[House Hearing, 114 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
TURKEY'S DEMOCRATIC DECLINE
SUBCOMMITTEE ON EUROPE, EURASIA, AND EMERGING THREATS
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FOURTEENTH CONGRESS
JULY 13, 2016
Serial No. 114-196
Printed for the use of the Committee on Foreign Affairs
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COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California, Chairman
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey ELIOT L. ENGEL, New York
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida BRAD SHERMAN, California
DANA ROHRABACHER, California GREGORY W. MEEKS, New York
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio ALBIO SIRES, New Jersey
JOE WILSON, South Carolina GERALD E. CONNOLLY, Virginia
MICHAEL T. McCAUL, Texas THEODORE E. DEUTCH, Florida
TED POE, Texas BRIAN HIGGINS, New York
MATT SALMON, Arizona KAREN BASS, California
DARRELL E. ISSA, California WILLIAM KEATING, Massachusetts
TOM MARINO, Pennsylvania DAVID CICILLINE, Rhode Island
JEFF DUNCAN, South Carolina ALAN GRAYSON, Florida
MO BROOKS, Alabama AMI BERA, California
PAUL COOK, California ALAN S. LOWENTHAL, California
RANDY K. WEBER SR., Texas GRACE MENG, New York
SCOTT PERRY, Pennsylvania LOIS FRANKEL, Florida
RON DeSANTIS, Florida TULSI GABBARD, Hawaii
MARK MEADOWS, North Carolina JOAQUIN CASTRO, Texas
TED S. YOHO, Florida ROBIN L. KELLY, Illinois
CURT CLAWSON, Florida BRENDAN F. BOYLE, Pennsylvania
SCOTT DesJARLAIS, Tennessee
REID J. RIBBLE, Wisconsin
DAVID A. TROTT, Michigan
LEE M. ZELDIN, New York
DANIEL DONOVAN, New York
Amy Porter, Chief of Staff Thomas Sheehy, Staff Director
Jason Steinbaum, Democratic Staff Director
Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats
DANA ROHRABACHER, California, Chairman
TED POE, Texas GREGORY W. MEEKS, New York
TOM MARINO, Pennsylvania ALBIO SIRES, New Jersey
MO BROOKS, Alabama THEODORE E. DEUTCH, Florida
PAUL COOK, California WILLIAM KEATING, Massachusetts
RANDY K. WEBER SR., Texas LOIS FRANKEL, Florida
REID J. RIBBLE, Wisconsin TULSI GABBARD, Hawaii
DAVID A. TROTT, Michigan
C O N T E N T S
Henri J. Barkey, Ph.D., director, Middle East Program, The Wilson
Fevzi Bilgin, Ph.D., president, Rethink Institute................ 13
Mr. Alan Makovsky, senior fellow, Center for American Progress... 21
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
Henri J. Barkey, Ph.D.: Prepared statement....................... 8
Fevzi Bilgin, Ph.D.: Prepared statement.......................... 15
Mr. Alan Makovsky: Prepared statement............................ 23
Hearing notice................................................... 56
Hearing minutes.................................................. 57
The Honorable Dana Rohrabacher, a Representative in Congress from
the State of California, and chairman, Subcommittee on Europe,
Eurasia, and Emerging Threats: Material submitted for the
TURKEY'S DEMOCRATIC DECLINE
WEDNESDAY, JULY 13, 2016
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats,
Committee on Foreign Affairs,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 2:54 p.m., in
room 2200, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Dana Rohrabacher
(chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. Rohrabacher. I call the subcommittee to order. This is
our second subcommittee event of 2016 focused on the
development of the situation in Turkey. And as we continue to
watch with concern, I have titled today's hearing, ``Turkey's
Let me say from the offset that our comments, and even our
criticisms, of the Turkish Government are predicated on a deep
respect for Turkey and the Turkish people. Turkey and America
have been and are friends. Friends speak plainly to one another
about problems. That is what you will hear today.
I would like to take this opportunity to extend my
condolences to the families of all the victims of last month's
terrorist attack at Istanbul's airport. It was a cowardly
attack by radical Muslim extremists. And traveling through that
region, I was able to personally pay a tribute to the victims
of this horrendous massacre just a few days after the tragic
event had occurred.
Our expressions reflected those of sorrow, expressed and
reflected those of the American people. Turkish victims are no
different than American victims. These people have been
murdered in recent months and recent years by radical
extremists, represent an evil force on this planet that must be
defeated and destroyed. And both of our countries, Turkey and
the United States, will be a safer people and place when that
Those of you who have observed this subcommittee know, that
while wishing the best for Turkey, we have concerns about
actions taken by President Erdogan that may put his people at
risk and weaken the strong ties between our countries. Our hope
for a better situation and things would turn around has not
happened, and we have been disappointed. And there is a
mounting body of evidence suggesting that President Erdogan's
party and his regime seems to be involved with corruption and
misrule that is taking Turkey in exactly the wrong direction.
President Erdogan's party has used the levers of power to
limit dissent and to crack down on free journalism. Thousands
of judges and prosecutors have been reassigned based on their
political inclinations. And immunity from parliamentarians have
been lifted, opening the way for charges to be used against
them in order to sideline opposition, especially those in the
Seemingly erratic, Erdogan has officially designated the
followers of Mr. Gulen as a terrorist group, and this group was
once, of course, a lynchpin of his political coalition. So he
has gone from a relationship with a group that has been very
important to his success to now declaring them as enemies and
declaring them the enemies of his country. They helped bring
him to power and now he has targeted them for repression.
These kind of steps have taken Turkey further away from the
shared values at the heart of our American-Turkish alliance.
While a representative from the Committee to Protect
Journalists couldn't be here today in person, they did send a
written statement, and I will be submitting the entire
statement for the record. But I wanted to read a short excerpt
from it now.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that over the
past 2 years the Turkish Government, and I quote,
``Increased its repressive action against the press
through using vague, broadly worded antiterrorist laws,
bringing charges under an archaic law that carries jail
terms for insulting the President, replacing the
editorial management of opposition media outlets and
firing their staff, routinely imposing bans on the
reporting of sensitive stories, and prosecuting and
imprisoning journalists on antistate charges in
retaliation for their work.''
That is, indeed, a sad description for the state of free
media in Turkey. It is a sad description of how Turkey has
changed in these last 5 years and has gone in the wrong
direction. While I have always strived to maintain a balanced
perspective, it is clear to me that Erdogan's actions have
hobbled Turkey's democracy at home and left his country more
isolated in the region than at any other time in recent memory.
I have many questions for our witnesses today, but I
especially look forward to their views on the recent
rapprochement between Turkey, Russia, and Israel. While such
developments are, of course, welcome, I can't help but wonder
if this is merely a momentary change of attitude or something
more durable. We can get into that during the testimony.
With that said, I thank our witnesses. And without
objection, all members will have at least until the end of this
week to submit additional written questions for extraneous
material for the record.
I now turn to Mr. Meeks, the ranking member, to have
whatever opening statement he would like.
Mr. Meeks. Thank you, Chairman Rohrabacher. And thank you
for your remarks and organizing today's subcommittee hearing on
the political trends in Turkey.
As we all know, and as, I guess, clearly indicated even by
the number of individuals that is in this room, Turkey is our
important ally in an increasingly complex region. And, you
know, I am grateful, especially grateful for the opportunity to
take a look at Turkey again and again and again because that is
how important our relationship is with Turkey.
You know, when I first came into Congress, I looked at the
number of countries around and the various regions, Turkey is
truly an important ally and a country that I think that we have
got to work with. And when you have friends, you should be able
to talk honest and open with your friends. You know, it reminds
me of some of the dialogue that we have here in the United
States currently that is going on around our country and the
talk is let's have a dialogue, and dialogue at times has to be
So when we look at some of the trends in Turkey, we see
that some remain the same since our last hearing. Domestically
President Erdogan continues to enjoy strong support but has not
veered from his push toward the presidential system. The
domestic conflict with the Kurds has not abated and is closely
linked with the conflict in Syria. And as a result of the
Syrian war, the refugee crisis in agreement with the EU has
also remained a source of strain.
On the other hand, there have been some other changes, some
significant. A Prime Minister resigned in May. Terror attacks
have struck the cord of fear, detracting tourists from visiting
Turkey and further crippling their economy. These attacks test
our resolve, our common values in an open society, and tip the
balance between liberty and security.
On the international front, Turkey and Israel recently
signed a broad agreement to restore ties after a 6-year break,
a step that I say that I welcome. Furthermore, Turkey's looking
to restore relations with Russia, reopening a needed source of
tourism. And yesterday, Prime Minister Yildilrum announced
efforts to seek normalization with Syria, possibly presenting
new opportunities for peace building and cooperation.
