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Great Purges Of Tyrants

Zakir Gul, Ph.D.

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Authors: Zakir Gul, Ph.D. & Dr. Kadir Akyuz*

The pages of history are littered with oppressors, dictators, and tyrants from countries large and small across the globe who share a common trait: paranoia that leads to zero tolerance for criticism, disobedience, alternative ideas,competition and any kind of perceived disrespect from supporters and foes alike. A contemporary example is the president of Turkey, who appears to be following in the footsteps of tyrants who came before him.Stalin, for example, applied the Great Purge not only to wealthy peasants and people who had opposed him in the past but also to comrades and friends, Communist leaders, party members and bureaucrats.In the end, millions of friends and enemies alike were executed or died in labor camps. The motivation for Stalin’s actions, as it often is for tyrants, was a perceived threat to his political power and beliefs. Anyone who challenged him had to be dealt with by any means available.

One such enemy in the mind of Stalin was Leon Trotsky, an ardent proponent of the universality of the struggle for rights through the adoption of Communism on an international scale. Stalin, on the other hand, believed that Communist goals were based on a cult of personality and was not particularly supportive of the international struggle for Communism to the degree that many of the original revolutionaries had idealized as a worldwide revolution. The two men’s philosophical differences mattered less to Stalin than what Stalin believed to be Trotsky’s threat to his power. Stalin could not allow Trotsky, the brilliant architect of the strategies that led to the victories in the Soviet civil war, to live. Trotsky had to flee the Soviet Union to escape Stalin’s wrath and attempts to purge a perceived enemy. Trotsky fled to Mexico, where he was welcomed. Stalin, however, was not satisfied with simply having Trotsky out of the Soviet Union; he had to be eliminated. Stalin did not want a man of such stature and brilliance to be in a position—anywhere in the world—to write and speak about the failures of Stalin and the betrayal of the revolution by Stalin and his associates. At the behest of Stalin, an undercover agent for the Soviet Union’s secret police was sent to Mexico to kill Trotsky. The attempt on Trotsky’s life was successful.

Stalin, however, targeted more than high-profile individuals and forced the internal expulsion of various ethnic groups within the borders of the Soviet Union. Entire populations were subjected to harsh conditions, and large numbers perished on their forced journeys. Opponents were either killed abroad or kidnapped and brought back and executed, while others were placed in the Gulags. One example of Stalin’s attempts to stifle opposition is the well-documented case of a man-made famine intended to subdue Ukraine. The Ukrainians tried to hold onto their religion, their private-property ethos and their identity. Millions died in the famine in Ukraine. To control the Ukrainian population, Stalin used terror strategies such as arrests in the middle of the night, secret sentences, executions and punitive sentences in the Gulags. Tens of millions of Ukrainians perished under Stalin—including not only his opponents but also people who fully supported Stalin and the Communist revolution. No one was safe from Stalin’s state terror.

The military also was not exempt. Large numbers of high-ranking officers were arrested tried and convicted and then shot or, in some cases, sent to the Gulags to die. By the time World War II erupted, Stalin had killed so many high-ranking offices that the ability of the Soviet military to operate effectively had been compromised. This situation worked to the advantage of the Germans, who were able to make incredible progress with their invasion of the Soviet Union. The weakened Soviet army could do little to stop the German army’s initial advances.

Much the same has been happening in Turkey since the failure of a military coup on July 15, 2016, which was unlike previous coups the country has experienced. The July coup attempt left many people wondering how it had happened. The Turkish media, now largely under the control of the Erdogan government, have published numerous controversial claims about the origins of the coup attempt. One of the claims by a pro-government newspaper was that the coup has been orchestrated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.Mustafa Akaydin, a member of parliament from Antalya,questioned the coup and likened it to a theatrical play. Erdogan, on the other hand, called the coup a “gift from God.” and made his reasoning clear.

