The time has come to box Johnny Turk’s ears again. Turkey – the homeland of St Paul the Apostle and Suleiman the Magnificent – is fast becoming a paranoid pariah state that needs a good kick up the bum.
Australians were granted a permanent invitation to interfere in Turkish affairs in 1934 by none other than Kemal Ataturk. The victor at Gallipoli during our first invasion; was also the founding father the modern, secular, democratic Turkish state.
Every April – until they were stopped recently – hordes of alcohol and drug-fuelled, yellow-shirted Fanatics tour groups would reinvade the Gallipoli beachhead and the Lone Pine sanctuary to party hard; and re-enact the 2005 Cronulla race riots.
Way to go!
Ataturk’s Memorial at Anzac Cove extends the invitation in these terms:
“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…
“You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace, after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well,” Ataturk chiselled in stone.
The sadistic prison guards in the 1978 cult movie Midnight Express quickly disabused us of the modern illusion that Johnny Turk was a friendly blood brother of the Aussie Digger. It also had disastrous consequences for the Turkish tourism industry. Aussie backpackers on the Lonely Planet overland hippie trail to London now gave Anatolia a wide birth.
But the fundamental reason why Australia should invade the personal political space of the Turkish body politic is to kick-out the bad-arsed Turkish President Racep Tayyip Erdogan – the Oscar the Grouch of the Middle East (with halitosis).
My beef with Erdogan the Ego is obviously personal as well as political.
Since his Islamist Justice and Development Party won its first election in 2002, Erdogan has continually sought to centralise all power in his malevolent and legerdemain hands.
He desperately wants to re-establish the Islamic Caliphate of “New Turkey” (Abdülmecid II was the last) which Mustafa Kemal’s secular reforms abolished with the Republic of Turkey in 1923.
He wants it completed by 2023 so Emperor Erdogan has new clothes to wear. He was furious when Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi gazumped him as the self-proclaimed Caliph of the ISIS on April 8, 2013.
When elected in 2002, Erdogan faced an army that, through coups and the threat of coups, was the ultimate source of power in the country, and a secular establishment suspicious of his Islamist beliefs.
But over the years he has outmanoeuvred or eliminated his enemies and – using a failed military coup on 15 July last year as an excuse – is suppressing and punishing all signs of dissent as “terrorism”.
Erdogan – often depicted as Gollum from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings – has single-handedly destroyed Ataturk’s modern, secular, democratic state and, in its place, has established the dictatorial paranoid pariah state you see today.
President Erdogan will become an elected dictator able to dissolve parliament, veto legislation, decide the budget, and appoint ministers who do not have to be MPs, along with senior officials and heads of universities.
All power will be concentrated in Erdogan’s hands as the office of prime minister is abolished and the president, who can serve three five year terms, takes direct control of the intelligence services. He will appoint senior judges and the head of state institutions including the education system.
Like Trump, Erdogan has a manic sensitivity to criticism. Over 2,000 people have been charged with insulting the president. He has jailed 81 journalists.
The far-reaching constitutional changes are reinforcing an ever-expanding purge begun after the failed military coup last year, in which more than 100,000 civil servants have been detained or dismissed.
The country is embroiled in the war in Syria, thanks to Erdogan’s ill-judged intervention there since 2011. This led to the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) establishing a de facto state in northern Syria and Isis doing the same in Syria and Iraq.
At home, Erdogan restarted the war with the Turkish Kurds for electoral reasons in 2015 and the conflict is now more intractable than ever.
Every few weeks in Turkey there is another terrorist attack which is usually the work of Isis or a faction of the PKK – although the government sometimes blames atrocities on the followers of Fethullah Gulen, who are alleged to have carried out the attempted military coup last July.
The last time Australia invaded Turkey, it was for the wrong reason. We went in to answer the call of Mother England and the British Empire. We went in to open an eastern front against the German Kaiser and his ally the Ottoman Caliph.
We should have gone to punish the Muslim Turks for their 1915 massacred of some 1.5 million Christian Armenians in what historians consider a genocide.
But to Turks, what happened in 1915 was, at most, just a messy piece of a very messy war that spelled the end of a once-powerful empire.
Indeed, in Turkey today it remains a crime – “insulting Turkishness” – to even raise the issue of what happened to the Armenians.
The next time we go in we should do it to insult Erdogan the Ego!
Gollum! Gollum! Gollum!
Terence Maher is a former editor of The Melbourne Times
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