One month ago, we cited Turkey's president Tayyip Recep Erdogan who said that "it is not only the person who pulls the trigger, but those who made that possible who should be defined as terrorists, regardless of their title," when was urging parliament to include journalists, politicians, academics, and activists under the country’s anti-extremism laws.
Erdogan’s comments came a day after the latest in a string of suicide bombings ripped through Ankara, killing 34 and wounding more than 100 in Kizilay. Since then, Turkey has arrested nearly 50 people with “suspected ties” to the PKK against which Erdogan is waging a highly personal crusade.
However, Turkey's President didn't think parliament was moving fast enough on his “request” to expand the definition of “terrorist” because in a speech on Wednesday, he effectively instructed lawmakers to get moving before also urging parliament to deal with "the issue of immunities."
True to form, Erdogan didn't wait on parliament to expand the "terrorist" definition before he went ahead and arrested three academics for "terrorist propaganda" after they made the mistake of publicly asking the government to stop the siege on Cizre and other cities in the predominantly Kurdish southeast."
Then, when a British citizen who teaches at Bilgi University showed up at the courthouse to support the lawyers, he was also arrested. His crime, in his own words: "I am accused because I had several invitations to Kurdish new year (celebrations on March 21) published by the HDP - the third-largest party in the Turkish parliament - in my bag."
It has gotten so bad, and Turks are so terrified of their despotic "leader" that two months ago, a Turkish truck driver literally sued his own wife for cursing at Erdogan when he spoke on television. "I warned her," the man later said.
Understandably, the "developed world" (of which Turkey is supposedly part of) has repeatedly closed its eyes to Erdogan's unprecedented human rights violations: after all Europe needs Turkey now more than ever to halt the mass flow of Syrian refugees within its borders or else virtually all ruling parties in Europe are threatened with being replaced in any upcoming elections. As such, if the country became a despotic tyranny under Erdogan, oh well: after all Europe has not only turned a blind eye to his dictatorial actions but also paid him billions of dollars to "halt" the flow of refugees... and he knows it.
However, this morning Erdogan may have finally gone too far following the arrest of a Dutch-Turkish journalist, Ebru Umar, who was detained early on Sunday at her home in Turkey for tweets deemed critical of the Turkish president according to her Twitter account.
"Police at the door. No joke," wrote Ebru Umar, a well-known atheist and feminist journalist of Turkish origin.
Oké. Politie voor de deur timeline. Geen grap.— Ebru Umar (@umarebru) April 23, 2016
IK BEN NIET VRIJ. IK MOET MEE NAAR HET ZIEKENHUIS— Ebru Umar (@umarebru) April 23, 2016
According to AFP, Umar recently wrote a piece critical of Erdogan for the Dutch daily Metro, extracts of which she then tweeted, leading to her arrest. "I’m not free, we’re going to the hospital" for a medical examination before being taken to face prosecutors, she said in a second tweet as she left her home in Kusadas?, a resort town in western Turkey.
Umar, who reportedly became a journalist under the influence of Theo van Gogh – a Dutch film-maker later murdered for making a controversial film about Islamic culture – had written in the Metro about a diplomatic spat between Turkey and the Netherlands.
Earlier this week, a political storm erupted following reports that the Turkish consulate asked Turkish organisations in the Netherlands to forward emails and social media posts which insult Erdogan or Turkey. The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said he would ask Ankara to clarify the call, saying it was not clear what the Turkish government aimed to achieve.
The Turkish consulate for its part said the note was sent by a consular official who used an "unfortunate choice of words" that was misinterpreted.
What really happened is that having been appeased by German's Angela Merkel, who inexplicable gave green light for authorities to begin criminal proceedings against popular comic Jan Böhmermann for performing a satirical poem about Erdogan (in the process unleashing a political firestorm within Germany), Turkey's president now feels even more empowered and is testing just how far he can stretch his political domination over Europe, for one simple reason: as noted above he has all the leverage - Erdogan can unleash political havoc on Europe if he releases half a million refugees into the continent; one million and there will be political riots everywhere.
And now Erdogan knows he has Europe under his thumb.
We wonder if Europe will even dare to address the arrest of Umar, although we assume it will be quickly swept up under the rug. We also wonder what the reaction of the "developed" world would be in a person such as Vladimir Putin had arrested a Dutch journalist in Russia for sending an offensive tweet.
Meanwhile, trials in Turkey for insulting Erdo?an have multiplied since his election to the presidency in August 2014, with nearly 2,000 such cases currently open.