Erdogan’s response to the failed coup spoke volumes about why he considered the coup to be a gift from God. In the immediate aftermath of the coup, for example,the president declared a state of emergency and announced decrees that started the Great Purge of Turkey. Since the coup attempt, 151,967people were dismissed from their jobs; 133,257people were detained; 64,998 people were arrested; 5,822 academicians lost their jobs; 4,463 judges and prosecutors were dismissed; 189 media outlets were shut down; 319 journalists were arrested; and even human rights defenders, including the director of Amnesty International Turkey. Erdogan’s antidemocratic tactics were not limited to Turkish citizens. For example, Andrew Brunson, an American priest, also was targeted. Constitutional human rights were banned, which allowed for the illegal, illegitimate and inhuman application of laws by the Erdogan government.

The West, however, did not find to be credible Erdogan’s argument that his actions were the will of God and were needed to save the country. Most likely, Erdogan was not pleased with the West’s disbelief—despite a concerted effort to prove his predetermined political claims.Not willing to concede defeat, Erdogan responded with increased anger toward the disbelievers.Now a troubling question remains:What is Erdogan’s next course of action when the results of the first plan were not as expected?

One can look to history for some insights. Because tyrants think only of themselves and will do anything to remain in power, they will not hesitate to kill millions of people if doing so will safeguard their hold on power. Leaders who followed this path include Mao Zdong (or Tse-tung), a tyrant responsible for killing 45 million people in just four years. Stalin is believed to have been responsible for killing 40 million (some sources say as many as 60 million) people. Hitler is another example of a leader who showed no remorse for the mass killing of millions of Jews and others. A tyrant’s paranoia mindset makes everyone an enemy except for the tyrant himself. Even the tyrant’s most loyal supporters will, sooner or later, be the victims of the paranoid leader’s ruthless ambition.

Based on history, the prospects for Turkey look grim. Erdogan’s purge of Turkish citizens may ensnare even more people through massive killings and massacres of his own people if the president continues to be motivated by an obsession with power and a fear of losing that power. Will civilian groups be enlisted to carry out the killings? Is the public speech of well-known mafia leader Sedat Peker, who pledges allegiance to the supreme ruler of Turkey, be the harbinger of such a plan?An excerpt from Peker’s speech is telling: “We will hang them [the others] to the nearest flagstaffs, we will hang them to the nearest trees…I swear…We will continue to hang them in the prisons, as well…We will apply such things [tortures] that were not even seen on the horror movies.”

Peker’s incendiary words and Erdogan’s quest to retain power at all costs—even the lives of his countrymen—need to be met with equal outrage by people who support democracy and human rights and the rule of law. They must not turn a blind eye to what is unfolding in Turkey or believe that the same could never happen to them. Martin Niemöller, a Lutheran ministerwho lived in concentration camps for seven years during Nazi rule, saw firsthand the folly of not speaking up in face of injustice when the injustice is happening to someone else. When the Nazis came for the Socialists, the Trade Unionists and the Jews, Niemöller recalled in the early post-war years, he did not speak out. The consequences of his inaction became clear when the Nazis came for Niemöller. His words were stark: “… —and there was no one left to speak for me.” Remaining silent is not the answer to the deeds of power-hungry tyrants.Today the “someone else” is the Turkish people, tomorrow another someone else, until a tomorrow comes and no one is left to speak.

*Dr. Kadir Akyuz is an assistant professor at University of Bridgeport.

Zakir Gul, Ph.D., is an associate professor in criminal justice at State University of New York (SUNY) in Plattsburgh, where he teaches courses such as terrorism, cyber-terrorism, homeland security and intelligence, transnational crime, and policing and society. Previously, he founded a graduate program on international security and served as the founding director. He also worked in several research centers on terrorism and intelligence, and served as the deputy editor-in-chief of a peer-reviewed journal on policing.

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Middle East

God’s Grace: Reichstag Fire and July 15 Military Coup

Zakir Gul, Ph.D.

