Hard-hitting questions Indian media must ask Erdogan when he meets Modi

Journalists must ask Turkey's president how he claims to have advanced his country's democracy, when facts suggest otherwise.

 |  6-minute read |   28-04-2017
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1) Europe is very critical of your government. The Council of Europe has recently re-opened the monitoring procedure against Turkey due to serious problems with fundamental rights in the country. There is a growing consensus in the US as well to review its policy towards Turkey due to differences on numerous issues.

To all these criticisms, your government responds by saying it is because of your courageous stand on issues like Palestinian rights, Syrian refugee crisis, etc. that the world is up in arms against you. Do you really want us to believe that the only government which is righteous and principled in this world is Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and the rest of the international bodies and foreign governments are mere conspirators?

2) The so-called Islamic State is an increasing threat to the world, including to countries like India. One of the disturbing facts about the ISIS militants who have carried out attacks in European cities like Stockholm, Brussels, St Petersburg and Paris is that they had all stayed in Turkey.

We may have accepted this as a terrific coincidence, had Turkey not have facilitated safe passage to foreigners wanting to join the ranks of the brutal terrorist group. But given Turkey has done that - at least in the past - should India not be careful in its relations with your government?

3) “We must form an alliance with China and show to the West that we can stand on our own feet” is what Yigit Bulut, your chief adviser who is accompanying you on your visit to India, once said on a television talk show. Does this mean that we are looking at a Turkey which in the coming days will cease to be the "gateway to Europe" and become a country which is officially at odds with the Free World?

4) Before and after the April 16 constitutional referendum, senior AKP members, including Yigit Bulut, have used inflammatory rhetoric against European countries. Mr Bulut has recently said “you [Europe] will be praying for every second you breathe”. Don’t you think such rants encourage hatred against the people of a particular region at a time when radicalism is already a big problem for the world?

5) One of the attractive factors for the Indian business community about Turkey is its proximity to Europe. If Turkey moves away from Europe, don't you think the country will attract less investment from India?

6) Ilnur Cevik, one of your senior advisers, who is also on a visit to India, said at an event at the India International Centre (IIC)on Wednesday that there is great potential for India-Turkey relations because "India has a huge Muslim population".

Immediately after the coup attempt of July 15, 2016, the erstwhile Turkish ambassador to India, Mr Burak Akcapar, was seen seeking support of Indian Muslim clerics for you. This raises eyebrows particularly because many AKP members and supporters see you as a future Caliph of the Muslim world.

Is there a well-thought out Turkish strategy to appease the minority Indian Muslim community and ignore the majority non-Muslim community? And don’t you think it is a divisive policy?

coup-embed_042817120427.jpgThere is hardly any buyer of your claims outside Turkey regarding Gulen and the social movement he has inspired. Photo: Reuters

7) The British Parliament foreign affairs committee’s report on UK’s relations with Turkey says that “the Turkish government’s account of the Gulenists and the coup is not substantiated by hard, publicly available evidence”.

The US House Intelligence Committee’s chairman Devin Nunes has also said he hasn’t seen any evidence to prove that Fethullah Gulen was behind the attempted coup in Turkey. So has been said by the head of German Intelligence Agency (BND), Bruno Kahl.

Clearly, there is hardly any buyer of your claims outside Turkey regarding Gulen and the social movement he has inspired. Yet, here in India you are distributing brochures making the same unsubstantiated claims. Don’t you think your government has lost credibility internationally because of your false propaganda?

8) According to some reports, a secretly issued order by you bans Turkish weapon manufacturing companies like ASELSAN and others from selling lethal weapons to India. This of course is a measure to appease our regional rival Pakistan. Should the Indian government trust you when your government clearly doesn’t trust India?

9) India’s vice-president Hamid Ansari was given an honorary doctorate by Mevlana University, Konya, in 2011. Now the university is among the list of 15 universities which have been shut down by the government after the attempted coup last year. What has changed so radically that a university which was once allowed to honour one of Turkey’s state guests has now been completely shut down?

10) Many Indian students and academicians were part of the 15 foundation universities that have been shut down by your government in the aftermath of the coup attempt.

Some of those students had to come back to India without completing their education as they were left helpless. They were on scholarship in these universities but when the Council of Higher Education (Yüksekö─čretim Kurulu) transferred them to state universities they were asked to pay fees according to their original universities, which were much higher than that of the state universities.

The academicians of course have lost their jobs and their bank accounts were earlier blocked as your government also took over Bank Asya - the bank with which most of these universities were working.

What link did these students and academicians have with the attempted coup that they had to suffer from all these? And as you try to build friendly relationship with India, would you begin by apologising to these Indians?

11) As a matter of fact, 231 journalists are currently languishing in Turkish prisons. The Turkish government however refuses to recognise them as journalists and therefore rejects the fact that it is the worst jailer of journalists in the world. Irrespective of that, the world knows how difficult it is for journalists to work in Turkey. Can any journalist who is critical of you be free in Turkey?

12) Turkey’s ranking has slipped to 155 on World Press Freedom Index this year. It was of course expected given your government has shut down 149 media outlets and jailed 231 journalists in the post-coup purge.

Interestingly, Turkey ranked 99 on the same index in 2002 when your AKP assumed power. You obviously claim to have advanced Turkey’s democracy over the years but the facts and figures suggest just the opposite. How do you respond?

13) According to a human rights monitoring website, turkeypurge.com, 1,34,194 officials, teachers, bureaucrats and academics have been sacked from state institutions; 1,00,155 people have been detained; 2,099 educational institutions have been shut down; 7,317 academics have lost their jobs; 4,317 judges and prosecutors have been dismissed under the sweeping crackdown that your government has launched since last July.

Recently, some purge victims have reportedly been abducted. At least 50 detainees who were put behind bars after the attempted coup have died in suspicious circumstances or due to torture and harsh treatment.

Don’t you think all your claims about saving and strengthening Turkish democracy after July 15, 2016, fail the basic democratic test?

Also read: Erdogan is a dictator, coup was Turkey's hope for democracy

Writer

Mohammad Behzad Fatmi Mohammad Behzad Fatmi @behzadfatmi

Political writer and commentator. He writes widely in the Indian and international media, mainly on Turkish politics.

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