Erdoğan’s Turkey and the Problem of the 30 Million

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June 4, 2020


by Selim Koru

[Selim Koru is an analyst at the Economic Policy Research Foundation
of Turkey (TEPAV) and a writing fellow at the Foreign Policy Research
Institute (FPRI).]


On July 15, 2017, Turkey marked the first anniversary of the averted
coup attempt. Erdoğan addressed a huge crowd of supporters, recounting
the events that were already becoming a foundational legend for his
new political regime. “When the putschist traitors attacked on the
night of July 15th, we gave 250 of our heroes to the soil,” Erdoğan
said, referring to those who were killed that night. “Do you know what
we got in return? In return, we saved the future, the prospects of a
Turkey of 50 million.”

This was extremely odd. Turkey had a population of slightly more than
80 million at the time. Everyone in the country knew this, and
referring to “the 80 million” was a staple of Turkey’s political
vocabulary, as in “the goal scored by the national team uplifted the
hearts of the 80 million,” or “we are working hard to bring quality
healthcare to the 80 million.” Nobody ever got the number wrong, least
of all Erdoğan, who uttered it almost on a daily basis.

When members of the opposition brought up the issue in parliament, an
MP from the president’s Justice and Development (AK) Party claimed it
had been a casual utterance, and that there was no point in reading
much more into it.

Still, the opposition was alarmed and the government evasive,
precisely because it wasn’t hard for anyone to guess at the thought
process behind the number. In the weeks and months after the coup
attempt, Ankara bureaucrats and politicians gathering for late-night
sessions at coffee houses were haunted by one question: What if the
coup had succeeded? Like most Turks, they took it as given that
foreign forces — namely the United States — were behind the coup, so
this wasn’t a question of a domestic power struggle, but a foreign
takeover. Surely, they thought, there would have been civil war. And
in this civil war raging across their collective imagination, parts of
the country were cast as patriotic resistance fighters, and other
parts as foreign collaborators. You could feel people looking at you,
casting you for a role in the theatre of their mind. Inevitably, this
would scale up to some kind of demographic calculus.

Half of the population that consistently support the president could
be considered loyal, but that only represents 40 million people. What
made Erdoğan’s number of 50 million interesting was that it hinted at
something unspoken. He seems to have cast his eye across the
opposition bloc and seen something he liked. Roughly 10 million of
them, he must have thought, would have supported him against the
foreign enemy. They may not be voting for him, but they were patriots,
and would do the right thing. The remaining 30 million citizens of the
Republic of Turkey would not only have defected, they would presumably
have subjugated the other 50 million, the true Volk, if the coup had
succeeded. July 15, Turkey’s new national holiday, didn’t just mark a
victory over foreign powers, but over these people as well.

The Government’s Approach

Today, the problem of the 30 million is deeply entrenched. Erdoğan’s
brand is waning in the cities, the coasts, and among young people.
Neither the new Erdoğan-shaped presidential system, nor his
expansionist foreign policy are popular in these parts. Even before
the COVID-19 pandemic, chronic unemployment and inflation extinguished
any hope of him bouncing back in the polls. Despite his total control
over the state, mainstream media, and major capital groups, the
president is unlikely to ever get much more than half of the popular
vote.

If he wanted to, Erdoğan could cut the 30 million out of political
life. He could shut down their political parties, purge them from the
bureaucracy, and tighten policing of free media and the internet. In
such a future, there would still be some nominal opposition parties,
but Erdoğan would effectively monopolize the political sphere. Any
real dissent would be treason. Liberals in Europe and the United
States would condemn this on principle, but investors would probably
stay in Turkey, and after some turbulence, things would go ahead in
more or less the same manner. So far, the government seems to believe
that this approach wouldn’t solve its problem. Depriving “disloyal”
citizens of their status wouldn’t make them go away, and it certainly
wouldn’t weaken their position morally.

The Erdoğan government now faced a question that all successful
populist regimes must solve: What to do with the minority? They
certainly can’t be granted free and fair elections, lest they attain
the means to exact revenge. Nor can they be deprived of all their
rights of representation, lest they be driven to revolt or treason. So
how does a very slim majority of a country suppress the other half
indefinitely? How does it rest easy, knowing that its hegemony is
locked in?

It would be immensely convenient for the government if the 30 million
could simply change. They wouldn’t have to vote for Erdoğan, but they
would need to accept what he would consider common decency: to have
faith in the inherent purity of their nation, and trust in the state,
as embodied by Erdoğan. In the government’s parlance, they would need
to become “local and national.” In a speech delivered in December
2019, Erdoğan said: “In this country, we have made local and national
versions of everything, only the main opposition, have we not been
able to make in this way,” eliciting laughter from the front row of
VIPs. “God willing,” he continued, “with our people, we will achieve
that as well.”

He was more serious than he let on.

The Government’s Strategy

In order to lay out the government’s strategy, I will place the main
components of the opposition on a gradient of “local and national”
sentiment. Moving from right to left, the first, and closest to the
government, are small groups of opposition nationalists of various
stripes: The aging Kemalists, pan-Turkic nationalists, and Islamists
together make up the group of roughly 10 million that Erdoğan thought
would support his own voter base on the night of July 15. To their
left is a heterodox group I’ll call the “center opposition.” These are
lapsed nationalists, who have been led astray by the ‘devils’ of
globalism. They are mostly urban, disproportionately middle class, and
well represented in the arts and popular culture. They are also
politically the most malleable part of Turkey. On the far end of the
gradient are the leftists and adherents of the Kurdish movements — the
most intractable opposition to the government. It is these latter two
clusters who make up the 30 million.

The Erdoğan government surely knows that an attempt to “nationalize”
all of the 30 million would be unrealistic. Rather, it seeks to
separate the leftists and Kurds among them and brand them as
terrorists, then turn around and securely pull the center opposition
into the nationalist opposition.

To achieve this aim, the government first needs to contain the spread
of the left. Most in the opposition reject Erdoğan because they oppose
one-man rule or Islamist government. The left, however, puts up
genuine systemic resistance: They reject the idea that the Turkish
nation is pure and infallible. Like leftists elsewhere, they
deconstruct official history, focusing on massacres of minorities and
exploitation of the working classes. There is also an inextricable tie
to the Kurdish movement, which in turn is linked to the Kurdistan
Workers’ Party (PKK) — an insurgency that has been waging war on the
Turkish state for over four decades. The connection between the
non-Kurdish left and the Kurdish movement is complicated and has gone
through various stages in the recent past. For the Turkish right,
there is little difference between leftist subversion and Kurdish
insurrection. “I joined the police to beat up Communists” a
crescent-mustached officer once told me, and he was talking about
arresting Kurdish protesters.

Today, the left end of the spectrum is represented in parliament under
the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is built on the Kurdish
movement but also serves as a stronghold of the non-Kurdish left. This
combination is by no means unpopular. From its voter base of 6 percent
in 2011(under independent candidates, before the HDP’s founding) to 13
percent in June 2015, the HDP was growing on the wings of its
charismatic co-chairman Selahattin Demirtas. Many in the urban middle
class, who are fairly indifferent about Kurdish rights, wanted to see
Demirtas grow the HDP into a Turkish-Kurdish version of the European
Greens. The idea at the time was to also expand into a grand
center-left coalition that would prevent Erdoğan from establishing his
hyper-centralized presidential system. Their momentum was cut short
when months after the coup attempt, in December 2016, the government
detained Demirtas on charges of terrorism and began a ruthless
crackdown on the HDP’s activities that has since only gained in
intensity.

Today, as the Greens are building a progressive front across Europe,
the HDP is at its breaking point. Most of its leaders are in jail, and
its staff is demoralized, overworked, and almost unemployable anywhere
else. There is growing tension between the leftist-Turkish and Kurdish
wings. All this is a point of pride for the government. If it hadn’t
intervened, there was a serious danger that a well-organized and
well-staffed HDP would have continued pulling the entire opposition
bloc to the left.

The second part of the government’s strategy is to keep the left —
crippled and branded as terrorists — within the political system.
While Turkey’s politics is polarized between the government and the
opposition, this creates a second polarization, this time within the
opposition camp. It is this second polarity where the vast majority of
political discourse takes place. From the perspective of a
nationalistic system of valuation, in which being “local and national”
reigns supreme, this is a fatal flaw. On the one hand, the various
factions of the opposition can’t win a national vote unless they
partner with the HDP to form a 50 percent bloc against Erdoğan. On the
other, the nationalists within the opposition cannot be seen working
with the “terrorists” of the pro-Kurdish left.

The political theorist Carl Schmitt believed that politics can be
boiled down to the distinction between friends and enemies, and that
any attempt to separate politics from warlike enmity would fail. This
helps explain why the “terrorist-patriot” polarity within the
opposition is such a structural advantage for Erdoğan. Think of the
typical conservative, nationalistic voter on election day, trying to
decide between Erdogan’s block and the opposition nationalists: with
Erdoğan, he gets friendship with fellow nationalists (albeit of
different hues of conservatism) and enmity towards Kurdish separatists
and ‘self-hating,’ ‘Godless’ Turks. With opposition nationalists, he
is in tacit league with said Kurds and atheists against Erdoğan, who
for all his faults, does not have a foreign bone in his body. For this
person, supporting Erdoğan is emotionally efficient and robust. When
sitting with friends at the local coffee shop or tuning in to social
media, his mind is crystal clear about whom to praise and whom to
attack. If he supports an opposition nationalist, whoever, he is
constantly performing an emotional balancing act. He is tacitly allied
with people he considers subversive against a government he believes
is corrupt. This is an uncomfortable position to be in. If the
country’s mood becomes more bellicose (during military engagements,
for example) the subversion of his allies may become less tolerable
than the corruption of the government, and he may want to switch
sides. This is why there are always rumors about the opposition
nationalist IYI Party’s switching over to Erdoğan’s coalition,
especially in times of armed conflict with the PKK or its affiliates.

Still, the People’s Republican Party (CHP), Turkey’s founding and
currently main opposition party, has tried to contain this
“patriot-terrorist” polarity. Its umbrella candidates for the
presidency, ranging from the soporific Ekmeleddin Ihsanoğlu in 2014,
to the firebrand Muharrem Ince in 2018, have failed. In the 2019
municipal elections, however, the CHP’s mayoral candidates did well,
uniting the Kemalist-nationalist camp, Islamists, liberal
cosmopolitans, as well as leftists and even some sympathizers of the
Kurdish movement. These candidates won against Erdoğan’s men in all
major cities, including Ankara and (in a repeat election) Istanbul.
This was the first, and so far only, time Erdoğan’s containment of the
left had been breached. Generally, however, Erdoğan’s strategy of
keeping the left within the political sphere has allowed him to
position himself and his allies as the only pure nationalists in the
country.

Having saved the opposition from the clutches of leftists and ensured
division within it, the Erdoğan government finally seeks to pull the
entire bloc to the right. This means focusing on liberal-minded
urbanites whose nationalism has lapsed, and rekindling their faith in
the national mythos. This is the most challenging aspect of its
effort, and where it has done most poorly.

The most obvious method the Erdoğan government pursued to this end has
been its restructuring of the media. For the past few years, the
government has been taking over media channels that centrist voters
traditionally follow, then gradually shifting their tone to favor the
government. The Dogan Media Group, owner of Hurriyet (Turkey’s former
newspaper of record) and CNN Turk (a 24-hour TV news channel) used to
cater to a secular, urban, and increasingly progressive audience. The
group’s main audience overlapped with the centrist-opposition CHP’s
voter base, whose older members are secularist-nationalists and
younger members (often their children) are leftist-progressives. In
March 2018, the media group was sold to an Erdoğan-friendly
conglomerate, which fired many of its veteran journalists and changed
editorial guidelines. The result has been a desensitized, less
colorful version of the jingoist carnival running across Erdoğan’s
formal channels. CNN Turk, especially, became a tool for the
government to enter the living rooms of CHP voters and tell them that
they were voting for terrorist collaborators. So insidious were these
attacks that the CHP had to ban its members from getting on the
channel, and call upon its electorate to boycott it.

The Recent Impact of the Strategy

There are times when the government’s efforts to subsume the 30
million appear complete. When Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring,
taking swathes of Syria from the Syrian affiliate of the PKK, Kurdish
militants reportedly shelled parts of southern Turkey. In an address
delivered soon afterwards,  Erdoğan said “We have 18 martyrs and close
to 200 wounded. In our country, we have the terror group’s so-called
political organism. Aside from that, our nation is now in a state of
Yekvücut.” The term is a favorite of the president. It is a
combination of the Farsi term “Yek” meaning “single” and the Arabic
word “vücut” meaning “existence,” or in the Turkish use, “body.”
Erdoğan was thinking of the nation as a single biological organism,
with the leftists and the Kurdish movement as foreign bodies. He was
clearly satisfied with how the various factions of the opposition in
parliament dealt with the motion to launch the operation. The
nationalist opposition IYI Party eagerly voted for it, while the HDP
voted against it, both of which was expected. What gave Erdoğan cause
for celebration is that the centrist-opposition CHP had been bullied
into voting for the cross-border operation as well. “Though our
insides are burning, we will say ‘yes’ to the resolution so that our
soldiers will not get so much as a bloody nose,” its leader, Kemal
Kılıçdaroğlu had said. When pushed to make a choice between what are
essentially its nationalist and universalist poles, the CHP could be
relied on to opt for the latter. This was exactly the outcome
Erdoğan’s political strategy had been aiming for. Years of hard work
were paying off.

In the state of Yekvücut, there were three political classes in
Turkey. The first was Erdoğan’s ruling class, who made the
foundational decision of when, and against whom, to go to war. The
second was a nominal opposition that got dragged along, and the third
was a small, systemic opposition, which identified with the enemy
across the border, and was vilified as its representative within. Such
hierarchies, it seems, are inevitable. It is only with the presence of
the third group that the second group does not have to suffer the
indignity of being the lowest class. Meanwhile, the ruling class can
rest easy knowing that nationalist politics has overpowered
universalist notions. The difference between legitimate opposition and
treason collapses, and the problem of the 30 million dissolves into
thin air.