Yet, where does that leave Turkish-U.S. and Turkish-NATO
relations? And what can we do in Congress to make sure Turkey
remains an ally and a friend and a trusted partner in the
region? I believe it begins and ends with our commitment to our
common principles and shared interests, and that brings us back
to the democratic space in Turkey.
We, in Congress, are indeed concerned with democratic
progress in Turkey. I inquire about its state, as a concerned
friend, as I said. I want to make sure--it is imperative to
discuss the recent crackdown on the freedom of speech in
Turkish universities and in the press. Tolerance in the face of
domestic criticism is difficult, and regional events further
complicate the situation.
But nevertheless, we must fully defend the fight for
academic freedom, for freedom of the press, and for the right
of individuals to critique their governments, as difficult as
that may be to hear. I say that here in the United States for
the people of the United States, and I say that there for the
people of Turkey, that they must have the freedom to express
As we all know too well here in America, suppressing these
voices only leads to an erosion of democracy, a hollowing out
of society, and even an eruption of conflict. And as violence
spreads across southeastern Turkey and into beautiful Istanbul,
we are reminded of the delicate balance between security and
liberty. Tragically, these are not isolated incidents. They
serve to highlight the need for a path to peace in Turkey,
Iraq, and Syria.
So I too want, as the chairman indicated, send my
condolences out to those who suffered losses at the recent
attacks at the Turkish airport. We all looked with harrowing
eyes as terror attacks took place there, and we wish and hope
that the families--I know that they are undergoing tremendous
loss and pain, and our prayers go up to them and their
So I think that, Mr. Chairman, as I yield back to you, I
hope that this hearing helps us to understand and bring a peace
that is closer to our reality and help strengthen our
relationship while we have some frank conversation and
dialogue. I look forward to listening to the witnesses, because
your testimony is important to me understanding and learning,
and I think that, you know, those who are listening to this
hearing, so that we can get information out, we can share and
Because the idea here is, when we have to be critical,
let's be critical. But it is not just for the sake of being
critical; it is for the sake of trying to make sure that we are
all going to have a better tomorrow and better relationships
between our countries and we can only do that with honest
And I yield back.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Well said.
Mr. Trott, do you have an opening statement?
Mr. Trott. I would like to thank the chairman and ranking
member for holding this timely and important hearing.
I would also like to thank the witnesses for taking time to
be here today.
It seems like every time we try and hold Turkey accountable
for their actions, their response is, but we are a NATO ally.
Turkey certainly remains one of our allies, but that does not
make them immune to honest and fair criticism. Turkey's
insouciance to democracy and human rights under President
Erdogan is disturbing.
Just a couple days ago, Human Rights Watch reported that
the Turkish Government is blocking independent investigations
into alleged mass abuses against civilians across southeast
Turkey. These abuses include heinous crimes like unlawful
killings of civilians and mass force civilian displacement.
I also remain concerned about the seizing of various
Armenian churches in Turkey, including Surp Giragos in April.
This is reminiscent of the events that led to the Armenian
genocide over 100 years ago. And while I am discussing the
genocide, I would like to applaud the German Parliament for
overwhelmingly adopting a resolution calling the coordinated
campaign to exterminate the Armenians in 1915 a genocide.
All of us on this panel are lucky to be able to express our
ideas freely and without fear of repercussions. Ordinary
citizens and journalists in Turkey, however, do not have this
privilege. Turkey remains one of the worst countries in the
world when it comes to freedom of the press, and we got to see
that firsthand in April when the President came to Brookings
and his security repeatedly harassed, assaulted, and even
reportedly tried to throw out media that they did not like.
If this is how Erdogan's police act in Washington, one can
only imagine how they act in Turkey. Mr. Chairman, Turkey's
progress toward democracy is on a downward spiral. They are a
country facing a myriad of issues, both domestically and
internationally. Continuing down this disturbing path, when
they are denying history, expropriating land, and severely
restricting freedom of the speech, is not the answer.
I yield back.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Thank you very much.
Ms. Gabbard, do you have an opening statement?
Let me just note that tomorrow I will be submitting a Sense
of the House resolution based on today's testimony and some of
the statements that you have heard in working with my
colleagues, a Sense of the House resolution expressing concern
about the direction of various societal trends and governmental
trends in Turkey.
And so today, I would invite my colleagues to, at the end
of this hearing, work with me on developing that particular
Sense of the House resolution.
Now with that said, I would like to thank our witnesses for
joining us today. We have three distinguished witnesses. Dr.
Henri Barkey was the director of Middle East Program at the
Woodrow Wilson Center here in Washington. Formally, he was a
professor at Lehigh--is it Lehigh?--Lehigh University and
authored several books on Turkey and Kurdish issues and served
as a member of the State Department's policy planning staff.
We have Dr.--I am really bad at names--Fevzi?
Mr. Bilgin. Fevzi.
Mr. Rohrabacher. And----
Mr. Bilgin. Fevzi Bilgin.
Mr. Rohrabacher. There it is, okay. And is the founding
president of Rethink Institute, a Washington-based think tank.
He is an expert in the areas of constitutional and Turkish
politics. He received his Ph.D. in political science from the
University of Pittsburgh and has taught politics in both the
United States and Turkey in addition to being a published
And Alan Makovsky, I remember you. Makovsky, I have known
that name before. There you go. A senior fellow at the Center
for American Progress, a private think tank in Washington, DC.
And from 2001 to 2013, he served as the senior professional
member of staff here in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
We were just reflecting on how neither one of us have changed
over those 20 years. He helped us cover the Middle East and
Turkey when he worked before us, and today he is here to,
again, give us advice and some direction as to what our
policies should be toward this situation now in Turkey.
Before, of course, he did all this, he directed the
Washington's Institute's Turkish research program and was an
employee of the State Department.
So we have three expert witnesses. And, Dr. Barkey, I would
suggest we start with you. And I would request that, if we
could, keep it down to about 5 minutes. All the rest of your
statement will be part of the record for people to read, and if
you could keep it down to the 5 minutes, we then could have a
dialogue once all the witnesses have testified.
STATEMENT OF HENRI J. BARKEY, PH.D., DIRECTOR, MIDDLE EAST
PROGRAM, THE WILSON CENTER
Mr. Barkey. Thank you, Chairman Rohrabacher, Ranking Member
Meeks, and members of the subcommittee. It is an honor to
testify today, and I ask that my written testimony be admitted
into the record, please.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Without objection.
Mr. Barkey. There is no question that when it comes to
issues of free speech, due process, individual and civil
rights, the situation in Turkey, has deteriorated significantly
over the last 3 years. The atmosphere created by the ruling
justice and development party and President Erdogan is not
conducive to free discussion of ideas, policies, and politics.
What I will try and do is give you essentially in bullet
points what has happened and then try to offer you an
explanation. First of all, you have all already alluded to the
press. The press is under a tremendous pressure. It is a
twofold sets of pressures: One is that you see journalists
being fired, newspapers being closed, taken over, same thing
happening to television stations, as well as social media. That
is one aspect of it.
The other aspect is that there is also simultaneously an
attempt to build a parallel, if you want, press that is
completely subservient to the President and the party. And it
is essentially, when you look at that press on a daily basis,
as I do, all you see is essentially the legal education of
official propaganda, if you want, but most importantly, what
you see is that there is no room for any discussion of any
opposing ideas in that place.
So the press is under enormous pressure, and it is not
surprising that Freedom House has downgraded Turkey's status
from partially free to not free, which is actually quite
damning for a country that is a member of the NATO alliance.
But the press is not the only one, and this is important to
understand. Every institution of civil society in the State is
also under attack with an effort to dominate. It is true for
business associations. It is true for academia. Thirty-seven
academics have been fired so far. But I know a lot of friends
of mine who are under investigation, and more will be fired as
time goes by, eventually to be replaced with people who are
more conducive to the official position.
Similarly, the judiciary is being revamped and to make it
much closer to the government. Even individuals are not immune;
1,845 individuals have been charged for insulting the
President, some of the penalties are dire. So far nobody has
gone to jail. And even former allies of Mr. Erdogan are under
the same oppression.
So why is this change? I mean, the interesting thing is
that Mr. Erdogan and his party came to power, and in a
paradoxical way it was the biggest and most important opening
of the Turkish political system ever, since 1923, I would say.
They came out against the military, they came out against
traditional ruling elites, and for a while they ruled in that
But they changed. They changed, I would argue, for two
reasons: One is Mr. Erdogan has won victory after victory and
he thinks he is invincible, but most importantly, he actually
does feel vulnerable. He feels vulnerable because Turkish civil
society is still quite dynamic, can resist, can disagree, and,
as we saw in elections in 2015, actually defeat Mr. Erdogan.
