The growing autocracy in Turkey: more journalists detained

We are witnessing a once vital country, the most secular and vibrant nation in the Mideast, become an autocratic theocracy. I refer, of course, to Turkey, where President Erdogan continues to use the recent coup to get rid of anyone who opposes (or even criticizes) him. As Reuters reports, Turkey just detained another 47 journalists, bringing the total number of people arrested after the coup to around 8000, and total number detained to around 15,000. In this case the journalists were suspected of being sympathetic to Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish cleric and writer who was once Erdogan’s pal but fell into disrepute after criticizing his regime for corruption. Erdogan sees Gülen as the mastermind of the failed coup. Reuters:

The detention of journalists ordered on Wednesday involved columnists and other staff of the now defunct Zaman newspaper, a government official said. Authorities in March shut down Zaman, widely seen as the Gulen movement’s flagship media organization.

“The prosecutors aren’t interested in what individual columnists wrote or said,” said the official, who requested anonymity. “At this point, the reasoning is that prominent employees of Zaman are likely to have intimate knowledge of the Gulen network and as such could benefit the investigation.”

However, the list includes journalists, such as Sahin Alpay, known for their leftist activism who do not share the religious world view of the Gulenist movement. This has fueled the concerns that the investigation may be turning into a witch-hunt of the president’s political opponents.

On Monday, media reported that arrest warrants had been issued for 42 other journalists, 16 of whom have so far been taken into custody.

After all dissent is quashed, the free press dismantled, and the army officers put away for a long time (if not executed), I predict that the Islamist-ization of the country will begin, with imams being given greater power and secularism correspondingly diminished. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.



  1. Posted July 27, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Has anyone figured out who the coup plotters actually were, and what their motives were yet?

    • teacupoftheapocalypse
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      The mastermind is Recep Erdoğan. The coup was actually launched on 28 August 2014, it’s just that the Turkish people haven’t woken up to it yet.

      They took to the streets to protect their democracy, and they are likely to witness its demise.

    • revelator60
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      The extent of Gulen’s personal involvement has yet to be determined, but the coup plotters seems to have been Gulenists or had major ties to them, and may have operated alongside a few disgruntled Kemalists. Ironically, the Gulenists had already shot themselves in the foot by helping Erdogan break the power of the army in 2008-11, when a series of coup trials purged thousands of Kemalist military officers.

      The coup was the fallout of the split between Gulen and Erdogan. The latter will now use it to purge everyone he doesn’t like–Gulenist or not–from positions of power. A couple of good articles provide further details:

      Many in Turkey think the US is somehow behind the coup. It doesn’t help that Gulen happens to live in Pennsylvania.

      • Posted July 27, 2016 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

        So does this mean — and sorry if this question is too simplistic, I know little of Turkey — that it was one set of Islamists (Gulen) versus another (Erdogan), rather than a secular Army faction wanting to displace the Islamist Erdogan?

        • revelator60
          Posted July 27, 2016 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

          That seems to be the case. Gulen has gone under the radar in the US because his organization doesn’t commit ISIS-style terrorism, but Erdogan isn’t being completely paranoid when he says that Gulenists were deeply entrenched in the Turkish state. And Gulen’s extensive network of private schools–in the US and abroad–will now come under greater scrutiny. The Gulenists have overplayed their hand, and now Erdogan will profit and continue in his quest to make himself a theocratic Dictator in President’s clothing.

          • somer
            Posted July 27, 2016 at 11:34 pm | Permalink


      • somer
        Posted July 27, 2016 at 11:29 pm | Permalink


    • Posted July 27, 2016 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

      There is a good chance that we will never really know. The investigation is completely under the control of Erdogan and he is not interested in truth and especially not interested in transparency. He apparently uses the failed coup as an excuse to destroy every opponent at once and publicly investigating who exactly and why exactly acted would be just a hindrance for his goal.

  2. rickflick
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    This is a national catastrophe for Turkey, and a big setback for the planet.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Somehow would have thought the people of Turkey smart enough to avoid this. I guess Islam does not have a bright spot.

  4. Damien McLeod
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    You’re right Dr. Coyne, except I don’t think there was an attempted coup. I think the whole event was orchestrated by Erdogan himself.

  5. keith cook + / -
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    When is the next bus to Mars? Five one way tickets please.
    I have five in mind but there are a few more Mars? hmmmm is it far enough away.

  6. Barney
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    And then dozens of media outlets shut:

    The Turkish authorities have announced the closure of dozens of media organisations, as a crackdown continues following the failed coup on 15 July.

    Three news agencies, 16 TV channels, 45 papers and 15 magazines will be shut.

  7. augustus
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    I think the recent history of Turkey is this. Erdogan courted the EU to get EU money.
    He continued to support NATO. He even got rid of the death penalty to speed up his country’s admission to the EU. But there was a lot of resistance from many EU countries. So, fairly recently, he has abandoned the West and has turned eastwards, returning the country to its Islamic roots. The mosques and the imams are slowly turning Islamist. Secular Turkey is dying.

    • somer
      Posted July 27, 2016 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

      He was always Islamist and no democrat – he bided his time as long as he could with Europe because it was useful – the attempted coup forced his hand re a massive purge and dropping the slightest hint of secularism

      He’s built himself an enormous palace in Ankara

  8. Hempenstein
    Posted July 27, 2016 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    Over 20yrs ago I had a guest post-doc from Turkey in my lab for a year or so. Not all that long before the coup attempt we established e-contact after many years of non-communication. After the attempt I sent her a delicately-worded email expressing concern over the events, and got what I interpreted as a carefully-worded reply.

    I’m hesitant to email further, not knowing what level of e-snooping may be going on over there. Anyone have any thoughts?

  9. torcant
    Posted July 31, 2016 at 1:34 am | Permalink

    Yes Erdogan is a dictator
    Yes Edogan was one in alliance with the “muslim cleric”
    Yes Turkey goes fast into the darkness of religion

    But no, you’re wrong about the “muslim cleric” he is not innocent. He is an islamic cult leader that can use violence, had followers in military, justice, media and is being protected by and used by US for political gains.

    Please try to be better informed.

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