President’s actions in a country I was proud to serve is stoking up a Kurdish war

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ATATURK is arguably one of the most enlightened military revolutionaries in history. Within 20 years of the overthrow of a 500 year old sultanate and caliphate (parallel Islamic government with its own Sharia law) and having ejected the foreign powers occupying post war Turkey (1919-1924), he had built a democratic state including separate church and state, education for all and full voting rights for women.

To ensure that this democracy lasted he built four separate balancing powers: a parliament, a presidency with a right of veto but no executive powers, an independent judiciary and an army tasked with ensuring that the constitution would last. There have been ups and downs along the way, including questionable military interventions, but broadly his creation has been a shining example to all the current strife-ridden Muslim states around the Mediterranean.

So how tragic it is to see Recep Erdogan undo so much of this legacy. In the space of just a few years (allegedly to cut off corruption charges) he has undermined the independence of the judiciary, the police and the army and, now that he is president, seeks to change the constitution to turn it into an executive presidency. To achieve this he is prepared to stoke up another Kurdish civil war, the suppression of which will help him get the majority he needs in parliament to change the constitution.

I doubt that historians will waste much time comparing his achievements (mainly in the economic field) to those of Ataturk whose creation he has largely threatened. And whose country I was proud to serve .

Ian Wittet

Retired Honorary Consul for Turkey (1990-2015),

Belford Park, Edinburgh

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