Majority Rule/Minority Rights: Country Studies — Turkey

Turkey Country Study

Rankings in Freedom in the World 2016: Status: Partly Free. Freedom Ranking: 3.5; Political Rights: 3; Civil Liberties: 4.


Turkey's territory — and history — spans two continents. Most of its territory lies in the historical region of Anatolia in Asia, but its largest city, Istanbul (once Constantinople), bridges its western region in Europe to the Near East on the strategic Straits of Bosporus, which separates the Mediterranean and Black Seas.


Following the final collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, a citizens' parliament declared an independent republic of Turkey in 1923. Although the population is mostly Muslim, Turkey is formally a secular republic. Since 2002, however, Turkey has been led by the Islamist-oriented Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has blurred the strict separation of religion and politics set forth as a constitutional principle by the republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. With a modern economy and democratic politics, Turkey considers itself part of Europe and is a member of NATO. It seeks to join the European Union (EU), but its application stalled due to the objections of several EU members to Turkey’s human rights policies, its policy toward Cyprus, and other issues. Primarily Seljuk Turk in ethnicity, the country has a sizable Kurdish minority (about 20 percent). Turkish security forces have fought an armed Kurdish separatist movement over three decades. The war was suspended following the arrest of the movement's leader in 1999, but fighting has resumed in the traditionally Kurdish southeast part of the country and has intensified as Turkey extended the fight to Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria in 2015-16. Since being elected President in 2014, longtime Justice and Development party leader and former Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has adopted increasingly authoritarian policies, both towards the political opposition and the Kurdish minority. In 2015, he manipulated the elections process to parliament in order to maintain the AKP’s hold on power. 

Turkey’s population (76.5 million) and territory (785.5 million sq. km.) are greater than the EU's largest member, France, and rank 18th highest and 37th largest in the world, respectively. Turkey's economy has grown steadily over the last three decades with a mixture of state-interventionist and free market policies. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Turkey’s nominal GDP (Gross Domestic Product) ranked 18th in the world (at $800 billion) in 2014. While Turkey’s GDP ranks in the high tier of European and North American countries, its per capita Gross National Income for 2015, $9,290, ranks only 64th in the world and near the bottom among European countries. In 2015, Transparency International’s Corruption Survey index placed Turkey 66th out of 167 countries, a significant decline from prior years.


The rich history of Turkey reflects the influence of the broad range of civilizations that have settled crossed, or otherwise affected it. In ancient history, the Hittites, Persians, Ionians, Lydians, Greeks, and Romans (among others) inhabited or conquered parts or all of the region. Following the Fall of Rome Anatolia was under the control of the Byzantine Empire, with Constantinople, as its capital. Known as the "Second Rome," it became the center of Orthodox Christianity. In the 10th and 11th centuries, the Oguz Turks, early converts to Islam and followers of the Abbasid (Sunni) caliphate in Baghdad, migrated from Central Asia to Anatolia. The main Oguz tribes formed the Seljuk Empire, whose gazis (horsemen "of the faith") and mamluks (slave soldiers) were renowned warriors. After the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, the Seljuk sultanate gained the allegiance of other Turkish emirates across Anatolia.

Illustration of a Mamluk cavalryman in 1810

The Rise of the Ottoman Empire

The Crusades were organized in large part to counter Turkish Muslim advances into the Byzantine Empire and to retain Christian control over Constantinople. In the 13th century, a new Oguz dynasty arose under Osman I, known in the West as Ottoman, who reconquered Anatolia from the Crusaders and advanced into the Balkans. Mehmet II, the seventh Ottoman sultan, seized additional Byzantium territories in Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, and Greece and surrounded Constantinople, which fell in 1471.

