Everyone's on edge here. It's not just yesterday's triple suicide bombing at the Istanbul airport although that in itself was absolutely devastating. There is a sense of unrest everywhere.The developing nightmare started after Erdogan was elected President in 2014 and it's getting worse as the months go by. Yesterday's bombings bring the total number to 12 in the past year. The groups responsible are ISIS and the Kurdish PKK. We talked to several dozen people from all walks of life during our tour of the country and they see a very uncertain future. Almost unanimously, they refer to their President as 'insane, dictatorial and power-hungry' and they are gravely concerned. There's good reason.
Erdogan has recently announced curbs on media freedom (he's blocked Twitter saying “I don’t care what the international community says”), he's restricting independent journalism (jailing a lot of dissenters) and he's enacting a new constitution giving him "Vladimir Putin-style" presidential powers. He's also pressing the EU for a deal on Syrian migrants, currently over 2.7 million, and threatening to flood Europe with them unless the EU bows to his demands. He wants 3 Billion Euros cash, visa-free travel for Turkish citizens throughout the EU and he's demanding approval for EU membership bypassing some of the rules.
His stated views on women are alarming. He said a woman who rejects motherhood is ‘deficient’ and ‘incomplete’. By working she ‘is denying her femininity’. In the same breath as urging them to have at least three children (because apparently one alone isn’t enough to make you a woman) he laughingly said that a woman could have a career. Just this month he called on Muslims to reject contraception, saying ‘no Muslim family’ should consider birth control.
Regarding LBGT, Erdogan has stated that homosexuality is a “sexual preference” and conflicts with the “culture of Islam". For two years running he has stopped the Pride Parade activities; last week riot police fired teargas, water cannons and plastic bullets to break up the Pride Parade.
And Erdogan is not subtle at all on his views towards the Kurdish, a large Turkish population he fears could eventually win government power. There have been reports of Turkish troops recently slaughtering hundreds of civilians trapped in Turkey’s Sirnak province. Some 150 people were allegedly burned to death in one of them. Turkey's newly installed Prime Minister Yildirim (picked by Erdogan) said in a speech that "operations will continue without pause until the (Kurdish) terrorist organization PKK ends its armed actions." Erdogan has a double policy of supporting Islamic State rebels against Syria's Assad for strategic reasons (eliminating Kurds) yet he aligns with the West in their support against ISIS. You don't need to wonder why PKK and ISIS are retaliating.
So there's real cause for concern. The unfortunate thing is that Turkey could have such a promising future. The people are wonderful. The country is among the world's leading producers of agricultural products, textiles, motor vehicles, ships and other transportation equipment, construction materials, consumer electronics and home appliances. After the 2009 global financial recession, the Turkish economy jumped ahead as the fastest growing economy in Europe, and one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
Up until Erdogan became President in 2014, it looked great; now, not good. It's unfortunate, scary and unnecessary as the country has so much to offer.
Next up- African Safari, Tanzania