At first glance, the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be a prime
opportunity for practicing the state of Yekvücut. It requires historic
levels of social and economic mobilization and invites international
comparison that can turn to competition. In a speech following a
weekly cabinet meeting in April, Erdoğan said “we can only overcome
this outbreak if all 83 million of us move together.” Using the
up-to-date census figure, he called on citizens to “embrace our
oneness, our togetherness, our brotherhood.” With the combination of
swift action and luck, Turkey’s containment efforts have indeed been
more successful than those of most European countries and the United
States. The intensive care units are well-staffed and equipped, and
public compliance with the rules is robust. Erdoğan’s media was
overjoyed in the early days of the pandemic, hailing the event a
turning point in history that would mark the collapse of Western
predominance and establish Turkey as a preeminent power. Surely, this
was a time for the 30 million to rejoice in “Team Turkey’s” success.

They didn’t. The opposition media — largely relegated to the internet
— was reporting on the plight of the working class and the brewing
economic crisis. Like free media across the West, they also questioned
the quality and veracity of their government’s COVID-19 data. In a
speech delivered in May, Erdoğan was unusually angry. He had clearly
expected a Yekvücut moment and was struggling to understand why it
hadn’t come about. His strategy to create a “local and national”
opposition wasn’t working, and the frustration of it seemed to hit him
head on. “I want to warn once again the media and other
representatives who are in league with the CHP’s leaders,” he said,
before launching into what was — even for him — an unusually
vituperative attack: “You are not national, and your localness is in
question,” he said, “you have always sided with whoever was
treacherous [bozguncu], whoever was perverted, whoever was depraved”
adding, “you are like the creatures in mythology that only feed on
enmity, hate, fear, confusion and pain.”

The fiction here was that these words were meant for a handful of
journalists and politicians, rather than dissenting citizens, the 30
million. The extent to which the president believed this wasn’t clear.
It also didn’t matter. It is in moments like these when Erdoğan’s
policy to patiently inculcate patriotism into the 30 million dissolves
into bitterness, and he lets fly:

    When there is an earthquake, you do your utmost to inflate the
numbers of those under the rubble. When there is an attack on our
economy, and people are thinking of their bread and their future, you
run after political profit. When there is a coup attempt, and our
nation plants itself in front of tanks, flags in hand, a takbir
[“Allahu Akbar”] on their tongue, you applaud the tanks on your
balconies, you slurp coffee in front of your televisions. When we
stage operations to end harassment on our border, you rise up against
us in defense of blood-stained terrorists.

The examples the president lists are all Yekvücut moments, and the 30
million are always there to prevent him from consummating them. The
idea is that these people are worse than dead weight, that they
actively work to towards Turkey’s demise. The absurd accusations of
fraud and coup-abetting aside, there is something to the idea that the
opposition wants things to get worse. The Erdoğan government’s
consolidation over the past decade has been so suffocating for
opposition voters that many do look for deliverance in economic or
natural disaster. “I just want Tayyip [Erdoğan] to get a thrashing, I
don’t care at all how it happens or who does it,” one such voter told
me not long ago. Just as Erdoğan and his supporters chase the moment
that will finally subsume the 30 million, they chase the moment that
this regime will come crashing down.

It is difficult to discern which side is winning overall. On the one
hand, the opposition is becoming more nationalist, and is willing to
grant Erdoğan the legitimacy he seeks. Opposition leaders on the
nationalist end will often appeal to Erdoğan to include them in the
decision-making processes, and their media will support the government
in critical issues, especially when it comes to foreign policy. On the
other hand, there is an increasingly vociferous leftist movement. The
Erdoğan government may have cut short the HDP’s rise, but it hasn’t
been able to prevent leftist ideas from spreading. The CHP’s youth
wings today are highly class-conscious and hostile to militant
nationalism. Figures like the CHP’s Istanbul provincial head Canan
Kaftancıoğlu , who campaign on a mix of feminism, workers’ rights, and
anti-fascist slogans, are gaining a national following. The
polarization within the opposition is likely deepening, with part of
the 30 million become more “national,” while another part is becoming
more leftist. This means that the great mass of right-wing sentiment
is growing, but so is the left-wing minority. The “problem,” in the
government’s view, may no longer be 30 million strong, but it is more
acute, and perhaps more vexing, than before.

It is in this context that in the past few months, the ruling class
has been circling back to the image of the military coup. The most
unusual references can spark hysteria on this point. In January, two
sentences in the introductory pages of a report entitled Turkey’s
Nationalist Course by the American RAND corporation vaguely reflected
on the prospect of a coup. This triggered weeks of speculation and
chest-thumping in government circles, to the point where nobody knew
the origins of the rumor. Most people in government circles probably
didn’t feel like it was serious, but they welcomed the opportunity to
display their loyalty to the Erdoğan government. This has reached a
point at which prominent opposition politicians have to be careful
about slight ambiguities in their speech, lest they be hit with
avalanches of coup delirium. In April, when the CHP’s Canan
Kaftancıoğlu said on a small opposition TV channel that she foresaw a
change in government “in an early election, or in any other way,” and
that the regime the Erdoğan government had built would also end. These
are common talking points across the opposition, which has been trying
to goad the government into snap elections and speaks openly about its
opposition to Erdoğan’s presidential system. Yet Kaftancıoğlu is not
just any politician, but someone who is carrying leftist irreverence
into centrist politics. Her comments sparked waves of coup hysteria,
as well as a large fine.

The furor didn’t revolve around conspiracy theories per se; few
brought up clandestine networks that would actually execute a coup,
nor made even perfunctory attempts at connecting Kaftancıoğlu to such
imaginary plots. The idea seems to have been that a leftist minority
would fail to contain their hate for the virtuous many, and launch a
rabid attack at them. Many found the idea convenient, since it would
also grant the nation the opportunity to rid itself of this group. The
AK Party’s Istanbul provincial head, for example, tweeted that those
attempting the last coup in 2016 had been “spilled into the Bosphorus”
and that Kaftancıoğlu “should know that the Bosphorus is cool this
season, and deep in the summer.” He probably didn’t think that
Kaftancıoğlu would personally block the continent-spanning bridge by
force, as putschists had tried in 2016, but the thought of it was
clearly exciting. Another flash of violent fantasy occurred on a
pro-government TV channel, where Sevda Noyan, a pundit, said: “[The
coup attempt of] July 15 is stuck in our throats. Wallahi [I swear to
God], we couldn’t do the things we wanted to do, we were caught
unaware.” But in the event of another coup, she would catch up:

    Our family would take about 50 people. [laughs] I mean, I should
say we are very well equipped in this regard, both materially and
spiritually [laughs] we – we are with our leader, and we would never
allow him to be taken. That is why they should watch themselves. There
are still 3-5 in our building compound. My list is ready.

Noyan was saying that her family was well armed (gun ownership has
soared since the 2016 coup attempt) and was eager to use lethal force
against people she suspects would be on the wrong side of the Erdoğan
government in a hypothetical coup. These kinds of statements are
fairly common within the core of the government’s supporters, but
still unusual enough for the wider public to cause a minor
controversy. When responding to public outrage, Noyan pointed out that
she merely echoed Interior Minister Soylu’s statements from a 2017
interview when he said, “We couldn’t do the things we actually wanted
to do on July 15. That is clear. I don’t know if they will give us
that opportunity, I mean if we ever face this sort of thing again, we
will have seized that opportunity, that much is clear.” The key word
here is opportunity. To Turkey’s governing class, the military coup of
their imagination is not a matter of defending against an armed force
trying to take over the government. Rather, it is a night of
free-for-all, in which politics is stripped down to its violent core,
and a majority at the height of its powers can finally put down the
enemy within: the haters, the doubters, the creatures of mythology.

There is reason to think that the present phase of Turkish politics,
which is based on the polarization within the opposition, is coming to
an end. The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified pressure on the already
beleaguered economy, and the government’s expansionist foreign policy
is making dramatic international confrontations more likely. In this
turbulent new environment, Erdoğan might give in to the temptation to
take a more activist approach towards the problem of the 30 million.
“Turkey will not only reach its 2023 goals [the centennial of the
Republic], it will also be rid of the representatives of this diseased
politics,” he said in May, hinting that he might cut the left out of
the political system entirely. If this should happen, politics would
be an uneven contest between Islamist, pan-Turkic, and secularist hues
of Turkish nationalism. Far off, in the back streets of the big cities
and in the Kurdish provinces, in second-hand bookshops and hidden
corners of the internet, there would be a progressive left, weathering
out what is surely going to be a violent storm.

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Erdoğan’s Turkey and the Problem of the 30 Million

https://urldefense.com/v3/__https://warontherocks.com/2020/06/erdogans-turkey-and-the-problem-of-the-30-million/__;!!LIr3w8kk_Xxm!-ohBmp6H3SrFXiTP4_A-kMoMr61iOZBQDhiSdPqARdJ3eBK8LEp2dUSJJRiPoQ$
 

June 4, 2020


by Selim Koru

[Selim Koru is an analyst at the Economic Policy Research Foundation
of Turkey (TEPAV) and a writing fellow at the Foreign Policy Research
Institute (FPRI).]


On July 15, 2017, Turkey marked the first anniversary of the averted
coup attempt. Erdoğan addressed a huge crowd of supporters, recounting
the events that were already becoming a foundational legend for his
new political regime. “When the putschist traitors attacked on the
night of July 15th, we gave 250 of our heroes to the soil,” Erdoğan
said, referring to those who were killed that night. “Do you know what
we got in return? In return, we saved the future, the prospects of a
Turkey of 50 million.”

This was extremely odd. Turkey had a population of slightly more than
80 million at the time. Everyone in the country knew this, and
referring to “the 80 million” was a staple of Turkey’s political
vocabulary, as in “the goal scored by the national team uplifted the
hearts of the 80 million,” or “we are working hard to bring quality
healthcare to the 80 million.” Nobody ever got the number wrong, least
of all Erdoğan, who uttered it almost on a daily basis.

When members of the opposition brought up the issue in parliament, an
MP from the president’s Justice and Development (AK) Party claimed it
had been a casual utterance, and that there was no point in reading
much more into it.

Still, the opposition was alarmed and the government evasive,
precisely because it wasn’t hard for anyone to guess at the thought
process behind the number. In the weeks and months after the coup
attempt, Ankara bureaucrats and politicians gathering for late-night
sessions at coffee houses were haunted by one question: What if the
coup had succeeded? Like most Turks, they took it as given that
foreign forces — namely the United States — were behind the coup, so
this wasn’t a question of a domestic power struggle, but a foreign
takeover. Surely, they thought, there would have been civil war. And
in this civil war raging across their collective imagination, parts of
the country were cast as patriotic resistance fighters, and other
parts as foreign collaborators. You could feel people looking at you,
casting you for a role in the theatre of their mind. Inevitably, this
would scale up to some kind of demographic calculus.

Half of the population that consistently support the president could
be considered loyal, but that only represents 40 million people. What
made Erdoğan’s number of 50 million interesting was that it hinted at
something unspoken. He seems to have cast his eye across the
opposition bloc and seen something he liked. Roughly 10 million of
them, he must have thought, would have supported him against the
foreign enemy. They may not be voting for him, but they were patriots,
and would do the right thing. The remaining 30 million citizens of the
Republic of Turkey would not only have defected, they would presumably
have subjugated the other 50 million, the true Volk, if the coup had
succeeded. July 15, Turkey’s new national holiday, didn’t just mark a
victory over foreign powers, but over these people as well.

The Government’s Approach

Today, the problem of the 30 million is deeply entrenched. Erdoğan’s
brand is waning in the cities, the coasts, and among young people.
Neither the new Erdoğan-shaped presidential system, nor his
expansionist foreign policy are popular in these parts. Even before
the COVID-19 pandemic, chronic unemployment and inflation extinguished
any hope of him bouncing back in the polls. Despite his total control
over the state, mainstream media, and major capital groups, the
president is unlikely to ever get much more than half of the popular
vote.

If he wanted to, Erdoğan could cut the 30 million out of political
life. He could shut down their political parties, purge them from the
bureaucracy, and tighten policing of free media and the internet. In
such a future, there would still be some nominal opposition parties,
but Erdoğan would effectively monopolize the political sphere. Any
real dissent would be treason. Liberals in Europe and the United
States would condemn this on principle, but investors would probably
stay in Turkey, and after some turbulence, things would go ahead in
more or less the same manner. So far, the government seems to believe
that this approach wouldn’t solve its problem. Depriving “disloyal”
citizens of their status wouldn’t make them go away, and it certainly
wouldn’t weaken their position morally.

The Erdoğan government now faced a question that all successful
populist regimes must solve: What to do with the minority? They
certainly can’t be granted free and fair elections, lest they attain
the means to exact revenge. Nor can they be deprived of all their
rights of representation, lest they be driven to revolt or treason. So
how does a very slim majority of a country suppress the other half
indefinitely? How does it rest easy, knowing that its hegemony is
locked in?

It would be immensely convenient for the government if the 30 million
could simply change. They wouldn’t have to vote for Erdoğan, but they
would need to accept what he would consider common decency: to have
faith in the inherent purity of their nation, and trust in the state,
as embodied by Erdoğan. In the government’s parlance, they would need
to become “local and national.” In a speech delivered in December
2019, Erdoğan said: “In this country, we have made local and national
versions of everything, only the main opposition, have we not been
able to make in this way,” eliciting laughter from the front row of
VIPs. “God willing,” he continued, “with our people, we will achieve
that as well.”

He was more serious than he let on.

The Government’s Strategy

In order to lay out the government’s strategy, I will place the main
components of the opposition on a gradient of “local and national”
sentiment. Moving from right to left, the first, and closest to the
government, are small groups of opposition nationalists of various
stripes: The aging Kemalists, pan-Turkic nationalists, and Islamists
together make up the group of roughly 10 million that Erdoğan thought
would support his own voter base on the night of July 15. To their
left is a heterodox group I’ll call the “center opposition.” These are
lapsed nationalists, who have been led astray by the ‘devils’ of
globalism. They are mostly urban, disproportionately middle class, and
well represented in the arts and popular culture. They are also
politically the most malleable part of Turkey. On the far end of the
gradient are the leftists and adherents of the Kurdish movements — the
most intractable opposition to the government. It is these latter two
clusters who make up the 30 million.

The Erdoğan government surely knows that an attempt to “nationalize”
all of the 30 million would be unrealistic. Rather, it seeks to
separate the leftists and Kurds among them and brand them as
terrorists, then turn around and securely pull the center opposition
into the nationalist opposition.

