The 21st-century Turkish media environment is steadily worsening. Moreover, during Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s tenure as prime minister (2003-2014) and now president – and particularly since the 2016 failed coup attempt and subsequent state of emergency – journalists have been subjected to increasing harassment, intimidation and arrest in a government bid to ensure a more compliant press.
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Pumuk continues to write and publish actively. However, some members of a new generation of Turks believe that the old conflicts between Western modernity and Eastern tradition have been resolved decidedly in favour of Turkey’s Ottoman past. Thus it is difficult to see Pamuk’s writings carrying the same resonance in this new future as it had before. It may be that Orhan Pamuk’s era as the voice of modern Turkey is growing fainter.
The constitutional changes, most of which will come into effect after the next elections in 2019, give him vastly expanded powers to appoint ministers, prepare a budget, choose the majority of senior judges and enact certain laws by decree. He will also become the head of the executive, as well as the head of state, while retaining ties to his political party. The role of the prime minister will be scrapped and the new post of vice-president (possibly two or three) will be created. Parliament will effectively lose its right to scrutinize ministers, and Erdoğan could now stay in office until 2029. Many have been quick to liken this new Turkey to a one-man state.
However, despite this smoothing of tensions, somewhat serendipitously, thawing Turkish-Israeli relations provide both countries with a level of economic insurance in the midst of continued regional turmoil. Part of the initial negotiations between Turkey and Israel included a natural gas pipeline under the Mediterranean, presumably intended as a foil against a total break with Russia. Economics is just as much a driver of this rapprochement as politics, and animosity is a luxury that neither can afford.
The Alevis represent by some estimates up to 20% of the country’s population, a group around 25 million strong spanning local Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds. They have endured centuries of persecution, even being branded heretics by the Ottomans. More recently, in the political upheaval and repression of the 1970s, dozens of Alevis were murdered. Twenty three years ago, more than 30 Alevis were burned alive in a building attacked by an Islamist mob.
The meeting’s final statement paved the way for the Geneva talks in late February 2017, between the political opposition and the regime. The statement also stressed the countries’ conviction ‘that there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict and that it can only be solved through a political process. Moreover, Ankara, Moscow and Tehran agreed to join forces to combat ISIS and to work on separating terrorist factions from armed opposition groups. Both sides welcomed the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 of December 2015, which sets out a roadmap for a peace process in Syria.
Impunity for police abuses, even accusations of torture levelled at domestic security forces, is widespread. A stunning lack of accountability has been the legacy of the mass Gezi Park protests in 2013, with justice still lacking for the killing of a 14-year-old protestor and the severe assault of Hakan Yaman by Istanbul police officers.
Today, Russia has a presence in almost all of the Soviet Union’s former zones of influence, namely Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Algeria. Furthermore, it is getting closer to the other non-Arab hegemon apart from Iran; Turkey. The Middle East therefore represented the best forum for a show of force by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ironically, it is the Arab Spring – which Russian media outlets criticize continuously – that has allowed Putin to achieve his goal.