I try to be open minded. In fact, I read newspapers, from all political viewpoints, from around the globe. Every once in a while, I stumble on something strangely fascinating. I saw it last month, but it’s taking on more relevance this week.
The German news outlet DW.com ran a number of stories about Turks living abroad who were voting on the referendum in Turkey. If you don’t recall, it’s the one that basically would allow the President Erdogan to become a dictator and do away with democracy.
People living in the West assumed that Turks living in the West, would be pro Democracy. Interestingly, that wasn’t the case. In fact, if the vote on the referendum had been confined to voters actually living in Turkey, democracy would have prevailed.
The reason Turkey is now a dictatorship is because over 3 million Turks abroad overwhelmingly voted for dictatorship in their home country. Think about that for a second. Turks, educated in democracy, wanted their homeland to become a dictatorship.
Turks in Belgium voted for the referendum by the highest percentage in Europe, at almost 80 percent. Austria was next, with more than 72 percent in favor, and the result in the Netherlands, where the government clashed with Erdogan last month to block pro-government rallies, was not far behind with almost 70% for “yes.”
There have been various reactions to this news. One viewpoint is that support in Europe for Erdogan is a result of failed integration and a low level of education. That’s probably partially true. But, that overlooks the component that caused Brexit and Trump, abuse of personal data.
If you read the Facebook stuff the other day, this is in that vein. In the case of Turks abroad, they received a letter asking them to vote yes on the referendum. The problem with that was a law, which was passed in Turkey in 2008, prohibits political parties from propagandizing outside the country.
Furthermore, for people with dual citizenship, the country in which they reside has priority. Thus, such a letter is a violation of German law. “This means that the personal data of people with German as well as Turkish citizenship has been given to a political party in Turkey,” says Kilic.
So once again, this is a targeted, and illegal, campaign.
In the run-up to Turkey’s 2015 parliamentary elections.Turkish voters living in Germany and the Netherlands received a similar letter bearing the signature of then-Prime Minister Davutoglu. Daniel Strunk, a spokesperson for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia’s Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (LDI-NRW), reports that as a result, many Turkish voters in Germany filed complaints with German authorities stating that their personal data, such as name and address, had been collected without their consent.
“Three voters claiming to have received AKP propaganda contacted us. It was unknown just how the party had gotten their personal data,” Strunk said. He also pointed out that foreign representatives do not fall under the LDI’s jurisdiction. Hence, authorities were unable to initiate an investigation into how the AKP attained the information and if any laws had been broken in the process.
If all this sounds familiar, that’s probably because you’re paying attention. It seems a common thread among dictators these days to target people through data scrapes and data collection tools. While not all such tools are illegal, given the cozy Russia-Turkey relationship, it’s not hard to imagine how personal data had been collected.
Which brings us to this week. Being a dictator now, Mr Erdogan has decided he wants to bring back the death penalty. Germans fundamentally oppose this. Turkey has been angling for EU status for a while, but its values fail to align with the EU stance on things like democracy, women’s rights, religious freedom, etc, etc. There is no death penalty in the EU.
Today Angela Merkel said there will be no vote on the return of the death penalty in Turkey by Turks living in Germany Bringing back the death penalty in Turkey would effectively end any pretense over Turkey’s troubled EU bid. But maybe that’s the point. Turkey is turning to Russia and away from the EU. What that means for Syrian refugees, Anti-Assad refugees that Russia bombs with abandon, is anyone’s guess.
Turkey banned the death penalty in peace time in 2002 under reforms aimed at starting EU membership talks. It was completely abolished in 2004, two years after Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party came to power.
At the time, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, was on death row following his 1999 capture. Europe had urged Turkey not to go forward with the execution, which would have triggered massive and potentially violent Kurdish protests in Europe and Turkey.
Erdogan first broached bringing back the death penalty in 2012 during an uptick in fighting between the PKK and Turkish military. Which of course brings us back to Syria, and the Kurds, and the YPG-PYD, whom the US are relying on to fight ISIS in Syria. As of today, according to Reuters:
Despite fierce opposition from NATO ally Turkey, U.S. President Donald Trump has approved supplying arms to Kurdish YPG fighters to support an operation to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.
Ankara views the Kurdish YPG militia, fighting within a larger U.S.-backed coalition, as the Syrian extension of the Kurdish PKK militant group, which has fought an insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984.
Needless to say, no matter how you slice world politics, the US is a part of the world. It can’t just hide it’s head and pretend otherwise. The problem for the US though is totally incompetent people at the State and in the WH. They literally don’t know what do do.
Luckily, Trump’s Russian friends/handlers, Foreign Minister Lavrov and Ambassador Kislyak, agreed to meet with him today at the White House. Not really a cold call, I mean Jared, Mike Flynn, and Jeff Sessions all had previous backdoor meetings — they failed to disclose — with them.
Be interesting to see what happens with regards to US policy on Syria, Turkey and the Kurds as a result. Probably nothing. They probably just wanted an update on the FBI investigation.