The Ottoman Empire joined together Seljuk Turk, Byzantine, Arab, and Islamic influences under a common rule. Mehmet II declared himself the inheritor of the Byzantium kingdom and protector of the Greek Orthodox Church, while at the same time he made Constantinople (later Istanbul) the center of a revived Sunna caliphate. The Ottoman sultan was accepted as the caliph by the Sunni world after he halted the Persian Safavid dynasty’s spread of the heterodox Shia doctrine. The Ottoman dynasty lasted six centuries, exerting its control and influence over the Middle East, Central Asia, and Eastern and Southeastern Europe. At its height, the Ottoman Empire reached southern Hungary and threatened the Holy Roman Empire. Defeat in the Battle of Vienna in 1683 ended the Ottoman Empire’s advance into Europe. Thereafter, its control over European territory was limited to the Balkans and the Empire entered a process of decline.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk

The Rise of the Turkish Republic

 The Ottoman Empire sealed its fate after allying with Germany in World War I. The Ottoman defeat by the Allied forces gave impetus to a movement of "Young Turks," led by Mustafa Kemal Pasha, who rejected the Ottoman Empire and sought to create an independent, modern and secular Turkic nation-state oriented toward the West. Between 1919 and 1923, Mustafa Kemal led a War of Independence that defeated occupying Allied forces. A Grand National Assembly, formed in April 1920, established a provisional government. In 1922, the Assembly abolished the office of sultanate, formally ending the Ottoman Empire, and later abolished the office of caliphate. On October 29, 1923, the parliament issued the Proclamation of the Republic of Turkey and elected Mustafa Kemal its first president (in 1934, parliament anointed him Ataturk, or "Father of the Turks"). Europe recognized Turkey’s independence in the Treaty of Lausanne.

The Main Law

 The 1924 "Main Law" drafted by Mustafa Kemal established a parliamentary democracy (with the president elected by parliament) and instituted a national, social, and cultural policy of "Turkism." The constitution rejected a state religion and was avowedly secular in orientation. The military's National Council had the task of guarding against the influence of Islamism and fundamentalist religion in politics. All education and culture was likewise "Turkified," with adoption of the Latin alphabet, Turkish as the only accepted language, and rejection of Arabic and Persian as commonly used languages. Aspects of Ottoman attire were banned and European attire was encouraged. Politics were based on liberal principles, with freedom of speech, assembly, and association written into the constitution. In foreign policy, Turkey was neutral, including in World War II, until joining the Allies in February 1945. After the war, under threat from the Soviet Union, Turkey rejected neutrality and joined NATO in 1952. Politics and constitutional principles were based on those of liberal democracy, with freedom of speech, assembly, and association written into the constitution.

Turkey's Political Evolution 

During Ataturk's rule, there was effectively single-party rule under the Republican People’s Party. Only after his death, when the shadow of Ataturk’s political dominance receded, did diverse party politics emerge. But Turkey's constitution included some undemocratic aspects. The military constituted a separate branch of government trumping all others and having the duty to safeguard the secular constitution. In response to perceived threats to the state, military leaders carried out coups in 1960, 1970, and 1980, often instituting repressive rule. Still, the army hierarchy showed restraint by returning to democratic government each time (the military's longest rule was three years). Otherwise, politics shifted along a basic right-left spectrum, with parties and alignments often changing. The 1980s and to a lesser extent the 1990s saw an economic boom, taking Turkey's economy to a level closer to that of Europe. 

"Islamist," Pro-EU Party Gains Majority

In 1995, the pro-Islamist Welfare Party, campaigning on a populist economic message but also tapping long-suppressed religious feelings within the population, won a plurality of seats in parliament and formed a coalition government with the Democratic Party. The Welfare Party did not explicitly violate secular principles in its actions, but its platform formally supported creation of an Islamic state governed by Sharia law. In 1997, the army, threatening a coup, pressured the prime minister, Necmattin Erbakan, to resign. In 1998, the parliament outlawed the Welfare Party outright and banned Erbakan from participation in politics for five years. 

