Hypocrisy in Australian-Turkish chest puffing



The latest (now fading) stoush between Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said Australians and New Zealanders visiting Turkey would leave it 'in coffins like their grandfathers' (although the context has since been contested), and Scott Morrison (all options to erase this insult were 'on the table') amounts to less than meets the eye. But it does speak volumes about what a toxic brew hypocrisy and the prospect of a forthcoming election can produce.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Getty Images)In the red corner, President Erdogan's party is facing local elections on 31 March. At his election rallies, he has regularly been running footage of last week's horrific massacre in Christchurch, in which a man attacked worshippers at two mosques, killing 50 and wounding dozens more.

The president's ruling Justice and Development Party is not predicted to do well. Turkey has been engaged in a long and not terribly popular intervention (involving Turkish troops and proxy Islamist groups) in Syria which has proved spectacularly unsuccessful. Russian intervention and Erdogan's mishandling of relations with both Syria and Russia resulted in a greatly weakened position for the President, who had originally boasted that he would overthrow President Assad within weeks and annex Aleppo and other cities for Turkey, restoring Ottoman glories.

Much of the would be Sublime Porte's rhetoric has also focused on suppressing Kurdish ambitions in Turkey, Iraq and Syria — when Turkey refers to 'terrorists' in Syria, it usually means the Kurds, rather than ISIS/Daesh or other militant groups claiming to be inspired by a fundamentalist reading of Sunni Islam. It may fairly be said that the President long supported such groups as a balance against Kurdish militants operating in the North of Syria and across the border in Turkey.

This support may not have ended given that Turkey has failed to meet its commitments to Russia and Iran (given in exchange for avoiding a full military campaign by Russia and Syria) to curb the activities of militant groups in Idlib Province — the last bastion of Al Qaeda and its allies in Syria. Indeed, some US analysts have also suggested helping Turkey in this venture.

Presumably, the CIA and others who do so — and who already funnel arms to Al Qaeda and others of a similar bent in Syria — remember the success which came from using the same folk to combat the USSR in Afghanistan in the 1980s (but forget details like the attacks they perpetrated in September 2001).

With all this in mind, Erdogan's op ed in the Washington Post claiming that the killer in Christchurch was cut from the same cloth as ISIS was something of an eye-popper. It assumes (perhaps fairly) that readers will have forgotten that Turkey ran oil from and supplies to ISIS for many years — an operation which leaked emails suggest was supervised by none other than Erdogan's own son in law, Energy Minister Berat Abayrak.


"For the sake of future victims, it would be wise for politicians to think carefully before they speak, rather than waiting until after the atrocity to try to douse the flames."


In the blue corner, meanwhile is Scott Morrison, current Prime Minister of Australia but facing elections by no later than May with a less than healthy margin in his pocket. Not only is his own prime ministership or leadership of his party scarcely secure (given that he is the fifth incumbent in as many years) but most polls suggest that, like Erdogan, he is not a potential vote winner.

Australia, of course, also has a history of fighting both ISIS and the Syrian government in Syria (with as much international legitimacy as Turkey) and supporting some of the same Al Qaeda aligned militant groups — although it stopped active involvement in the air campaign against the Syrian government in 2017. It, however, also supports the Kurds, which is not best pleasing to Erdogan.

Rather trickier for Morrison than the military issue, however, has been executing the required backflip on government rhetoric in the wake of the horror in Christchurch. Few Muslims have forgotten Morrison's widely reported call to his shadow cabinet colleagues to 'raise the issue' of allegedly growing concerns about 'Muslims in Australia'. While initially denying it, he now appears to have confirmed that he did indeed raise such concerns at the time (but contested the interpretation of his remarks).

As broadcaster and academic Waleed Aly points out, however, it was not easy for Muslims to forget the dark places we have been when pondering the Christchurch massacre and the Prime Minister's welcome denunciation.

