Rethinking Europe

An Open Letter to President Erdogan

When Erdogan leaves the political scene, it will be with a public mixture of contempt and relief – not with the reverence that was bestowed upon Atatürk.

Takeaways


  • Foolishly granting Erdogan unlimited power has changed the trajectory of Turkey – not to greatness, but to ever-growing depravity and decline.
  • Erdogan believes that only one-man rule, provided by him and only him, can restore Turkey’s dubious glory of the Ottoman era.
  • Erdogan has sacrificed the best of what Turkey has to offer on the altar of his gargantuan ego. Ruthlessness, brutality, cruelty, retribution and arbitrary use of terrorism laws became his weapons of choice.
  • Erdogan, determined to make himself the leader of the Sunni Muslim world, has managed to alienate one partner country after another.
  • Instead of “zero problem with neighbors,” Erdogan has ended up having problems not just with every neighbor, but most nations. His course is a “no friends foreign policy.”
  • Due to Erdogan’s blind ambition and disastrous domestic and foreign policy, he has squandered a historic opportunity to make Turkey a respected and influential power.

Dear President Erdogan,

I send this open letter to you because it pains me to see that Turkey – a country which could have reached the pinnacle of power and influence, envied by her adversaries and revered by her friends – has fallen into disgrace, thanks to your corrupt and misguided leadership.

An auspicious beginning

When you first rose to power, I admired you for the vision and the statesmanship you displayed.

Within a few years, as you introduced economic, social, judicial and political reforms – all much needed, but unprecedented in Turkey’s history – you had almost transformed the country.

You became the beloved leader to your countrymen, lifted many of the poor from their misery, gave hope to the young, safety to the elderly, and self-esteem to the working class.

Academia and higher learning flourished. Businesses prospered. Public institutions grew and progressed and human rights were protected.

Political divisiveness gave way to unity of purpose. Minorities felt safe and secure. Turkey’s prospect of becoming a true democracy was all but assured.

Building a success story

Zero problem with neighbors was no longer a mere slogan. Your Western alliances were strengthened, trade with countries near and far exponentially expanded, and good relations with East and West became the success story of your foreign policy.

The EU opened the door for Turkey ever wider and the prospect of integration was no longer a dream but a goal within reach.

Turkey’s friendship with the United States was greatly solidified. And its membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization made Ankara vital for the security of Europe.

As a bridge between East and West, Turkey’s location and geostrategic importance became ever more treasured, and under your incisive leadership, Turkey emerged as a rising star respected by the community of nations.

How to destroy a success story

Your hidden desire to acquire absolute power has finally come to light. You sought the presidency but with expanded powers, paving the way for a dictatorship.

The Turkish parliament, under the control of the AKP, foolishly acquiesced, without grasping the far-reaching implications of its misguided action.

From greatness to self-fabricated decline

Granting you unlimited power has changed the trajectory of Turkey – not to greatness but to ever-growing depravity and decline.

Blinded by the powers you have usurped, you decided that the time has come to execute your wicked agenda, making a U-turn to the utter dismay of ever more your people, including your erstwhile supporters.

Lust for raw power and Islamic zealotry

Many scholars and pundits have been speculating about your unfathomable change of direction. But there are two overarching explanations—your lust for ever more raw power and your Islamic zealotry.

You have tried to use both drivers as a tool in pursuit of your menacing plans. You believe that only one-man rule, provided it is you, can restore the dubious glory of the Ottoman era.

False piety

You raised the banner of Islam as the guiding rod, only to subjugate your people to your false piety.

You have sacrificed the best of what Turkey has to offer on the altar of your perverse ego.

Ruthlessness, brutality, cruelty, retribution, and arbitrary use of terrorism laws became your weapons of choice, wielding them with a vengeance against your perceived enemies with no mercy, no compassion, and no remorse, but with joy and pride.

Ruthlessness and the need to fabricate history

You needed to concoct a cause to justify your rampage against every individual and institution that you deemed to stand in your way. The 2016 failed coup you contrived was heaven sent by your own account.

You needed a scapegoat, and Fetullah Gülen – your long-time associate – was there to incur your wrath. You accuse him of being behind the botched coup, though you never produced any evidence to support your dishonest claim.

Mass incarcerer

Look what you have done to your people: investigated countless law-abiding citizens, and incarcerated tens of thousands of innocent people and tortured them to force out confessions for crimes they never committed.

You jailed women with their children, subjecting them to desolation and excruciating pain. You regularly assaulted your Kurdish minority, arrested their notables and intellectuals for alleged link to the PKK. Civil and political rights, once secure, have now become fair game.

You shut down the free press and imprisoned scores of journalists. You institutionalized discrimination against Christians and other “undesirable” religions. You have violated every code of human rights.

Stealing Turks’ dignity

In that process, you robbed your countrymen of their dignity. You are choking them; they cannot breathe, they live in fear and uncertainty, and nothing but a bleak future awaits them.

You have shattered what is left of Turkey’s democracy. And now, you stand accused of crimes against humanity.

Master of economic self-destruction

The education and healthcare systems are crumbling. The country’s economy is in tatters: the Turkish lira is at an all-time low, inflation stands at 20%, and unemployment has reached 15%.

All the while, you invested billions of dollars in foreign adventures, providing a mixture of economic aid and military assistance.

This was all done in pursuit of your ill-fated influence-building campaign, including the building of mosques and sending imams to preach your gospel and advance your twisted Islamic agenda.

Pompousness, not power

You do not hide your bold neo-Ottoman foreign policy. So you try to project your power from the Persian Gulf to North Africa and the Red Sea, from the Balkans to the Caucasus and Central Asia — all regions that were once dominated by the Ottomans.

Meanwhile, you betrayed your European allies, cozying up to and purchasing an air defense system from the West’s foremost adversary—Russia.

You thus compromised NATO’s intelligence-sharing and technology, of which – paradoxically – Turkey is a member.

Problems with basically everyone

You do not respect international law and blatantly ignore UN resolutions. You are determined to emerge as the leader of the Sunni Muslim world, all while alienating one country after another.

Instead of “zero problem with neighbors,” you ended up having problems with every neighbor. In reality, you end up with a “no friends foreign policy.”

2023: A shambles of what could have been

As you eye 2023, the hundredth anniversary of the Turkish Republic, you wait breathlessly to preside over the celebration. But perhaps you should look back and ponder: Where does Turkey stand today? And what will her fortunes be come tomorrow?

You are leading a country whose star is fading, with a despairing and despondent populace. A country in retreat, with no prospect of recovering as long as you are at the helm of power.

You have shattered your people’s dreams, robbed them of their freedom, denied them their day in court, degraded their way of life, and rendered the young hopeless and the old despairing. You are leaving them with little prospect to grow and prosper while stamping on their pride.

Not another Atatürk

Your dream of surpassing the legacy of Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, is just another one of your illusions.

By your blind ambition and disastrous domestic and foreign policy, you have squandered a historic opportunity to make Turkey a respected and influential power.

Sadly, Mr. Erdogan, when you leave the political scene, it will be with a public mixture of contempt and relief – not with the reverence that was bestowed on Atatürk for a century.

My big wish

I do wish, Mr. Erdogan, that you wake up to the harsh reality and choose to redeem yourself, by making another U-turn for your country’s sake.

Reverse your disastrous domestic and foreign misdeeds.

But then again, at this point, that too may well be an illusion.

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About Alon Ben-Meir

Senior Fellow at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs and Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute [United States]

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