To achieve this aim, the government first needs to contain the spread
of the left. Most in the opposition reject Erdoğan because they oppose
one-man rule or Islamist government. The left, however, puts up
genuine systemic resistance: They reject the idea that the Turkish
nation is pure and infallible. Like leftists elsewhere, they
deconstruct official history, focusing on massacres of minorities and
exploitation of the working classes. There is also an inextricable tie
to the Kurdish movement, which in turn is linked to the Kurdistan
Workers’ Party (PKK) — an insurgency that has been waging war on the
Turkish state for over four decades. The connection between the
non-Kurdish left and the Kurdish movement is complicated and has gone
through various stages in the recent past. For the Turkish right,
there is little difference between leftist subversion and Kurdish
insurrection. “I joined the police to beat up Communists” a
crescent-mustached officer once told me, and he was talking about
arresting Kurdish protesters.

Today, the left end of the spectrum is represented in parliament under
the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is built on the Kurdish
movement but also serves as a stronghold of the non-Kurdish left. This
combination is by no means unpopular. From its voter base of 6 percent
in 2011(under independent candidates, before the HDP’s founding) to 13
percent in June 2015, the HDP was growing on the wings of its
charismatic co-chairman Selahattin Demirtas. Many in the urban middle
class, who are fairly indifferent about Kurdish rights, wanted to see
Demirtas grow the HDP into a Turkish-Kurdish version of the European
Greens. The idea at the time was to also expand into a grand
center-left coalition that would prevent Erdoğan from establishing his
hyper-centralized presidential system. Their momentum was cut short
when months after the coup attempt, in December 2016, the government
detained Demirtas on charges of terrorism and began a ruthless
crackdown on the HDP’s activities that has since only gained in
intensity.

Today, as the Greens are building a progressive front across Europe,
the HDP is at its breaking point. Most of its leaders are in jail, and
its staff is demoralized, overworked, and almost unemployable anywhere
else. There is growing tension between the leftist-Turkish and Kurdish
wings. All this is a point of pride for the government. If it hadn’t
intervened, there was a serious danger that a well-organized and
well-staffed HDP would have continued pulling the entire opposition
bloc to the left.

The second part of the government’s strategy is to keep the left —
crippled and branded as terrorists — within the political system.
While Turkey’s politics is polarized between the government and the
opposition, this creates a second polarization, this time within the
opposition camp. It is this second polarity where the vast majority of
political discourse takes place. From the perspective of a
nationalistic system of valuation, in which being “local and national”
reigns supreme, this is a fatal flaw. On the one hand, the various
factions of the opposition can’t win a national vote unless they
partner with the HDP to form a 50 percent bloc against Erdoğan. On the
other, the nationalists within the opposition cannot be seen working
with the “terrorists” of the pro-Kurdish left.

The political theorist Carl Schmitt believed that politics can be
boiled down to the distinction between friends and enemies, and that
any attempt to separate politics from warlike enmity would fail. This
helps explain why the “terrorist-patriot” polarity within the
opposition is such a structural advantage for Erdoğan. Think of the
typical conservative, nationalistic voter on election day, trying to
decide between Erdogan’s block and the opposition nationalists: with
Erdoğan, he gets friendship with fellow nationalists (albeit of
different hues of conservatism) and enmity towards Kurdish separatists
and ‘self-hating,’ ‘Godless’ Turks. With opposition nationalists, he
is in tacit league with said Kurds and atheists against Erdoğan, who
for all his faults, does not have a foreign bone in his body. For this
person, supporting Erdoğan is emotionally efficient and robust. When
sitting with friends at the local coffee shop or tuning in to social
media, his mind is crystal clear about whom to praise and whom to
attack. If he supports an opposition nationalist, whoever, he is
constantly performing an emotional balancing act. He is tacitly allied
with people he considers subversive against a government he believes
is corrupt. This is an uncomfortable position to be in. If the
country’s mood becomes more bellicose (during military engagements,
for example) the subversion of his allies may become less tolerable
than the corruption of the government, and he may want to switch
sides. This is why there are always rumors about the opposition
nationalist IYI Party’s switching over to Erdoğan’s coalition,
especially in times of armed conflict with the PKK or its affiliates.

Still, the People’s Republican Party (CHP), Turkey’s founding and
currently main opposition party, has tried to contain this
“patriot-terrorist” polarity. Its umbrella candidates for the
presidency, ranging from the soporific Ekmeleddin Ihsanoğlu in 2014,
to the firebrand Muharrem Ince in 2018, have failed. In the 2019
municipal elections, however, the CHP’s mayoral candidates did well,
uniting the Kemalist-nationalist camp, Islamists, liberal
cosmopolitans, as well as leftists and even some sympathizers of the
Kurdish movement. These candidates won against Erdoğan’s men in all
major cities, including Ankara and (in a repeat election) Istanbul.
This was the first, and so far only, time Erdoğan’s containment of the
left had been breached. Generally, however, Erdoğan’s strategy of
keeping the left within the political sphere has allowed him to
position himself and his allies as the only pure nationalists in the
country.

Having saved the opposition from the clutches of leftists and ensured
division within it, the Erdoğan government finally seeks to pull the
entire bloc to the right. This means focusing on liberal-minded
urbanites whose nationalism has lapsed, and rekindling their faith in
the national mythos. This is the most challenging aspect of its
effort, and where it has done most poorly.

The most obvious method the Erdoğan government pursued to this end has
been its restructuring of the media. For the past few years, the
government has been taking over media channels that centrist voters
traditionally follow, then gradually shifting their tone to favor the
government. The Dogan Media Group, owner of Hurriyet (Turkey’s former
newspaper of record) and CNN Turk (a 24-hour TV news channel) used to
cater to a secular, urban, and increasingly progressive audience. The
group’s main audience overlapped with the centrist-opposition CHP’s
voter base, whose older members are secularist-nationalists and
younger members (often their children) are leftist-progressives. In
March 2018, the media group was sold to an Erdoğan-friendly
conglomerate, which fired many of its veteran journalists and changed
editorial guidelines. The result has been a desensitized, less
colorful version of the jingoist carnival running across Erdoğan’s
formal channels. CNN Turk, especially, became a tool for the
government to enter the living rooms of CHP voters and tell them that
they were voting for terrorist collaborators. So insidious were these
attacks that the CHP had to ban its members from getting on the
channel, and call upon its electorate to boycott it.

The Recent Impact of the Strategy

There are times when the government’s efforts to subsume the 30
million appear complete. When Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring,
taking swathes of Syria from the Syrian affiliate of the PKK, Kurdish
militants reportedly shelled parts of southern Turkey. In an address
delivered soon afterwards,  Erdoğan said “We have 18 martyrs and close
to 200 wounded. In our country, we have the terror group’s so-called
political organism. Aside from that, our nation is now in a state of
Yekvücut.” The term is a favorite of the president. It is a
combination of the Farsi term “Yek” meaning “single” and the Arabic
word “vücut” meaning “existence,” or in the Turkish use, “body.”
Erdoğan was thinking of the nation as a single biological organism,
with the leftists and the Kurdish movement as foreign bodies. He was
clearly satisfied with how the various factions of the opposition in
parliament dealt with the motion to launch the operation. The
nationalist opposition IYI Party eagerly voted for it, while the HDP
voted against it, both of which was expected. What gave Erdoğan cause
for celebration is that the centrist-opposition CHP had been bullied
into voting for the cross-border operation as well. “Though our
insides are burning, we will say ‘yes’ to the resolution so that our
soldiers will not get so much as a bloody nose,” its leader, Kemal
Kılıçdaroğlu had said. When pushed to make a choice between what are
essentially its nationalist and universalist poles, the CHP could be
relied on to opt for the latter. This was exactly the outcome
Erdoğan’s political strategy had been aiming for. Years of hard work
were paying off.

In the state of Yekvücut, there were three political classes in
Turkey. The first was Erdoğan’s ruling class, who made the
foundational decision of when, and against whom, to go to war. The
second was a nominal opposition that got dragged along, and the third
was a small, systemic opposition, which identified with the enemy
across the border, and was vilified as its representative within. Such
hierarchies, it seems, are inevitable. It is only with the presence of
the third group that the second group does not have to suffer the
indignity of being the lowest class. Meanwhile, the ruling class can
rest easy knowing that nationalist politics has overpowered
universalist notions. The difference between legitimate opposition and
treason collapses, and the problem of the 30 million dissolves into
thin air.

At first glance, the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be a prime
opportunity for practicing the state of Yekvücut. It requires historic
levels of social and economic mobilization and invites international
comparison that can turn to competition. In a speech following a
weekly cabinet meeting in April, Erdoğan said “we can only overcome
this outbreak if all 83 million of us move together.” Using the
up-to-date census figure, he called on citizens to “embrace our
oneness, our togetherness, our brotherhood.” With the combination of
swift action and luck, Turkey’s containment efforts have indeed been
more successful than those of most European countries and the United
States. The intensive care units are well-staffed and equipped, and
public compliance with the rules is robust. Erdoğan’s media was
overjoyed in the early days of the pandemic, hailing the event a
turning point in history that would mark the collapse of Western
predominance and establish Turkey as a preeminent power. Surely, this
was a time for the 30 million to rejoice in “Team Turkey’s” success.

They didn’t. The opposition media — largely relegated to the internet
— was reporting on the plight of the working class and the brewing
economic crisis. Like free media across the West, they also questioned
the quality and veracity of their government’s COVID-19 data. In a
speech delivered in May, Erdoğan was unusually angry. He had clearly
expected a Yekvücut moment and was struggling to understand why it
hadn’t come about. His strategy to create a “local and national”
opposition wasn’t working, and the frustration of it seemed to hit him
head on. “I want to warn once again the media and other
representatives who are in league with the CHP’s leaders,” he said,
before launching into what was — even for him — an unusually
vituperative attack: “You are not national, and your localness is in
question,” he said, “you have always sided with whoever was
treacherous [bozguncu], whoever was perverted, whoever was depraved”
adding, “you are like the creatures in mythology that only feed on
enmity, hate, fear, confusion and pain.”

The fiction here was that these words were meant for a handful of
journalists and politicians, rather than dissenting citizens, the 30
million. The extent to which the president believed this wasn’t clear.
It also didn’t matter. It is in moments like these when Erdoğan’s
policy to patiently inculcate patriotism into the 30 million dissolves
into bitterness, and he lets fly:

    When there is an earthquake, you do your utmost to inflate the
numbers of those under the rubble. When there is an attack on our
economy, and people are thinking of their bread and their future, you
run after political profit. When there is a coup attempt, and our
nation plants itself in front of tanks, flags in hand, a takbir
[“Allahu Akbar”] on their tongue, you applaud the tanks on your
balconies, you slurp coffee in front of your televisions. When we
stage operations to end harassment on our border, you rise up against
us in defense of blood-stained terrorists.

The examples the president lists are all Yekvücut moments, and the 30
million are always there to prevent him from consummating them. The
idea is that these people are worse than dead weight, that they
actively work to towards Turkey’s demise. The absurd accusations of
fraud and coup-abetting aside, there is something to the idea that the
opposition wants things to get worse. The Erdoğan government’s
consolidation over the past decade has been so suffocating for
opposition voters that many do look for deliverance in economic or
natural disaster. “I just want Tayyip [Erdoğan] to get a thrashing, I
don’t care at all how it happens or who does it,” one such voter told
me not long ago. Just as Erdoğan and his supporters chase the moment
that will finally subsume the 30 million, they chase the moment that
this regime will come crashing down.

It is difficult to discern which side is winning overall. On the one
hand, the opposition is becoming more nationalist, and is willing to
grant Erdoğan the legitimacy he seeks. Opposition leaders on the
nationalist end will often appeal to Erdoğan to include them in the
decision-making processes, and their media will support the government
in critical issues, especially when it comes to foreign policy. On the
other hand, there is an increasingly vociferous leftist movement. The
Erdoğan government may have cut short the HDP’s rise, but it hasn’t
been able to prevent leftist ideas from spreading. The CHP’s youth
wings today are highly class-conscious and hostile to militant
nationalism. Figures like the CHP’s Istanbul provincial head Canan
Kaftancıoğlu , who campaign on a mix of feminism, workers’ rights, and
anti-fascist slogans, are gaining a national following. The
polarization within the opposition is likely deepening, with part of
the 30 million become more “national,” while another part is becoming
more leftist. This means that the great mass of right-wing sentiment
is growing, but so is the left-wing minority. The “problem,” in the
government’s view, may no longer be 30 million strong, but it is more
acute, and perhaps more vexing, than before.

It is in this context that in the past few months, the ruling class
has been circling back to the image of the military coup. The most
unusual references can spark hysteria on this point. In January, two
sentences in the introductory pages of a report entitled Turkey’s
Nationalist Course by the American RAND corporation vaguely reflected
on the prospect of a coup. This triggered weeks of speculation and
chest-thumping in government circles, to the point where nobody knew
the origins of the rumor. Most people in government circles probably
didn’t feel like it was serious, but they welcomed the opportunity to
display their loyalty to the Erdoğan government. This has reached a
point at which prominent opposition politicians have to be careful
about slight ambiguities in their speech, lest they be hit with
avalanches of coup delirium. In April, when the CHP’s Canan
Kaftancıoğlu said on a small opposition TV channel that she foresaw a
change in government “in an early election, or in any other way,” and
that the regime the Erdoğan government had built would also end. These
are common talking points across the opposition, which has been trying
to goad the government into snap elections and speaks openly about its
opposition to Erdoğan’s presidential system. Yet Kaftancıoğlu is not
just any politician, but someone who is carrying leftist irreverence
into centrist politics. Her comments sparked waves of coup hysteria,
as well as a large fine.