But in 2002, a party called Justice and Development, seen as a replacement of the Welfare Party, won an overwhelming majority of seats in parliament (367 out of 550 seats). Turkey's high 10 percent threshold for entering parliament resulted in only one other party gaining seats, the social democratic and secularist Republican People's Party. In its platform, Justice and Development (AK) abandoned previous Islamist goals and replaced them with two main planks: ending corruption and leading Turkey into the EU. The AK’s leader and Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once jailed for fomenting religious intolerance, led the adoption of a flurry of reforms (including abolishing the death penalty and economic reforms) to move Turkey towards EU standards. 

Negotiations for EU accession began in 2004, but stalled over the issue of Cyprus, a member of the EU. In 1974, Turkey occupied one-third of the ethnically mixed island to prevent its annexation by Greece. A standoff has existed ever since. As part of signing the Customs Union with the EU — a first step to accession — Turkey agreed to take steps to normalize relations between the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, but was seen as failing to do so. Negotiations eventually resumed, but Germany and France then stalled talks on human rights issues and Turkey’s failure to acknowledge the genocide of Armenians in 1915-16 (see Majority Rule/Minority Rights section below). Recently, as part of the agreement between the EU and Turkey to control migration from Syria, the negotiations are set to resume (see Current Issues below). Erdogan has said that he hopes EU accession will take place at least by October 29, 2023, the 100th anniversary of the Turkish republic.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

As it pursued economic reforms and EU membership, the AK party also sought to end military intrusion in politics and the secularist discrimination of religious practice, in particular bans on wearing basic head scarves (hijabs) and normal religious practice (such as daily prayers) at public institutions. As in 2002, the AK party handily won national elections in July 2007. Having their first opportunity as a majority in parliament to elect a president, AK members selected Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, who quickly convened a constitutional commission and ordered a referendum later that year on amendments introducing direct national elections for the president and enhancing the president’s powers. The amendments also reduced the assembly’s term to four years and the president’s term to five years (with a maximum of two terms).

In 2011, national elections for parliament had similar results to those in 2002 and 2007 but the AK party’s portion of the vote declined slightly to 49.5 percent (327 seats), while 26 percent (135 seats) went to the Republican People’s Party and 13 percent (53 seats) to the Nationalist Movement. Thirty-five seats were won by independents connected to the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which ran independent candidates for direct seats to get around the high ten-percent threshold for entering parliament as a party. The first direct presidential elections were scheduled for August 2014 with Erdogan expected to be the AK’s candidate (see below). 

Majority Rule, Minority Rights 

Turkey’s constitution, after being amended in the 2007 referendum, has established a mixed parliamentary-presidential system with only limited checks and balances on the majority’s abuse of power. Formally, the constitution continues to recognize minority rights, protect fundamental individual rights, and establish constitutional limits. In practice, the Republic of Turkey has not adhered to essential principles of majority rule and minority rights. Before the Justice and Development (AK) party came to power in 2002, the military interfered in politics, overthrew democratically elected governments, limited religious expression, and repressed the Kurdish minority. Since 2002, the government under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared to address many of these issues (adopting reforms in accordance with EU standards, reducing the military’s role in politics, improving treatment of the Kurdish minority, and generally giving a democratic voice to a new majority favoring religious values). But basic problems of respect for minority rights remained and in recent years the government has grown increasingly authoritarian. There are several issues raised concerning majority abuse of power and abuse of minority rights, which are intertwined. 

The Turkish-Armenian Issue 

One issue relates to a significant historical event. As Ottoman rule was breaking down during World War I, various nationalities sought autonomy and independence. From 1915 to 1917, Turkish forces and Armenian nationalists fought a war marked by the massive killings of Armenian civilians by Turkish forces. Turkish historians dispute the number and circumstances of deaths, and the official government position is that there was no targeted killing of an ethnic group and there were atrocities on both sides in the conflict. Most international scholars, however, agree that genocide took place, with between 1 and 1.5 million Armenian deaths. After Armenia regained independence with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, it sought recognition by national governments and international institutions for its claim of genocide and pressure on the government of Turkey to take responsibility for the crime. Despite the Turkish government’s voicing strong opposition, a number of national parliaments, including that of France, adopted legislation recognizing the Armenian government’s position. Turkey's refusal of Armenia’s claims affected negotiations on EU accession as well as attempts at re-establishing relations between the two neighbors.