They have a point. From the comments by the Home Affairs Minister linking terrorism to Lebanese Muslims, to the claims by the same minister and the former prime minister about the alleged threat of 'African gangs', to another former prime minister's comment that he wishes that more religious leaders would say that Islam were a religion of peace more often and mean it, to the man writing Senator Anning's infamous 'final solution' speech being employed by Home Affairs to work on immigration, denunciations in the wake of the horror now ring somewhat hollow.

So, political chest puffing and hypocrisy on all sides. For the sake of future victims, however, it would be wise for politicians to think carefully before they speak, rather than waiting until after the atrocity to try to douse the flames.



Justin GlynFr Justin Glyn SJ has a licentiate in canon law from St Paul University in Ottawa. Before entering the Society he practised law in South Africa and New Zealand and has a PhD in administrative and international law.

Main image: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Getty Images)

Topic tags: Justin Glyn, Scott Morrison, Turkey, Erdogan



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Existing comments

Well written Justin. Hypocrite lecteur, - mon semblable - mon frere! Hypocritical reader, my fellow-man, my brother! (Charles Baudelaire)
Pam | 25 March 2019

Turkey is a rather combustible country at the moment. The longterm political future of 'Sultan' Erdogan is by no means guaranteed, although he may hang on. Who or what does Scott Morrison truly represent? Their tiff reminds me of the battle between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the reason in both cases appearing trifling. Where do we go from here?
Edward Fido | 25 March 2019

A first-class piece of work, Justin, exposing the cant central to the 'pull the wool over their eyes' approach to the challenge of aligning politics with morality. The victim here is consistency, as we saw last week on Q&A, when Tony Jones failed to pull up any of the Catholic members off the panel on why the Church has so spectacularly failed in its mission to protect children. For years some of them used their Catholic identity in support of the Church rather than to speak out unequivocally about its secretive and autocratic ways. Similarly, last night he failed to ask the Green politician, who happens to be Muslim, whether she saw any gaps between her faith attachment and her party political platform. In the midst of the horror attack in Christchurch, why has the citizenry been silenced about the gaps in Islamic discourse and allowed itself to be overpowered by the love fest line run by a NZ Prime minister, whose personal morality issues and party line on women would be anathematic to most Muslims? Even a high quality political commentator, like Waleed Aly, has allowed his judgment to be compromised in the wake of such a shocking attack.
Michael Furtado | 26 March 2019

Thank you, Justin for providing such a neatly potted statement of why so many of us do not believe what politicians say. Belief only comes after their actions have provided the necessary credibility.
Ian Fraser | 26 March 2019

First we had Abbott threatening to ‘shirt-front’ Putin, now we have Morrison threatening ‘all options on the table’. Will no one rid us of these brawling bullies?
Ginger Meggs | 26 March 2019

Nice analysis, Justin. I have taken an interest in Erdogan since his election, the strange "coup" which failed; unlike the other strange "coup" closer to home. It gets so complicated with "the enemy of my enemy" rhetoric ... that it was good to see some clear thinking connected to both elections and their leaders.
William Dunne | 26 March 2019

Spot on Justin. When interviewed in 2011, Erdogan said he supported secularism but now he is using the Facebook footage of ChCh to drum up Muslim voter support after his military failures in Syria against the Kurds, whilst falsely pretending he's been attacking ISIS . As for his threat to send Australians home in bodybags, history reveals 80,000 Turks died as well as 80,000 allies at Gallipoli. Not that we should have been there in the first place but for being a British Colonial outpost. Scomo and Dutton are now snarling at the social media giants for airing the footage worldwide. Desperate point scoring after their failure to detect home grown white supremacist mongrels and having us believe all the potential terrorists were safely locked up in Manus and Nauru. Scomo's backflip on his earlier stance of wanting to exploit the electorate's fear of Muslim immigration to claiming he only sought to find a solution to that fear. But methinks he protests too much. So Erdogan has moved from secularism to hard line Islam for votes, and Scomo has suddenly realized that by backing Dutton's hard line policy on Manus and Nauru, he's backed the wrong horse. Both are hypocrites.
Francis Armstrong | 28 March 2019


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