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“By the grace of God!” Some rulers use the cry to explain why certain events happen and why they play out as they do. They will argue that God, in allowing the events to happen, has bestowed his grace upon the ruler. Two rulers and two events—the Reichstag fire in Germany on February 27, 1933,and the military coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016—illustrate the devastating consequences this twisted logic can have on the lives of ordinary people.When Adolph Hitler arrived at the scene, he told German Chancellor Franz von Pape, “This is a God-given signal” to crush Communists (and later opponents). Immediately after the failed military coup, Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the event was “a gift from God” and justification for Erdogan to start cleansing the military (and later purging opponents).

The similarities between the two events are striking in terms of beneficiaries, consequences and suspicions about the rulers’ true intentions going forward. Soon after the fire, Hitler started to consolidate his powers in the name of protecting the state’s security and democracy. To do so, Hitlersuspended civil liberties and shut the door on the rights and freedom of the country’s citizens. The fire in the heart of the countrywas used to justify the notion that the country was in a great danger. With decrees, Hitler purged his opponents, even though there was only one person considered to be responsiblefor the fire. Erdogan followed a similar path when he has declared a state of emergency after the coup attempt and consolidated his powers with radical changes in the country’s political and legal systems. With decrees, Erdogan purged hundreds of thousands of people under the guise of protecting the country’s security and democracy—even though soldiers who allegedly were involved in the coup attempt that night already had been into custody.In the political arena, Hitler increased the number of votes he received in the election that took place a week after the fire. Similarly, public support for Erdogan increased after the coup attempt. History does, indeed, repeat itself. These are two of many examples that could have been cited.

It may not be possible to know for sure who staged and orchestrated the Reichstag fire orthe military coup attempt; however, it is clear that the rulers’ purported motives are suspicious and their explanations filled with inconsistencies, given the many controversies arising from both events.The Reichstag firehas been discussed by scholars and historians who concluded that Hitler and his team—either directly or indirectly—helped to instigate the fire. Indeed, the arsonist responsible for the fire was pardoned years later. The military coup in Turkey wasa terrorizing and wicked deed against humanity and democracy, and the persons responsible must be identified and punished based on the rule of law and democratic values. It is, however, a Herculean task. Too many loopholes and controversies about the coup attempt need to be clarified. Erdogan should provide evidence-based, honest and objective explanations to remove the suspicions surrounding the coup attempt. Many answers are needed. For example,why did Erdogan refuse to answer questions from the major opposition party (the Republican People’s Party, or CHP) about the coup? Why has the investigation case report and the report of the parliament’s investigation committee deemed inappropriate and unsatisfactory even by some members of the committee? More important, why has an international committee not been allowed to investigate the case? Questions such as these highlight the many mysteries and suspicions that still surround the event two years after it occurred.

An independent international investigation committee should be established by the United Nations to examine the coup attempt and eliminate possible suspicions about Erdogan and his governing team. The committee also should determine whether thousands of people were responsible for organizing the coup attempt, as the government alleges, and clarify the following: whether some U.S. citizens, such as Andrew Brunson, who is still in jail, were among the primary plotters of the coup; whether some other U.S. citizens for whom bounties were offered were behind the coup attempt; and whether the United States was behind the coup attempt, as Turkish politicians and government officials claim—even though the United States has denied any involvement in the event.

Another independent international investigation committee should be established by the U.N.(or some other internationally accepted institution)to investigate the aftermath of the coup. Violations of internationally accepted human rights (as reported by credible human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch) that have been committed by government security and intelligence officials since the coup attempt should be investigated. The committee also should also determine whether persons victimized in any way (such as imprisonment, job loss, inhumane treatment, and deprival of constitutional rights and freedoms)were based on evidence or resulted from the arbitrary application punishment. A final task of the committee should be to investigate allegations of abductions, extrajudicial executions and torture by government security and intelligence agencies. As John Dalhuisen,Amnesty International’s Europe director, has said, “It is absolutely imperative that the Turkish authorities halt these abhorrent practices and allow international monitors to visit all these detainees in the places they are being held.”