But Mr. Erdogan is the President not the Prime Minister. The
Prime Minister has all the legal powers that the constitution
gives, so he feels vulnerable in the Presidential powers, so to
But fundamentally, I would argue, the real reason for the
change is Mr. Erdogan's decision to not make peace with the
Kurdish--the PKK and with the Kurds. In fact, he was making
enormous progress in that direction, commendable progress. And
he scuppered the peace negotiations after his own people had
signed the document. And the reason he did it--and this also--
we won't have time for this--but explains the changes in
foreign policy. The reason he did it is because of the threat
it perceives from the Syrian Kurds, in Syria, as the Syrian
Kurds, who have aligned themselves with the United States, make
progress and move against ISIS.
In the process, what he is afraid of is that a Syrian
Kurdish entity that is closely aligned with the Turkish Kurds
will emerge and therefore pose a strategic threat to Turkey.
And he decided--this is the reason why he decided to
essentially go on that rampage against the press, against the
And in some ways, it also explains the changes that you see
today in foreign policy because, as he finds himself isolated,
he is trying to reconfigure his friendships, or so he thinks,
with the idea that he will come up with a common, shall we say,
cause against the Kurds.
And I will stop here. The red light has gone on.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Barkey follows:]
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Mr. Rohrabacher. Dr. Bilgin.
STATEMENT OF FEVZI BILGIN, PH.D., PRESIDENT, RETHINK INSTITUTE
Mr. Bilgin. Chairman Rohrabacher, Ranking Member Meeks, and
the members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to
testify before you today on Turkey's democratic decline. And I
ask that my full written testimony be admitted into the record.
It is fair to say that all the major political developments
in Turkey in the last 5 years can be attributed to Recep Tayyip
Erdogan's presidential aspirations. A de facto Turkish-style
presidential system is already in place, where Erdogan appoints
and dismisses Prime Ministers, shapes the cabinet, packs the
court in bureaucracy with sworn loyalists.
The final step is to make a constitutional amendment that
will set the new regime in stone. Freedom of speech and freedom
of press is under fire. Thousands of journalists were already
fired since 2013. There is no mainstream media left, only a few
daring but small outlets for dissent. Independent media outlets
are seized or censured, and social media is routinely blocked.
An important casualty of the Erdogan's political
aspirations and Turkey's democratic decline is the community
known as the Gulen or Hizmet movement. The government has
targeted the movement especially since the outbreak of the
corruption scandal in Turkey in December 2013.
According to Erdogan and his lieutenants, the corruption
allegations brought forward were, in fact, an insidious attempt
to topple the AKP government. They claim that this was
orchestrated by Gulen movement affiliates nested in the
judiciary and police forces. The Gulen movement on the other
hand has vehemently denied these allegations, calling them
baseless accusations serving to cover up the corruption.
The movement essentially is a faith-based network of
individuals, organizations, institutions, inspired by the ideas
of Turkish-Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen, who is now residing
in the United States. It subscribes to a moderate, Sufi version
of Islam, along with emphasis on interfaith dialogue.
In Turkey, the movement established private high schools in
every town, mostly which became nationally ranked institutions.
Graduates of these schools moved onto both the public and
private sectors, many joined the government bureaucracy. The
movement also launched influential media outlets in Turkey. The
network showed noticeable efficiency, dynamism, defying the
traditionally introverted and subdued culture of Turkish
However, the movement quickly overreached itself in Turkey.
The sheer size of the network exposed it to the ill intentions
of those who sought influence and leverage. A penchant for high
politics in some circles seemingly undermined the message of
tolerance and inclusion that characterizes the larger movement.
The media affiliated with the movement, on the other hand,
while promoting democratization, demilitarization of politics,
and EU membership, alienated the foes of the AKP government,
which in better days was pursuing those very same objectives.
The reputation of the movement media was also tainted when they
under-emphasized the irregularities and misconduct during the
coup trials several years ago of military officers,
journalists, and academics.
The movement in Turkey now faces blanket persecution.
According to the news, state news agency, as of July 2016, more
than 4,000 individuals have been detained and about 1,000 have
been sent to jail. The detainees are from all walks of life and
include businessmen, doctors, teachers, journalists, academics,
philanthropists, and even housewives. In addition, the
government is taking over privatized schools and colleges, and
charity organizations that were established by the movement
Businesses that have financially supported those
initiatives are seized on a daily basis. Many have had to flee
the country to avoid detention. The remaining hundreds of
thousands of individuals that are ordinary citizens dedicated
to education, charity, and service, and unrelated to the so-
called political struggle are awaiting their fate. The
movement-affiliated media has been subjected to a violent and
illegal takeover, including the highly circulated ``Zaman'' and
``Bugun'' newspapers, and several TV stations, resulting in the
firing of thousands.
As an annual report published by the U.S. Department of
State attests, Turkish courts have been going through political
pressure in the last few years. As a result, people in the
movement, as well as other dissidents, will not have a chance
to stand a fair trial, despite very serious accusations leveled
Human Rights Watch stated that the persecutions for
membership of an alleged Fethullah Gulen terrorist organization
are ongoing, although there is no evidence to date that the
Gulen movement has engaged in violence or other activities that
could reasonably be described as terrorism. But the lack of
evidence of criminal activity did not prevent the government
from designating the movement as a terrorist organization. This
move allows the government to implement harsher antiterrorism
laws for Gulen movement cases.
The Turkish Government also continues to harass the
movement outside Turkey. The foreign governments are pressured
to shut down schools and other institutions affiliated with the
movement in their countries. The Turkish Government has long
sought Gulen's extradition to Turkey from the United States.
Thus, they launched a litigation campaign against the movements
affiliates in the United States, and most recently, a U.S.
Federal judge dismissed such a lawsuit in Pennsylvania.
And thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Bilgin follows:]
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Mr. Rohrabacher. You are next.
STATEMENT OF MR. ALAN MAKOVSKY, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR
Mr. Makovsky. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking Member, members of the
subcommittee, it is an honor for me to testify before you
today. As you said in your introduction, I worked here for 12
years as a staffer, from 2001 to 2013. And knowing the----
Mr. Meeks. Is your mike on?
Mr. Makovsky. Oh, I am sorry. Now it is.
Mr. Rohrabacher. You should have known that more than
Mr. Makovsky. I have never been on this side of the table
before, sir. I was always a quiet staffer in the background.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Go ahead Alan.
Mr. Makovsky. Anyway, I just wanted to say that as a former
staffer and knowing the great importance accorded hearings such
as these, I am deeply privileged to have been invited to
testify and I thank you.
I respectfully request that my written testimony, as
submitted, be entered into the record.
And I would like to join you, Mr. Chairman, in the
condolences you offered to the Turkish people on the June 28
attack on the Ataturk Airport.
The title of this hearing, ``Turkey's Democratic Decline,''
sets out the problem: Turkey's democracy, never as good as it
should have been, is indeed rapidly deteriorating. On virtually
every front, media, judiciary, political governance, Kurdish
rights, private business, universities, as my colleagues here
have all detailed, freedom is diminishing and power is being
concentrated in President Erdogan's hands. Arguably not since
the death of Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and
certainly not since the advent of free elections in Turkey in
1950, has one man held so much power in the Turkish system.
President Erdogan's primary focus, perhaps more correctly
his obsession these days, is to formalize a Presidency-based
system in Turkey in place of the longstanding parliamentary
system. His second and third-ranking priorities, probably in
that order, are ridding Turkey of any Gulenist influence, real
or imagined, and defeating the PKK and, related to that,
quashing any Kurdish movement for collective rights.
Certainly, because of the horrific terrorism staged by ISIS
over the past year in Turkey, I have no doubt that fighting
ISIS has also become more of a priority for Turkey, and Turkish
officials now speak of the importance of fighting ISIS and the
PKK simultaneously. But I don't believe that President Erdogan
yet sees ISIS as quite as serious a threat to his power and to
Turkey as he sees the Gulenists and the PKK.
I know there is already a lot of overlap in this testimony,
and I don't want to do another catalogue of all the human
rights abuses. Let me throw out, on freedom of the press, yet
another NGO's report. Reporters Without Borders, in its 2016
World Press Freedom Index, actually ranks Turkey just 151st out
of 180 countries--three slots behind Russia, by the way. So it
is not a positive record. Another study has said that 70
percent of the Turkish print media, and a similar portion of
the electronic media, is now a mouthpiece of the government,
either owned directly or slavishly supportive of the
I know my time is rapidly diminishing here, so maybe--look,
you know, I would like to say a little more about what is going
on with the Kurds. I think----
Mr. Rohrabacher. You have time. Please do.
Mr. Makovsky. Ranking Member Meeks, you very specifically
in the last hearing in February--you talked about the
importance of dialogue today and you analogized it to the civil
rights movement in this country, which I am certainly old
enough to remember and to have been a small part of.
