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An open letter to President Erdogan

By Alon Ben-Meir - posted Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Over the past year, I had the opportunity to speak to many Turkish scholars and former government officials, the majority of whom left your country because they feared for their lives and their loved ones.

The one question that kept on surfacing is why a leader like you - who has achieved the pinnacle of power by undertaking the most significant social, political, and judiciary reforms, pursued economic development, and came close to establishing a model of Islamic democracy-reversed gears and abandoned your most impressive achievements?

From every angle I examined your behavior, I could not escape the conclusion that your reforms were nothing more than a vehicle by which you could solidify power to allow you to promote your political Islamic agenda. As far back as December 1997, you publicly equated Islam to a military crusade, citing a poem that states in part: "The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets, and the believers our soldiers."


Your unruly ambition to become the leader of the Sunni Muslim world is the driving force behind your ceaseless efforts to implant a Turkish-oriented religious dogma in many countries in Europe and the Middle East.

You have invested hundreds of millions of dollars, building mosques and religious educational institutions and appointing Turkish Imams to promote your brand of Islam. MP Alparslan Kavaklıoğlu a member of your AKP and head of the parliament's Security and Intelligence Commission, echoed your skewed sentiment, stating last year that "Europe will be Muslim. We will be effective there, Allah willing. I am sure of that."

In May 2018, you said that "Jerusalem is not just a city. [It] is a symbol, a test, a qiblah. If we can't protect our first qiblah, we can't be confident about the future of [our] last qiblah." On a separate occasion, you told the crowd that the Muslim reconquest of Jerusalem would be "Soon, God willing."

The EU countries have caught on to your alarming scheme; Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria in June 2018 ordered the closing of seven mosques and scrutinized the right of dozens of Turkish imams to remain in the country, citing suspected violations of an Austrian law that bans "political Islam" or foreign financing of Muslim institutions.

You have shattered the dreams and aspirations of your fellow countrymen by denying them their inherent human rights, and dismantled every pillar of genuine democracy. You have sought and were granted constitutional amendments providing you near-absolute power, which you grossly abuse to realize your pipedream of becoming the new Atatürk of Turkey's modern era.

You have subordinated the judiciary and the rule of law to your whims, ensuring that courts pass judgments consistent with your own position on any alleged offenses, all in the name of social piety, national security, and solidarity.


You have orchestrated a military coup that was planned to fail, calling it "a gift from God" that permits you to chase your enemies with vengeance. You accuse your arch enemy Fetullah Gülen of being behind it, but have produced no credible evidence to support your charges.

You used the 'coup' to enact emergency laws, seizing ever more power. Tens of thousands of suspected Gülen followers were incarcerated, including teachers, judges, law enforcement officers, human rights defenders, doctors, lawyers, political activists, and students, leaving behind their despondent and despairing families.

You have imprisoned over 17,000 women with their children, wreaking havoc on a multitude of innocent civilians. You have hunted Turkish nationals whom you accuse of being affiliated with the Gülen movement and pressure many countries to expel such nationals.

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About the Author

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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