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Turkey, How A Cynical Alliance Went Sour

The rising battle between the forces of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and exiled imam Fethullah Gulen is a high-stakes power struggle. But some in Turkey want no part of it.

Dec. 17, 2014 protests in Istanbul
Dec. 17, 2014 protests in Istanbul
Mehmet Yilmaz

On Dec. 17 last year, Turkish judicial authorities launched a crackdown against alleged government corruption. Those accused included members of the cabinet and their families, and even the son of then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan and other top government leaders accused the prosecutors of being in league with the Hizmet Movement led by imam Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally and now sworn enemy who lives in exile in the United States.

The clash last year over the corruption charges turned the Gulen-Erdogan feud into full-scale war. The corruption probe was shut down, and the government retaliated last week with a vengeance on its one-year anniversary. Erdogan's ruling AKP party has called the Hizmet Movement a "parallel state" within the state, and the new crackdown against the movement's members (including arrests of policemen, journalists and soap opera producers) charges them with taking part in a "terrorist organization" and conspiring against another religious community.Worldcrunch editors


ISTANBUL It seems that the significance of Dec. 17 is different for everyone.

For Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, it is a time to remember Mevlana Jelaluddin al-Rumi, the 13th-century Sufi mystic who died on that day.

For former European Union Relations Minister Egemen Bagis, it is the anniversary of Turkey starting negotiations with the EU for full membership, even though it is also the date when corruption allegations against him surfaced.

For me, Dec. 17 is the day, in 2013, when documents detailing the worst corruption in the republic's history came to light. It is also the day we discovered that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a.k.a. "the great master," was, and is, a naive man.

He is incredibly naive never to have noticed that a religious community had infiltrated the government on every level. From the judiciary to the police, the telecommunication directorate to the treasury, they gained authority for themselves everywhere over everything.

They never stopped wanting more, and the then-prime minister and current president "gave them whatever they wanted," by his own admission.

Why did he do that? He was naive.

The people had trusted Erdogan and his administration with the country, and they delivered everything straight into the lap of the Hizmet Movement.

Now the government is fighting what it has since come to characterize as a "parallel state," the judiciary is being overhauled, laws are being rewritten every other week, and civil servants are being fired en masse, particularly at the Interior Ministry.

So how can we be sure that a government this naive is doing the right thing this time?

The government has witnessed how people were left to rot in prison based on false evidence, and scores of people had their phones tapped, accused of being members of an imaginary organization.

No thank you

Now, with a sudden moment of clarity, the government talks of putting the conspirators to account. Back in the day, government officials said people shouldn't fear having their phone conversations heard if they haven't commited any crimes.

When people were saying that a gang was organized within the state and that it was trying to conquer Turkey with fear, government officials were shouting, "I am also a prosecutor of this trial."

Now, they are saying the parallel gang has committed murders. Who was the government that didn't allow those murders to be properly investigated?

The truth is, Erdogan's AKP party was aware of everything back then even if today it claims the existence of a "parallel state." Everything changed when the two sides disagreed over sharing power.

It turns out that the ideology that had bound their alliance wasn't ethical at all.

One side was aware of the other's plans to capture the state, but it stayed silent. The other side was aware of all the corruption but was silent about it as long as it could be left to organize within the state.

The supposed ideology was nothing more than a scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours alliance. And everything would be continuing to this day if they had not had that power struggle.

One would continue to organize, and the other would go on stealing.

Now, because they are fighting, we are expected to take sides.

No, gentlemen, we are not pawns in your feud.

We can defend neither those who desire to become a state within the state nor those who only want to fill their pockets. We can defend neither the people who intend to create an empire of fear by throwing people into jail with false evidence nor those who allowed it because of their greed for power.

We want this country to be a democratic state of law. Our goals and your demands are not at all compatible.

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A Naturalist's Defense Of The Modern Zoo

Zoos are often associated with animal cruelty, or at the very least a general animal unhappiness. But on everything from research to education to biodiversity, there is a case to be made for the modern zoo.

Photograph of a brown monkey holding onto a wired fence

A brown monkey hangs off of mesh wire

Marina Chocobar/Pexels
Fran Sánchez Becerril


MADRID — Zoos — or at least something resembling the traditional idea of a zoo — date back to ancient Mesopotamia. It was around 3,500 BC when Babylonian kings housed wild animals such as lions and birds of prey in beautiful structures known as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Ancient China also played a significant role in the history of zoos when the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) created several parks which hosted an assortment of animals.

In Europe, it wouldn't be until 1664 when Louis XIV inaugurated the royal menagerie at Versailles. All these spaces shared the mission of showcasing the wealth and power of the ruler, or simply served as decorations. Furthermore, none of them were open to the general public; only a few fortunate individuals, usually the upper classes, had access.

The first modern zoo, conceived for educational purposes in Vienna, opened in 1765. Over time, the educational mission has become more prominent, as the exhibition of exotic animals has been complemented with scientific studies, conservation and the protection of threatened species.

For decades, zoos have been places of leisure, wonder, and discovery for both the young and the old. Despite their past success, in recent years, society's view of zoos has been changing due to increased awareness of animal welfare, shifting sensibilities and the possibility of learning about wild animals through screens. So, many people wonder: What is the purpose of a zoo in the 21st century?

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