President Obama may have bragged to Fareed Zakaria in TIME last month about his close relations with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan but a better understanding of the sort of leader that the president values via an op-ed in today’s Washington Post. Turkish opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu outlined the vast scale of human rights abuses and suppression of dissent that has become routine under Erdoğan with hundreds of journalists, politicians military officers and other dissenters languishing in prison for years without being charged.
While some in Washington excitedly talk of Turkey’s ruling Islamic party being the preferred model for the Muslim world, the reality is that Ankara’s path is one that is headed steadily away from democracy and toward more hostility toward the West and the United States.
As Kılıçdaroğlu makes clear, tyranny is the only word to describe Turkey under Erdoğan and his AKP:
The AKP is systematic and ruthless in its persecution of any opposition to its policies. Authoritarian pressure methods such as heavy tax fines and illegal videotaping and phone tapping are widely used to silence opponents. …
It all boils down to this: In today’s Turkey, when one criticizes the justice system, one is prosecuted. When one appeals to the courts, one is penalized.
Given the fact that the Obama administration is probably less interested in human rights concerns abroad than any American government in generations, it is no surprise that none of this seems to alarm the White House. But it should also put Obama on the spot since he has not only failed to press the Turks on their anti-Israel policy but has become Ankara’s leading cheerleader on the international scene.
The administration has taken a sanguine attitude about the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt while speaking of the Turks as the example they wish the Islamists there to follow. But as troubling as this apathy about the dangers of Islamist rule may be to the regional balance of power with Israel, it is now becoming apparent that the human cost of this decision will also be considerable. The only difference is that it has taken almost a decade for Erdoğan to gain the leverage to suppress his foes. It won’t take that long for the Brotherhood.