Capitol Hill rioters and Erdoğan’s foot soldiers ‘very much the same’ - analyst

The storming of the U.S. Capitol building earlier this month by supporters of out-going President Donald Trump was a jolt the country’s democracy and damaged its reputation across the world.

Ahval spoke to Dr. Aykan Erdemir, senior director of the Turkey Programme at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies in Washington D.C. about what parallels could be found with the Washington incident and the Turkish experience, and what both countries needed to do to shore up their democratic institutions.  

There are worrying similarities between political polarisation in Turkey and the United States, particularly the role of disinformation and conspiracy theories, according to Erdemir.

This includes the use of anti-Semitic rhetoric, some of the worst examples of which are peddled by pro- government columnists in Turkey, Erdemir said.  

“When it comes to Holocaust denial or conspiracies about a Jewish cabal ruling the world, the rioters on Capitol Hill and Erdoğan’s foot shoulders are very much the same,” the analyst noted.

Although they may seem like unlikely allies given the Islamophobia of Trump and his supporters, Erdemir said “there is a strong sentiment of solidarity between Turkey’s ruling bloc and the far-right populists in the United States.

We should watch with concern the way Erdoğan’s political movement in Turkey echoes these dark elements on the fringe right of the Republican Party.”

But Erdemir said it was important to highlight the way the Unites States’ democratic institutions demonstrated their resilience to Trump’s attempts to overturn the election.

“There were 62 legal challenges about the election result pushed by the Trump team. Sixty-one of these were rejected outright, many of them by judges appointed by Republican administrations, including quite a number who were appointed by Trump himself,” Erdemir said.

This contrasts with the experience of Turkey, where courts have repeatedly refused to challenge Erdoğan over issues including the release of imprisoned philanthropist Osman Kavala and Kurdish political leader Selahattin Demirtaş, despite repeated rulings to do so by the European Court of Human Rights.

“The entire (Turkish) law enforcement system have been accomplices in the framing and imprisonment of innocent individuals on completely fabricated allegations,” according to Erdermir.

Asked about how a new U.S. administration under president-elect Joe Biden could focus on Human Rights advocacy, particularly in Turkey, Erdemir emphasised the importance of a return to American global leadership.

“It’s very important for the U.S. government to signally clearly that Human Rights are a core U.S. concern”.

Erdemir rejected any dichotomy between this agenda and the emphasis on religious freedom in the Trump era.

“Pluralism is one big package. You can’t compartmentalise it. You can’t have Human rights if you leave out freedom of religion or belief, but this includes the right not to believe,’’ he said.

Biden should “combine a robust advocacy for democracy, pluralism, gender rights, freedom of religion or belief, and struggle against all sorts of hate and prejudice,” Erdemir added.   

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