After suriving the recent coup attempt, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched a purge, blaming the Gulenists, followers of his former ally the exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, and removing tens of thousands of people from various posts in Turkey. And apparently, the struggle has spread to Turkish communities abroad. Among the Netherland’s half-million Turkish expats, Reuters reports that:
Saniye Calkin, who heads the Netherlands-based Hizmet organization of Gulen supporters, said members were keeping out of sight after dozens of reports of death threats, arson, vandalism, and physical assaults in Dutch towns and cities.
“They have unleashed a witch-hunt that is causing a lot of tension between Dutch Turks,” Calkin told journalists in The Hague. “These are signs of Erdogan’s interference in the Netherlands and it is threatening my freedom and safety.”
This would be a simple, though interesting, story about the power of nationalism even among diaspora populations (something that Europe’s leaders are surely taking note of; the Turkish immigrants were part of the last, still relativley un-assimilated group of immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, who came over to supplant labor shortages after World War II). Except that there seems to be evidence Erdogan in at least some places is deliberately stirring it up. In Germany, Deutsche Welle reports:
Karakoyu is the director of the Foundation for Dialog and Education. Since 2014, the foundation has served as the mouthpiece for the “Hizmet Movement” in Germany (Hizmet means “the Service” in English) – or as it is often called, the Gulen movement. It is made up of followers of Turkish preacherFethullah Gulen, once a close companion of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and now considered to be his archenemy.
One of the groups that Karakoyu accuses of being responsible for the agitation is the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD). He says it is a kind of an AKP (Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party) lobbying group, acting as the long arm of President Erdogan in Germany.
“Other mosque associations, such as DiTiB, have also hung signs saying that Gulen supporters have no place in their communities.” He mentions three specific instances: in Hagen, Duisburg and Günzburg.
Meanwhile in Austria, the WSJ reports that a different enemy of the Turkish government was targeted:
Austria’s top diplomat said Ankara may be behind Turkish protests in Vienna over the weekend that briefly turned violent, summoning Turkey’s ambassador to discuss what he described as a turn toward authoritarianism in the wake of last week’s failed military coup in Turkey.
“We have indications that the call for demonstrations that took place in Vienna this weekend came directly from Turkey,” Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said on Austrian radio Thursday. “This is of course untenable and we want to protest it.”
[..] In Vienna, some 4,000 people descended onto the streets between Friday and Saturday afternoon in what Mr. Kurz described as “pro-Erdogan protests.” A Kurdish-owned restaurant was vandalized by a group of Turkish demonstrators, there were verbal insults between Kurdish and Turkish demonstrators and two Turks were slightly injured in the crowd by what appeared to be Kurds, said a spokesman for Vienna police.
And Erdogan’s government claims to have requested (the paperwork is murky) the extradition not only of Fethullah Gülen himself, who lives in Pennsylvania, but his supporters in Germany:
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu made the announcement to broadcaster CNN Turk.
Without naming names, Cavusoglu said that “some judges and lawyers” who are supporters of Gülen reside in Germany, and that “their extradition is also necessary”.
And also Erdogan’s opponents in Kosovo. Reuters again:
As the failed coup unfolded on July 15, Berat Buzhala, a leading Kosovo journalist known for his satirical comments, wrote on Facebook:
“I invite the citizens of the Republic of Kosovo who are holidaying in Turkey to align with the army.” The comment was signed with an Internet emoticon with a tongue protruding, indicating the comment was not serious.
“This is the most serious coup since the arrival of Facebook,” Buzhala said.[..]
On July 20, the Turkish Embassy in Pristina sent a note to Kosovo’s foreign ministry urging it to take action over the journalist’s comments.
“(The ministry should) ensure that necessary steps will be taken about this person in accordance with the law,” said the note which was accompanied by screen shots of Buzhala’s Facebook comments.
The embassy note, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, also quoted a newly-adopted Kosovo law which prohibits citizens from joining armed conflicts outside the country.
In the note the embassy also said the law stipulated that comments by people such as Buzhala “shall be sentenced to jail terms from six months to five years.”
Prior to the coup, Erdogan had taken to filing formal legal objections and requests for prosecution in Europe over increasingly obscure protests against him: famously, over a satirical poem in Germany, but also over an art exhibit in Geneva and several other German comments. To Westerners, this sort of thing, and its reoccurance now, makes Erdogan look a little unhinged. But to him, it probably has several important purposes. Every time a Western government rejects his call for extradition, it lets him fuel the narrative of a conspiracy against him and the need for a strong government: in Turkey, where the phrase “the only friend of a Turk is a Turk” is a proverb and conspiracy thinking is rampant, both of these have real political currency. And insofar as Erdogan does succeed in bullying Western governments, it reinforces his image as a strong man at home; likewise, if he succeeds in bullying his critics in the Turkish diaspora, it builds the impression that no one can be a true Turk and stand against him.
Erdogan is clearly determined to remake the Turkish state root and branch. If he continues to think this is a useful practice, it’s going to be a long summer summoning and being summoned for Austria’s foreign minister, Turkey’s ambassador, and their colleagues across Europe.