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Turkey’s Basket-case Moment

by John Brian Shannon | July 19, 2016

On Friday, July 15 at 19:29 GMT, both bridges linking Turkey to Europe were closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic. A few minutes later, military helicopters and fighter jets were patrolling the skies over Istanbul and Ankara. Shots rang out.

So began Turkey’s basket-case moment where a coup was suspected to be in progress, although as is normal in these cases accurate information was difficult to obtain.

Read: TIMELINE-Turkey’s attempted coup (Reuters)

Thankfully, many brave Turkish citizens posted the events unfolding before their eyes on their social media accounts and that’s how the world became informed about the attempted coup in Turkey. (Thank You for posting in English!)

Almost as quickly as it began it was over — with reports of 265 dead and thousands injured in clashes around the country.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Prime Minister Binali Yildirim have vowed to crack down on perpetrators, threatening to invoke the death penalty. (Which might cost Turkey it’s shot at EU membership if they follow through on that threat)

As of Tuesday, July 19, 2016 at 13:00 hrs GMT, Turkey submitted a formal extradition request to the United States for cleric Fethullah Gülen, the supposed mastermind behind the Turkish coup. Gülen who was once one of Erdogan’s closest allies now lives in Pennsylvania and opposes the direction President Erdogan has taken the country (and let’s be honest, he probably wouldn’t mind becoming President of Turkey himself)

Read: Turkey Formally Requests Extradition of Exiled Cleric Fethullah Gülen From US (ABC News)

Fethullah Gülen. File photo. gulenmovement.ca

Fethullah Gülen. File photo. www.gulenmovement.us

President Erdogan has indicated will hand over files to the United States government supporting his contention that Mr. Gülen is the mastermind behind the July 15th coup attempt.

How convincing these files are is anyone’s guess. But someone, somewhere, initiated this coup.

But until the evidence is heard and adjudicated by a legal court, it’s all hearsay and people shouldn’t rush to judgement until the facts become available.


What will happen and what should happen, are two different things.

What should happen is that Turkey’s government should file the case with the International Criminal Court and leave it at that. The Turkish government could offer to reimburse the court for the full costs of the investigation, and make available Turkish officials who have relevant information. And whatever their ruling, President Erdogan and the Turkish government should thenceforth abide by that ruling.

As Fethullah Gülen was residing in the United States during the coup attempt, and therefore his purported crimes didn’t occur while he was inside Turkey, an international court is the ethical way to deal with this case.

Hypothetically, had he been masterminding the coup attempt from inside Turkey, it would be a much different matter. It would then be a matter for the Turkish justice system, and in that situation no other country would have any business telling Turkey how to conduct it’s internal affairs. (Although ‘fair comment’ about the case is to be expected and even welcomed)

But no, cleric Fethullah Gülen was living in a different country and is apparently involved in a long-running clash for power with the presently-serving President of Turkey.

How impartial can we expect a Turkish court to be in such a case?

Two factions are fighting for supremacy in Turkey, one of them (Recep Erdogan) won the last election with 52% of the vote, while the other (Fethullah Gülen) fled to the U.S. some years ago — yet still enjoys some level of support among the Turkish population.

At this point, the hostility between the two men is palpable and it looks like reconciliation between the two is highly unlikely, which points to a longer-term lack of vision and a lack of commitment to Turkey’s people on both sides of the argument.

It’s fair to say that Recep Erdogan has worked to improve the lot of Turkish citizens while in office, serving multiple terms as Prime Minister and President of Turkey.

And it’s also fair to say that much that could’ve gone wrong, didn’t… due to Erdogan’s deft handling of the multiple (and huge) challenges faced by his country in recent years.

Turkey has generously accepted and hosted millions of refugees from Iraq, Syria, Arab Spring countries — even accepting Kurds whose PKK membership is uncertain.

All in all, President Erdogan has done well once everything is factored-in; At least an 8-out-10 score on the proverbial leadership scale.

Which leads some observers to conclude that July 2016 would be the most unlikely and inopportune moment for an experienced political operator and religious figure like Fethullah Gülen to pull the trigger on a Turkish coup.

There is no doubt, someone, somewhere, initiated this putsch. Whether it turns out to be Mr. Gülen remains to be seen.

