[OPINION] Erdoğan plots murders to shore up his rule in Turkey

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People pass a portrait of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) unveils new advertisements to mark the 16th anniversary of the founding of the party on August 12, 2017 in Ankara. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

Abdullah Bozkurt

Having staged a fake coup to consolidate his power and justify the unprecedented crackdown on opposition and critical groups, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s dictator president, is now contemplating orchestrating assassinations at home targeting high-profile figures and murders abroad to intimidate and silence his critics in exile.

Erdoğan, a hard-core Islamist who modeled the alarming transformation in Turkey away from a secular parliamentary democracy on the Iranian revolution, has been following a pattern similar to that of the mullahs, from investing in armed proxies to false flags to sustain and strengthen his rule. He has already used up assassination scenarios that ostensibly targeted him and his daughter Sümeyye, only to have grown more frustrated to see that the plots fell apart when investigations exposed inconsistences in the allegations despite his grip on the judiciary and media landscape in Turkey.

He got what he wanted with the false flag coup bid of July 15, 2016, which helped him gain an imperial presidency with no checks and balances in governance and no accountability whatsoever for his reign as caliph. Yet his actions have come under increasing scrutiny, criticism and pressure from Turkey’s allies and partners, who find Erdoğan’s story-line on the coup and other claims not credible at all. The Turkish president is left struggling to convince the world that his actions in jailing over 50,000 people including 275 journalists, a world record, by the way, were warranted and a measured response. Now he desperately needs a new excuse that will top off what he has done so far in his dirty scheme of clandestine business to cling to power.

Erdoğan has already established his scapegoats — the Gülen movement in particular, and the West in general — for this outrageous plot to kill senior figures in Turkey. His media machine has been busy prepping the groundwork for the chaos scenario that was purportedly planned by the major powers to invade, occupy and dismember Turkey. The Turkish president and his Islamist associates as well as neo-nationalist coalition partners have not done anything to discourage these spurious claims, but rather fan them with xenophobic remarks across the country. Hence, Erdoğan will put Turkey’s interlocutors on the defensive by continuing to make claims of conspiracies through public accusations in fired-up rally speeches and publishing spin stories in his propagandist media.

By doing so, Erdoğan will keep undermining the independent opposition groups that he has failed to coopt with incentives such as money and positions in the government or could not scare through intimidation. This is crucial for his rule leading up to the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections that are key for his survival given the worsening economic outlook, growing security challenges in Turkey and its neighborhood and festering antagonism among various social and ethnic groups

The Turkish president has no problem convincing the domestic audience with his total control of the media, judiciary and Parliament. A steady stream of inflammatory rhetoric in Erdoğan’s media lays the groundwork for blaming government shortcomings on scapegoats. For example, whoever you talk to in Turkey, you hardly hear a challenging narrative of the Gülen movement being scapegoated for last year’s fake coup or foreign powers being blamed for anything that goes wrong in Turkey. This is as bad as it gets in the world of alternative facts and fake news of Erdoğan’s regime. Anybody, be it journalists, judges, academics or members of Parliament who dare to raise questions about the official narrative, immediately gets vilified, persecuted and even thrown in jail on fabricated charges.

What Erdoğan finds difficult to do is persuade his global partners of the fabricated story of boogeymen coming after him. For that he needs to cook up something terrible with the hope that they will this time around believe him. There is a precedent for his behavior. He hijacked major anti-government rallies in the summer of 2013 by having marginal and violent groups attach themselves to peaceful environmental protestors. He used armed jihadist groups to stage terror acts in Turkey to gain popularity and steal the elections in 2015 while provoking the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to violence in order for him to derail the peace process that was launched to settle the Kurdish conflict.

However, the critical groups that have left to live in self-exile to escape the crackdown and which have organized themselves in exposing Erdoğan’s regime pose a major challenge to Erdoğan’s plans to move forward. Therefore, Erdoğan strongly feels that this nuisance must be dealt with. He has already said on the record that he will chase his main critics, the Gülen movement, wherever they are in the world, and hunt them down, and even claiming that they have no right to life. My sources are telling me that Turkey’s notorious National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has already set up a working group in Ankara’s dark corridors to coordinate assassinations of major critics abroad. Given the fact that MİT has carried out similar executions before, this information does not sound far-fetched. With this move, Erdoğan hopes to silence critical voices, kill the counter-narratives and suppress opposition groups in exile.

The information I have been able to glean from several sources suggests this goes beyond mere suspicion and rumor but is rather an actual plan that will have profound consequences for Turkey as well as those who have an interest in the future orientation of Turkey. Erdoğan has already secured key power centers such as the military, judiciary, business community and media groups to make this plan fly with public opinion. The impact of such a move on economic stability is no deterrence for Erdoğan, who feels there is no honorable exit for him from the political scene, anyway. Therefore, his path to such an outrageous murder spree in Turkey and abroad appears to have been cleared. For that, those who have a stake in Turkey’s future have good reason to remain concerned.

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