Erdogan Unmasked / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Recep Tayyip Erdogan became president of Turkey in 2014 after eleven years as prime minister. (DC)
Recep Tayyip Erdogan became president of Turkey in 2014 after eleven years as prime minister. (DC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 22 July 2016 — Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken off the mask and let us witness the spectacle of his contorted and autocratic face. Last week’s failed coup d’etat has allowed him to unleash political persecution in Turkey. Now he rails against his opponents, decrees a state of emergency and suspends the European Convention on Human Rights. The sultan is out of control.

We are witnessing the moment when the serpent emerges from the egg, but we knew long ago it was incubating, its heart beating beneath the shell of an elected president. From playing at blackmailing the European Union with the refugee crisis and embracing other caudillos enthroned in power, in the style of Raul Castro, the red warning lights have been flashing all around Erdogan.

He just needed a justification. All he lacked was an argument with sufficient nationalist weight and the breath of a defensive gesture to show his true self. Now we contemplate the pure despot, without sweeteners. He no longer wants to pretend that he governs in a state of law. It suits his purpose that only one man is in charge of the situation.

With this turn of the authoritarian screw, the president of Turkey has betrayed those who elected him through the ballot box and the thousands of citizens who, just a few days ago, took to the streets to preserve the democratic order. None of them deserve this autocratic slap in the face.

Erdogan has ended up being worse than any coup, because he has broken the agreement. He used the attack on his person to arrest about 7,000 soldiers, accusing them of being linked to the coup attempt, and even publicly flirted with the idea of applying the death penalty, a punishment that is currently no longer in force in Turkey and that would prevent his country from becoming a part of the European Union.

The long arm of this unscrupulous authoritarian didn’t stop there, he has suspended 21,000 teachers from their jobs in private educational institutions. He has prohibited officials from traveling abroad and has withdrawn the broadcast licenses of 24 stations. A decision he justifies under the framework of an investigation to find the alleged collaborators and those involved in the failed coup.

Erdogan has taken advantage of the circumstances to request the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic preacher exiled in the United States whom he holds responsible for all his ills, including the recent coup attempt.

Meanwhile, official spokesmen say that the state of emergency would only last 40 or 45 days and not three months as initially announced by the president. They promise that the current situation is not synonymous with martial law and that citizens will not be affected. They even assure that parliament will continue to function, but the Turkey that tried to maintain its chequered democratic journey has been broken.

Erdogan plans to dismantle all the plurality that the transcontinental nation has achieved and reduce the opposition to a minimum. He wants Turkey only for himself: a country that he can manage as if it were the Ottoman Empire, as he has dreamed of his whole life.