Crackdown on Turkish opposition accelerates: Sign of a snap election?

Enis Berberoglu, a member of the parliament from Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), speaks during a news conference in Ankara, Turkey, June 4, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 06 June 2020

Crackdown on Turkish opposition accelerates: Sign of a snap election?

  • Opposition leaders chant slogans calling the ruling government fascist and ‘putschist’

ISTANBUL: Three opposition MPs in Turkey were expelled from office on Thursday night and detained on espionage and terrorism charges in a move many see as being designed to weaken opposition parties ahead of a likely snap election.

Enis Berberoglu, from the main opposition Republican People’s party (CHP), and Leyla Guven and Musa Farisiogullari from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were all expelled, thus losing their parliamentary immunity. Berberoglu was arrested at his home in Istanbul during the night, while the two HDP MPs were arrested in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir.

Opposition MPs reportedly chanted slogans calling the ruling government fascist, “putschist,” and “the enemy of democracy.”

“This is yet another sign that the Islamist-nationalist coalition ruling President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s presidency will harden its authoritarianism as it continues to lose democratic legitimacy,” Murat Somer, a political scientist from Koc University in Istanbul, told Arab News. “It tries to kill three birds with one stone.”

CHP MP Berberoglu, a journalist, was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison in 2018 for providing another journalist with footage that appeared to show that the National Intelligence Agency was providing arms to Syrian rebels in 2014. His sentence was on hold because of his parliamentary immunity.

The HDP parliamentarians have been charged with “membership of a terrorist organization” because of their alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Earlier this week, the HDP asked for an official probe into the cost of Turkey’s involvement in the Libyan conflict and urged the government to focus on dealing with domestic issues.

The government’s increasing crackdown on opposition parties is a result of its waning power domestically — where it faces an unprecedented economic crisis and rising unemployment — Somer and others suggest.

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Enis Berberoglu, from the main opposition Republican People’s party (CHP), and Leyla Guven and Musa Farisogullari from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were all expelled, thus losing their parliamentary immunity.

According to Somer, the latest arrests are not only an attempt to restrict democratic opposition by criminalizing it but also to drive a wedge between pro-Kurdish opposition parties and the rest. They are also a warning to potential dissidents inside the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“All this is yet another step in the ongoing struggle between those who want to consolidate an authoritarian presidential system and a still-divided yet dynamic opposition (aiming) to revive democracy,” he said.

The crackdown on the HDP is expected to push the pro-Kurdish party to adopt a more radical standpoint that could make any electoral alliance difficult to sell to CHP voters.

Alpay Antmen, an attorney and a CHP MP, said the arrests are intended to shift people’s focus away from Turkey’s economic turmoil and the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the main opposition party were about to launch a campaign across 19 of Turkey’s hardest-hit cities to listen to the views of local citizens.

“The ruling government tries to restrict the opposition parties’ efforts to reach out to the citizens and to help them recover (financially). But whatever they do, it gives us further enthusiasm for our nationwide projects,” Antmen told Arab News.

Director of Human Rights Watch Turkey Emma Sinclair-Webb also criticized the move, describing it as “another sign of the relentless assault on elected opposition parties,” and added that the three lawmakers had been subjected to “politically motivated trials in which legal activities were criminalized.”


Palestinians slam Pompeo over pro-settlement efforts

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, walks with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman as he prepares to board a plane at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Pompeo is en route to the United Arab Emirates. (AP)
Updated 24 November 2020

Palestinians slam Pompeo over pro-settlement efforts

  • US actions ‘will not change international consensus,’ says former UN envoy

AMMAN: Palestinian officials have downplayed the effectiveness of a statement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his recent visit to Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The statement included a move to allow products made in the occupied territories to be labeled “Made in Israel,” a clear contradiction to recent UN Security Council resolutions and efforts by the EU to reject such labeling.

Nasser Al-Kiddwa, former Palestinian envoy to the UN, told Arab News that the US efforts are “dangerous,” despite being ineffective.

“This is a dangerous move even though it will not have much of an effect and is reversible,” he said.

In harsh comments, Al-Kiddwa said that, while President Donald Trump’s administration is keen to help Israelis and settlers, the country’s efforts constitute helping Israel “commit a war crime.”

“While the Trump team wants to support settlements and settlers, their action makes the US an accomplice in a war crime,” he said.

Al-Kiddwa said the Pompeo statement violates UN Council Resolution 2334, which calls for differentiating between the West Bank and Israel. He said it was also a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Jamal Dajani, a lecturer at San Francisco State university, said the Trump administration is not “recognizing the reality on the ground,” but rather creating its own fictitious reality by implementing Benjamin Netanyahu’s settler-colonial vision.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement violates UN Council Resolution 2334, which calls for differentiating between the West Bank and Israel.

Nasser Al-Kiddwa, Former Palestinian envoy to UN

Dajani, who previously served as director of strategic communications and media in the Palestinian prime minister’s office, said the “true reality on the ground” is that Area C in the West Bank is an internationally recognized occupied territory. He added that the presence of Israeli colonial settlements in the region is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

Al-Kiddwa, who is a member of the Fatah Central Committee, told Arab News that the US action will not alter the international consensus. “This is a biased administration that does not care about international law or the future of the region.”

He called on the newly elected administration in the US to reverse the decision.

“As a world citizen, I believe that the new administration must reverse all the decisions that were carried out without coordination with the US Congress, which are in clear violation of the way things are carried out,” he said.

Wadie Abunassar, a Haifa-based political analyst and the director of the International Centre for Consultations, told Arab News that the Trump administration has ignored the more than 7 million Palestinians to the west of the Jordan River.

“This administration repeatedly damaged US chances to be perceived as an honest broker by the vast majority of Middle East residents. The US would do well by respecting international law and encouraging Israel to do so.”

Senior Palestinian officials contacted by Arab News said that the gifts being bestowed on the Netanyahu government will not change anything on the ground.

“Trump and Pompeo are playing in lost time and their actions will not change anything regarding the occupied territories.”