Look, I think what is going on--the assault on the Kurds in
the southeast is a terrible mistake. The PKK is not blameless.
It was a mistake for them to declare autonomy in various zones,
to goad the Turks. It was a mistake for them to build up their
weapons during the ceasefire.
But the response of the Turkish military, I think, has
really caused tremendous destruction, dislocation that at one
point created several hundred thousand displaced persons within
Turkey. That fact got very little publicity. And we saw some of
the pictures, such as from Cizre that reminded us of pictures
from Kobani. Again, I don't think the PKK is blameless, but I
think the approach that Turkey has taken is completely wrong
and has alienated the Kurdish population and made it more
difficult to enter into that dialogue that you spoke about.
In my written testimony, I speak a bit about what the
future should be of U.S.-Turkish relations. And I don't have
time--I don't know if I have time to just quickly list a couple
of the principles, but----
Mr. Rohrabacher. We will get it in the questions. There you
Mr. Makovsky. Okay. I will be happy to end it there. Thank
you very much.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Makovsky follows:]
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Mr. Rohrabacher. All right. My first question is, what were
you just going to say?
Mr. Makovsky. Well, first and foremost, Turkey has always
been an ally valued for its strategic location, which has been
the center-piece of our bilateral relationship. The more
pressing our need for access to Turkish bases, most famously
Incirlik Air Force Base, the greater Turkey's leverage in our
And of course, when we are fighting a war, as we are now
against ISIS, that need for access is quite pressing. It can be
tempting therefore not to say much publicly about Turkey's
democratic shortcomings out of concern that Ankara's response
will be to deny us access.
It is important to do our best not to give in to that
temptation, lest we appear cynical about our own values, lest
we de-spirit those many Turks who look to us for support on
legitimate issues of freedom. At the same time, when we
criticize, we should criticize as a friend, as you said, Mr.
Chairman, not as an antagonist.
Perhaps we might think of the following principles: First
of all, we should be fully supportive of Turkey regarding
external threats. I think it was a mistake for us to withdraw
Patriots from southern Turkey last fall just as the Russian
buildup in Syria was starting. I think we should make more port
visits in the Mediterranean, as I have heard requested from
Second of all, we should be supportive in principle, as we
already are, of Turkey's right to defend itself against the
PKK, which is on our terrorism list because it has killed
But the Turkish assault on several cities and towns in its
southeast, as I said, has created mass suffering and deep
alienation that only complicates Turkey's relations with its
Kurdish population now and in the future. We should speak out
strongly against abuses of freedom of the press and politically
motivated arrests in Turkey. I know President Obama and Vice
President Biden have made important gestures in that regard
And thirdly, we should also strongly support the right of
the Kurds to cultural freedom and democratic expression. That
means speaking out about all Turkish Government efforts to
quash the Kurdish movement by criminalizing freedom of speech,
removing the Kurdish presence in Parliament, again, as we have
heard already, and by using excessive force that amounts to
If I could, Mr. Chairman, just quickly add, I do think we
have to prepare for a better day also. I know that NDI and IRI
have some important freedom-supporting programs in Turkey, and
I think it is important that those be supported.
Mr. Rohrabacher. We will note that. And I think that it is
always important for us when we are dealing with a country that
has been so close to us, and such a friend, that whenever there
are some very noticeable areas of conflict where we disagree
now and we are not operating, that we make sure we do our very
best to confront those issues in a way that will facilitate
more friendship rather than driving a country away. And that is
hopefully what we are doing today.
Where does the panel come down on this, the fact that
Turkey now has apologized to Russia on shooting down the plane?
Let me just note that I was horrified that they shot the plane
down in the first place, and now they are apologizing for it.
What is that all about? And what is all this about where we
have--Turkey has made very, how do you say, hostile moves
toward Israel in the last few years and now it seems to be
reaching out to go the opposite direction. What is the take of
the panel on those two things, Doctor?
Mr. Barkey. Well, first of all, I would say that in the
Russia case it was very clear that they had made a huge mistake
and they had paid a very big price economically with the
collapse of tourism. Tourism collapsed because of the violence
and the terrorism but also because of the Russians.
The deal with Israel is actually more interesting. I don't
think it is a real warming up of relations. It is more
cosmetic. But fundamentally, it is not about improving
diplomatic relations but it is about gas. Eventually, the Turks
want--and the Israelis also very much are pushing for a gas
pipeline from the Israeli gas fields, which will go through
Cyprus and then to Europe. And, in fact, there is a way in
which this is a good sign, because that means that maybe the
Cyprus is--there will be a deal in Cyprus, that we will be
moving toward a Cyprus settlement.
But the unfortunate aspect of this is that this charm
offensive has, especially with Syria now, has another downside.
It has a major downside to it. And it is possible that he is--
Erdogan is going to double down on the PYD in Syria and on the
PKK in Turkey in a way in which he--Erdogan sees the PYD as
essentially the most important threat to Turkey, because he
thinks because the PYD is a creation of the PKK, that you will
have essentially a front, a Kurdish front.
Paradoxically, the Turks, who used to be very opposed to
the KRG, to the Iraqi Kurdish movement, are now very close to
it. They could have done the same thing with the PYD. The PYD
was looking to establish relationship with the Turks. But for
Erdogan, he made a strategic decision, and all this charm
offensive now, all this moving on, I fear, is for a doubling
down on the anti-PYD policy.
And I think that is going to be problematic for us given
the fact that we have now a relatively robust alliance with the
PYD in fighting against ISIS. And that is the thing we need to
watch, I think, much more carefully than anything else which
have immediate repercussions.
Mr. Rohrabacher. My time is used up now, and we will have a
Mr. Meeks. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you for your testimony.
And I just want to see if I can get some further
understanding domestically what is going. And you are right, as
I was trying to identify in the past, talking about some of the
lessons learned from us in the United States and what has taken
place, it is the prism from which I work.
So for example, when someone tells me that the Turks are
trying to pack the court, I don't get too upset at that because
we are trying to pack the courts here also, you know. That has
been the big issue here, who is going to win this election so
that the Supreme Court--it makes a difference. So that I am not
But I am upset about when there are journalists and others
who want to express what their views are and that they are
incarcerated as a result of that. And/or when there is the big
debate, which my question is now, that is taking place about
constitutional reform process of which I am not clear on.
So I know that there is some renewed talks about the
constitutional reform process. I know it took place there
prior, in 2012, and things broke down. So my question is, where
are we now, and what is at stake in regards to this dialogue
internally in the prospects for greater instability internally
in Turkey, and how will that affect us as an ally?
Mr. Bilgin. Well, let me just interject here. The
constitutional reform is an important aspect of the last really
several years of Turkish politics, as I mentioned, that it has
all started with Erdogan's presidential aspirations.
Technically, nobody understands why presidentialism is needed
But the first attempt to reform constitution in 2012
collapsed because of that interjection of presidentialism as an
AKP proposal. And, now after that, several other elections that
AKP and Erdogan won and now it is on the table again. And what
is being demanded or what is being aimed is to build a regime,
which is called presidential regime, but in actuality it is a
one-man rule where, you know, somebody will be an elected
autocrat with unbridled executive power. That is what it will
end up with, and that is why it is very controversial.
So the system is parliamentary system at the moment. And
normally, as we heard before, the Prime Minister is the
executive, chief executive of the government. But there was
just a switch of Prime Ministers last month, and everybody
forgot about that already, I think, because everybody knows who
is pulling the threads.
And people are afraid, are concerned that, you know, as
Erdogan--as powerful as he is now, how is he going to be when
he is an elected President with all these powers. So that is a
major concern. And the timeline goes, either we need a
constitutional amendment in the Parliament or a referendum.
Mr. Meeks. Let me just ask then maybe, Mr. Barkey, given
that--could there be--if, you know, there is talk about a
constitutional reform process, you know, could it be a fair
election or not? I mean, I have recently just seen what took
place in the U.K, whether they are going to, you know, stay
into the EU or not. But that seemed to be an open and a fair
So are you saying that there cannot be an open and fair
expression of the people of Turkey, that it will be so weighted
down because of the heavy handedness of Mr. Erdogan that it
won't be transparent and clear? Is that----
Mr. Barkey. Look, in Turkey, historically, elections have
been clean and people have enormous amount of trust in the
electoral process. But for the first time now, that faith in
the electoral system is disappearing very quickly, and it is
clear now that you will not get fair elections anymore. There
are enough people who are now saying that the system is rigged.
