Turkish Supporters are silhouetted against a screan showing President Tayyip Erdogan during a pro-government demonstration in Ankara

With Erdogan in power, democracy in Turkey has been on forced leave. With no human right, freedom of speech in shackles, peaceful protests violently suppressed as if it were treason and democratic institutions including the legislature and judiciary in Erdogan’s pocket, peaceful, democratic or electoral means of changing government has almost become impossible.


The attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey on July 15, 2016 did not come as a surprise. The surprise expressed by some Western countries – who have first hand information about the state of affairs in that country – is hypocritical. They know that Erdogan is a fascist dictator who has turned Turkey into a police state where basic freedom is restricted or denied. They are aware that all institutions in that country, including the judiciary and legislature, exist to execute the dictates of one man who has wrecked institutions like the military and promoted religious extremism.

When the populace dared to protest peacefully in June 2013, they were crushed. Last year, protests at the Takskim Square over the decision to demolish a green park, was brutally suppressed. Despite this, Erdogan chided the police for not being brutal enough.

The Turkish ‘Sultan’ also crushed press freedom; journalists were jailed for critical reports, foreign correspondents routinely expelled, with Erdogan vowing to wipe out Twitter. He is so intolerant that when some weeks ago a German satirised him, the Turkish government officially demanded that the German government must punish its national. Now, using the pretext of the attempted coup, he has withdrawn the operating licenses of over two dozen television and radio stations.

Turkey is officially a secular country and it was the general acceptance of the populace that religious extremism and parties will not be allowed. Erdogan has systematically began to reverse that secularism and the rules. The ban on the wearing of headscarves in public institutions has been lifted, religious extremism, encouraged, and when elements in the country began to grumble about the country’s drift, he clamped down on them, jailing for life 17 mainly senior military officers.

The security situation has deteriorated so much that bombs are being planted in parts of the country, including the airport. This is likely to worsen with the regime accepting money from the European Union to receive and detain immigrants forced out of European countries.


Which observer of international affairs does not know that one of the main backers of the Islamic State (ISIS) is Erdogan? Which does not know that Turkey, until some months ago, allowed ISIS and its supporters across the world free access to Syria through its airport and borders?

After ISIS seized large swathes of Iraq and Syria declaring them a Caliphate, the most effective fighting forces against them outside the Syrian military were the minority Kurds under the Peshmerga. Erdogan picked that period to militarily attack the Kurds in and outside Turkey. Obviously, this was to divert the attention of the Kurds fighting ISIS. Russia supports the Syrian government’s fight against ISIS; when it bombed the terrorist camps near the Turkish border, the Turks brought down one of the Russian Sukhoi SU-24 attack aircraft claiming it strayed into its airspace, for what the pro-Turkish Americans claimed was as long as seventeen seconds! Had the Russians retaliated, the world might have been pushed into a global war.

The security situation has deteriorated so much that bombs are being planted in parts of the country, including the airport. This is likely to worsen with the regime accepting money from the European Union to receive and detain immigrants forced out of European countries.

With Erdogan in power, democracy in Turkey has been on forced leave. With no human right, freedom of speech in shackles, peaceful protests violently suppressed as if it were treason and democratic institutions including the legislature and judiciary in Erdogan’s pocket, peaceful, democratic or electoral means of changing government has almost become impossible. Admittedly, the attempted coup was bloody with 294 persons killed; it appeared like a desperate suicide mission. It seems the coup plotters had come to the conclusion that the Erdogan regime is like a tree whose branches cannot be trimmed or trunk cut, leaving its stump; that the only solution is to uproot it.

Erdogan has vowed to reintroduce the death penalty and make it retroactive to be able to execute the alleged plotters. The situation Turks have found themselves is tragic and more political violence is not unlikely, including other coup and assassination plots.


Expectedly, the reaction of the regime to the coup attempt was like a lunatic gone berserk; within four days, it had investigated and found some 60,000 Turks guilty of conspiracy, and fired them from their jobs. These include 21,000 teachers in private schools, 15,000 staff of the Education Ministry, 2,745 judges, 9,000 policemen, 8,777 from the Interior Ministry, 1,500 staff of the Finance Ministry, 257 from the Prime Minister’s Office, 399 in the Social Ministry, 100 from the intelligence agency and 492 from the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The regime has also demanded the immediate resignation of 1,577 Deans of private universities. These are apart from the over 7,500 military, police and security men detained. A coup is essentially a conspiracy not a rally; how come the regime is accusing some 70,000 people of conspiracy to plan a coup, yet it was unable to detect it? To show that the mental state of the regime has badly deteriorated, the government which employs 75,000 imams in mosques across the country, has instructed that those suspected of being part of the coup should not be allowed a religious burial! Clearly, Erdogan wants not just a conquered country, but also one of illiterates.

While turning a blind eye to the on-going bloody purge, American President Barack Obama is reported to have spoken with Erdogan and “urged that the investigations and prosecution of the coup’s perpetrators be conducted in ways that reinforce public confidence in democratic institutions and the rule of law.” Is he serious when within four days of the coup attempt, over 60,000 people have been investigated, found guilty and sacked from employment? How can he be talking about due process when what is demanded is for Erdogan – who described the suspects as “virus”- to be called to order?

Erdogan was part of the Virtue Party which was deemed religious and banned. He and a group from the banned party established the Justice and Development Party, the AKP, a supposedly secular party which won the 2000 elections with him becoming Prime Minister. After a dozen years in power, rather than leave, he transformed himself into the ceremonial President, transferred executive power from the Prime Minister to the President and built himself a $650 million presidential mansion.

Erdogan has vowed to reintroduce the death penalty and make it retroactive to be able to execute the alleged plotters. The situation Turks have found themselves is tragic and more political violence is not unlikely, including other coup and assassination plots. The Erdogan regime is a malignant tumour in the body polity of Western democracy; the West treating it like skin rashes rather than the leprosy, is being myopic.

Owei Lakemfa, former Secretary General of African Workers is a Human Rights activist, journalist and author.