The Turkish Election: A Perspective from Syria

The Turkish Election: A Perspective from Syria

An analysis of the Turkish election by a journalist living in Northern Syria.

Date:

Some of you may remember a number of months ago I published an interview with a journalist in Rojava, Kurdish controlled Syria, known as Woman Life Freedom (Telegram: https://t.me/womanlifefreedom , Instagram: https://instagram.com/woman_life_freedom?igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA== ). She, and the people she works with, were able to write a longform analysis of the Turkish election that just took place a few days ago, which not only gives us a unique perspective on the election, but also a look at its consequences both for Turkey and the region. I agreed to post the article here, in order to share with you a perspective of those directly affected by Erdogan’s victory. As always, it would be greatly appreciated by both of us if you were to follow both her telegram as well as her instagram. Her telegram featured continual updates of both elections, and features lots of unique content from the region you wont find anywheres else.

The article is in full below, written by WomanLifeFreedom.

 


 

Victory Of Democracy?

Permanent Turkish President Erdogan won the elections again. Someone’s expectations from the election results came true, and someone is still overcoming the shock.

Great Expectations

People were waiting for the second round of the presidential elections in Turkey even more than the first, not only in Turkey itself, but also in all countries that depend on Turkey in one way or another. In Russia, they were outraged by the statements of Erdogan’s opponent in the elections, Kilicdaroglu, who accused Russia of interfering in the elections. Russia’s dependence on Turkey has become much more tangible since the start of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine: Turkey helps Russia avoid the impact of Western sanctions and allows the Putin regime to continue diplomacy, for example, on a grain deal. Therefore, the Russian authorities, of course, gave their preference to Erdogan.

The Caucasus region, especially Azerbaijan, also closely followed the developments in the Turkish neighbor. The Azerbaijani regime, supported by Turkey in the Second Karabakh War and having a permanent leader Aliyev, was also interested in continuing Erdogan’s rule.

The countries most affected by the foreign policy pursued by Erdogan and his government for the past 20 years were interested in the change of power in Turkey. In Armenia, people also hoped for a change in Turkey’s policy. Armenia, during the Second Karabakh War, could not withstand the Turkish Bayraktars and Azerbaijani officers trained by the Turkish army.

People were looking forward to the results of the Turkish elections in Iraq, and more precisely in South Kurdistan, because Turkey regularly conducts military operations against the PKK, while killing civilians. The commanders-in-chief of the PKK have stated that these elections are a chance for democratic change in Turkey. Any change in Turkey promised a respite for the fighting guerrillas, who have repeatedly claimed that Turkey was using banned weapons.

All united against Erdogan

In Rojava (northeastern Syria) on election day in Turkey, more SDF fighters appeared on the streets of cities, and the residents themselves spoke among themselves about the need to be prepared for anything. After all, any instability in Turkey will definitely affect the entire region. On May 28, many residents in the cities of Qamishlo, Kobane, Derik went to visit each other to watch the broadcast of the vote count on TV.

Agit invited friends and neighbors to visit and Agit (name changed for the sake of anonymity) hails from the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in Turkey, but lives in northeastern Syria. He was active in the protests at Gezi Park on Taksim Square. After ISIS attacked the city of Kobane in northeastern Syria, he participated in a protest on the Turkish-Syrian border. At that protest, young people from Turkey protested against rumors about Turkey’s assistance to ISIS while ISIS fighters massacred the population of Kobane. The protesting youth broke through the Turkish army cordon guarding the border, and many young people crossed the border and joined the YPG to fight against ISIS. One of them was Agit.

“This time Erdogan will lose,” said Agit. “All the opinion polls say this. But more importantly, all my friends and relatives in Turkey say that no one wants Erdogan anymore. Even some of my family members, former supporters of Erdogan, can’t stand him, because he destroyed the economy.”

Disillusioned Supporters

Indeed, even the far right this time around seemed to oppose Erdogan’s victory. Gunesh is from Istanbul. But she calls herself a Kemalist and proudly declares her support for the “Grey Wolves” (an ultra-nationalist group recognized as a terrorist group in several countries). She also asked not to indicate her real name, although, according to her, she herself does not participate in any opposition activities, but she still has fears for expressing her opinion: “Erdogan gave the country to jihadist fanatics and Arabs, how do we know whatever they can think of. The fate of my country and the entire Turkish world depends on a handful of Arabs that Erdogan keeps in the country as if Turkey is his father’s home.”