An independent and objective domestic committee that consists of members from every political party in the country—regardless of the parties’ percentage of the vote among constituents—should be established to investigate the same issues the two international committees need to review. Care must be taken to ensure that the members of this domestic committee—unlike those serving on the committee that was formed after the coup attempt—can maintain their objectivity and are aware of their responsibilities. The committee should be transparent and its actions and discussions observed and by international representatives of the U.N., the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the European Union, and individual countries and/or journalists.

Finally, the European Court of Human Rights, an internationally accepted high court of which Turkey is a member,should determine for itself—rather than rely solely on the response from government officials—whether the country’s domestic legal and judicial system can be accessed openly and freely by all citizens and the attorneys representing them in legal matters.

It is only through these independent international and domestic investigations that the truth about the failed coup attempt can come to light.

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Ghassan Kanafani, the Palestinian Pioneer Author of Resistance Literature

Sondoss Al Asaad

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The eighth of July marks the 46th martyrdom anniversary of Ghassan Kanafani, who was assassinated by the Zionist Intelligence;  Mossad, along with his 17-year-old niece Lamees. Days before their martyrdom, Lamees had asked Kanafani to diminish his activitism and to concentrate on his writings. He answered her,” I write well because I believe in a cause, in principles. The day I leave these principles, my stories will become purposeless. If I were to leave behind my principles, you yourself would not respect me.”

Kanafani was born in 1936, in Palestine, to a father who was a national activist in the resistance against the British colonialism. After the 1948 Zionist occupation, his family sought refuge to Syria, when he was 12-year-old. In the refuge camps, Kanafani wrote most of his novels which highlights the sufferings that the Palestinians endure in the diaspora. He won multiple awards for his works both during his life and posthumously. For instance, in “Umm Saad,” Kanafani’s protagonist is a symbol of the Palestinian women in the refugee camps.

Kanafani was inspired by Jamal Abd al-Nasser’s ideas of national independence and defiance of imperialism. Due to the decline of Nasserism after the 1961 failure to consolidate Egypt and Syria under a unified United Arab Republic, the ascendancy of imperialism and Zionism and the rise of communism; Kanafani, along with his comrade George Habash, resolved to adopt Marxism. They belived that the political crisis in the Arab world could only be solved by turning the anti-imperialist struggle into a social revolution.

In Lebanon, Kanafani adopted the Communist philosophy and become a leading member of the Marxist-Leninist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). He says, “The Palestinian cause is not a cause for Palestinians only, but a cause for every revolutionary, wherever he is, as a cause of the exploited and oppressed masses in our era.”

Besides, he was a prolific creative and brilliant novelist and the first to anticipate the “resistance literature” genre. His literary products and fictitious works have inspired a whole generation of resisting youth, both during and after his lifetime as they are greatly rooted in the Palestinian culture and cause. Kanafani dedicated his works to reflect on the Palestinians’ lives and the challenges they face under the Zionist occupation. He states, “My political position springs from my being a novelist. In so far as I am concerned, politics and the novel are an indivisible case and I can categorically state that I became politically committed because I am a novelist, not the opposite.”

The assassination of Ghassan Kanafani was the result of his commitment to the Palestinian cause and the resistance methodology. Today, his legacy echo within every free revolutionary who devoted his life to confront the imperialist conspiracies. Indeed, Kanafani was murdered merely because he had constituted an intellectual threat to the Zionist entity. He refused the negotiations with the enemy, pointing that it would be “a conversation between the sword and the neck […] I have never seen talks between a colonialist case and a national liberation movement.”

The chief thematic field of Kanafani’s writing was inseparably connected to the anti-imperialism struggle. He stressed that the Palestinian cause could not be resolved in isolation of the Arab ‘s social and political crisis. Further, he insisted on developing the resistance movement from being a nationalist Palestinian liberation movement into being a pan-Arab revolutionary socialist movement of which the liberation of Palestine would be a vital component.

