03 September 2016

The New Yorker: “The Deep State”

When Erdoğan and his comrades in the A.K. Party came to power, there were widespread concerns that, as ardent Islamists, they were intent on foisting a religious regime on secular Turkey. Erdoğan, for his part, feared the resistance of what is commonly referred to as derin devlet, the “deep state”. The deep state is a presumed clandestine network of military officers and their civilian allies who, for decades, suppressed and sometimes murdered dissidents, Communists, reporters, Islamists, Christian missionaries, and members of minority groups—anyone thought to pose a threat to the secular order, established in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal, or Atatürk. The deep state, historians say, has functioned as a kind of shadow government, disseminating propaganda to whip up public fear or destabilizing civilian governments not to its liking.

Dexter Filkins

Interesting overview of the modern Turkish state and the (unlikely) rise to power of the current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Although the article is now four and a half years old, you can already see the pattern forming that led to massive arrests and purges following the recent coup attempt and how fear of this deep state is used to justify basically every harsh action by the current regime.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan public appearance
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was elected in 2003, despite having been banned from holding office, and since then he has taken an increasingly harsh line against his opponents. In the past five years, more than seven hundred people have been arrested. Photograph by Abbas / Magnum

The Western diplomat summed up what he thought of the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer prosecutions: they had started well, he said, but then became tools to destroy the opposition. A lot of this stuff would never hold up in a Western court, he said. People are being put on trial for their beliefs.

The Ergenekon arrests are part of a wider pattern of repressive tactics that have been deployed against Erdoğan’s critics. As of last month, ninety-four journalists were in detention, according to the Journalist Union of Turkey—more than in China or Iran. Over half of them are Kurdish, charged under a wide-ranging law that allows prosecutors to detain anyone who expresses views considered to be sympathetic to terrorism. Turkish officials claim (not convincingly) that most of the journalists they have detained are not real journalists at all but terrorists in disguise. Westerners may find it difficult to understand the detention of some journalists and writers, Göktas wrote, in an e-mail. However, there are no journalists or writers in Western countries who prepare ground for military intervention, provide logistics and even play a personal role in attempts at military intervention, and participate in bloody terrorist actions.

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