The AKP gets enormous amount of money from contributions
from businesses that get funneled so that it can use for
elective purposes. The difficulty with press is completely
controlled now. [Microphone off.] You have 70 percent of that
being even higher, but by the government and its allies,
therefore you cannot have free elections or should we say fair
elections. Free elections, yes, but fair elections, which is
really contrary to--since 1950 a process of free and fair
Mr. Meeks. My last question on this round then would be,
would you say that is the fact that the outside, what is going
on in Syria, what is going on with the PKK, what is going on
with the PYD, does that have an effect domestically also on
whether or not the Turkish people allow, you know--well, the
authoritarian policies to increase that it seems to be
happening now in regards to Mr. Erdogan?
Mr. Barkey. Well, unquestionably. Whenever you have--you
can pose the PKK, the Kurdish threat as an alien threat, and
that allows you to clamp down obviously on freedom of speech;
therefore, that affects the elections, I mean, by definition.
And if you go to the southeast, I mean, in the Kurdish areas,
you have this amazing military presence, you have this amazing
oppression that you see.
So yes, I mean, the notion of--plus people have been
displaced, 500,000 people have been displaced. When are they
going to vote? How are they going to vote? Are they going to be
able to vote? What happens to the Syrian refugees? Will they be
able to vote? I mean, there is all these things now going on
that has undermined people's confidence in the electoral
Mr. Meeks. I have a question for you in the next round.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Mr. Trott.
Mr. Trott. Thank you, Chairman.
My questions are to the entire panel, and anyone can feel
free to opine. I wonder if anyone could give me insight into
what the status of the Armenian churches that were seized by
the Turkish Government and what the status of the churches are
at this point.
Mr. Makovsky. Congressman, the only one that I am
personally familiar with--maybe my colleagues know more--is the
one that is located in the Sur district of Diyarbakir. Right
now the whole district is essentially closed, so no one can
have access to the church, including worshipers.
Mr. Trott. Okay. Thank you.
With respect to the Muslim brotherhood, so they have been
shunned by much of the Middle East, but the President has
chosen to embrace them and is still controlling channels on
television. What is the reason behind that, and why shouldn't
we be concerned by that?
Mr. Bilgin. The Muslim brothers, there was a support for
Muslim brothers, it was a part of a general policy of the
Turkey's Middle East policy to basically support these
opposition elements that kind of seem a little--look like AKP.
And now, as you said, some Equfan elements were residing in
Turkey. And now it seems that Turkey's ready to make a shift
again, making a peace with General Sisi so that it is likely
that they will be kicked out soon, I mean, of Turkey.
Mr. Barkey. I don't think ideologically that Mr. Erdogan
has changed his mind about the Muslim brotherhood. I think he
is very sympathetic to them. He is very quick on his feet. I
mean, he changes policies when those policies don't work for
him, and clearly he has decided now a rapprochement with Egypt
and with Israel, given that Hamas is also part of the
brotherhood is convenient for him.
But I would say that fundamentally, in terms of where his
loyalties and where his preferences lie, they are with the
Muslim brotherhood. So what you will see is probably policies
of dissimulation other than real change when it comes to this
Mr. Makovsky. Just as a historical matter, when the Sisi
takeover happened, it was in the middle of major demonstrations
going on in Turkey. I think it brought out Erdogan's paranoia,
both in terms of his fear that something immediate from these
demonstrations might happen and also based on Turkey's history.
I think he has always been concerned about the possibility of a
And so I think that is what it reflected. But I do agree
with Henri that I don't think we are likely to see him change
his spots anytime soon. And I am skeptical that things will
move forward on relations with Egypt anytime soon. His foreign
minister has talked about it, but Erdogan made some very strong
anti-Sisi statements after the foreign minister spoke.
Mr. Trott. Thank you.
And then lastly, with respect to Turkey's priorities in
Syria, and how do they align with the United States and where
do they diverge generally?
Mr. Barkey. Well, they have--at the beginning, we were on
the same page. We both thought that Assad would leave in 6
months. When that failed and when the opposition failed to come
up with serious resistance to Assad, you saw Turkey's support
for Jabhat al-Nusra increase. And this came to a boil in 2013
when President Erdogan visited the White House. He was
confronted with that. He was asked to stop supporting Jabhat
The problem is that in the process of supporting Jabhat al-
Nusra, a major infrastructure of jihadist supporters was
created in Turkey, who funneled people and arms to Jabhat al-
Nusra with government support but also people who went to ISIS.
But where we are now today, for us, priority number one is
ISIS; for Erdogan it is the PYD then Assad, and then ISIS. So
in that sense, in there, we are not on the same page. For him,
both the PYD and Assad, even though he is talking about
overtures to Assad, are far more important and far more than
the jihadist threat.
Mr. Makovsky. Just to elaborate a bit, I agree on the
divergences. His primary focus is the Syrian Kurds and Assad.
Ours is defeating ISIS. He wouldn't mind if ISIS is defeated in
the process, but it is not his priority.
Second of all, and I think it is the number one issue in
U.S.-Turkish relations right now, is the fact that we are
working closely with the YPG, with the Syrian Kurds, which he
considers part of the PKK. And indeed, he has some reason to
see their origins in the PKK. And from his point of view, it is
U.S. support for a terrorism group.
And, as I say, I noticed in a respected Turkish polling
company survey this month, Metropoll, 73 percent of Turks said
that the U.S. sides with terrorists against Turkey. It is a
very disturbing kind of answer, but I am certain that what it
is about is this disagreement about the YPG.
Mr. Bilgin. Yeah. Congressman, despite repeated bombings
committed by ISIS in Turkey, an enormous threat that is posed
by the domestic operatives, which may number to like in
thousands, so far very few ISIS members were arrested and no
one has been convicted out of terrorism or something so far. So
this is kind of unbelievable basically, given the fact that,
you know, Turkey has been bombed like one after another, latest
in Istanbul Airport. Maybe Istanbul Airport may change the
Mr. Trott. Thank you very much.
Mr. Rohrabacher. All right. And now Ms. Gabbard.
Ms. Gabbard. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Makovsky, your last comment about the poll is
interesting, because as we look at Dr. Barkey's comments about
Turkey arming and directly aiding al-Nusra, which is an al-
Qaeda affiliate, this goes to the crux of the question of our
relationship with Turkey, as our number one priority is, and
should be, defeating ISIS, al-Qaeda, and these other jihadist
groups. Turkey is directly and has indirectly been supporting
them now for years.
So, you know, each of you in your opening remarks spoke
about Turkey's democratic shortcomings, lack of freedom of the
press, lack of due process, freedom of speech, individual and
civil rights violations. We saw last year how the election went
and really how the process was manipulated to benefit Erdogan.
We see a direct contradiction in Syria with Erdogan's
continued fixation on getting rid of Assad, bombing the Kurds
who have been without dispute our most loyal, dependable
partners on the ground fighting against ISIS. Turkey's actions
have directly strengthened groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda, and al-
The question is, you know, Turkey is a NATO partner and
they claim to be an ally. When you look at all of these issues,
both with democratic values as well as objectives that are
directly counterproductive to ours and threaten our security,
how can you make the argument for NATO--for Turkey to maintain
its status as an ally?
And the follow-up to that is, do you see the current
government--do you see a path forward for Turkey being capable
of or even interested in changing their policy so that they can
actually truly be an ally and a partner?
Mr. Barkey. This is the $64,000 question. It depends a
little bit on the position we take in U.S. Government. Look, I
spent time in U.S. Government and I follow U.S. policy
carefully. We tend to always shy away of pushing very hard with
Because we are always afraid that because we have so many
issues on a daily basis, Turkish and American bureaucrats talk
on 1,000 different issues. We are very close allies, and there
is a constituency for this alliance in Turkey.
But the problem, I think, is that before Erdogan and with
Erdogan, we have very early stood our line. Let me just say,
look at Putin. Not that I want to place Putin here. But he
stood his ground with Erdogan and Erdogan had to essentially
capitulate. It reminds me what an Arab diplomat told me in
Iraq, this year, he said, we hate what Putin does, but we love
the way he does it.
Ms. Gabbard. Can I just ask you a follow-up. You said we
have very rarely, if ever, stood our ground against Turkey.
Mr. Barkey. Right.
Ms. Gabbard. What is this source of this great fear that
would cause the United States of America to cower in fear and
not standing our ground?
Mr. Barkey. Look, there is always the basis. There is the
NATO relationship. There is the ability of--I mean, we are too
integrated with Turkey. And in general, the bureaucracy is very
The decision to support the Kurds, in Syria, at the time of
Kobani, was taken by the President against the position of
his--the State Department and the White House allies--aides,
right. They were saying, oh, the Turks will be very upset. He
did it. And look at the benefits because the Turks were not
opening the bases to the U.S. until then. Once they realized
that we were aligning ourselves with the YPG, suddenly they
opened the bases.
So there is a way in which we can send Erdogan a message.
