When Namik Tan, Turkey’s ambassador to Washington, hosts jazz concerts and depicts Turkey as a modern, democratic model for the Middle East, he is increasingly at odds with reality. Turkey is among the world’s most anti-Semitic countries. The government that Tan represents subsidizes print runs of Mein Kampf and puts blood libel in the mass market. Tan himself has quipped about the “final solution” needed in the Middle East. Turkey is also consistently among the most anti-American countries. Whereas many Egyptians, Saudis, and Jordanians take pains to separate the American people from the U.S. government, most Turks simply hate us all.
While former American ambassadors continue to shill for Turkey as some sort of enlightened democracy, the country is backsliding into dictatorship. Last week, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Brownshirts staged middle-of-the-night raids on the homes of independent and critical journalists, taking several into custody. Turkey now ranks 138 out of 178 on Reporters Without Borders’s press freedom index. That puts it beyond Venezuela, Egypt, and Zimbabwe.
When President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton speak of Turkey as a model, someone might want to ask for what is Turkey a model? How to transform a democracy into a police state?