The furor didn’t revolve around conspiracy theories per se; few
brought up clandestine networks that would actually execute a coup,
nor made even perfunctory attempts at connecting Kaftancıoğlu to such
imaginary plots. The idea seems to have been that a leftist minority
would fail to contain their hate for the virtuous many, and launch a
rabid attack at them. Many found the idea convenient, since it would
also grant the nation the opportunity to rid itself of this group. The
AK Party’s Istanbul provincial head, for example, tweeted that those
attempting the last coup in 2016 had been “spilled into the Bosphorus”
and that Kaftancıoğlu “should know that the Bosphorus is cool this
season, and deep in the summer.” He probably didn’t think that
Kaftancıoğlu would personally block the continent-spanning bridge by
force, as putschists had tried in 2016, but the thought of it was
clearly exciting. Another flash of violent fantasy occurred on a
pro-government TV channel, where Sevda Noyan, a pundit, said: “[The
coup attempt of] July 15 is stuck in our throats. Wallahi [I swear to
God], we couldn’t do the things we wanted to do, we were caught
unaware.” But in the event of another coup, she would catch up:

    Our family would take about 50 people. [laughs] I mean, I should
say we are very well equipped in this regard, both materially and
spiritually [laughs] we – we are with our leader, and we would never
allow him to be taken. That is why they should watch themselves. There
are still 3-5 in our building compound. My list is ready.

Noyan was saying that her family was well armed (gun ownership has
soared since the 2016 coup attempt) and was eager to use lethal force
against people she suspects would be on the wrong side of the Erdoğan
government in a hypothetical coup. These kinds of statements are
fairly common within the core of the government’s supporters, but
still unusual enough for the wider public to cause a minor
controversy. When responding to public outrage, Noyan pointed out that
she merely echoed Interior Minister Soylu’s statements from a 2017
interview when he said, “We couldn’t do the things we actually wanted
to do on July 15. That is clear. I don’t know if they will give us
that opportunity, I mean if we ever face this sort of thing again, we
will have seized that opportunity, that much is clear.” The key word
here is opportunity. To Turkey’s governing class, the military coup of
their imagination is not a matter of defending against an armed force
trying to take over the government. Rather, it is a night of
free-for-all, in which politics is stripped down to its violent core,
and a majority at the height of its powers can finally put down the
enemy within: the haters, the doubters, the creatures of mythology.

There is reason to think that the present phase of Turkish politics,
which is based on the polarization within the opposition, is coming to
an end. The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified pressure on the already
beleaguered economy, and the government’s expansionist foreign policy
is making dramatic international confrontations more likely. In this
turbulent new environment, Erdoğan might give in to the temptation to
take a more activist approach towards the problem of the 30 million.
“Turkey will not only reach its 2023 goals [the centennial of the
Republic], it will also be rid of the representatives of this diseased
politics,” he said in May, hinting that he might cut the left out of
the political system entirely. If this should happen, politics would
be an uneven contest between Islamist, pan-Turkic, and secularist hues
of Turkish nationalism. Far off, in the back streets of the big cities
and in the Kurdish provinces, in second-hand bookshops and hidden
corners of the internet, there would be a progressive left, weathering
out what is surely going to be a violent storm.

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Erdoğan’s Turkey and the Problem of the 30 Million

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June 4, 2020


by Selim Koru

[Selim Koru is an analyst at the Economic Policy Research Foundation
of Turkey (TEPAV) and a writing fellow at the Foreign Policy Research
Institute (FPRI).]


On July 15, 2017, Turkey marked the first anniversary of the averted
coup attempt. Erdoğan addressed a huge crowd of supporters, recounting
the events that were already becoming a foundational legend for his
new political regime. “When the putschist traitors attacked on the
night of July 15th, we gave 250 of our heroes to the soil,” Erdoğan
said, referring to those who were killed that night. “Do you know what
we got in return? In return, we saved the future, the prospects of a
Turkey of 50 million.”

This was extremely odd. Turkey had a population of slightly more than
80 million at the time. Everyone in the country knew this, and
referring to “the 80 million” was a staple of Turkey’s political
vocabulary, as in “the goal scored by the national team uplifted the
hearts of the 80 million,” or “we are working hard to bring quality
healthcare to the 80 million.” Nobody ever got the number wrong, least
of all Erdoğan, who uttered it almost on a daily basis.

When members of the opposition brought up the issue in parliament, an
MP from the president’s Justice and Development (AK) Party claimed it
had been a casual utterance, and that there was no point in reading
much more into it.

Still, the opposition was alarmed and the government evasive,
precisely because it wasn’t hard for anyone to guess at the thought
process behind the number. In the weeks and months after the coup
attempt, Ankara bureaucrats and politicians gathering for late-night
sessions at coffee houses were haunted by one question: What if the
coup had succeeded? Like most Turks, they took it as given that
foreign forces — namely the United States — were behind the coup, so
this wasn’t a question of a domestic power struggle, but a foreign
takeover. Surely, they thought, there would have been civil war. And
in this civil war raging across their collective imagination, parts of
the country were cast as patriotic resistance fighters, and other
parts as foreign collaborators. You could feel people looking at you,
casting you for a role in the theatre of their mind. Inevitably, this
would scale up to some kind of demographic calculus.

Half of the population that consistently support the president could
be considered loyal, but that only represents 40 million people. What
made Erdoğan’s number of 50 million interesting was that it hinted at
something unspoken. He seems to have cast his eye across the
opposition bloc and seen something he liked. Roughly 10 million of
them, he must have thought, would have supported him against the
foreign enemy. They may not be voting for him, but they were patriots,
and would do the right thing. The remaining 30 million citizens of the
Republic of Turkey would not only have defected, they would presumably
have subjugated the other 50 million, the true Volk, if the coup had
succeeded. July 15, Turkey’s new national holiday, didn’t just mark a
victory over foreign powers, but over these people as well.

The Government’s Approach

Today, the problem of the 30 million is deeply entrenched. Erdoğan’s
brand is waning in the cities, the coasts, and among young people.
Neither the new Erdoğan-shaped presidential system, nor his
expansionist foreign policy are popular in these parts. Even before
the COVID-19 pandemic, chronic unemployment and inflation extinguished
any hope of him bouncing back in the polls. Despite his total control
over the state, mainstream media, and major capital groups, the
president is unlikely to ever get much more than half of the popular
vote.

If he wanted to, Erdoğan could cut the 30 million out of political
life. He could shut down their political parties, purge them from the
bureaucracy, and tighten policing of free media and the internet. In
such a future, there would still be some nominal opposition parties,
but Erdoğan would effectively monopolize the political sphere. Any
real dissent would be treason. Liberals in Europe and the United
States would condemn this on principle, but investors would probably
stay in Turkey, and after some turbulence, things would go ahead in
more or less the same manner. So far, the government seems to believe
that this approach wouldn’t solve its problem. Depriving “disloyal”
citizens of their status wouldn’t make them go away, and it certainly
wouldn’t weaken their position morally.

The Erdoğan government now faced a question that all successful
populist regimes must solve: What to do with the minority? They
certainly can’t be granted free and fair elections, lest they attain
the means to exact revenge. Nor can they be deprived of all their
rights of representation, lest they be driven to revolt or treason. So
how does a very slim majority of a country suppress the other half
indefinitely? How does it rest easy, knowing that its hegemony is
locked in?

It would be immensely convenient for the government if the 30 million
could simply change. They wouldn’t have to vote for Erdoğan, but they
would need to accept what he would consider common decency: to have
faith in the inherent purity of their nation, and trust in the state,
as embodied by Erdoğan. In the government’s parlance, they would need
to become “local and national.” In a speech delivered in December
2019, Erdoğan said: “In this country, we have made local and national
versions of everything, only the main opposition, have we not been
able to make in this way,” eliciting laughter from the front row of
VIPs. “God willing,” he continued, “with our people, we will achieve
that as well.”

He was more serious than he let on.

The Government’s Strategy

In order to lay out the government’s strategy, I will place the main
components of the opposition on a gradient of “local and national”
sentiment. Moving from right to left, the first, and closest to the
government, are small groups of opposition nationalists of various
stripes: The aging Kemalists, pan-Turkic nationalists, and Islamists
together make up the group of roughly 10 million that Erdoğan thought
would support his own voter base on the night of July 15. To their
left is a heterodox group I’ll call the “center opposition.” These are
lapsed nationalists, who have been led astray by the ‘devils’ of
globalism. They are mostly urban, disproportionately middle class, and
well represented in the arts and popular culture. They are also
politically the most malleable part of Turkey. On the far end of the
gradient are the leftists and adherents of the Kurdish movements — the
most intractable opposition to the government. It is these latter two
clusters who make up the 30 million.

The Erdoğan government surely knows that an attempt to “nationalize”
all of the 30 million would be unrealistic. Rather, it seeks to
separate the leftists and Kurds among them and brand them as
terrorists, then turn around and securely pull the center opposition
into the nationalist opposition.

To achieve this aim, the government first needs to contain the spread
of the left. Most in the opposition reject Erdoğan because they oppose
one-man rule or Islamist government. The left, however, puts up
genuine systemic resistance: They reject the idea that the Turkish
nation is pure and infallible. Like leftists elsewhere, they
deconstruct official history, focusing on massacres of minorities and
exploitation of the working classes. There is also an inextricable tie
to the Kurdish movement, which in turn is linked to the Kurdistan
Workers’ Party (PKK) — an insurgency that has been waging war on the
Turkish state for over four decades. The connection between the
non-Kurdish left and the Kurdish movement is complicated and has gone
through various stages in the recent past. For the Turkish right,
there is little difference between leftist subversion and Kurdish
insurrection. “I joined the police to beat up Communists” a
crescent-mustached officer once told me, and he was talking about
arresting Kurdish protesters.

Today, the left end of the spectrum is represented in parliament under
the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is built on the Kurdish
movement but also serves as a stronghold of the non-Kurdish left. This
combination is by no means unpopular. From its voter base of 6 percent
in 2011(under independent candidates, before the HDP’s founding) to 13
percent in June 2015, the HDP was growing on the wings of its
charismatic co-chairman Selahattin Demirtas. Many in the urban middle
class, who are fairly indifferent about Kurdish rights, wanted to see
Demirtas grow the HDP into a Turkish-Kurdish version of the European
Greens. The idea at the time was to also expand into a grand
center-left coalition that would prevent Erdoğan from establishing his
hyper-centralized presidential system. Their momentum was cut short
when months after the coup attempt, in December 2016, the government
detained Demirtas on charges of terrorism and began a ruthless
crackdown on the HDP’s activities that has since only gained in
intensity.

Today, as the Greens are building a progressive front across Europe,
the HDP is at its breaking point. Most of its leaders are in jail, and
its staff is demoralized, overworked, and almost unemployable anywhere
else. There is growing tension between the leftist-Turkish and Kurdish
wings. All this is a point of pride for the government. If it hadn’t
intervened, there was a serious danger that a well-organized and
well-staffed HDP would have continued pulling the entire opposition
bloc to the left.

The second part of the government’s strategy is to keep the left —
crippled and branded as terrorists — within the political system.
While Turkey’s politics is polarized between the government and the
opposition, this creates a second polarization, this time within the
opposition camp. It is this second polarity where the vast majority of
political discourse takes place. From the perspective of a
nationalistic system of valuation, in which being “local and national”
reigns supreme, this is a fatal flaw. On the one hand, the various
factions of the opposition can’t win a national vote unless they
partner with the HDP to form a 50 percent bloc against Erdoğan. On the
other, the nationalists within the opposition cannot be seen working
with the “terrorists” of the pro-Kurdish left.

The political theorist Carl Schmitt believed that politics can be
boiled down to the distinction between friends and enemies, and that
any attempt to separate politics from warlike enmity would fail. This
helps explain why the “terrorist-patriot” polarity within the
opposition is such a structural advantage for Erdoğan. Think of the
typical conservative, nationalistic voter on election day, trying to
decide between Erdogan’s block and the opposition nationalists: with
Erdoğan, he gets friendship with fellow nationalists (albeit of
different hues of conservatism) and enmity towards Kurdish separatists
and ‘self-hating,’ ‘Godless’ Turks. With opposition nationalists, he
is in tacit league with said Kurds and atheists against Erdoğan, who
for all his faults, does not have a foreign bone in his body. For this
person, supporting Erdoğan is emotionally efficient and robust. When
sitting with friends at the local coffee shop or tuning in to social
media, his mind is crystal clear about whom to praise and whom to
attack. If he supports an opposition nationalist, whoever, he is
constantly performing an emotional balancing act. He is tacitly allied
with people he considers subversive against a government he believes
is corrupt. This is an uncomfortable position to be in. If the
country’s mood becomes more bellicose (during military engagements,
for example) the subversion of his allies may become less tolerable
than the corruption of the government, and he may want to switch
sides. This is why there are always rumors about the opposition
nationalist IYI Party’s switching over to Erdoğan’s coalition,
especially in times of armed conflict with the PKK or its affiliates.

Still, the People’s Republican Party (CHP), Turkey’s founding and
currently main opposition party, has tried to contain this
“patriot-terrorist” polarity. Its umbrella candidates for the
presidency, ranging from the soporific Ekmeleddin Ihsanoğlu in 2014,
to the firebrand Muharrem Ince in 2018, have failed. In the 2019
municipal elections, however, the CHP’s mayoral candidates did well,
uniting the Kemalist-nationalist camp, Islamists, liberal
cosmopolitans, as well as leftists and even some sympathizers of the
Kurdish movement. These candidates won against Erdoğan’s men in all
major cities, including Ankara and (in a repeat election) Istanbul.
This was the first, and so far only, time Erdoğan’s containment of the
left had been breached. Generally, however, Erdoğan’s strategy of
keeping the left within the political sphere has allowed him to
position himself and his allies as the only pure nationalists in the
country.

Having saved the opposition from the clutches of leftists and ensured
division within it, the Erdoğan government finally seeks to pull the
entire bloc to the right. This means focusing on liberal-minded
urbanites whose nationalism has lapsed, and rekindling their faith in
the national mythos. This is the most challenging aspect of its
effort, and where it has done most poorly.

The most obvious method the Erdoğan government pursued to this end has
been its restructuring of the media. For the past few years, the
government has been taking over media channels that centrist voters
traditionally follow, then gradually shifting their tone to favor the
government. The Dogan Media Group, owner of Hurriyet (Turkey’s former
newspaper of record) and CNN Turk (a 24-hour TV news channel) used to
cater to a secular, urban, and increasingly progressive audience. The
group’s main audience overlapped with the centrist-opposition CHP’s
voter base, whose older members are secularist-nationalists and
younger members (often their children) are leftist-progressives. In
March 2018, the media group was sold to an Erdoğan-friendly
conglomerate, which fired many of its veteran journalists and changed
editorial guidelines. The result has been a desensitized, less
colorful version of the jingoist carnival running across Erdoğan’s
formal channels. CNN Turk, especially, became a tool for the
government to enter the living rooms of CHP voters and tell them that
they were voting for terrorist collaborators. So insidious were these
attacks that the CHP had to ban its members from getting on the
channel, and call upon its electorate to boycott it.

