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Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Vol. 41, No. 2, Winter 2018 Erdogan’s Future: The Failed Coup, The Kurds & The Gulenists Michael M. Gunter* Introduction On April 16, 2017, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s long campaign to convert Turkey into a presidential system that would grant him significant new powers prevailed when a controversial referendum was narrowly approved.1 Indeed, Erdogan already had become Turkey’s first popularly elected president in August 2014, forced his previous ally and former president Abdullah Gul out of politics, and hand-picked his new Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu whom he then fired in May 2016 to appoint the even more compliant Binali Yildirim. In recent years, Erdogan has also jailed many perceived political opponents such as journalists, academics, military leaders, and Kurdish leaders, among others. For example, media freedom in Turkey, as ranked by Freedom House,2 1 *Michael M. Gunter is Professor of Political Science, college of Arts and Sciences, at Tennessee Technical University. Dr. Gunter is an authority on Kurds in Turkey and Iraq and has written seven books on the Kurdish struggle. He is a board member of the Center for Eurasian Studies. 1 Patrick Kingsley, “Erdogan Claims Vast Powers in Turkey after Narrow Victory in Referendum,” The New York Times, April 16, 2017, Https:// world/europe/turkey-rerendum-polls-erdogan.html, accessed July 2, 2017. For background, see Soner Cagaptay, “Erdogan’s Nationalist Path to a Full Presidential System,” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, May 24, 2016, /view/erdogans-nationalist-path-to-a-full-presidential-system, accessed August 23, 2016; P. Scharfe, “Erdogan’s Presidential Dreams, Turkey’s Constitutional Politics,” Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective, 8 (February 5, 2015), -dreams-turkey-s-constitutuional-politics, accessed August 23, 2016; and Semih Idiz, “Erdogan Aims to Create Stronger Presidential System,” Al-Monitor, February 3, 2015, .html, accessed August 23, 2016. 2 Freedom House, “Turkey 2015 Press Freedom Report”, https://freedom/ report/freedom-press/2015/turkey, accessed August 23, 2016, which ranked Turkey as being “Not Free.” 2 Reporters Without Borders,3 and Bianet4 among others, has deteriorated at an alarming rate in recent years as Erdogan aggressively used the penal code, criminal defamation legislation, and the country’s antiterrorism law to punish critical reporting. Journalists faced growing violence, harassment, and intimidation. Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, editor-in-chief and Ankara bureau chief respectively of the leading opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, are two egregious examples of this situation.5 Erdogan personally filed a criminal complaint against them for leaking state secrets, and both were sentenced to five-year prison terms in May 2016 for reporting on how Erdogan’s government had tried to ship arms to jihadists in Syria. Zaman, a well-respected (but Gulenist–run) newspaper and Turkey’s largest, was placed under state control and represented another appalling case, among many others, of how Erdogan has sought to reduce members of the press critical of his actions. The Ergenekon trials of supposed ultranationalists and retired military officers charged with planning violent campaigns to destabilize Erdogan’s long-ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and seize power began on July 28, 2008 and continued until February 2011.6 The original massive indictment consisting of 2,455 pages described an incredible plot ultimately connecting 531 military, mafia, ultranationalists, lawyers, and academic figures supposedly attempting to weaken the country’s administration and justify an illegal intervention against the Erdogan government and eventually reached more than 8,000 pages of indictments. Critics, however, accused Erdogan—in league with his then Gulenist allies who had infiltrated the police and judiciary—of simply trying to take revenge on their military and Kemalist opponents and promote their own interests with all these conspiracy theories and sham charges. 3 Reporters Without Borders Turkey,!/index-details/TUR, accessed August 23, 2016, where Turkey is ranked in 149th place out of over 180 states. 4 Bianet, “Increasing Pressure on Press: Democracy in Question,” Media Monitoring...


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