ISIS: Will the help actually ‘be there’ for 100,000+ refugees who fled to Turkey this week?

by John Brian Shannon  | 21/09/14

In the past 2 days, more than 100,000 refugees have crossed the border into Turkey to escape renewed attacks by ISIS fighters — leading to unprecedented strains on the ability of the UNHCR and the Turkish government to cope with the mass influx


100,000 Syrian refugees fled into Turkey in just over 48 hours as ISIS fighters renew their attacks on civilian populations in both Syria and Iraq. The mass exodus continues to overwhelm the UNHCR and the Turkish government. Photo: UNHCR – G. Gubaeva

NATO member Turkey, having declined to participate in military missions inside Iraq or Syria, is now facing one of the largest humanitarian crises in years. Due to the the Iraq War and other regional conflicts over the past 20 years Turkey is now home to more than 1.37 million refugees in a country of 75 million.

Although Turkey is a developed country and blessed with a robust economy growing at 4% annually, taking in 1.37 million refugees is beginning to take its toll on the economy and Turkish residents. Unemployment has rocketed past 8% and inflation is now affecting the disposable income of Turkish families.

Turkey has the world’s 17th largest nominal GDP, and 15th largest GDP by PPP. The country is a founding member of the OECD (1961) and the G-20 (1999). Since December 31, 1995, Turkey is also a part of the EU Customs Union. Turkey is the world’s 15th largest economy and 6th overall in Europe. — Wikipedia

As good as all that sounds, cracks are beginning to show as citizens are being asked to shoulder a rapidly growing burden in the form of hundreds of thousands fleeing violence and death in their homelands.

To put it in perspective, what would happen if 1 million refugees suddenly showed up in your country and your citizens had to foot the bill?

In addition to higher taxes, Turkish citizens have had to contend with a doubling of the inflation rate and a doubling of the unemployment rate. Neither stat is improving as hundreds of thousands more refugees stream across the Turkish border.

Of course the Turks want to help the refugees, but not to the point of economic collapse.

Which is why the international community must begin sending billions of dollars to Turkey

If not, Turkey can simply close off its borders — and Europe, North America, and the Middle East will be forced to accept the terrified families fleeing the atrocities they’ve witnessed, and keep them in good health until the whole ISIS debacle is over. Which might take a decade or two.

World leaders should hold a conference as soon as possible for the purposes of establishing an ongoing, per capita donation amount to defray Turkey’s refugee expenditures until the crisis is over

When you host 1 million people fleeing war, and have 100,000 arriving every few days, no amount really can really cover it. But some help is better than none. Soon it will be 2 million refugees.

Watch Reuters/CNN video here.

Donations from other nations of 5,000 tents, and food for 5,000 people for one month, don’t even begin to make a dent in the overall situation. Let alone trying to arrange transport and set-up facilities on such short notice and provide responsible people to oversee the whole operation.

The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) cannot be expected to handle such overwhelming numbers on its own without a major increase in funding.

The sheer magnitude of the problem is affecting the economy of Turkey, a nation of 75 million people. How can the UNHCR with 8,600 staff operating in 126 countries — and an insufficient budget to start with — be expected to care for hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming into Turkey each week? And no end in sight.

Why should nations generously donate to the UNHCR effort in Turkey?

The Golden Rule philosophy is shared by many groups.

The Golden Rule philosophy is shared by many groups.

One, it’s the right thing to do.

Two, if they don’t, they’ll end up receiving their fair share of refugees, which will cost them many times more to house, clothe and feed until the crisis is over.

Three, the UNHCR mission in Turkey can massively ramp-up operations with the right amount of funding, and certain economies of scale will kick-in allowing more aid to be given for the same total amount of dollars.

Four, each refugee turned away, or who believes he will not be helped, may well wind up in the hands of ISIS — who will make a willing terrorist out of him after the right motivation has been applied.

How many thousands of fit and angry young men do we want to fight?

If they hear that help is unavailable to them in Turkey due to insufficient UNHCR funding, to ISIS they will go. Food and shelter, is food and shelter. Only the ‘work’ is different…

Let the developed world show that they can rise to meet the demands placed on Turkey and give the terrified and malnourished refugees fleeing death and destruction all the hope and care that is required.

Let us not fail the victims of our mutual enemy.

In the case of refugees fleeing to Turkey, the rewards will be greater and the karmic punishments far fewer, if we employ the moral imperative to the situation simply by applying the principle of the Golden Rule.

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