In this article, I am referring to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Turkey’s, not the country of Turkey independent from Erdoğan’s authoritarian grip. There is another Turkey of citizens who are not partaking in or identifying with Erdoğan’s hegemony. The majority of this other Turkey is silent at the moment, as anyone that protests find themselves in strife, but it is unlikely that they want to be citizens of a country that has no respect for the international law.
A number of terms are used internationally to identify and describe states that do not respect or observe the international law and basic principles of decency; one of these terms is “rogue state”. “To be a ‘rogue’ means pursuit through methods contrary to accepted standards of international behavior and contrary to international law. It often means the use of violent methods”; Sudan is an example of such a state (The National Interests, October 14, 2018).
Pariah states, another term used to describe countries that disregard international law, are “states that are considered expelled because of their government. Many of the former and current pariah states owe their classification to their autocratic rule, under which their own people suffer”, such as North Korea (https://www.worlddata.info/pariahstates.php).
I suggest the best term for Erdoğan’s Turkey is a bully state. It bullies its own citizens, it bullies migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, it bullies its neighbours and it bullies European countries by blackmailing them in order to extract resources.
Let’s see the many international examples of the behavior Erdoğan pursues. In his quest to make Turkey a superpower, Erdoğan keeps looking for places to establish bases (Qatar, Somalia, Suakim in the Red Sea) or send logistic support including arms and personnel to Libya, despite the UN arms embargo. The Libyan government, if one can call it that, which controls a tiny portion of the country, signed a maritime agreement with Turkey. The agreement facilitates this entity in Libya and Turkey to share a significant portion of the Mediterranean See. The area carved out lies between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete. Neither Greece nor Cyprus are supposed to have rights to their immediate shores, but only Turkey and a small entity in Libya; an enclave controlling a portion of Tripoli. Erdoğan proceeded to submit this agreement to the UN though it has no validity in the international law. Turkey has the right to pursue her national interest and seek her share of natural resources in the Mediterranean Sea, but in accordance to international law and with respect to her neighbours and their commensurate rights. Erdoğan believes that only power is what it matters. If your neighbours are weaker than you, then you can just bully them into submission.
Turkey has invaded Syria twice to capture territory and subdue the Kurdish population. Erdoğan’s Turkey uses jihadist mercenaries in this quest. Even the politically correct western media finally realised the long game Erdoğan has played by helping ISIS in any way he could, and now employing its remnants under various misnomers such as Free Syrian Army. When the second incursion to Syria, in Idlib, did not go well and Turkish soldiers died, he blamed the international community, as if the international community, NATO and the EU, is obliged to facilitate expanding Erdoğan’s realm into neighbouring countries. The Turkish soldiers that were killed in Idlib are unlikely to have been children of the privileged elite that decided on this adventurist path. The narrative of martyrdom does not make up for the death of the soldiers; though it may alleviate some of the pain of the families. When this adventurism costs lives and the defeat was imminent then the cursing of the NATO and the European started. They are supposed to help Erdoğan’s Turkey in this invasion. Many real superpowers found themselves in this situation: the US in Vietnam and Russia in Afghanistan. Eventually, they extricated themselves the best they could, with their national pride bruised.
Erdoğan employs the narrative of “Crusaders versus Muslims” when it suits, but on this occasion is asking the European or the Americans to come and save him from the situation of his own making, only to call them “Crusaders” again once they leave. No country is that gullible to fall into this trap.
When the Europeans were understandably not willing to send soldiers or military hardware to help, Erdoğan thought of making his long-standing threat of sending refugees to Europe good. Migrants, some of them who have been in Turkey for ten years were loaded up to buses with the Greek border as the destination. Footage taken by some of the migrants themselves show that young men wearing Grey Wolves insignia terrorising them, brandishing guns and telling them to get off the bus “to go to Greek” (Yunan’a git), rather than “go to Greece”. The low educational level of these neo-fascist young men aside, it shows a clear co-operation between the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party and MHP (National Movement Party).
The Greeks defended their border against the invading forces. They were already facing long standing financial problems and the corona virus. Some footage that emerged show that a young couple making a child cry so that the “drama” plays out in front of gullible western media. Most of the asylum seekers, so called, are young men, though pictures of children and women are disproportionally displayed. Only four percent of those who managed to get through were Syrians, contradicting Erdoğan’s claim that they are refugees from Syria. Even if they were, Erdoğan is complicit as Turkey invaded Syria to subdue and dislocate the Kurds, as well as expand Turkey’s territories and sphere of influence. There were even Turks among those that managed to cross the border – no doubt trained agents. While Erdoğan was closing the Turkish borders to fight the corona virus he was asking Greece to open hers. The Turkish police helped the migrants by throwing tear gas across the border. In one occasion a police vehicle can be seeing trying to bring down the border fence.
Much has been written about the behavior the state and the police showed to blackmail Europe, threatened Greece’s sovereignty by instrumentalising refugees and migrants and showing callous disregard for human life. Only the corona virus forced him to change the plans and the invading forces withdrew. The Interior Minister Soylu Süleyman still insists that when the corona virus situation is under control the Turkish state will send migrants to the Greek border again. Is this a modern state, abiding by international rules or is it a bully state? Is this what the founder of the Republic had envisaged?
There are reports that the Turkish authorities are busing migrants to the west coast of Turkey, in order to send them to Greek island by boats. The Greeks are concerned that some of these migrants may have contracted the corona virus. These fears may be exaggerated but it suits Erdoğan’s plans. Erdoğan is hoping that the Greek army or navy would panic and start shooting migrants out of fear of the virus being re-introduced. This will play into Erdoğan’s hand who will try to discredit Greece in the international community, and may even invade some Greek islands on the pretext of protecting migrants. In the meantime, Turkish F-16 planes flew over the Greek island of Lesvos purely for intimidation. Erdoğan is seeking a third war front, in addition to Libya and Syria.
Turkey also convinced Albania to resettle migrants close to the Albanian-Greek borders, where there is a sizeable Greek community. This way the demographics of the area will be altered and also create a pressure point at the Greek border on the western side. It is doubtful that any of the migrants and asylum seekers would want to resettle in Albania.
Furthermore, Michael Page, from the Human Rights Watch said that “Turkish authorities have been cutting off the water supply to regions most under strain in Syria.” The pandemic has not still persuaded Erdoğan to change the course he has undertaken. There is no end to the machination and schemes and operations designed to destroy two neighboring countries, Greece and Syria, and decimate Kurds.
Erdoğan’s adventurism, his grandiose plans for domination of large swath of territories and interference in the affairs of other states has evidently transformed Turkey into a bully state. It is hoped that this is a temporary situation and eventually the silent opposition, the other Turkey, will rise to alter Turkey’s current course. More than likely, however, once the corona virus crisis is averted Erdoğan’s Turkey will resume its aggressive policies against Greece, the European Union and Syria.