Turkey’s President Erdogan lights the wick of immigrant wars

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If the Erdogan regime, in pursuit of its own antidemocratic, expansionist, and destabilizing agenda, continues to weaponize immigrants and place their lives in serious danger, the world must act.

GREEK SOLDIERS patrol the border with Turkey. (photo credit: REUTERS)
GREEK SOLDIERS patrol the border with Turkey.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Erdogan regime is sending tens of thousands of immigrants to the Greek border with the false promise that they will be able to cross to Europe. There are reports of violent attacks from fascist groups in Turkey against immigrants who don’t want to follow Erdogan’s orders. His regime has organized mass population movements and actively encourages them to illegally cross state borders and enter Greece. By doing so, Ankara puts the lives of hundreds of thousands in danger. To move this mass of people quickly, the government is collaborating with para-state illegal networks of human traffickers. The financial profits from this inhumane, illegal activity are great both for smugglers and corrupt Turkish bureaucrats.

The EU will soon be faced with uncontrolled mass currents of illegal migrant flows, among them many jihadist terrorists and others who have been recently released from Turkish prisons and promptly sent to Greece’s border. This will continue to happen, unless the EU takes serious initiatives to prevent the Erdogan regime from this action.

Unfortunately, Germany took steps that exacerbated the problem: instead of containing the Erdogan regime, Berlin chose to provide money, legitimacy, and the sale of weapons to Ankara. Instead of supporting crisis-ridden Greece to deal with the migrant challenge, Germany implemented policies that turned Greece into a buffer zone to prevent refugees from reaching northern Europe.

We are very worried about the new immigrant crisis triggered by Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who threatens peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean. Erdogan has not been alone in this. His regime has been collaborating closely with Iran in deliberately pushing hundreds of thousands of immigrants across their borders, to reach Europe. By weaponizing thousands of immigrants, these two regimes blackmail Europe to consent to their authoritarian and expansionist agendas. If their blackmail succeeds, the whole region will explode.

Demographic Engineering

The Turkish government, by refusing to control its own borders and by encouraging masses of immigrants to illegally enter Greece, breaks international law and undermines its own legitimacy as a recognized state entity. It also plants the seeds for extensive demographic engineering in the northwestern European part of Turkey, in a historic region called eastern Thrace, at the land borders with Greece.

The inhabitants of eastern Thrace have not been supporting Erdogan’s governments, which is another reason for which the regime is trying to change the social and demographic balance in this area. Similar policies have been implemented in other parts of the country where Kurds and Alevites (a large religious community known as Alwaites in neighboring Syria) have been residing. Erdogan and his supporters intend to erase all ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity in the country and impose a rigid Turkish-Sunni identity to all its citizens. Let’s not forget that since 2016, the regime has been holding hostage Selahatin Demirtas, the leader of the HDP (People’s Democratic Party). HDP is the only political party that supports ethnic diversity, human rights, and democratization in Anatolia and Mesopotamia.

A New Policy and Vision

Due to historical background and geographical proximity, the inhabitants of eastern Thrace feel closer to Greece and to liberal European values than to the Islamic lifestyle that Erdogan is trying to impose. The people of eastern Thrace should resist his policies and remain firmly with the side that supports democracy, cultural pluralism, freedom, human rights, and international law.

Erdogan’s policies and hate rhetoric threaten peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean and challenge the friendship between Greek and Turkish people. We believe that the massive movement of immigrant populations in eastern Thrace and in Greece must stop immediately, before it turns into a global problem.

If the Erdogan regime, in pursuit of its own antidemocratic, expansionist, and destabilizing agenda, continues to weaponize immigrants and place their lives in serious danger, the international community should act.

The Western democracies should immediately impose an arms embargo, limit financial interactions, and put serious pressures on Erdogan’s regime. In this context, we firmly believe that the US should impose CAATSA and Magnitsky Act sanctions in order to drain this corrupt regime’s economy.

The international community must invent new ways to collaborate with the real democratic forces in Turkey. Greece, as a neighboring country with long-term relations with the people of Anatolia, and an important symbolic capital and cultural impact in the broader region, can play a pivotal role in the democratization of Turkey. We must work together to bring democracy and stability to the eastern Mediterranean.

Tuna Bekleviç is a human rights activist and entrepreneur, based in Washington, DC; and a former member of the board of trustees of Istanbul Bilgi University. Dr. Nikos Michailidis is an assistant professor of Anthropology and Mediterranean Studies at the University of Missouri, St. Louis.



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