The Recent Impact of the Strategy

There are times when the government’s efforts to subsume the 30
million appear complete. When Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring,
taking swathes of Syria from the Syrian affiliate of the PKK, Kurdish
militants reportedly shelled parts of southern Turkey. In an address
delivered soon afterwards,  Erdoğan said “We have 18 martyrs and close
to 200 wounded. In our country, we have the terror group’s so-called
political organism. Aside from that, our nation is now in a state of
Yekvücut.” The term is a favorite of the president. It is a
combination of the Farsi term “Yek” meaning “single” and the Arabic
word “vücut” meaning “existence,” or in the Turkish use, “body.”
Erdoğan was thinking of the nation as a single biological organism,
with the leftists and the Kurdish movement as foreign bodies. He was
clearly satisfied with how the various factions of the opposition in
parliament dealt with the motion to launch the operation. The
nationalist opposition IYI Party eagerly voted for it, while the HDP
voted against it, both of which was expected. What gave Erdoğan cause
for celebration is that the centrist-opposition CHP had been bullied
into voting for the cross-border operation as well. “Though our
insides are burning, we will say ‘yes’ to the resolution so that our
soldiers will not get so much as a bloody nose,” its leader, Kemal
Kılıçdaroğlu had said. When pushed to make a choice between what are
essentially its nationalist and universalist poles, the CHP could be
relied on to opt for the latter. This was exactly the outcome
Erdoğan’s political strategy had been aiming for. Years of hard work
were paying off.

In the state of Yekvücut, there were three political classes in
Turkey. The first was Erdoğan’s ruling class, who made the
foundational decision of when, and against whom, to go to war. The
second was a nominal opposition that got dragged along, and the third
was a small, systemic opposition, which identified with the enemy
across the border, and was vilified as its representative within. Such
hierarchies, it seems, are inevitable. It is only with the presence of
the third group that the second group does not have to suffer the
indignity of being the lowest class. Meanwhile, the ruling class can
rest easy knowing that nationalist politics has overpowered
universalist notions. The difference between legitimate opposition and
treason collapses, and the problem of the 30 million dissolves into
thin air.

At first glance, the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be a prime
opportunity for practicing the state of Yekvücut. It requires historic
levels of social and economic mobilization and invites international
comparison that can turn to competition. In a speech following a
weekly cabinet meeting in April, Erdoğan said “we can only overcome
this outbreak if all 83 million of us move together.” Using the
up-to-date census figure, he called on citizens to “embrace our
oneness, our togetherness, our brotherhood.” With the combination of
swift action and luck, Turkey’s containment efforts have indeed been
more successful than those of most European countries and the United
States. The intensive care units are well-staffed and equipped, and
public compliance with the rules is robust. Erdoğan’s media was
overjoyed in the early days of the pandemic, hailing the event a
turning point in history that would mark the collapse of Western
predominance and establish Turkey as a preeminent power. Surely, this
was a time for the 30 million to rejoice in “Team Turkey’s” success.

They didn’t. The opposition media — largely relegated to the internet
— was reporting on the plight of the working class and the brewing
economic crisis. Like free media across the West, they also questioned
the quality and veracity of their government’s COVID-19 data. In a
speech delivered in May, Erdoğan was unusually angry. He had clearly
expected a Yekvücut moment and was struggling to understand why it
hadn’t come about. His strategy to create a “local and national”
opposition wasn’t working, and the frustration of it seemed to hit him
head on. “I want to warn once again the media and other
representatives who are in league with the CHP’s leaders,” he said,
before launching into what was — even for him — an unusually
vituperative attack: “You are not national, and your localness is in
question,” he said, “you have always sided with whoever was
treacherous [bozguncu], whoever was perverted, whoever was depraved”
adding, “you are like the creatures in mythology that only feed on
enmity, hate, fear, confusion and pain.”

The fiction here was that these words were meant for a handful of
journalists and politicians, rather than dissenting citizens, the 30
million. The extent to which the president believed this wasn’t clear.
It also didn’t matter. It is in moments like these when Erdoğan’s
policy to patiently inculcate patriotism into the 30 million dissolves
into bitterness, and he lets fly:

    When there is an earthquake, you do your utmost to inflate the
numbers of those under the rubble. When there is an attack on our
economy, and people are thinking of their bread and their future, you
run after political profit. When there is a coup attempt, and our
nation plants itself in front of tanks, flags in hand, a takbir
[“Allahu Akbar”] on their tongue, you applaud the tanks on your
balconies, you slurp coffee in front of your televisions. When we
stage operations to end harassment on our border, you rise up against
us in defense of blood-stained terrorists.

The examples the president lists are all Yekvücut moments, and the 30
million are always there to prevent him from consummating them. The
idea is that these people are worse than dead weight, that they
actively work to towards Turkey’s demise. The absurd accusations of
fraud and coup-abetting aside, there is something to the idea that the
opposition wants things to get worse. The Erdoğan government’s
consolidation over the past decade has been so suffocating for
opposition voters that many do look for deliverance in economic or
natural disaster. “I just want Tayyip [Erdoğan] to get a thrashing, I
don’t care at all how it happens or who does it,” one such voter told
me not long ago. Just as Erdoğan and his supporters chase the moment
that will finally subsume the 30 million, they chase the moment that
this regime will come crashing down.

It is difficult to discern which side is winning overall. On the one
hand, the opposition is becoming more nationalist, and is willing to
grant Erdoğan the legitimacy he seeks. Opposition leaders on the
nationalist end will often appeal to Erdoğan to include them in the
decision-making processes, and their media will support the government
in critical issues, especially when it comes to foreign policy. On the
other hand, there is an increasingly vociferous leftist movement. The
Erdoğan government may have cut short the HDP’s rise, but it hasn’t
been able to prevent leftist ideas from spreading. The CHP’s youth
wings today are highly class-conscious and hostile to militant
nationalism. Figures like the CHP’s Istanbul provincial head Canan
Kaftancıoğlu , who campaign on a mix of feminism, workers’ rights, and
anti-fascist slogans, are gaining a national following. The
polarization within the opposition is likely deepening, with part of
the 30 million become more “national,” while another part is becoming
more leftist. This means that the great mass of right-wing sentiment
is growing, but so is the left-wing minority. The “problem,” in the
government’s view, may no longer be 30 million strong, but it is more
acute, and perhaps more vexing, than before.

It is in this context that in the past few months, the ruling class
has been circling back to the image of the military coup. The most
unusual references can spark hysteria on this point. In January, two
sentences in the introductory pages of a report entitled Turkey’s
Nationalist Course by the American RAND corporation vaguely reflected
on the prospect of a coup. This triggered weeks of speculation and
chest-thumping in government circles, to the point where nobody knew
the origins of the rumor. Most people in government circles probably
didn’t feel like it was serious, but they welcomed the opportunity to
display their loyalty to the Erdoğan government. This has reached a
point at which prominent opposition politicians have to be careful
about slight ambiguities in their speech, lest they be hit with
avalanches of coup delirium. In April, when the CHP’s Canan
Kaftancıoğlu said on a small opposition TV channel that she foresaw a
change in government “in an early election, or in any other way,” and
that the regime the Erdoğan government had built would also end. These
are common talking points across the opposition, which has been trying
to goad the government into snap elections and speaks openly about its
opposition to Erdoğan’s presidential system. Yet Kaftancıoğlu is not
just any politician, but someone who is carrying leftist irreverence
into centrist politics. Her comments sparked waves of coup hysteria,
as well as a large fine.

The furor didn’t revolve around conspiracy theories per se; few
brought up clandestine networks that would actually execute a coup,
nor made even perfunctory attempts at connecting Kaftancıoğlu to such
imaginary plots. The idea seems to have been that a leftist minority
would fail to contain their hate for the virtuous many, and launch a
rabid attack at them. Many found the idea convenient, since it would
also grant the nation the opportunity to rid itself of this group. The
AK Party’s Istanbul provincial head, for example, tweeted that those
attempting the last coup in 2016 had been “spilled into the Bosphorus”
and that Kaftancıoğlu “should know that the Bosphorus is cool this
season, and deep in the summer.” He probably didn’t think that
Kaftancıoğlu would personally block the continent-spanning bridge by
force, as putschists had tried in 2016, but the thought of it was
clearly exciting. Another flash of violent fantasy occurred on a
pro-government TV channel, where Sevda Noyan, a pundit, said: “[The
coup attempt of] July 15 is stuck in our throats. Wallahi [I swear to
God], we couldn’t do the things we wanted to do, we were caught
unaware.” But in the event of another coup, she would catch up:

    Our family would take about 50 people. [laughs] I mean, I should
say we are very well equipped in this regard, both materially and
spiritually [laughs] we – we are with our leader, and we would never
allow him to be taken. That is why they should watch themselves. There
are still 3-5 in our building compound. My list is ready.

Noyan was saying that her family was well armed (gun ownership has
soared since the 2016 coup attempt) and was eager to use lethal force
against people she suspects would be on the wrong side of the Erdoğan
government in a hypothetical coup. These kinds of statements are
fairly common within the core of the government’s supporters, but
still unusual enough for the wider public to cause a minor
controversy. When responding to public outrage, Noyan pointed out that
she merely echoed Interior Minister Soylu’s statements from a 2017
interview when he said, “We couldn’t do the things we actually wanted
to do on July 15. That is clear. I don’t know if they will give us
that opportunity, I mean if we ever face this sort of thing again, we
will have seized that opportunity, that much is clear.” The key word
here is opportunity. To Turkey’s governing class, the military coup of
their imagination is not a matter of defending against an armed force
trying to take over the government. Rather, it is a night of
free-for-all, in which politics is stripped down to its violent core,
and a majority at the height of its powers can finally put down the
enemy within: the haters, the doubters, the creatures of mythology.

There is reason to think that the present phase of Turkish politics,
which is based on the polarization within the opposition, is coming to
an end. The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified pressure on the already
beleaguered economy, and the government’s expansionist foreign policy
is making dramatic international confrontations more likely. In this
turbulent new environment, Erdoğan might give in to the temptation to
take a more activist approach towards the problem of the 30 million.
“Turkey will not only reach its 2023 goals [the centennial of the
Republic], it will also be rid of the representatives of this diseased
politics,” he said in May, hinting that he might cut the left out of
the political system entirely. If this should happen, politics would
be an uneven contest between Islamist, pan-Turkic, and secularist hues
of Turkish nationalism. Far off, in the back streets of the big cities
and in the Kurdish provinces, in second-hand bookshops and hidden
corners of the internet, there would be a progressive left, weathering
out what is surely going to be a violent storm.

You may also like

Canada Stops Military Exports to Azerbaijan and Bans Arms Sales to Turkey

Armenian
National Committee of Canada

Comité
national arménien du Canada

 

Tel./Tél. (613) 235-2622

E-mail/Courriel:[email protected]

www.anccanada.org

 

-PRESS RELEASE-

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 4, 2020                                                                         

Contact: Sevag Belian (613) 235-2622

 

Canada Stops Military Exports to
Azerbaijan and
Bans Arms Sales to Turkey

 

(OTTAWA) – On May 29th, 2020, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) published
its annual report on Canada’s Military Exports, where it had mentioned that no
military export permits were issued to Azerbaijan during 2019, reported the
Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC). 

Since the sale
of armoured vehicles from private Canadian companies to the Republic of
Azerbaijan in 2017, this is the second year in a row that Canada has not
included Azerbaijan in the list of countries with whom it trades military
goods. Following Turkey’s “Operation Peace Spring” in Syria in October 2019,
Canada also banned military exports to Ankara, which was renewed indefinitely
in April 2020.

Following the
publication of the report, on June 4th, 2020, the ANCC sent a letter
to Canada’s Foreign Affair’s Minister, the Hon. Francois-Philippe Champagne,
commending the government’s decision and urging the minister to continue
refraining from engaging in arms trade with both Turkey and Azerbaijan.

In the letter,
ANCC Co-Presidents, Hrag Tarakdjian and Shahen Mirakian said “Turkey and
Azerbaijan pose a significant military threat within their immediate region and
beyond. While Turkey continues to destabilize the Middle East and threaten the
very existence of local minorities, Azerbaijan has significantly increased its
military preparedness, constantly signalling a renewal of hostilities in the
Republic of Artsakh, while threatening to attack the Republic of Armenia
directly.”

ANCC’s
co-presidents also shared their hope that based on Canada’s arm’s export
regulations and Ottawa’s accession to the Arms Trade Treaty, military export
permits bound for Turkey and Azerbaijan will become subject to a more rigorous
assessment process.

“Canada
simply cannot become complicit in the unspeakable war crimes and human rights
abuses sanctioned and carried out by regressive dictatorships such as Turkey
and Azerbaijan.”
, mentioned the letter.

“We will
continue to monitor the trade of military goods between Canada, Turkey and
Azerbaijan and ensure that our government always does the right thing.”
Concluded Tarakdjian and Mirakian.

 

-30-

******

The ANCC is the largest and
the most influential Armenian-Canadian grassroots human rights organization.
Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters
throughout Canada and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCC
actively advances the concerns of the Armenian-Canadian community on a broad
range of issues and works to eliminate abuses of human rights throughout Canada
and the world.

Sevag Belian – Executive Director | Directeur exécutif
Armenian National Committee of Canada
Comité national arménien du Canada
T: (613) 235-2622 | C: (905) 329-8526
W: www.anccanada.org 
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram /


You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "ANCC Armenian Media" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to [email protected]

You may also like

Canada Stops Military Exports to Azerbaijan and Bans Arms Sales to Turkey

Armenian
National Committee of Canada

Comité
national arménien du Canada

 

Tel./Tél. (613) 235-2622

E-mail/Courriel:[email protected]

www.anccanada.org

 

-PRESS RELEASE-

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 4, 2020                                                                         

Contact: Sevag Belian (613) 235-2622

 

Canada Stops Military Exports to
Azerbaijan and
Bans Arms Sales to Turkey

 

(OTTAWA) – On May 29th, 2020, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) published
its annual report on Canada’s Military Exports, where it had mentioned that no
military export permits were issued to Azerbaijan during 2019, reported the
Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC). 