Many Syrians living in Turkey are grateful to Erdogan. In Turkey, there is no constant war, embargo and the standard of living is still better than in Syria. In addition, Turkish authorities issue Turkish passports to Syrian refugees. Kilicdaroglu promised to expel all Syrian refugees, trying to win over citizens like Gunesh.

Previously, Gunesh and her entire family voted for Erdogan, but the refugee problem and the collapsed Turkish economy made their family in Erdogan doubt. On the example of ideological opponents Gunesh and Agit, the opposition in Turkey also united. And the ultra-right, and the left, and the Kemalists, and the pro-Kurdish party, had one goal – the overthrow of Erdogan. For the first time in history, parties with opposing political views were able to nominate their own candidate, Kilicdaroglu.

Preparing for the elections

Before the first round of elections, opposition-minded citizens seemed to be deeply depressed, but they hoped for a second round of elections. Sinan Ogan, the third candidate in the first round of presidential elections, whose party consists mainly of those who have become disillusioned with Erdogan, would definitely support opposition candidate Kilicdaroglu. But the opposition’s expectations were not justified. Erdogan’s opponents hoped that in the second round of the presidential elections, the opposition would draw conclusions, be even more wary of falsifications and definitely win.

After the failed coup in Turkey in 2016, organized by the FETO organization, including the right wing in Turkey, the only hope for a change in power of Erdogan, who has been ruling for 20 years, was elections. However, the Turkish authorities said that the change of power in these elections would be regarded as a “coup”.

It would seem that until recently Turkey was a candidate for EU membership. But the repression in Turkey has escalated to the point that hundreds of thousands of people have been imprisoned, and hundreds of thousands have been detained, subjected to regular interrogation and lost their jobs. Right before the first round of the presidential elections in Turkey, active arrests of everyone who still somehow carried out any opposition activity began. Hundreds of people have been detained in Turkey since April of this year on charges of “links to a terrorist organization.” At the same time, a huge number of detainees were journalists, human rights activists, lawyers and those who could somehow report on electoral fraud or voting violations.

Twitter, until recently the opposition’s most important social network for sharing information and coordinating protests, has also come under censorship. But earlier, the Turkish authorities themselves blocked Twitter and the people of Turkey have already learned to bypass the blocking of Twitter and other social networks, but this time the leadership of Twitter went to meet Turkey and introduced censorship on Twitter specifically for Turkey. Right before the election, Elon Musk announced an agreement with the Turkish authorities to block some “tweets”.

“It seems to me that if something goes wrong, a civil war will start,” Gunesh wrote to me with concern in a telegram.

War again

The intrigue remained until the last moment, and Erdogan’s victory came as a shock. Even before the announcement of the final results, Agit, who was watching a live broadcast with the counting of votes among his comrades, said: “Another five years of dictatorship… Can you imagine this? Another five years of war…”

Relatives from Turkey called him on the phone: someone was crying, someone was cursing. Agit’s friends, who were sitting nearby, sat with downcast faces. “War again,” said the old man, turning the rosary in his hand.

In Istanbul at that time, Erdogan’s supporters rejoiced: cars on the streets honked, someone even shot into the air. At that time, Turkish proxies from the Tahrir Al-Sham and other groups, the former Al Qaeda and ISIS, also shot in the air in the territories of Syria occupied by Turkey. According to some reports, 25 people were injured and killed as a result of the Turkish proxies’ display of joy.

Victory of Democracy

In the past, a participant in protests in Turkey and fights with the Turkish police, Agit frustratedly scrolled through the news feed, on the phone: “No protests against Erdogan’s victory, even in Kurdish cities.”

“Victory of democracy” – this is how Erdogan described his victory in these elections in Turkey. After the victory, Erdogan received a phone call from world leaders. Biden tweeted congratulations to Erdogan and expressed hope for continued cooperation in NATO. I called and warmly congratulated Erdogan and Putin. Russia looks forward to continuing quadripartite meetings with Syria, Iran and Turkey on the issue of reconciliation with the Syrian regime.

After Erdogan’s victory, the Turkish lira has fallen further and now the dollar is worth 22 Turkish lira. “Maybe we’ll just starve to death,” Gunesh says when I ask her about a possible future in Turkey. But Gunesh does not see her future and this year she will emigrate to Germany. When asked why she leaves her homeland, Gunesh says: “Nothing will change, it will only get worse.”

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.
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