor Andrew Brunson has been held in captivity by President Erdogan fell under Obama’s watch. The dismissal and arrest of thousands of journalists, teachers and police officers similarly took place well before Donald Trump was sworn in.
I too would like some firm answers from the Trump administration as to what our stance will be toward Turkey in general and the release of Pastor Brunson in particular. I have not been the least bit shy in asking for these answers. The major difference I see here is that I was willing to hold both administrations accountable whereas the mainstream media didn’t seem to deem the story worthy of much coverage until there was a Republican in the Oval Office. But it’s still better late than never I suppose. Welcome to the party, guys.