Since the sale
of armoured vehicles from private Canadian companies to the Republic of
Azerbaijan in 2017, this is the second year in a row that Canada has not
included Azerbaijan in the list of countries with whom it trades military
goods. Following Turkey’s “Operation Peace Spring” in Syria in October 2019,
Canada also banned military exports to Ankara, which was renewed indefinitely
in April 2020.

Following the
publication of the report, on June 4th, 2020, the ANCC sent a letter
to Canada’s Foreign Affair’s Minister, the Hon. Francois-Philippe Champagne,
commending the government’s decision and urging the minister to continue
refraining from engaging in arms trade with both Turkey and Azerbaijan.

In the letter,
ANCC Co-Presidents, Hrag Tarakdjian and Shahen Mirakian said “Turkey and
Azerbaijan pose a significant military threat within their immediate region and
beyond. While Turkey continues to destabilize the Middle East and threaten the
very existence of local minorities, Azerbaijan has significantly increased its
military preparedness, constantly signalling a renewal of hostilities in the
Republic of Artsakh, while threatening to attack the Republic of Armenia
directly.”

ANCC’s
co-presidents also shared their hope that based on Canada’s arm’s export
regulations and Ottawa’s accession to the Arms Trade Treaty, military export
permits bound for Turkey and Azerbaijan will become subject to a more rigorous
assessment process.

“Canada
simply cannot become complicit in the unspeakable war crimes and human rights
abuses sanctioned and carried out by regressive dictatorships such as Turkey
and Azerbaijan.”
, mentioned the letter.

“We will
continue to monitor the trade of military goods between Canada, Turkey and
Azerbaijan and ensure that our government always does the right thing.”
Concluded Tarakdjian and Mirakian.

 

-30-

******

The ANCC is the largest and
the most influential Armenian-Canadian grassroots human rights organization.
Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters
throughout Canada and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCC
actively advances the concerns of the Armenian-Canadian community on a broad
range of issues and works to eliminate abuses of human rights throughout Canada
and the world.

Sevag Belian – Executive Director | Directeur exécutif
Armenian National Committee of Canada
Comité national arménien du Canada
T: (613) 235-2622 | C: (905) 329-8526
W: www.anccanada.org 
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram /


You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "ANCC Armenian Media" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to [email protected]

You may also like

Canada Stops Military Exports to Azerbaijan and Bans Arms Sales to Turkey

Armenian
National Committee of Canada

Comité
national arménien du Canada

 

Tel./Tél. (613) 235-2622

E-mail/Courriel:[email protected]

www.anccanada.org

 

-PRESS RELEASE-

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 4, 2020                                                                         

Contact: Sevag Belian (613) 235-2622

 

Canada Stops Military Exports to
Azerbaijan and
Bans Arms Sales to Turkey

 

(OTTAWA) – On May 29th, 2020, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) published
its annual report on Canada’s Military Exports, where it had mentioned that no
military export permits were issued to Azerbaijan during 2019, reported the
Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC). 

Since the sale
of armoured vehicles from private Canadian companies to the Republic of
Azerbaijan in 2017, this is the second year in a row that Canada has not
included Azerbaijan in the list of countries with whom it trades military
goods. Following Turkey’s “Operation Peace Spring” in Syria in October 2019,
Canada also banned military exports to Ankara, which was renewed indefinitely
in April 2020.

Following the
publication of the report, on June 4th, 2020, the ANCC sent a letter
to Canada’s Foreign Affair’s Minister, the Hon. Francois-Philippe Champagne,
commending the government’s decision and urging the minister to continue
refraining from engaging in arms trade with both Turkey and Azerbaijan.

In the letter,
ANCC Co-Presidents, Hrag Tarakdjian and Shahen Mirakian said “Turkey and
Azerbaijan pose a significant military threat within their immediate region and
beyond. While Turkey continues to destabilize the Middle East and threaten the
very existence of local minorities, Azerbaijan has significantly increased its
military preparedness, constantly signalling a renewal of hostilities in the
Republic of Artsakh, while threatening to attack the Republic of Armenia
directly.”

ANCC’s
co-presidents also shared their hope that based on Canada’s arm’s export
regulations and Ottawa’s accession to the Arms Trade Treaty, military export
permits bound for Turkey and Azerbaijan will become subject to a more rigorous
assessment process.

“Canada
simply cannot become complicit in the unspeakable war crimes and human rights
abuses sanctioned and carried out by regressive dictatorships such as Turkey
and Azerbaijan.”
, mentioned the letter.

“We will
continue to monitor the trade of military goods between Canada, Turkey and
Azerbaijan and ensure that our government always does the right thing.”
Concluded Tarakdjian and Mirakian.

 

-30-

******

The ANCC is the largest and
the most influential Armenian-Canadian grassroots human rights organization.
Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters
throughout Canada and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCC
actively advances the concerns of the Armenian-Canadian community on a broad
range of issues and works to eliminate abuses of human rights throughout Canada
and the world.

Sevag Belian – Executive Director | Directeur exécutif
Armenian National Committee of Canada
Comité national arménien du Canada
T: (613) 235-2622 | C: (905) 329-8526
W: www.anccanada.org 
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram /


You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "ANCC Armenian Media" group.
To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to [email protected]

You may also like

RFE/RL Armenian Report – 06/04/2020

                                        Thursday, June 4, 2020

U.S. Approves More Coronavirus Aid To Armenia

        • Harry Tamrazian

Armenia -- U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy addresses members of the American Chamber 
of Commerce in Yerevan, May 15, 2019.

The United States has allocated $5.4 million in fresh assistance to Armenia 
designed to combat the coronavirus epidemic, U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy said on 
Thursday.

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Tracy also voiced concern over 
the growing number of coronavirus cases in the country while praising the 
Armenian government’s intensifying efforts to get people to practice social 
distancing, wear face masks and wash hands.

“Those are things that all of us can do and that I think can help turn around 
the situation we’re seeing right now,” she said. “Obviously these high numbers 
that we are seeing now are of concern, but it’s really the effort of all of us, 
a unified effort, that I think is going to make a difference in fighting 
COVID-19.”

“I’m also happy to say that the United States has been doing its best to 
contribute and assist the government,” Tracy went on. “We have obtained $5.4 
million of new assistance money that’s going in a number of directions to help 
the government. We are also redirecting some of our existing money to help small 
and medium businesses.

“So I have still some optimism that we can recover and be in a better place. But 
it’s going to take a lot of work, I think, from everybody.”

In the envoy’s words, much of the fresh U.S. assistance will be channeled into 
Armenian laboratories and healthcare services dealing with “the most severe 
cases” of COVID-19. “We are continuing to talk to the [Armenian] government 
about the needs that they have, and we are looking at what we have within the 
U.S. capacity to help,” she said.

Washington announced its first coronavirus-related aid package for Armenia, 
worth $1.1 million, in late March shortly after the Armenian government imposed 
a nationwide lockdown to contain the first major outbreaks of the disease.

The government began easing those restrictions in mid-April and lifted virtually 
all of them by the beginning of May. The number of coronavirus cases in the 
country has increased sharply since then. Critics say that the government never 
properly enforced the lockdown and ended it too soon.

Asked to commenting on that criticism, Tracy said: “The prime minister [Nikol 
Pashinian] has been talking about some of the issues that he’s been trying to 
balance, trying to balance protecting public health while also paying attention 
to the fundamentals of the economy. It’s a tough balance to strike.”

“This is something that we are facing in the United States as well and in many 
places around the world,” she said.



Armenian Gas Network Insists On Higher Prices

        • Naira Nalbandian

Armenia - The Gazprom Armenia headquarters in Yerevan, 31Oct2014.

Armenia’s Russian-owned national gas distribution company defended on Thursday 
higher tariffs sought by it, saying that state regulators’ refusal to approve 
them would put continued supplies of Russian gas to the country at risk.

The company controlled by Russia’s Gazprom formally asked the Public Services 
Regulatory Commission (PSRC) on April 1 to allow it to raise its retail prices 
by an average of 11 percent.

The Gazprom Armenia network argued that the cost of Russian gas supplied to 
Armenian households and corporate consumer has remained unchanged since Gazprom 
raised its wholesale price for Armenia from $150 to $165 per thousand cubic 
meters in January 2019. The network has incurred major losses as a result.

The PSRC proposed on Monday that Gazprom Armenia settle for more modest price 
rises that would average 4.6 percent. It also decided to hold a further 
discussion on the issue with the company’s representatives and civil society 
members.

The company’s chief executive, Hrant Tadevosian, insisted on its tariff demands 
when he spoke during the three-hour meeting held on Thursday.

“If we carry on with current expenditures we will no longer be able to import 
the 2 billion or 2.2 billion [cubic meters] of gas which we have imported until 
now [annually,]” warned Tadevosian. “If the gas supply is interrupted for one or 
two days I can guarantee that we will have very serious problems.”

“I’m not trying to scare you,” he said. “I just have to state the existing the 
truth.”

Tadevosian added that higher tariffs would also allow Gazprom Armenia to make 
230 billion drams ($474 million) in badly needed capital investments in the 
network over the next 10 years.

In its tariff application sent to the PSRC, Gazprom Armenia offered to slightly 
cut the gas price for the majority of households, which currently stands at an 
equivalent of $290 per thousand cubic meters. However, it demanded the scrapping 
of a 36 percent price discount enjoyed by low-income families.

The PSRC objected to this demand on Monday. It also urged the gas operator to 
reconsider plans for a sizable increase in gas tariffs set for manufacturing and 
agricultural firms.

The regulatory body is expected to make a final decision on the Gazprom Armenia 
application later this month.

Shortly before Gazprom Armenia requested the price hikes, the Armenian 
government urged the Russian energy giant to cut its wholesale gas price for 
Armenia. It argued that global energy prices have collapsed because of the 
coronavirus pandemic.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Russian President Vladimir Putin 
discussed the matter by phone on April 6. They apparently failed to reach an 
agreement.

Speaking at a May 19 video conference with fellow leaders of the Eurasian 
Economic Union (EEU) member states, Putin rejected Armenia’s and Belarus’s calls 
for the Russian-led trade bloc to set uniform energy tariffs which would reduce 
the cost of Russian natural gas imported by them.



Court Revokes Arrest Warrant For Ex-President’s Son-In-Law


Armenia -- Former Armenian Ambassador to the Vatican Mikael Minasian.

Armenia’s Court of Appeals overturned on Thursday a lower court’s decision to 
allow investigators to arrest Mikael Minasian, former President Serzh 
Sarkisian’s fugitive son-in-law prosecuted on corruption charges denied by him.

Armenia’s State Revenue Committee (SRC) moved to arrest Minasian in late April 
one month after charging him with illegal enrichment, false asset disclosure and 
money laundering. A district court in Yerevan agreed to issue an arrest warrant 
for him on May 6.

A bitter critic of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, Minasian left Armenia shortly 
after he was dismissed as the country’s ambassador to the Vatican in late 2018. 
He has declined to reveal his current whereabouts in a series of video messages 
posted on Facebook in recent weeks.

Minasian has said that he is not returning to Armenia because he believes that 
investigators and judges dealing with his case are acting on Pashinian’s orders. 
He has also accused Pashinian of corruption and misrule.

Pashinian has dismissed most of those accusations. The premier has repeatedly 
accused Minasian of illegally making a huge fortune during Sarkisian’s rule.

A close Pashinian associate, deputy parliament speaker Alen Simonian, condemned 
the Court of Appeals judge who revoked the arrest warrant.

“I believe this [decision] is vivid proof of the fact that the existing problem 
within Armenia’s judicial system needs to be resolved as soon as possible,” 
Simonian told reporters, according to the Armenpress news agency.

Minasian, 42, enjoyed considerable political and economic influence in the 
country when it was ruled by his father-in-law from 2008-2018. He is also 
thought to have developed extensive business interests in various sectors of the 
Armenian economy.

One of Minasian’s lawyers, Amram Makinian, said on April 22 that the money 
laundering charge brought against his client stems from large sums of cash which 
he transferred from one of his bank accounts to another in 2017-2018. Makinian 
also claimed that the other accusations are based on a “technical error” 
committed by the employee of a private firm which drew up and filed Minasian’s 
income declarations. He said that SRC investigators are refusing to summon that 
person for questioning.



Armenian Tax Chief Resigns


Armenia -- Davit Ananian, head of the State Revenue Committee, arrives for a 
news conference in Yerevan, July 9, 2019.

Davit Ananian, the head of Armenia’s State Revenue Committee (SRC), unexpectedly 
resigned on Thursday.

Ananian gave no reasons for the resignation when he announced it on Facebook.

“In order to end rumors circulating in the media I want to inform that today I 
tendered my resignation to the prime minister of Armenia,” he wrote.

“I want to thank everyone for effective and production cooperation and Prime 
Minister Nikol Pashinian for entrusting this important position to me for more 
than two years,” he added without elaborating.

Pashinian did not immediately accept the resignation or make statements on it.

Ananian, 48, was appointed as head of the national tax and customs services in 
May 2018 shortly after the “Velvet Revolution” that brought Pashinian to power. 
He served as deputy finance minister in Armenia’s previous government. Former 
Prime Minister Karen Karapetian had appointed him to that post in 2016.

According to his official biography, Ananian, 46, worked as a tax inspector in 
the 1990s and ran a private tax and accounting consultancy from 2006-2016.

Ananian promised a tougher government crackdown on companies and individuals 
evading taxes when he took over the SRC. The current government’s tax revenues 
have risen significantly since then, a fact regularly emphasized by Pashinian.



Armenian Minister Warns Of COVID-19 Healthcare Collapse


Armenia -- A doctor wearing a face mask and protective gear gives a call as she 
stands next to an ambulance at the Grigor Lusavorich Medical Center in Yerevan, 
June 1, 2020

The daily number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Armenia continued to rise on 
Thursday, with Health Minister Arsen Torosian warning that Armenian hospitals 
may soon be unable to admit all infected people in need of urgent treatment.

The Ministry of Health said in the morning that 697 people tested positive for 
coronavirus in the past day, which raised to 11,221 the total number of cases 
registered in the country of about 3 million.

The ministry also reported 6 new coronavirus deaths. The official death toll 
from the COVID-19 epidemic thus reached 176.

The figure does not include the deaths of 68 other citizens also infected with 
the virus. The ministry claims that they died from other, pre-existing diseases. 
It recorded 9 such fatalities on Wednesday.