Look, if Turkey is an ally, even if Erdogan is problematic,
even if there are lots of people in Turkey--but at the core,
this is a long-term relationship which we have not known how to
Mr. Makovsky. I think the reason for U.S. reticence is
because Turkey is such a strategic ally, because of its
Mr. Rohrabacher. Is your mike on?
Mr. Makovsky. It is.
I think we have been concerned that if we speak out, that
we will lose access to important assets like Incirlik Air Force
Base. And I think that is what has inhibited us. Just the same
way the EU, which used to be the strongest advocate of human
rights in Turkey, has largely been silenced because of its
concern about the refugee issue and Turkey's ability to
I think we have been, over the years, concerned about
Turkey's ability to manipulate our access to what is, after
all, its sovereign territory, Incirlik Air Force Base and other
facilities. I think we do have to consider--I hope this is
going on somewhere in the government--whether there are other
assets in the region that at least over the long term could be
employed in the way that Incirlik is now, almost solely is in
Turkey, and so that we could lessen our dependence on Turkey.
You asked will they change? I don't think that is the
trend. I think the trend is toward greater independence, partly
because if you look at the whole history of our alliance with
Turkey, it has been one of growing Turkish independence. They
started off as a very impoverished Third World country and now
they are an upper middle income country, as classified by the
World Bank. So there has been a normal trend whatever the
Second of all, you have a government which is right now--
which is very critical of us, and of the West, and has shown
very anti U.S. reflexes. I don't think we are going to get--I
don't think we are going to see any change under this
Mr. Rohrabacher. Mr. Weber.
Mr. Weber. Thank you. Mr. Chairman, can we turn the air-
conditioner down or on? Apparently this is a hot topic. Gosh,
where do we start? Mr. Makovsky.
Mr. Makovsky. It is fine. Alan would be sufficient.
Mr. Weber. You don't care what we call you, just call you
So you said something about the Syrian--his main concern--
Erdogan's, was the Syrian Kurds, was it ISIL or Assad you said?
Mr. Markolsky. Erdogan's main concern?
Mr. Weber. Correct.
Mr. Markolsky. Erdogan's main concern right now is the
Syrian Kurdish movement.
Mr. Weber. Okay.
Mr. Makovsky. But closely related to that, it is getting
rid of Assad.
Mr. Weber. It is Assad.
Mr. Makovsky. Assad, yeah. And that is really--the Syrian
Kurdish problem is something new, but our divergence over
whether it should be Assad or ISIL as a priority has been going
now for several years.
Mr. Weber. Okay. And I came in late, so some of this may be
redundant. Forgive me. One of you said, and I think it was you
that said a respectable poling institution in Turkey was
Mr. Makovsky. Yes.
Mr. Weber. Give me the results of that poll again.
Mr. Makovsky. Yes, they asked--I am getting this
approximately right, in the fight with terrorism, who do
Western countries like the U.S. and Germany side with, Turkey
or the terrorists? And 73 percent said----
Mr. Weber. This was in Turkey?
Mr. Makovsky. Yes.
Mr. Weber. Inside Turkey?
Mr. Makovsky. Yes. Seventy-three percent said the West side
with the terrorists.
Mr. Weber. So much of I am reading is about how he has done
away with opponents, starting with Fethullah Gulen and the
press, and he has, you know, put a lot of them in prison. He
just seems to oppress everybody who disagrees with him. How
does this polling organization get to apply its trade about him
with them under his thumb?
Mr. Makovsky. Well, I think there are still pockets of
independent expression in Turkey. As far as I am aware, these
polls are done independently. I could see why you might think
from that question that it was manipulated, but if you went
through the whole survey you might not think that.
Mr. Weber. Okay. So, so far you don't believe that they are
under his thumb?
Mr. Makovsky. This particular polling company? Look, I
don't think so because they called the 2015 elections
essentially correctly. I think they have shown themselves over
the years to be essentially----
Mr. Weber. Okay. Over how many years?
Mr. Makovsky. Well, they have been at it that I have been
aware of for at least, I think, a dozen years.
Mr. Weber. He has let them continue even in that length of
Mr. Makovsky. Yes. I mean people say different things about
these polling companies whether they are closer to or further
from the regime. People do not currently say that this polling
company is close to the regime.
Mr. Weber. Okay. Okay, fair enough. I think you said in
your comments one of you did, I have been reading through the
comments that he probably more closely wanted a Putin style
Mr. Makovsky. That was me.
Mr. Weber. That was you, okay. And then you also said I
think it was Dr. Barkey that Turkey has been busy, or maybe it
was in response to my colleague down on the left, from Hawaii,
that Turkey has been arming al-Nusrah.
Mr. Barkey. Was.
Mr. Weber. When did that stop?
Mr. Barkey. It is not completely clear. I mean we asked
them in 2013 to stop, but it took a while for them to stop. But
it is a lot of informal networks that are independent of the
government that still continue to support both al-Nusrah and
ISIS. I mean when you think of the bombing in Istanbul the
other day, it could not have happen if they did not have
Mr. Weber. Right.
Mr. Barkey. But that is not the government. That is
networks that were created at some time, at some point with the
Mr. Weber. But if the government turns a blind eye he is so
busy after the news stations and the people like the Gulen and
others, then those who are perpetrating this kind of violence
kind of run amok, doesn't they?
This is a question for all three of you really, are there
any other countries that you know of NATO, EU or in the United
Nations, who you see this kind of power grab going on in any
other country? Power grab, in other words, where they are
shutting down the press, they are dealing with all the
dissidents, they are----
Mr. Barkey. Unfortunately the list is quite long.
Mr. Weber. Okay. Nothing in the list is quite long of
people or countries?
Mr. Barkey. Countries. I mean, of leaders in countries
where you see this.
Mr. Weber. You see this same kind of action that you see
from Erdogan in other countries. Name one.
Mr. Barkey. Hungary.
Mr. Weber. Hungary. There is one. Name two.
Mr. Bilgen. Venezuela during Chavez.
Mr. Weber. Venezuela, okay. Don't miss my question. In the
EU, in the U.N. or in--NATO, EU or U.N., any of those
Mr. Barkey. U.N. includes everybody so you can go Zimbabwe,
you can go Ethiopia. There is a whole series of countries. You
are not going to run out of countries.
Mr. Weber. This level of corruption you would equate those?
Mr. Barkey. Yes.
Mr. Weber. That is interesting.
Mr. Bilgen. There is rising trend of authoritarianism in
the world at the moment too. So that means Turkey is part of
that, it extends even to Hungary, which is part of the European
Mr. Weber. So you all's testimony today is that you don't
put Turkey at the top of that. You can equate those with other
Mr. Makovsky. I think, Congressman, if I could----
Mr. Weber. Yes, this is a question for all three.
Mr. Makovsky. I think that the Reporters Without Borders
ranking that I mentioned is very useful in that regard. There
is no other NATO or EU country listed below Turkey. They listed
them 151st out of the 180----
Mr. Weber. Yeah, three behind Russia. I came in late so I
didn't hear you testimony.
Mr. Makovsky. That is correct, three behind Russia.
Mr. Weber. Three behind Russia
Mr. Makovsky. Yes.
I am not an expert on Hungary and no doubt I have read
enough about it to know though there are some authoritarian
trends going on there, but in Turkey I think it has reached
very severe proportions, particularly recently with new laws
that will increase his power over the judiciary and possibly
over private enterprise as well.
Mr. Weber. Okay. And Mr. Chairman, I am out of time. If you
are in a hurry I have one other question.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Go right ahead.
Mr. Weber. Actually, I have three other questions, since
you opened the door. He was easy, wasn't he?
So there was a 16-year-old in one of your notes, a 16-year-
old boy, who called him a criminal or something? A 15-year-old
Mr. Makovsky. A thief, 16.
Mr. Weber. A 16-year-old called Erdogan a thief and he
wound up in jail. What is his status?
Mr. Makovsky. He was released. If I recall correctly, he
was never--it never actually came to trial, but I believe he
was held in jail for 4 days.
Mr. Weber. Are the two of you aware of that case?
Mr. Makovsky. Yes. Am I right, 4 days?
Mr. Bilgen. Yes.
Mr. Barkey. I don't know that case. I know----
Mr. Weber. You don't know that case. So from what you heard
Mr. Makovsky say is that a travesty?
Mr. Barkey. Oh, yes. I mean 1,825 people have been
prosecuted for insulting the President.
Mr. Weber. Eighteen-hundred forty-five--now I also read a
quote where who was it, Erdogan said to the Organization of
Islamic Cooperation meeting in Istanbul, and you may have
quoted this Mr. Makovsky so forgive me if it is redundant, he
said that Westerners, quote, deg. ``Look like friends
but they want us,'' speaking about Muslims, ``dead. They like
seeing our children die.'' Is that on video?
