Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defiantly pledged to continue his crackdown of dissidents at a Saturday rally celebrating one year since a failed coup attempt.
Erdogan pledged to continue his efforts against opposition elements telling the Saturday assembled crowd that “we will rip off the heads of those traitors,” adding “be sure that none of the traitors who betrayed this country will remain unpunished.”
Erdogan has used the failed coup attempt as a pretext at clamping down on any legitimate opposition. Weeks after the coup, he fired thousands of educators, restricted travel, imprisoned thousands of soldiers, and purged several government institutions. His efforts culminated in August after the successful passage of a referendum establishing a new presidential office which can issue unilateral decrees, make judicial appointments, and perform other tasks with limited oversight.
Erdogan’s coup response and consolidation of power will have long lasting effects on the U.S. campaign to defeat the Islamic State. Turkey shares a border with Syria, and Erdogan’s government has expressed deep objections to the U.S. plan to retake ISIS’s capital. The U.S. is supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces against ISIS, a coalition of fighting groups largely composed of Kurdish elements. Turkey regards many of these Kurdish groups as existential threats to its own existence and as much of a terror threat as ISIS.
Erdogan also raised the possibility of bringing back the death penalty at the Saturday rally, which has major implications for the direction the country is headed. Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004 with hopes of continuing efforts to gain entry into the EU. Erdogan conversely has adopted a somewhat confrontational attitude towards European countries, which are his fellow NATO allies.
Erdogan’s spat with Europe has already caused German troops to re-locate from a key anti-ISIS NATO base after German lawmakers were prohibited from the base for inspection purposes.
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