Desperate times bring out Erdogan in camouflage

“When we look at the forefront we see civilians, but the mindset is more militarized”

Reading Turkish news is anything but boring. For example, in your morning scan of the Turkish news networks, you may be bombarded with videos depicting a “baby who did a military salute the moment he was born.” The video of the baby — whose umbilical cord was still intact — saluting made the headlines of several pro-government news networks five weeks after the launch of Operation Peace Spring. The report concluded with the oft-repeated dictum: “Another Turk is born a soldier!”

Operation Peace Spring may officially be over, but the militarization of Turkish society is forging ahead at full speed. Since the July 2016 coup attempt, Turks have been bombarded with images of the military. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ministers periodically pose and salute in military uniforms. Seeing Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in military gear, one could not help but remember Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, in a similar get-up.

It has become the norm for politicians in the lower ranks of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to give speeches in military uniforms, even though they are civilians. But the militarization trend extends beyond costumes, chants and slogans. Since March 2018, civilians’ annual quota for ammunition has been increased five-fold (from 200 to 1,000 cartridges). Research shows there are more than 25 million guns in Turkey and 85% are not registered. Since 2002, when the AKP came to power, the number of police officers has increased 61.3%, along with their powers and immunities. Interestingly, the number of officers in the armed forces has significantly decreased over the years. The defense minister stated that the armed forces were able to fill 65% of their ranks in 2019. The repeated reorganization of the military has decimated the top ranks in particular.

Erdogan frequently tells the public that Turkey is engaged in a war of survival. For example, at a Republic Day ceremony Oct. 29, Erdogan made live phone calls to military officers stationed inside and outside Turkey. Seasoned journalist Rusen Cakir commented that Erdogan could have also called other individuals whose successes are a source of national pride. Turks are bombarded every day with news broadcasts that blare Ottoman military marching band tunes in the background.

Read more: al-monitor