Tayyip Erdogan

A violent and repressive leader has recently risen to power in Turkey, in one of the most contentious elections seen in the country for some time.

President Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP (Justice and Development Party) has been widely criticised for his reign of terror after threatening violence against those who did not vote for him.

The press, political rivals and police officers are among the many that have been arrested by Turkish authorities as part of a crackdown on free speech in the country.

Masquerading under ‘anti-terror’ laws, the government has conducted dawn raids on the homes and offices of all those it considered to be its political enemies.

The Turkish daily Sözcü reported that Erdogan’s lawyers had filed charges against 236 people for having insulted him since he became president in August last year. By now, the number has increased, adding more newspaper editors, journalists and ordinary Turks to the list.

This crackdown on freedom was even seen prior to Erdogan’s victory, under the leadership of Erdogan’s right hand man Ahmet Davutoglu who helped to coordinate attacks on the free press, culminating in the takeover of the Koza Ipek media group, including two dailies and two tv stations, five days before the elections.

The news outlets were then converted into government propaganda machines.

Speaking about the election of Erdogan, Turkish judge Isil Karakas, who is vice president of the European Court of Human Rights, has stated that “Turkey had the image of a country where torture was tolerated. I am happy to say that this image no longer exists. What replaced it? The image of a country where freedom of the press and freedom of speech are not protected, the internet is blocked and lawsuits are continuously being filed against people for insulting the president.”

Even children have been included as part of the crackdown. Currently, two boys aged 12 and 13 now face two years in jail for having torn down posters of the president to sell to a junk dealer, and 244 participants in the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Istanbul have just been sentenced to up to 14 months in prison for their role in the demonstrations.

Then there was the highly publicised Sledgehammer trials in Turkey, which alleged that members of the Turkish armed forces had plotted to overthrow the AKP-led government, as well as the Ergenekon affair trials, in which hundreds of individuals were arrested and charged for allegedly belonging to a clandestine ultranationalist organisation that supposedly had ties with the military and security services.

Although Erdogan professes to be Muslim, and often makes anti-semitic remarks against what he sees as a “Jewish conspiracy”; many Islamic clerics in the country had previously noted that Erdogan was unable to recite any Muslim prayers properly or follow the Islamic prayer ceremonies accurately, sparking fears that he is not who he claims to be.

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