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Analysis: What comes next after Erdogan is declared to be the Sultan?

Rachel Avraham explains the situation in Turkey following the Referendum Vote and how the Turkish people are responding to the great changes that are taking place in their country. According to Iranian human rights activist Shabnam Assadollahi, “The young people and Turkish activists have hope. They believe in democracy. But the government run newspaper took pictures of young dead people and Ataturk’s grave with the headline ‘the Republic is finished.’ That brought the protesters out to the streets.”
Turkey's Sultan Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

In recent days, Turkey is on the brink of a crisis. The Turkish population was almost evenly divided in the Constitutional Referendum, which granted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sultan-like powers over the country. Meanwhile, there are about 2.5 million votes that are not considered valid.  The Turkish Opposition reported that Erdogan published thousands of yes votes prior to the elections and they are calling upon the courts to deal with this massive voter-fraud. Young Turks are demonstrating in the streets. According to sources in Turkey, Erdogan recruited numerous Syrians into the Turkish Police in order to suppress them. These Syrians attacked, beat and assaulted Turks who voted against the Turkish Referendum in Mersin. In Dyarbakir, two Turks opposed to the referendum were even killed. The question arises, how did we get here and what happens next?

Despite the massive voter fraud and protests, there are still a number of Turkish citizens who voted for the Turkish Constitutional Referendum. According to Iranian human rights activist Shabnam Assadollahi, Erdogan was taught by Iran and bribed uneducated, illiterate Muslims in Turkey and abroad. But a significant number of the people who voted for the referendum are Kurds. According to an anonymous source, “At least 55 percent of the people in the Kurdish cities voted yes.” 

But why did numerous Kurds vote yes?  After all, under Erdogan, Turkish forces have destroyed numerous Kurdish cities, imprisoned many Kurdish leaders and thousands of Kurds in Turkey are now homeless due to the fighting between the PKK and the Turkish Army. In fact, the situation has gotten so dire that according to an anonymous source, most of the teachers have fled the Kurdish cities, which led to the closure of most of the schools.  Now, more than 60,000 Turkish Kurds are internally displaced refugees.  More than 50,000 Turkish Kurds are living in tents.

The source stressed that the Kurds who voted for Erdogan were mainly voting against the PKK rather than supporting Erdogan becoming the new Sultan: “They don’t want the PKK anymore. They want Erdogan in order to have security and stability. A lot of Kurds voted for the HDP and they didn’t do anything for the people because the PKK would not let them for they wanted to remain the decision makers. They don’t want a Kurdish state and they don’t want a legal party like the HDP to function. Numerous Kurdish leaders are in prison thanks to them, so the Kurds don’t support HDP anymore for it is like supporting the PKK.”

According to the source, the Kurds voted for Erdogan for they don’t want the PKK inside their cities: “The PKK gives Erdogan the excuse to attack Kurdish cities. They do one explosion, attacking a police station or ambulance. Erdogan responds by destroying Kurdish homes. If PKK didn’t make explosions, then Erdogan would have no excuse to attack. This is all because the PKK brought the fighting to the Kurdish cities. HDP could have done the fighting inside the parliament. I hate Islamist leaders but the people don’t trust the PKK.  They want Erdogan to solve the Kurdish issue. Now, they hope Erdogan will start a peace process with the Kurds.” According to the source, for homeless Kurds who are suffering due to Turkey’s war against the PKK, what matters to them is that their lives can be rebuilt; they don’t care about the fate of Turkish democracy.

However, despite the slim chances of success in the courts since they are very corrupt, the game is not over for the young secular Turkish activists. According to Assadollahi, “The young people and Turkish activists have hope. They believe in democracy. But the government run newspaper took pictures of young dead people and Ataturk’s grave with the headline ‘the Republic is finished.’ That brought the protesters out to the streets. They are afraid he will destroy Ataturk’s burial tomb and to make it Islamist.”

Assadollahi is furious at US President Donald Trump for congratulating Erdogan, claiming that it had an uncanny resemblance to how US President Barack Obama responded to the Green Movement protesters in 2009: “He should have waited for the courts to make a decision. He should have respected the peoples’ voices. There were huge frauds in this election.” Nevertheless, Sadi believes that the protests will end within a couple of days. He does not believe that there will be a massive wave of protests like there were after the 2009 elections in Iran.

The question remains, what will be the implications for Israel and the Jewish people? Assadollahi believes the plight of minorities will worsen in Turkey: “Last night, when I was watching TRT-1, they were interviewing an AKP official, where he kept speaking against Christians and Jews. He also mentioned how great it is that countries like Australia are over 80% anti-Semitic. I assume Erdogan’s mobs will start destroying churches, synagogues, harassing Christians and Jews and destroying their cemeteries.”

However, Sadi does not see this referendum as a threat to the Turkish Jewish community for there are not that many Jews in Turkey and Erdogan has so far made sure no one harms them.  He claimed that people will have to watch what they say but that this won’t affect local Jews more than any other Turk: “Erdogan must be in peace with the rest of the population and the rest of the world. If he does not make peace with the people and the world, the life of Turks won’t be easy. The status of Turkey with Israel is better than the status with Europe. Now, we are friends let’s say. It is not real but it is a kind of fake friendship. The country from my point of view is safe for the Jewish community.”

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