Mr. Makovsky. That is a good question. I have not seen it.
I read it in the Turkish press, in both Turkish and English.
The English quote that I used came from the Turkish press--the
English-language Turkish press. But I don't know whether it's
on video or not.
Mr. Weber. And does----
Mr. Makovsky. Could I add?
Mr. Weber. Yes, sir.
Mr. Makovsky. On the issue of the article 299 which
criminalizes insulting the Presidency, I thought maybe, if I
could, just quickly give you a little context. That is not an
Erdogan creation. That has been there since the 1920s. That law
has been forever in the books, but it does seem that Erdogan
has used it far more frequently than any other President. And
just as a point of comparison--and this is based on another NGO
study--his predecessor used it 139 times. His predecessor save
one, 26 times. He has been using it an average of over three
times a day, through March 1st. That 1,845 figure was through
March 1st and that is the Turkish Government figure.
Mr. Weber. Thank you very much for your answer.
Mr. Chairman I yield back.
Mr. Rohrabacher. All right. It is th intent of the chair to
have a sound round. And I will proceed.
And let me just note so far, and what we came into this
room understanding, there seems to be a very negative trend
going on in Turkey. We have tried we had several hearings,
trying our best to reach out and try to let the people of
Turkey know, the Government of Turkey know that the United
States and the people of United States are grateful for the
friendship that they have shown and really are grateful for the
role that Turkey has played over the last several decades.
However, that trend is very easy to see. There is a cycle of
tyranny and a cycle of radicalization that seems to be going on
in Turkey that is frightening about where that could lead.
Take a look at what has happened in Pakistan, another
country that is strategically located, a friend of ours in the
cold war, and what has happened in Pakistan? You have a vicious
radicalization with various elements in their society in which
you have terrorists--a home base for terrorism, not only in
their own country where they are repressing their people with
radical Islamists, but also engaging in terrorist acts that
might even be traced to the Istanbul airport for all we know,
because they have been immersed in this.
But yet trying to reach out--we still give aid to Pakistan,
even though they are doing this stuff. So I do not believe that
what was happening in Turkey is going to lead to a dramatic
departure of our relations, but it might evolve into something
that is a nightmare like as what has happened in Pakistan and
our relations today.
Let me ask this question of the panel, does anyone on the
panel have any information about, or believe, that Turkey was
involved with taking weapons from Libya and sending them to
Syria? Does anyone on the panel know anything about that? I am
just probing here.
Mr. Makovsky. I have heard that charge made, but I----
Mr. Rohrabacher. All right. But nobody has direct
information about it?
Let me just note that there are other--it would be a
disaster for us to lose Turkey as a military partner, but there
are other countries around that have air bases in that region.
I mean Erbil itself could serve as a base for military
operations so that Kuwait and any number of countries right
there could provide what now is provided by Turkey. What would
be bad is to make sure the dynamics that are created by such a
large country with significant resources and people going in
the wrong direction.
So with that, let me ask this, and one of the things that I
find just--it is hard for me to understand this but it has
happened in other countries as well, and that is when you have
the President of this country, but now the permanent Prime
Minister, now the President whatever you want to call him, his
whole political base was established with a Gulen movement. Am
I pronouncing it right Gulen?
Mr. Makovsky. Gulen.
Mr. Rohrabacher. The Gulen movement. And as far as I can
see and I have studied what they believe and I have talked to
some people in that movement, they tend to be people who have
high values and are looking for a more open and you say
tolerant Islam. That would be very admirable type of--by the
way, it would be the equivalent of the Rotary Club in the
United States. In essential you have a philosophy of helping
other people who also are politically involved and involved in
the community efforts to help people.
How is it that the Gulen movement now has been declared
public enemy number one by the man who they were actually
helped put into power, and over the years has been one of the
chief sources of support. How did that come about?
Mr. Barkey. I would like to say something about the Gulen
movement. I mean the Gulen movement, I agree with you, has an
image of tolerant Islam. Yes they were allied with Erdogan.
When Erdogan came to power he did not have the personnel and it
was the Gulen movement that staffed it.
But the Gulen movement also, if you ask the Kurds, the
Gulen movement was very hard on the Kurds, because Gulenist
judges and prosecutors unleashed lots and lots of cases against
Kurds that are still continuing today. There are people who
went to prison for nothing. I just met with one of the most
important lawyers in the Diyarbakir, a few weeks ago, he spent
4\1/2\ years in jail. You know why? Because he was at the
demonstration, somebody 5,000 people behind him opened a flag,
a PKK flag and the judges and the prosecutors said, oh, you are
a member of the PKK because you were standing in front of 5,000
people ahead of you.
Mr. Rohrabacher. So is that the Gulen movement? Or is
Mr. Barkey. If you go and ask the Kurds, the Gulenists were
very, very hard on the Kurdish nationalist movement. There were
many ways it was very good. They brought in very good staff,
but on one issue they whether very, very hard. So it is not a
completely--we have to also acknowledge what was wrong with
The reason he turned on them is because he thinks--probably
he may be right, that the Gulenists actually exposed the
corruption. I mean the people who leaked those tapes off
Erdogan and the money issues he thinks are Gulenists.
And today the irony of course is that when he came to power
and he aligned himself with Gulen against the military, today
it is he and the military against Gulen so the alliances have
Mr. Rohrabacher. So the Gulen movement it ended up exposing
some of the corruption----
Mr. Barkey. Right. That is what he thinks.
Mr. Rohrabacher [continuing]. That was part of his
Mr. Bilgen. And it should be added that, we are talking
about quite a large network, or it was large, in Turkey. It was
influential especially media for some one of the things that I
would like to mention is, now that the Cihan news agency, was
seized by the government, we don't have a watchdog to actually
follow the election. That was the only one, that was the only
Now you are going to go learn the election results from
state news agency, whatever number they put up it will be the
number. But it was always checked against Cihan news numbers
before. Since it is a large network, as I said it has--because
of that it has usual shortcomings like it's a diverse network,
there are nationalists, there are more biased, less biased
people, there are more secular, less secular. And there are
people who are just minding their business about, like,
teaching, opening schools and so on and there are others who
are more interested in politics. Right? So it is hard to define
where it ends, where it begins, and how a judge or prosecutor
is basically considered a part of it while they themselves are
rejected and so on.
So there are all these shortcomings and I think nobody can
really solve that. And even the movement itself the
spokespeople and so on, cannot really address some of these
So in the larger picture especially outside Turkey or
something the movement is known by more like dialogue
activities, education activities or something. And that seems
to be the core of the movement and movement message rather than
what happened in the last few years in Turkey in the political
Mr. Rohrabacher. Go right ahead. Comment on that----
Mr. Makovsky. Let me say two good things about the movement
and raise one questionable thing.
First of all I have never seen a shred of evidence that
they support anything other than peace. So the declaration of
the Turkish Government that the Gulenists are a terrorist group
Second of all, in their schools they have taught science
and mathematics; they have really emphasized what we would
think of as more traditionally secular subjects like science
and math. I can't vouch for exactly how they are taught, but I
don't know of too many Islamic movements in the world that
emphasize science and math. That is a real plus.
Where I think the failing has been and, again, this is not
proveable, but I think many followers of Gulen, many Gulenists
acknowledge that a significant minority of the police and of
the judiciary were Gulenists because they wanted to be part of
those organizations and exercise power.
And I think there is evidence, circumstantial evidence,
that they did act corporately sometimes and particularly in the
anti military trials that went from 2008 through 2011 with
manufactured evidence and----
Mr. Rohrabacher. It seemed to me from just a distance the
Gulenist movement is somewhat like the Masons were in our
country's history back in the founding of our country, they
were idealistic people who had an idealistic philosophy. And
again, somewhere between the masons an the Rotary Club. And I
Mr. Bilgen. With schools.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Just one last note here about Turkey and--
I will have a closing 1-minute statement.
Mr. Meeks. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
This good conversation and as I am listening I am just
thinking in my head that things are always complicated. And I
always try to tell my children sometimes, as we are right now,
with what is going on in America, trying to look at something
from somebody else's point of view, turn it around.
And as I have said in my initial statement, I am really
concerned when I see the human rights groups and others denying
individuals the opportunity to talk, et cetera. At the same
time I understand that some of the interests that the Turks may
have is different than what our interest is, because they are
in that region and we are not. I also understand the Turks not
necessarily just doing exactly what we tell them because it is
just in our interest and them not seeing it being in their
interest, just as I don't expect someone to tell us to do what
is in their interest, if it is not in our interest.
So that happens between countries at times. And so when I
listen to the difficulty to the Turks, we talk about the PKK,
there, to them they are Daesh. That is their number one
terrorist group, not to us, because they are not to us, but to
us it is those folks in Syria and Iran who--I call them Daesh
because I don't call them an Islamic State they are not an
Islamic--they don't practice Islam if you talk to any Muslim.