Definitely, Kanafani played an influential role in raising consciousness on the issue of imperialism. He maintains, “Imperialism has laid its body over the world, the head in Eastern Asia, the heart in the Middle East, its arteries reaching Africa and Latin America. Wherever you strike it, you damage it, and you serve the world revolution. “Shortly after Kanafani’s obituary in Lebanon, “The Daily Star” stated, “He was a commando who never fired a gun, whose weapon was a ball-point pen, and his arena the newspaper pages.”

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Bahrain’s Top Spiritual Leader in U.K. for Medical Reasons

Sondoss Al Asaad

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Eventually, Bahrain’s prominent, 80-years-old, Top Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim has been flown to the U.K., after the severe deterioration of his health conditions.

The Bahraini authorities have frequently procrastinated the proper hospitalisation of the ailing Ayatollah Qassim until last week when the Foreign Minister Khalid Al Khalifa twitted that Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s ruler, had approved off Ayatollah Qassim’s “facilitation of travel” to find medical assistance.

Ayatollah Qassim was earlier transferred to Bahrain’s International Airport by ambulance. The authorities have currently issued a one-year temporary passport for Ayatollah Qassim as he is technically stateless since Bahrain’s Cassation Court stripped him of citizenship.

The arbitrary prosecution of Ayatollah Qassim has been related to his religious duty of collecting charities, known as “Khoums.” This religious ritual has been violated by the government, the charities have been confiscated and the Ayatollah has been audaciously accused of “money laundering.”

Ayatollah Qassim’s medical team issued a statement confirming his transfer abroad in order to avoid further complications in his health. The team said, “Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim left Bahrain for England Monday morning, July 9, 2018.This measure has been taken on the basis of medical reports and consensus of his doctors who emphasized the need for his immediate transfer to a specialised hospital to prevent a further deterioration.”

Moreover, Ayatollah Qassim’s health has been deteriorating after the authorities imposed on him a house arrest. Medical sources have informed that Ayatollah Qassim is suffering from cancer, which is in an early stage.

Since June 2016, Ayatollah Qassim has been arbitrarily stripped of his nationality. Bahrain’s Court of Cassation convicted Ayatollah Qassim of “illegal collection of funds and money laundering, serving foreign interests” and sentenced him to one year in jail suspended for three years. It also ordered him to pay $265,266 in fines.

The unfair, politically motivated,  blatant trial had led Ayatollah Qassim’s followers to peacefully protest, on daily basis, in his residence area, up to 23 May 2017.

On that day, the government violently stormed the sit-in zone, in Duraz village, murdered 5 youth and arrested around 300. Since then Ayatollah Qassim has been under house arrest and denied adequate medical care, which let his situation to drastically worsen and to another health complications.

Clearly, the denaturalisation of Ayatollah Qassim and various dissents is regarded as a systematic reprisal against the political and religious freedom in the country.

Since the onset of the 2011 peaceful uprising, Duraz village along with scores of Bahraini villages have been subjected to an ongoing clampdown and restrictions.

Bahrain, home of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, has gone to great lengths to clamp down on dissents. On 15 March 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed.

Religious freedom has been violated  until the central Friday prayer; the largest Shiite religious congregation, held in Duraz, has been banned. Armoured vehicles were deployed to cordon off Duraz’s mosque and various police checkpoints were set to thoroughly lock down the village.

Regularly, the government have been criticised for violating the freedoms to religious rituals, assembly, association, expression, etc. Since 2011, when protests; demanding democracy, reforms and justice, have erupted; tensions have simmered.

Dozens of high-profile activists have been detained or exiled, opposition associations have been dissolved and citizenships have been revoked.

Unfortunately, the Shiite community have long endured a pivotal and methodological persecution in  an attempt to forged the demographic representation.

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