What is going on in Turkey?
Is the truth finally coming out? Have the years and years of propaganda about prosperity and growth under the Justice and Development Party’s rule finally been exposed? More importantly, has President Erdogan run out of ways to cover up the internal financial, social, and economic collapse that Turkey is undergoing? Is waging direct military wars in two continents and recruiting mercenaries, with bribes or extremist recipes perfected by the Muslim Brotherhood, all he can do to cover up this collapse? Rounding up thousands of Syrian refugees and sending them off to serve Ankara’s expansionist tendencies, which have become synonymous with Erdogan’s dreams of tampering with borders and plundering countries’ resources?
Erdogan has sent mercenaries and extremists to Azerbaijan to fight Armenians in Karabakh, transferred mercenaries and armed forces to Libya and mobilized the Grey Wolves in France, establishing an unfamiliar state of affairs: a parallel society that mimics that of France, to meddle with the affairs of other countries. He has also continued his war with Kurds in Northeast Syria and Iraq’s Qandil Mountains. In parallel, the eastern Mediterranean situation will continue to escalate as Turkey strives to seize a share of the oil and gas, even if this puts the region on the brink of a military confrontation with Greece. This approach, which seeks to focus on foreign affairs in order to divert attention from internal conflicts, has failed to cover up Turkey’s imminent collapse, ensuing from the Turkish lira’s devaluation, increased inflation, and the rising unemployment, as over 15 million Turks find themselves without a job!
In a shocking report, a Turkish cultural organization indicated that 100 well-known musicians, who are supposedly from a distinct social group, had attempted suicide between March and the end of summer. The reason behind this increase in suicide attempts is a sense of powerlessness streaming from a feeling that they hit a brick wall, left without work and with no opportunities in sight. And the more one observes developments in Turkey, the more one discovers that independent data and polls suggest despondency and fear of the future is widespread among Turks. This has led to an increase in suicide rates, sometimes escalating to take the form of mass suicide.
Official figures demonstrate that between the beginning of 2018 and the end of 2019, 566 people committed suicide, and attempts were in the thousands. The repeated collective suicides reflect feelings of total paralysis and endless despair. These suicides appear to prove that the official policies totally disregard people’s concerns and pain. A few months ago, a sign hanging on the door of a residential apartment shocked the residents of Istanbul’s Fatih; it read: “Warning, the apartment is littered with cyanide. Tell the police. Do not enter the apartment.” The police arrive and found four siblings’ corpses; two men and two women, between 48 and 60 years of age! Toward the end of October, residents in Bakirkoy, Istanbul, complained about a chemical smell emanating from an apartment. The police stormed it and found three bodies, a 38-year-old jeweller, his wife and their six-year-old child. The lethal poison was cyanide. Days earlier, the bodies of a family of four who had committed suicide using cyanide were found; among them was a five-year-old. Next to the bodies was a letter from the father: “I ask for forgiveness, but there’s nothing I can do”!
At the same time, the scene of women in their twilight years gathering around garbage bins in search of leftover food in the garbage has become familiar in Turkish cities.
The monetary and economic policies pursued by Berat Albayrak (Erdogan’s son-in-law), which prioritize the narrow interests of the president’s family and those of some of the influential people close to him, have recently led to a dramatic increase in poverty. More than 20 million Turks now live in poverty, while a similar number is tittering on the edge. Another 4 million Turks live on modest state support.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Central Bank, which owes around 170 billion dollars while its reserves have declined to 40 billion dollars, is under pressure from the sharp collapse of the Turkish currency’s exchange rate with the US dollar… and investors’ increased anxiety about their investments.
The collapse didn’t start over the last two years; rather, it started early on in Erdogan’s presidential term, after he amended the constitution and came to have extensive powers, among them are promoting and appointing university deans and judges… A new Turkey emerged, turning the page on the zero problems era and entering an era of open conflict with its surroundings, near and far. The former invigorated investment, collaborative projects and employment, and Turkey became a major destination for European and Gulf tourism, and we’re talking about millions of tourists who spend heavily…
All of that was brought to an end by the advent of a populism fixated on promoting neo-Ottomanism, a return to “Greater Turkey”, and the establishment of an “Ottoman Crescent” that is compatible with the Persian crescent and doesn’t collide with it. The plan implies ripping countries apart, violating their sovereignty, and recklessly interfering with Arab states’ affairs.
Among its other actions, Turkey has deprived Iraq and Syria of their water rights, and it has blackmailed European countries, repeatedly using the Syrian refugee card. It extends to the states that were formed out of the Soviet Union’s collapse. This approach has led his former and ally and current rival, Ali Babacan, to declare that Erdogan has brought shame to Turkey because of his foreign interventions. Babacan says the meddling has isolated the country from its neighbors in the region, aside from isolating it internationally, pledging that Turkey will free itself of this shame.
After 17 years in power in Turkey, the Justice and Development Party has become akin to the Baath parties in Syria and Iraq. That is, a kinship network of relatives, subordinates and reliable sycophants. The result is that funds are made available to buy S-400, but not wheat. Turkey’s priority has become to bring down the authoritarian reign that has brought hunger, blood and shame. And the latest local elections demonstrate that the potential for change is greater now than it has ever been.