So there are conflicting interests that are natural. And so
I can't see a head of state of a country saying we are going to
forget our national interests to go with someone else's. So our
difficulty is is trying to figure out how we can bring it
together so that both of our interests are taken care of.
So what am I asking? And I go through this with another
country all the time. And maybe Mr. Makovsky, we have this
dialogue with the chairman all the time.
The other big country that you have got conflicts right now
is Russia. And Russia has different interests than we do,
Russia though similar to Turkey had an individual that was the
Prime Minister that decided he wanted to be the President and
all the power shifted. Russia is not with us, we are not with
them when they went into the U.K.
So the first question is what is the difference, if there
is any, because I am trying to figure out both these countries,
between Russia and Turkey?
Mr. Makovsky. Simply put, Turkey is an ally, Russia isn't.
Turkey is part of the NATO alliance and that alliance is
supposed to be dedicated to freedom and democracy, a key--a
core of that alliance. Russia is not part of that. If you
separate that fact and look at the trends inside those two
countries, they become more similar. And I do--Mr. Erdogan has
not spelled out exactly what kind of Presidency he has in mind,
but I do worry. Many people suspect that President Putin is his
And so you are right if you look at strictly domestic
trends: There are a lot of similarities. But if you look at our
responsibility, and this is my humble opinion, Mr. Ranking
Member, if you look at our responsibility to speak out, it is
much greater when we are talking about an ally than when we are
Mr. Meeks. Anybody differ?
Mr. Bilgen. Well, I would like to say that when we look at
the larger picture, the political system of Turkey and the
people, the public opinion which may be manipulated, but is
very much, kind of embedded in Western alliance, NATO in
European Union. These are hard facts, these are difficult to
change even for a strong person as you are gone as he is now.
So there are two ways to look at this. Some time when I
follow the developments in Turkey I just see symptoms of state
tradition in Turkey. State tradition in Turkey, is a very
powerful tradition which was never democratic through addition.
It was always bureaucratic, always prioritize state over the
individual. So that has been going on for hundreds of years. It
is not going to change quickly as far as I see.
But we can see the anomaly at the moment we are facing as a
phase in Turkey's political advancement or we may see it as a
breaking point. It didn't break yet, okay but it may break. I
think, you know, these next couple of years are critical.
Mr. Meeks. Let me just ask you this then. So what I am
trying to get at is there a way just like our priority is to
make sure we get rid of Daesh, now is it such a priority for
the Turks that the PKK doesn't exist? And just as we want to
get rid of Daesh they went to get rid of PKK. They are saying
based upon--that is what I am hearing, based upon the poll that
you had, they are saying, well, we want you United States to
help us get rid of the PKK because they are terrorizing us. And
so how do we--and so there is a balance back and forth as
opposed to they are saying, okay, we are allies, but we need
you to help get rid of our terrorists.
Now, I am hearing at another point that we need to push
back so we should side with some of those folks that might be
against them to shut them up a little bit. Where do we get to a
Mr. Barkey. On the PKK issue, I mean, remember the
difference between Daesh and PKK is in the case of the PKK
there is an original sin. The original sin is that you had a
Kurdish problem in Turkey that was unacknowledged, repressed,
very, very violently over the years nobody talked about it, we
never talked about it until the PKK emerged and made it
essentially an issue. And this by the way is something that
Erdogan recognized. After he sat down--he had his government
sit down with the PKK leader who was in prison on an island in
Turkey and they negotiated a deal. So he decided to renege on
the deal, and we have been his allies in the sense that we have
been fighting and helping him on the PKK issue and we continue
to do so. He essentially reneged on the deal.
It is not like Daesh in the sense that he made a deal, he
could have gone ahead and finished the deal and we would not be
talking about these problems now. He made his own decision,
fair enough. That is where I say we should be able to push back
and maybe help maybe being an intermediary we can push back.
The important thing to understand about Turkey though--from the
tone of the hearing, look this is a country that is very
divided at the moment, and it is a country where you still have
despite all the pressure, a civil society that is pushing back
and fighting back those are our allies.
Mr. Meeks. All countries are very divided. The United
States are very divided.
Mr. Barkey. I know. But what I am saying to you is the
impression we are getting here is the Erdogan has complete
control. And I am saying he doesn't have complete control yet.
So the fact of the matter is we don't have a substitute, Kuwait
and Erbil are not a substitute, Congressman Rohrabacher to
I mean Turkey's embedded in NATO. Nobody else is going to
replace Turkey from that perspective. We have allies in Turkey
that we can work with even if Erdogan is problematic. But we
need to hold to our principles and to our policies when we deal
Mr. Meeks. Similar to we should do in Russia? These are two
big countries that we can't ignore.
Mr. Barkey. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Mr. Meeks. We can't ignore Russia, we can't ignore Turkey.
Mr. Barkey. Right. That is my point.
Mr. Makovsky. The balance is very difficult but you are
absolutely right, it has to be a cornerstone principle of ours
that we oppose the use of violence for political end so we are
Mr. Meeks. Absolutely.
Mr. Makovsky [continuing]. To oppose the PKK in that
regard. But I think we do have to acknowledge that Erdogan at
first--at first--Erdogan came around to negotiating with the
PKK indirectly, but almost directly, and he seemed to be the
one that reneged on the deal. That doesn't justify the PKK use
of violence, not at all. But I think that context is very
And, maybe if I could add, why did he renege on the deal?
In my view, the emergence of a Kurdish political party that
opposed his Presidency plans, I think infuriated him. Just like
he felt spurned by the Gulenists, he felt spurned by the Kurds
who he felt had reason to be grateful to him and in fact made
some very important gains under him.
I visited Diyarbakir several times last year, but I had not
been there for 15 years until then, and--this was before the
fighting broke out, on my first visit--the gains were immense.
He felt they owed him gratitude. I think when the party emerged
that, contrary to his expectations, opposed his Presidency
ideas rather than supported it, he decided to unleash the
Mr. Rohrabacher. Well thank you very much. And I would like
to thank the witnesses, I just have a very short observation
which is of course the prerogative of the chair.
Mr. Meeks. Of the chair.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Would you like to have a final word?
Mr. Meeks. Again just thanking you, very insightful and I
thank the chair for having us here. I think in the next few
months we should have another one and hopefully in January when
I am the chair we will have another one.
Mr. Rohrabacher. I will be the ranking member, what?
Mr. Meeks. But I just want to thank you very much. This
kind of dialogue is tremendously important for us to air out
for us to think about as you move forward. This stuff is not
easy, it is not simple, it is complicated. And as many people
as I talk to about--one side they are on one side or the other,
very similar to here in the United States. If you come and went
to one particular State the United States is all one way and
talk to someone else and say oh, no, it is another way. And
this kind of dialogue is very helpful.
So Mr. Chairman, I think that this commitment to the
committee and hearing is very timely and very important to
looking at what we are doing on the Foreign Affairs Committee
as far as foreign policy.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Yes. I think Mr. Meeks and I have a very
good relationship and I think it is exemplary of our Foreign
Affairs Committee, and that we are able to do things. I would
remind Mr. Meeks and other members that we will be trying to
put together a sense of the House resolution expressing
concerns over the trends in Turkey, not condemnations but
expressing concerns over the trends in Turkey.
When we are analyzing Turkey within the context of what is
going on in the bigger picture and the EU is falling apart,
think about this. Britain's exit of the EU, this is a first
huge step--as huge, as someone else would say who may end up
President--and so so we have got some changes.
And of course in our lifetime Turkey was constantly trying
to become part of the EU and part of the common market. And now
I think that is probably history. And I think that Erdogan
represents more of a nationalistic Turkey focus rather than
Europe focus approach. So these are all major changes that are
going on. And let us hope that as these changes happen I
believe that NATO--if we have a new President, if it is Mr.
Trump, I would expect that NATO and the EU alliances would
become less important and that individual deals and
relationships between countries, respecting that each country
has its own interest at stake, but trying to find the common
ground where people can act together, that will replace some of
the more systematized approaches that we have had since the
beginning of the cold war and the cold war is over.
So with that said, whatever emerges in this new era, Turkey
will play a very significant role. It is right there in the
middle of everything.
So we have taken very seriously, we respect the people
there. We are concerned that its trendline--and by the way just
one last note, it has been my experience that whenever the
suppression of the press goes up, the level of corruption rises
at the same rate.
And if we have the suppression of various political
elements in society, in Turkey. And we have the suppression of
freedom of the press you can expect that there will be
corruption as a result and it will not bode well for the people
of Turkey. We are on their side.
And I now hold this committee adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 4:32 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
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