This weekend saw the convention of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Turkey’s ruling Islamist party. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that he would remain active in politics until 2023, thereby confirming his role as the Turkish equivalent of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
The AKP’s convention played host to a number of foreign officials, including the leader of Hamas:
Among the many high-profile leaders from around the world, Khaled Meshaal, the head of the Hamas movement, was by far the most popular foreign guest for the thousands of supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who gathered for the party’s convention in Ankara yesterday. In his opening remarks, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan introduced all foreign dignitaries attending the convention one by one. The biggest applause from the AKP supporters present came for Meshaal, prompting him to stand up and greet the audience. While Meshaal was greeting the audience, slogans such as “Damn Israel” echoed around the convention hall.
That President Obama describes Erdoğan as one of his closest foreign friends is scandalous. Erdoğan has transformed Turkey from an aspiring democracy to a country which ranks below even Russia in terms of basic freedoms. And it has transformed Turkey from a country fighting terrorism to, in effect, a country cheerleading terrorists.
As the Obama administration and many Western officials persist in suggesting the Turkish experience might be a model for the Arab Middle East, it is worth considering whether the model about which American diplomats speak is the same one that Turkey’s Islamist prime minister considers.
After the AKP’s 2002 election victory, the party rightly focused on economics, and after the party’s second victory, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accelerated reforms to diminish the power of Turkey’s military. With the AKP victory in Turkey’s June 2011 general election, however, Erdoğan felt entrenched enough to implement his social agenda. Some of his agenda is bizarre: The prime minister, for example, now rants about the evil scourge of Caesarean sections. He has waged a war on beer. And now, the state-controlled media seeks to ensure that Lebanese pop singers dress more conservatively than they do back home. From Hürriyet Daily News:
Lebanese singer Jehan Barbur refused to attend a TRT show after she was asked to be careful about her clothes, daily Sabah reported. The singer complained of the incident on her Twitter account, saying: “I was asked to be a guest on one of TRT’s channels. But I was asked to be careful about my clothes. Who do you think you are dominating…?” The agent also told reporters that a similar warning was made for guitarist Kemal Evrim Aslan’s vocalist. “They put a table cloth over her because her shoulders were showing,” the agent said.
While Western diplomats persist in calling Turkey a “model,” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP) continues to tweak relatively minor rules to change Turkish society fundamentally. He makes no secret of this. “Do you expect the conservative democrat AK Party to raise atheist generations? This may be your business and objective but not ours,” he declared last February.
Previously, the Turkish parliament tightened licensing on alcohol sales, and has increased taxes more than 700 percent on beer. The ban on alcohol advertisements forced Efes Pilsen, one of Turkey’s most popular basketball teams, to change its name.