Wry & Dry

Turkey: return to the caliphate?

W&D has a great affection for Turkey.  He and Mrs W&D visited Istanbul and other Turkish places not 15 months ago.  The people were delightful.  Its geography has created some of the most amazing histories and architecture, anywhere.

Truly, Turkey is at the cross roads of civilisation.  It is also at the crossroads of geo-political powers.  It borders Greece and Bulgaria to its north west, but to less peaceable Syria and Iraq/ Kurdistan to its south; Iran to its south east and Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia to its east.  Romania, Ukraine and Russia are just across the Black Sea.  

Which is why it is a member of NATO.  And was, sort of, seeking membership of the EU.  But is already a member of the EU customs union. 

Turkey is a modernising economy (member of OECD, G-20), with a GDP similar to Australia's, but with 75 million people (three times Australia).  Some 20% of the population speak English.

But, it was clear from W&D's guides and Mrs W&D's observations, that, simply put, there are three Turkeys:

Firstly, modern Turkey: almost secular (but with a quiet Islamic faith); well touched by the West; forward looking; mostly living around Istanbul and the western and south western coast; democratic and suspicious of the increasing power of President Erdoğan.

Secondly, conservative Turkey: increasingly Islamist (Sunni); suspicious of the West; mostly living in inland Anatolia and the central east; democratic but welcoming the trend towards the Islamisation of the State.

Thirdly, Kurdish Turkey: the ethnic Kurds amount to some 20% of the population, and live mostly in the east and south east of the country, with a many as 4 million living in Istanbul.  They wish independence from Turkey.  Their main political party, the PKK, is banned.  It's really complicated.

The first two groups are intensely nationalistic and have great pride in Turkey's economic and political emergence. 


But, but, but  

President Erdoğan, initially seen as the man who was moderate and tolerant and would be the beacon of democratic leadership in a turbulent part of the world, has increasingly nudged the government to cede more power to him.  

The human rights' abuses have become more frequent, censorship has increased and Islamism of life is becoming more apparent.  Erdoğan controls the government, even though his role as President is technically ceremonial.  

And like an African despot, he is building his palace: an $800m complex near Ankara.

Despite extensive censorship, Erdoğan has become the world's most insulted president.  But insults have been punished with prison sentences.  For example: in May 2016, former Miss Turkey model Merve Büyüksaraç was sentenced to more than a year in prison for allegedly insulting the president*. 

So, last weekend, some of the people attempted a coup.  They failed miserably.  And now all the fringe anti-Erdoğan people are either out of work or in jail.

So, what does all of this mean?

There can be two points-of-view.

Firstly, in a couple of years normality of some sort will resume.  Erdoğan will hope that memories will be short.  Dissent will be suppressed, but business will keep going.  After a while some freedoms will return.  And somehow tourists will return (tourist numbers fell 35% year-on-year in May, the largest decrease in 22 years; data for June has not hit W&D's desk; July and August onward will be disastrous).

Secondly, things get worse.  Either there is another coup or Erdoğan hastens his aim of an Ottoman Caliphate.  More and more women are pressured to cover their heads; social freedoms are even more restricted and tolerance is reduced.   

W&D makes no prediction.  But it will be a while before he and Mrs W&D return.

*Or maybe she showed her earning potential perhaps a little too, err, freely for some of the conservatives in the government.  If you follow W&D...