Due to the accelerating spread of the virus the health authorities stopped late 
last month hospitalizing or isolating individuals showing mild symptoms of the 
disease or none at all.

“Only about 15-20 percent of the registered cases need hospitalization, while 
the rest stay at home under the surveillance of primary healthcare bodies,” 
Torosian told a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan.

“On a daily basis, almost manually, so to speak, we accommodate patients on the 
existing hospital beds,” he said. “It is very important that we register a 
substantial decrease in [infection] numbers so that we can keep up … this 
process.”

“Or else, it will be very difficult to ensure all that,” he added.


Armenia -- Health Minister Arsen Torosian attends a cabinet meeting in Yerevan, 
June 4, 2020.

Torosian earlier warned of an impending shortage of beds at the intensive care 
units of hospitals treating COVID-19 patients. He said on Monday that dozens of 
more such hospital beds will be made available in the coming days and weeks.

According to the health minister, 450 patients are in a serious or critical 
condition at the moment.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian stated earlier in the day that “there are already 
people in need of hospitalization whom we cannot hospitalize on time.” “Our 
healthcare system is already bending downwards,” he said in a video message 
livestreamed on Facebook.

During the ensuing cabinet meeting, Pashinian again complained about Armenians’ 
“widespread” noncompliance with safety rules. He singled out people’s failure to 
observe social distancing when lining up outside commercial bank or post offices.

Central Bank Governor Artur Javadian and Minister of High-Tech Industry Hakob 
Arshakian assured Pashinian that their respective agencies are taking effective 
measures to get customers to stand away from each other outside those offices.

Torosian seemed more worried about COVID-19 infections reported among workers of 
manufacturing enterprises. He said they are fraught with “big outbreaks” of the 
disease in various parts of the country.

Armenia’s largest textile factory located in the northern city of Vanadzor was 
forced to close for three days on Wednesday after at least 39 of its 2,600 
employees tested positive for the virus.

The worsening coronavirus crisis is fuelling growing calls for the Armenian 
government to re-impose a nationwide lockdown. Pashinian admitted earlier this 
week that the health authorities are also favoring such a drastic move. But he 
gave no indications on Thursday that it is imminent.


ARMENIA -- A woman wearing a protective facemask walks in central Yerevan, June 
2, 2020

Instead, the prime minister again urged Armenians to wear face masks, practice 
social distancing and frequently wash their hands. He reiterated that the 
success of his government’s fight against the epidemic primarily depends on 
their responsible behavior.

On Wednesday, the government decided to make it mandatory for every citizen to 
wear a face mask or a cloth covering their mouth and nose not only in enclosed 
spaces but also in the streets and all other public areas.

Critics of the government are skeptical about the effectiveness of this strategy 
of containing the virus. They say that only a renewed lockdown can make a 
difference.

The government had already issued stay-at-home orders, banned public transport 
and shut down most businesses in late March. But it began gradually easing those 
restrictions already in mid-April.

The daily number of new coronavirus cases recorded by the Ministry of Health has 
skyrocketed since then. Critics say that the authorities never properly enforced 
the lockdown and lifted it too soon.


Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2020 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

 


You may also like

RFE/RL Armenian Report – 06/04/2020

                                        Thursday, June 4, 2020

U.S. Approves More Coronavirus Aid To Armenia

        • Harry Tamrazian

Armenia -- U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy addresses members of the American Chamber 
of Commerce in Yerevan, May 15, 2019.

The United States has allocated $5.4 million in fresh assistance to Armenia 
designed to combat the coronavirus epidemic, U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy said on 
Thursday.

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Tracy also voiced concern over 
the growing number of coronavirus cases in the country while praising the 
Armenian government’s intensifying efforts to get people to practice social 
distancing, wear face masks and wash hands.

“Those are things that all of us can do and that I think can help turn around 
the situation we’re seeing right now,” she said. “Obviously these high numbers 
that we are seeing now are of concern, but it’s really the effort of all of us, 
a unified effort, that I think is going to make a difference in fighting 
COVID-19.”

“I’m also happy to say that the United States has been doing its best to 
contribute and assist the government,” Tracy went on. “We have obtained $5.4 
million of new assistance money that’s going in a number of directions to help 
the government. We are also redirecting some of our existing money to help small 
and medium businesses.

“So I have still some optimism that we can recover and be in a better place. But 
it’s going to take a lot of work, I think, from everybody.”

In the envoy’s words, much of the fresh U.S. assistance will be channeled into 
Armenian laboratories and healthcare services dealing with “the most severe 
cases” of COVID-19. “We are continuing to talk to the [Armenian] government 
about the needs that they have, and we are looking at what we have within the 
U.S. capacity to help,” she said.

Washington announced its first coronavirus-related aid package for Armenia, 
worth $1.1 million, in late March shortly after the Armenian government imposed 
a nationwide lockdown to contain the first major outbreaks of the disease.

The government began easing those restrictions in mid-April and lifted virtually 
all of them by the beginning of May. The number of coronavirus cases in the 
country has increased sharply since then. Critics say that the government never 
properly enforced the lockdown and ended it too soon.

Asked to commenting on that criticism, Tracy said: “The prime minister [Nikol 
Pashinian] has been talking about some of the issues that he’s been trying to 
balance, trying to balance protecting public health while also paying attention 
to the fundamentals of the economy. It’s a tough balance to strike.”

“This is something that we are facing in the United States as well and in many 
places around the world,” she said.



Armenian Gas Network Insists On Higher Prices

        • Naira Nalbandian

Armenia - The Gazprom Armenia headquarters in Yerevan, 31Oct2014.

Armenia’s Russian-owned national gas distribution company defended on Thursday 
higher tariffs sought by it, saying that state regulators’ refusal to approve 
them would put continued supplies of Russian gas to the country at risk.

The company controlled by Russia’s Gazprom formally asked the Public Services 
Regulatory Commission (PSRC) on April 1 to allow it to raise its retail prices 
by an average of 11 percent.

The Gazprom Armenia network argued that the cost of Russian gas supplied to 
Armenian households and corporate consumer has remained unchanged since Gazprom 
raised its wholesale price for Armenia from $150 to $165 per thousand cubic 
meters in January 2019. The network has incurred major losses as a result.

The PSRC proposed on Monday that Gazprom Armenia settle for more modest price 
rises that would average 4.6 percent. It also decided to hold a further 
discussion on the issue with the company’s representatives and civil society 
members.

The company’s chief executive, Hrant Tadevosian, insisted on its tariff demands 
when he spoke during the three-hour meeting held on Thursday.

“If we carry on with current expenditures we will no longer be able to import 
the 2 billion or 2.2 billion [cubic meters] of gas which we have imported until 
now [annually,]” warned Tadevosian. “If the gas supply is interrupted for one or 
two days I can guarantee that we will have very serious problems.”

“I’m not trying to scare you,” he said. “I just have to state the existing the 
truth.”

Tadevosian added that higher tariffs would also allow Gazprom Armenia to make 
230 billion drams ($474 million) in badly needed capital investments in the 
network over the next 10 years.

In its tariff application sent to the PSRC, Gazprom Armenia offered to slightly 
cut the gas price for the majority of households, which currently stands at an 
equivalent of $290 per thousand cubic meters. However, it demanded the scrapping 
of a 36 percent price discount enjoyed by low-income families.

The PSRC objected to this demand on Monday. It also urged the gas operator to 
reconsider plans for a sizable increase in gas tariffs set for manufacturing and 
agricultural firms.

The regulatory body is expected to make a final decision on the Gazprom Armenia 
application later this month.

Shortly before Gazprom Armenia requested the price hikes, the Armenian 
government urged the Russian energy giant to cut its wholesale gas price for 
Armenia. It argued that global energy prices have collapsed because of the 
coronavirus pandemic.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Russian President Vladimir Putin 
discussed the matter by phone on April 6. They apparently failed to reach an 
agreement.

Speaking at a May 19 video conference with fellow leaders of the Eurasian 
Economic Union (EEU) member states, Putin rejected Armenia’s and Belarus’s calls 
for the Russian-led trade bloc to set uniform energy tariffs which would reduce 
the cost of Russian natural gas imported by them.



Court Revokes Arrest Warrant For Ex-President’s Son-In-Law


Armenia -- Former Armenian Ambassador to the Vatican Mikael Minasian.

Armenia’s Court of Appeals overturned on Thursday a lower court’s decision to 
allow investigators to arrest Mikael Minasian, former President Serzh 
Sarkisian’s fugitive son-in-law prosecuted on corruption charges denied by him.

Armenia’s State Revenue Committee (SRC) moved to arrest Minasian in late April 
one month after charging him with illegal enrichment, false asset disclosure and 
money laundering. A district court in Yerevan agreed to issue an arrest warrant 
for him on May 6.

A bitter critic of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, Minasian left Armenia shortly 
after he was dismissed as the country’s ambassador to the Vatican in late 2018. 
He has declined to reveal his current whereabouts in a series of video messages 
posted on Facebook in recent weeks.

Minasian has said that he is not returning to Armenia because he believes that 
investigators and judges dealing with his case are acting on Pashinian’s orders. 
He has also accused Pashinian of corruption and misrule.

Pashinian has dismissed most of those accusations. The premier has repeatedly 
accused Minasian of illegally making a huge fortune during Sarkisian’s rule.

A close Pashinian associate, deputy parliament speaker Alen Simonian, condemned 
the Court of Appeals judge who revoked the arrest warrant.

“I believe this [decision] is vivid proof of the fact that the existing problem 
within Armenia’s judicial system needs to be resolved as soon as possible,” 
Simonian told reporters, according to the Armenpress news agency.

Minasian, 42, enjoyed considerable political and economic influence in the 
country when it was ruled by his father-in-law from 2008-2018. He is also 
thought to have developed extensive business interests in various sectors of the 
Armenian economy.

One of Minasian’s lawyers, Amram Makinian, said on April 22 that the money 
laundering charge brought against his client stems from large sums of cash which 
he transferred from one of his bank accounts to another in 2017-2018. Makinian 
also claimed that the other accusations are based on a “technical error” 
committed by the employee of a private firm which drew up and filed Minasian’s 
income declarations. He said that SRC investigators are refusing to summon that 
person for questioning.



Armenian Tax Chief Resigns


Armenia -- Davit Ananian, head of the State Revenue Committee, arrives for a 
news conference in Yerevan, July 9, 2019.

Davit Ananian, the head of Armenia’s State Revenue Committee (SRC), unexpectedly 
resigned on Thursday.

Ananian gave no reasons for the resignation when he announced it on Facebook.

“In order to end rumors circulating in the media I want to inform that today I 
tendered my resignation to the prime minister of Armenia,” he wrote.

“I want to thank everyone for effective and production cooperation and Prime 
Minister Nikol Pashinian for entrusting this important position to me for more 
than two years,” he added without elaborating.

Pashinian did not immediately accept the resignation or make statements on it.

Ananian, 48, was appointed as head of the national tax and customs services in 
May 2018 shortly after the “Velvet Revolution” that brought Pashinian to power. 
He served as deputy finance minister in Armenia’s previous government. Former 
Prime Minister Karen Karapetian had appointed him to that post in 2016.

According to his official biography, Ananian, 46, worked as a tax inspector in 
the 1990s and ran a private tax and accounting consultancy from 2006-2016.

Ananian promised a tougher government crackdown on companies and individuals 
evading taxes when he took over the SRC. The current government’s tax revenues 
have risen significantly since then, a fact regularly emphasized by Pashinian.



Armenian Minister Warns Of COVID-19 Healthcare Collapse


Armenia -- A doctor wearing a face mask and protective gear gives a call as she 
stands next to an ambulance at the Grigor Lusavorich Medical Center in Yerevan, 
June 1, 2020

The daily number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Armenia continued to rise on 
Thursday, with Health Minister Arsen Torosian warning that Armenian hospitals 
may soon be unable to admit all infected people in need of urgent treatment.

The Ministry of Health said in the morning that 697 people tested positive for 
coronavirus in the past day, which raised to 11,221 the total number of cases 
registered in the country of about 3 million.

The ministry also reported 6 new coronavirus deaths. The official death toll 
from the COVID-19 epidemic thus reached 176.

The figure does not include the deaths of 68 other citizens also infected with 
the virus. The ministry claims that they died from other, pre-existing diseases. 
It recorded 9 such fatalities on Wednesday.

Due to the accelerating spread of the virus the health authorities stopped late 
last month hospitalizing or isolating individuals showing mild symptoms of the 
disease or none at all.

“Only about 15-20 percent of the registered cases need hospitalization, while 
the rest stay at home under the surveillance of primary healthcare bodies,” 
Torosian told a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan.

“On a daily basis, almost manually, so to speak, we accommodate patients on the 
existing hospital beds,” he said. “It is very important that we register a 
substantial decrease in [infection] numbers so that we can keep up … this 
process.”

“Or else, it will be very difficult to ensure all that,” he added.


Armenia -- Health Minister Arsen Torosian attends a cabinet meeting in Yerevan, 
June 4, 2020.

Torosian earlier warned of an impending shortage of beds at the intensive care 
units of hospitals treating COVID-19 patients. He said on Monday that dozens of 
more such hospital beds will be made available in the coming days and weeks.

According to the health minister, 450 patients are in a serious or critical 
condition at the moment.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian stated earlier in the day that “there are already 
people in need of hospitalization whom we cannot hospitalize on time.” “Our 
healthcare system is already bending downwards,” he said in a video message 
livestreamed on Facebook.

During the ensuing cabinet meeting, Pashinian again complained about Armenians’ 
“widespread” noncompliance with safety rules. He singled out people’s failure to 
observe social distancing when lining up outside commercial bank or post offices.

Central Bank Governor Artur Javadian and Minister of High-Tech Industry Hakob 
Arshakian assured Pashinian that their respective agencies are taking effective 
measures to get customers to stand away from each other outside those offices.

Torosian seemed more worried about COVID-19 infections reported among workers of 
manufacturing enterprises. He said they are fraught with “big outbreaks” of the 
disease in various parts of the country.

Armenia’s largest textile factory located in the northern city of Vanadzor was 
forced to close for three days on Wednesday after at least 39 of its 2,600 
employees tested positive for the virus.

