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Ed Webb

Turkey's Thirty-Year Coup | The New Yorker - 0 views

  • Within the country, the military saw Gülenists as a considerable threat. Gareth Jenkins, a fellow at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute in Istanbul, said that, during the nineteen-nineties, the armed forces expelled hundreds of officers on suspicion of harboring links to Gülen. In a cable released by WikiLeaks, an American diplomat wrote that secular officers devised a test: they invited fellow-soldiers and their wives to pool parties, reasoning that women who declined to appear in public wearing swimsuits must be restricted by their religion. According to the diplomat, the Gülenist wives became aware of the tactic and came up with a countermeasure: they started wearing bikinis more revealing than their hosts’. When military inspectors began searching officers’ homes, the Gülenists stocked their refrigerators with decoy bottles of alcohol and planted empties in the trash.
  • Hanefi Avcı, the police chief for Eskişehir Province, told me that he saw Gülenist police, prosecutors, and judges fabricate evidence in political investigations. But when he alerted his superiors he was ignored. “I talked to ministers and I wrote memos and didn’t get any replies,” he said.In 2009, Avcı secretly began writing a book detailing the Gülenists’ activities in the police and judiciary. He described a movement of protean adaptability, whose methods resembled those of terrorist groups and criminal organizations; they framed opponents by planting evidence or blackmailed them with information gleaned from wiretaps. “What made the Gülen movement different is that it was inside the state,” he said, noting that infiltrators in his department had sabotaged the careers of at least ten colleagues. The book, called “Simons Living on the Golden Horn” (the title is an abstruse metaphor for not seeing what is in plain sight), became a best-seller. It seemed especially authoritative because Avcı, a conservative Islamist, had two children in Gülenist schools.
  • The judiciary, emboldened by Ergenekon and Sledgehammer, pursued the investigations ever closer to Erdoğan. In the early months of 2012, police issued a subpoena to Hakan Fidan—the chief of national intelligence and a confidant of the Prime Minister—and arrested Ilker Başbuğ, the country’s highest military officer. “They felt that they could arrest anyone,” Gareth Jenkins said. Erdoğan responded in a way that seemed calculated to hobble the Gülenists: he started closing down their schools—a crucial source of income—and working to restrain the police.
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  • On December 17, 2013, police arrested Zarrab and eighty-eight others, including forty-three government officials. Although they did not arrest any of Erdoğan’s ministers, they detained the sons of three of them, claiming that they were conduits for bribes. Erdoğan’s son Bilal also came under suspicion, after a wiretap captured what was alleged to be a conversation between him and his father. Erdoğan has insisted that the tape was doctored, but it circulated widely on social media, and Turks claimed to recognize his voice.Tayyip Erdoğan: Eighteen people’s homes are being searched right now with this big corruption operation. . . . So I’m saying, whatever you have at home, take it out. O.K.?Bilal: Dad, what could I even have at home? There’s your money in the safe.Tayyip: Yes, that’s what I’m saying.A little while later, the two apparently spoke again.Tayyip: Did you get rid of all of it, or . . . ?Bilal: No, not all of it, Dad. So, there’s something like thirty million euros left that we haven’t been able to liquidate.
  • Western officials told me that they regarded the investigation as a Gülenist attempt to topple Erdoğan’s government—but that the evidence seemed credible.
  • On Christmas Day, 2015, Turkish intelligence breached an encrypted messaging app called ByLock—an apparently homemade network with two hundred thousand users. According to Turkish officials, it was set up not long after Erdoğan began purging suspected Gülenists from the government. When the network was discovered, the server, in Lithuania, quickly closed down, and its users switched to Eagle, another encrypted messaging app. “They went underground,” a Turkish government aide told me.The intelligence officials say that they were able to decrypt the exchanges, and one told me, “Every conversation was about the Gülen community.” By checking the ByLock users’ names against government records, they found that at least forty thousand were civil employees, mostly from the judiciary and the police department. In May, two months before the coup, the government began suspending them.In July, the intelligence department notified the military that it had also identified six hundred officers of the Turkish Army, many of them highly ranked, among the ByLock users. Military officials began planning to expel them at a meeting of senior generals that was scheduled for early the next month. “We think the coup happened in July because they needed to move before they were expelled,” Ibrahim Kalın, the Erdoğan aide, told me.
  • it seems that the plotters staked their operation on capturing or killing Erdoğan and persuading General Akar to join them. “If those things had happened, the coup would have succeeded,” Kalın said. But none of the most senior generals of the Turkish armed forces could be persuaded to join, which may have left the plotters without a military leader. By 4 A.M., the coup plotters were running for their lives.
  • For Erdoğan, though, retribution has always come more easily than apologies. The state of emergency that he declared after the coup gave him dictatorial powers, which he used to carry out a far-reaching crackdown that began with Gülenists but has grown to encompass almost anyone who might pose a threat to his expanded authority.
  • Public criticism of Erdoğan has been almost entirely squelched, either by the outpouring of national support that followed the coup or by the fear of being imprisoned. Erdoğan has closed more than a hundred and thirty media outlets and detained at least forty-three journalists, and the purge is still under way.
Ed Webb

Ultra-Orthodox Jews protest in Jerusalem over required military service proposal - The ... - 0 views

  • Hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews took to the streets here Sunday afternoon to express anger over attempts by Israel’s political leaders to force them to serve in the military. Local media outlets estimated crowds at the “million-man march” to number more than 300,000, while organizers put the figure closer to 500,000. Police did not provide an exact figure, but spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said hundreds of thousands of men, women and children were present. It was one of the largest demonstrations in the country since 2011, when about 200,000 Israelis protested the high cost of living.
  • Ultra-Orthodox men — or Haredim, as they are referred to here — are almost universally exempt from military or national service as long as they are enrolled in yeshivas to study the Torah, as almost all of them are, or at least claim to be. The new law seeks to end those deferments, as well as some financial benefits that go along with them.
  • Although a small number of ultra-Orthodox do serve in the army, such service is greatly frowned upon, and those who enlist are sometimes spat on or accosted when they return to their neighborhoods dressed in military uniforms.
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  • “In a month from now, every Haredi youth will receive a draft order. Whoever does not enlist will do civil service in the fire department, MDA paramedics or aiding the elderly. Sharing the burden is not an attempt to pick on Haredim or their lifestyles. We are truly committed to aiding them extract themselves from the vicious cycle of poverty,” said Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who ran on a secular platform in the 2013 elections.
  • The law and even the attempts to put it in place mark a significant challenge to the religious-secular status quo established by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, in the 1950s. Back then, Ben-Gurion struck a deal with Haredi rabbis allowing believers to study rather than fight, in an attempt to rebuild the world of Torah study destroyed by the Holocaust.
Ed Webb

Egyptian Elections « The Immanent Frame - 1 views

  • For most here it is not a simple zero-sum game of secular or Islamic, win or loose—that kind of thinking that Mubarak had fostered and exploited and that found new life in the runoff. It is instead a slog with eyes wide open to gain a better life in a better Egypt.
  • A Muslim Brother faced a felool, or “remnant” of the old regime, in the presidential runoff primarily because the Brotherhood and the old ruling party are the only parties with money, cadres, and national organizations that can run campaigns and distribute patronage
  • some commentators continue to insist that in fact nothing has really changed in Egypt and that despite five free elections in the eighteenth months since the January 25th Revolution, Egypt remains, essentially, a military dictatorship, albeit with the Muslim Brotherhood playing the role of junior partner. This analysis, however, is remarkably short-sighted. Egypt now has a dynamic and competitive public sphere with at least three major political groupings: Islamist revolutionaries; non-Islamist revolutionaries; and an old guard whose power is increasingly disappearing
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  • steps toward coalition building suggest a very different political terrain than the one that existed prior to the revolution, and hence of political possibilities whose outcome cannot be foreseen with any certainty. Yes, the entrenched power of the military remains an ongoing threat to any transformation. But the only other stable element in Egypt’s political life today is the knee-jerk refusal of some of the old leftist and liberal political movements to see beyond the politics of the “Islamist threat.”
  • the army will continue to find a way to work with the MB, but at the same time, keeps the military and the security apparatus away from the MB. The Muslim Brotherhood has lost lots of its popularity before the presidential election when it distanced itself from the street. And it seems to be back to flirt with the street to gain political legitimacy battling with SCAF over power
  • The revolution failed to overthrow the state of the Free Officers (Morsi’s victory marks only an adjustment or reform of it), but it has been successful in establishing a large and vocal democratic opposition that has become a powerful political voice in large cities of northern Egypt; less so in southern Egypt and in rural areas. Although too weak and heterogeneous (and, perhaps, too principled) to gain power at the moment, they are the third power block to reckon with, and the only one committed to changing the system towards social justice and freedom.
  • The idea of the revolution was to open up the political field and allow new voices to be heard, including but not limited to the MB. The idea was to restore politics to Egypt.
  • Politics in Egypt is alive, if not entirely well
  • Egyptians are well aware of U.S. support for the old regime, understand American ties to the SCAF, and remain wary of official American influence in Egypt. And rightly so.
  • Like Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood at the current moment, both post-Communist Poland and post-fascist Spain witnessed the transformation of anti-establishment, counter-hegemonic political movements into legitimate, newly hegemonic, democratic actors. Unfortunately, such comparisons between the Muslim Brotherhood and non-Muslim political actors and contexts are both rare and difficult to put forward. I suspect that the reason for this difficulty has to do with the immense power of the adjectives “Muslim” and “Islamic” in Euro-American political discourse. Within this discourse, “Muslim” as a political adjective connotes a single, problematic relationship to both the systems of democratic governance and a democratic ethos. As long as such an essentialist political connotation of the term “Muslim” perseveres, a multifaceted analysis of the relationship between Islam and any political context, Egyptian or otherwise, remains immensely difficult to achieve.
  • Although many self-described secularists and Islamists in Egypt join US media pundits in presenting a binary view of Egypt’s political choices, the situation on the ground is much more complex and constantly changing. In the first round, the majority of voters (taken as a collective) chose candidates other than the army man Ahmed Shafik and the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohamed Morsi. Divisions within the MB (and within Islamist groups in general) that are marked by geography, gender, and generation belie any attempt to generalize; divisions within the army are also revealing themselves in the process. Furthermore, perhaps the most serious issue obscured by the binary is that the MB and the army are arguably not that different in terms of their approach to economic policy and in their urban, often upper middle class biases towards social betterment.
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