The worsening coronavirus crisis is fuelling growing calls for the Armenian 
government to re-impose a nationwide lockdown. Pashinian admitted earlier this 
week that the health authorities are also favoring such a drastic move. But he 
gave no indications on Thursday that it is imminent.


ARMENIA -- A woman wearing a protective facemask walks in central Yerevan, June 
2, 2020

Instead, the prime minister again urged Armenians to wear face masks, practice 
social distancing and frequently wash their hands. He reiterated that the 
success of his government’s fight against the epidemic primarily depends on 
their responsible behavior.

On Wednesday, the government decided to make it mandatory for every citizen to 
wear a face mask or a cloth covering their mouth and nose not only in enclosed 
spaces but also in the streets and all other public areas.

Critics of the government are skeptical about the effectiveness of this strategy 
of containing the virus. They say that only a renewed lockdown can make a 
difference.

The government had already issued stay-at-home orders, banned public transport 
and shut down most businesses in late March. But it began gradually easing those 
restrictions already in mid-April.

The daily number of new coronavirus cases recorded by the Ministry of Health has 
skyrocketed since then. Critics say that the authorities never properly enforced 
the lockdown and lifted it too soon.


Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2020 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

 


You may also like

RFE/RL Armenian Report – 06/04/2020

                                        Thursday, June 4, 2020

U.S. Approves More Coronavirus Aid To Armenia

        • Harry Tamrazian

Armenia -- U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy addresses members of the American Chamber 
of Commerce in Yerevan, May 15, 2019.

The United States has allocated $5.4 million in fresh assistance to Armenia 
designed to combat the coronavirus epidemic, U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy said on 
Thursday.

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Tracy also voiced concern over 
the growing number of coronavirus cases in the country while praising the 
Armenian government’s intensifying efforts to get people to practice social 
distancing, wear face masks and wash hands.

“Those are things that all of us can do and that I think can help turn around 
the situation we’re seeing right now,” she said. “Obviously these high numbers 
that we are seeing now are of concern, but it’s really the effort of all of us, 
a unified effort, that I think is going to make a difference in fighting 
COVID-19.”

“I’m also happy to say that the United States has been doing its best to 
contribute and assist the government,” Tracy went on. “We have obtained $5.4 
million of new assistance money that’s going in a number of directions to help 
the government. We are also redirecting some of our existing money to help small 
and medium businesses.

“So I have still some optimism that we can recover and be in a better place. But 
it’s going to take a lot of work, I think, from everybody.”

In the envoy’s words, much of the fresh U.S. assistance will be channeled into 
Armenian laboratories and healthcare services dealing with “the most severe 
cases” of COVID-19. “We are continuing to talk to the [Armenian] government 
about the needs that they have, and we are looking at what we have within the 
U.S. capacity to help,” she said.

Washington announced its first coronavirus-related aid package for Armenia, 
worth $1.1 million, in late March shortly after the Armenian government imposed 
a nationwide lockdown to contain the first major outbreaks of the disease.

The government began easing those restrictions in mid-April and lifted virtually 
all of them by the beginning of May. The number of coronavirus cases in the 
country has increased sharply since then. Critics say that the government never 
properly enforced the lockdown and ended it too soon.

Asked to commenting on that criticism, Tracy said: “The prime minister [Nikol 
Pashinian] has been talking about some of the issues that he’s been trying to 
balance, trying to balance protecting public health while also paying attention 
to the fundamentals of the economy. It’s a tough balance to strike.”

“This is something that we are facing in the United States as well and in many 
places around the world,” she said.



Armenian Gas Network Insists On Higher Prices

        • Naira Nalbandian

Armenia - The Gazprom Armenia headquarters in Yerevan, 31Oct2014.

Armenia’s Russian-owned national gas distribution company defended on Thursday 
higher tariffs sought by it, saying that state regulators’ refusal to approve 
them would put continued supplies of Russian gas to the country at risk.

The company controlled by Russia’s Gazprom formally asked the Public Services 
Regulatory Commission (PSRC) on April 1 to allow it to raise its retail prices 
by an average of 11 percent.

The Gazprom Armenia network argued that the cost of Russian gas supplied to 
Armenian households and corporate consumer has remained unchanged since Gazprom 
raised its wholesale price for Armenia from $150 to $165 per thousand cubic 
meters in January 2019. The network has incurred major losses as a result.

The PSRC proposed on Monday that Gazprom Armenia settle for more modest price 
rises that would average 4.6 percent. It also decided to hold a further 
discussion on the issue with the company’s representatives and civil society 
members.

The company’s chief executive, Hrant Tadevosian, insisted on its tariff demands 
when he spoke during the three-hour meeting held on Thursday.

“If we carry on with current expenditures we will no longer be able to import 
the 2 billion or 2.2 billion [cubic meters] of gas which we have imported until 
now [annually,]” warned Tadevosian. “If the gas supply is interrupted for one or 
two days I can guarantee that we will have very serious problems.”

“I’m not trying to scare you,” he said. “I just have to state the existing the 
truth.”

Tadevosian added that higher tariffs would also allow Gazprom Armenia to make 
230 billion drams ($474 million) in badly needed capital investments in the 
network over the next 10 years.

In its tariff application sent to the PSRC, Gazprom Armenia offered to slightly 
cut the gas price for the majority of households, which currently stands at an 
equivalent of $290 per thousand cubic meters. However, it demanded the scrapping 
of a 36 percent price discount enjoyed by low-income families.

The PSRC objected to this demand on Monday. It also urged the gas operator to 
reconsider plans for a sizable increase in gas tariffs set for manufacturing and 
agricultural firms.

The regulatory body is expected to make a final decision on the Gazprom Armenia 
application later this month.

Shortly before Gazprom Armenia requested the price hikes, the Armenian 
government urged the Russian energy giant to cut its wholesale gas price for 
Armenia. It argued that global energy prices have collapsed because of the 
coronavirus pandemic.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Russian President Vladimir Putin 
discussed the matter by phone on April 6. They apparently failed to reach an 
agreement.

Speaking at a May 19 video conference with fellow leaders of the Eurasian 
Economic Union (EEU) member states, Putin rejected Armenia’s and Belarus’s calls 
for the Russian-led trade bloc to set uniform energy tariffs which would reduce 
the cost of Russian natural gas imported by them.



Court Revokes Arrest Warrant For Ex-President’s Son-In-Law


Armenia -- Former Armenian Ambassador to the Vatican Mikael Minasian.

Armenia’s Court of Appeals overturned on Thursday a lower court’s decision to 
allow investigators to arrest Mikael Minasian, former President Serzh 
Sarkisian’s fugitive son-in-law prosecuted on corruption charges denied by him.

Armenia’s State Revenue Committee (SRC) moved to arrest Minasian in late April 
one month after charging him with illegal enrichment, false asset disclosure and 
money laundering. A district court in Yerevan agreed to issue an arrest warrant 
for him on May 6.

A bitter critic of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, Minasian left Armenia shortly 
after he was dismissed as the country’s ambassador to the Vatican in late 2018. 
He has declined to reveal his current whereabouts in a series of video messages 
posted on Facebook in recent weeks.

Minasian has said that he is not returning to Armenia because he believes that 
investigators and judges dealing with his case are acting on Pashinian’s orders. 
He has also accused Pashinian of corruption and misrule.

Pashinian has dismissed most of those accusations. The premier has repeatedly 
accused Minasian of illegally making a huge fortune during Sarkisian’s rule.

A close Pashinian associate, deputy parliament speaker Alen Simonian, condemned 
the Court of Appeals judge who revoked the arrest warrant.

“I believe this [decision] is vivid proof of the fact that the existing problem 
within Armenia’s judicial system needs to be resolved as soon as possible,” 
Simonian told reporters, according to the Armenpress news agency.

Minasian, 42, enjoyed considerable political and economic influence in the 
country when it was ruled by his father-in-law from 2008-2018. He is also 
thought to have developed extensive business interests in various sectors of the 
Armenian economy.

One of Minasian’s lawyers, Amram Makinian, said on April 22 that the money 
laundering charge brought against his client stems from large sums of cash which 
he transferred from one of his bank accounts to another in 2017-2018. Makinian 
also claimed that the other accusations are based on a “technical error” 
committed by the employee of a private firm which drew up and filed Minasian’s 
income declarations. He said that SRC investigators are refusing to summon that 
person for questioning.



Armenian Tax Chief Resigns


Armenia -- Davit Ananian, head of the State Revenue Committee, arrives for a 
news conference in Yerevan, July 9, 2019.

Davit Ananian, the head of Armenia’s State Revenue Committee (SRC), unexpectedly 
resigned on Thursday.

Ananian gave no reasons for the resignation when he announced it on Facebook.

“In order to end rumors circulating in the media I want to inform that today I 
tendered my resignation to the prime minister of Armenia,” he wrote.

“I want to thank everyone for effective and production cooperation and Prime 
Minister Nikol Pashinian for entrusting this important position to me for more 
than two years,” he added without elaborating.

Pashinian did not immediately accept the resignation or make statements on it.

Ananian, 48, was appointed as head of the national tax and customs services in 
May 2018 shortly after the “Velvet Revolution” that brought Pashinian to power. 
He served as deputy finance minister in Armenia’s previous government. Former 
Prime Minister Karen Karapetian had appointed him to that post in 2016.

According to his official biography, Ananian, 46, worked as a tax inspector in 
the 1990s and ran a private tax and accounting consultancy from 2006-2016.

Ananian promised a tougher government crackdown on companies and individuals 
evading taxes when he took over the SRC. The current government’s tax revenues 
have risen significantly since then, a fact regularly emphasized by Pashinian.



Armenian Minister Warns Of COVID-19 Healthcare Collapse


Armenia -- A doctor wearing a face mask and protective gear gives a call as she 
stands next to an ambulance at the Grigor Lusavorich Medical Center in Yerevan, 
June 1, 2020

The daily number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Armenia continued to rise on 
Thursday, with Health Minister Arsen Torosian warning that Armenian hospitals 
may soon be unable to admit all infected people in need of urgent treatment.

The Ministry of Health said in the morning that 697 people tested positive for 
coronavirus in the past day, which raised to 11,221 the total number of cases 
registered in the country of about 3 million.

The ministry also reported 6 new coronavirus deaths. The official death toll 
from the COVID-19 epidemic thus reached 176.

The figure does not include the deaths of 68 other citizens also infected with 
the virus. The ministry claims that they died from other, pre-existing diseases. 
It recorded 9 such fatalities on Wednesday.

Due to the accelerating spread of the virus the health authorities stopped late 
last month hospitalizing or isolating individuals showing mild symptoms of the 
disease or none at all.

“Only about 15-20 percent of the registered cases need hospitalization, while 
the rest stay at home under the surveillance of primary healthcare bodies,” 
Torosian told a weekly cabinet meeting in Yerevan.

“On a daily basis, almost manually, so to speak, we accommodate patients on the 
existing hospital beds,” he said. “It is very important that we register a 
substantial decrease in [infection] numbers so that we can keep up … this 
process.”

“Or else, it will be very difficult to ensure all that,” he added.


Armenia -- Health Minister Arsen Torosian attends a cabinet meeting in Yerevan, 
June 4, 2020.

Torosian earlier warned of an impending shortage of beds at the intensive care 
units of hospitals treating COVID-19 patients. He said on Monday that dozens of 
more such hospital beds will be made available in the coming days and weeks.

According to the health minister, 450 patients are in a serious or critical 
condition at the moment.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian stated earlier in the day that “there are already 
people in need of hospitalization whom we cannot hospitalize on time.” “Our 
healthcare system is already bending downwards,” he said in a video message 
livestreamed on Facebook.

During the ensuing cabinet meeting, Pashinian again complained about Armenians’ 
“widespread” noncompliance with safety rules. He singled out people’s failure to 
observe social distancing when lining up outside commercial bank or post offices.

Central Bank Governor Artur Javadian and Minister of High-Tech Industry Hakob 
Arshakian assured Pashinian that their respective agencies are taking effective 
measures to get customers to stand away from each other outside those offices.

Torosian seemed more worried about COVID-19 infections reported among workers of 
manufacturing enterprises. He said they are fraught with “big outbreaks” of the 
disease in various parts of the country.

Armenia’s largest textile factory located in the northern city of Vanadzor was 
forced to close for three days on Wednesday after at least 39 of its 2,600 
employees tested positive for the virus.

The worsening coronavirus crisis is fuelling growing calls for the Armenian 
government to re-impose a nationwide lockdown. Pashinian admitted earlier this 
week that the health authorities are also favoring such a drastic move. But he 
gave no indications on Thursday that it is imminent.


ARMENIA -- A woman wearing a protective facemask walks in central Yerevan, June 
2, 2020

Instead, the prime minister again urged Armenians to wear face masks, practice 
social distancing and frequently wash their hands. He reiterated that the 
success of his government’s fight against the epidemic primarily depends on 
their responsible behavior.

On Wednesday, the government decided to make it mandatory for every citizen to 
wear a face mask or a cloth covering their mouth and nose not only in enclosed 
spaces but also in the streets and all other public areas.

Critics of the government are skeptical about the effectiveness of this strategy 
of containing the virus. They say that only a renewed lockdown can make a 
difference.

The government had already issued stay-at-home orders, banned public transport 
and shut down most businesses in late March. But it began gradually easing those 
restrictions already in mid-April.

The daily number of new coronavirus cases recorded by the Ministry of Health has 
skyrocketed since then. Critics say that the authorities never properly enforced 
the lockdown and lifted it too soon.


Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2020 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

 


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Armenpress: Anti-epidemic movement should start in Armenia, says PM

Anti-epidemic movement should start in Armenia, says PM

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 11:45, 4 June, 2020

YEREVAN, JUNE 4, ARMENPRESS. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced today that an anti-epidemic movement should start in Armenia.

“An anti-epidemic movement should start in Armenia. Each of us should do everything for preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Firstly, he/she must accurately keep the anti-epidemic rules, secondly must urge the others to keep that rules, and thirdly, must post the cases of violations of these rules in his/her social account”, the PM said live on Facebook.

He informed that a monitoring group has already been formed in the Police which will follow the publications in social networks.

According to the latest data, 697 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Armenia, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 11,221. The death toll has reached 176. The total number of recovered people is 3,468. The active cases stand at 7,509.

Reporting by Norayr Shoghikyan; Editing and Translating by Aneta Harutyunyan

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