Orhan Pamuk

In Turkey, the government actively prosecutes anyone who challenges the official version of events under Article 301 of the Anti-Terror Act. The most notable case was the arrest in December 2005 of Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s most famous writer who was later awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his depictions of the multi-ethnic and multi-religious culture of Istanbul. Pamuk was charged with defaming the state by claiming in an interview that one million Armenians were killed in 1915–16 and 30,000 Kurds were killed by the military in the anti-insurgency campaign during the 1980s–90s (see below). International protests resulted in dismissal of the charges, since further prosecution endangered the government’s EU accession policy. But EU insistence that Article 301 of the Anti-Terror Act be rescinded has been ignored and it remains in effect. 

In January 2007, the assassination of an editor of an Armenian-language newspaper by a Turkish nationalist shocked the public. Prime Minister Erdogan and other officials denounced the murder and hundreds of thousands marched through the streets in mourning. Prompted by this event, President Gul traveled to Armenia on an official visit in September 2008, the first Turkish head of state to do so. But an agreement to establish diplomatic relations foundered over Turkey’s insistence on a resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the neighboring Turkic country of Azerbaijan (see Country Study). Since Gul’s visit, there have been joint scholarly efforts to examine the historical evidence to determine what happened in 1915–17, but Turkish officials have continued to reject the assertion that genocide took pace, especially during events marking the centennial of the tragedy. 

The Kurdish Minority

Another ongoing issue is Turkey's treatment of its Kurdish minority. The Kurds have a distinct language, culture, and national history dating back more than two millennia. They live in a broad mountainous region that spans Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Fourteen million Kurds live in Turkey alone (20 percent of Turkey's population), mostly in the southeastern part bordering Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Turkish authorities have viewed the Kurds’ strong self-identity with suspicion and antithetical to forging a common Turkish nation. 

After the government formally banned the Kurdish language in 1982, an armed insurgency aimed at creating a separate state was launched by the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), a Marxist-Leninist movement backed by the Soviet Union. Thirty-five thousand people were killed and one million people were displaced over the next 17 years, during which Turkish military forces and the PKK were both accused of widespread abuses. The war was suspended in 1999 with the capture of the PKK's leader, Abdullah Ocalan, but resumed five years later on a limited scale. Ocalan was sentenced to death, but the penalty was commuted to life imprisonment when the death penalty was abolished as part of the EU accession process to conform to EU standards. From prison, Ocalan encouraged his followers to end the insurgency and to relocate to the northern Kurdish province of Iraq, where Kurds had achieved autonomy under the new Iraq constitution adopted by popular referendum following the US invasion. 

As Prime Minister, Erdogan had contradictory policies towards the Kurdish minority, alternating from allowing greater use of the Kurdish language to increasing air raids on Kurdish bases in Iraq and arresting people en masse for their association with the PKK or a civic Kurdish movement (KCK) that the government links to the armed insurgency. Starting in 2012, Erdogan stepped up efforts at reconciliation, initiating a government dialogue with Ocalan, still in prison, and other Kurdish leaders to end the conflict. The PKK agreed to suspend fighting and relocate its forces outside of Turkey. A number of restrictions on the Kurdish language were lifted as part of a democratization package introduced by Erdogan in parliament in September 2013, including allowing Kurdish-language education in private schools and some greater autonomy. Many detainees were released under a new law limiting pre-trial detention to 5 years (although more than two thousand people remained held under antiterrorism laws). 

The conflict in neighboring Syria has put a halt to these initiatives. The government has sided with opponents of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and demanded his removal from power (see Syria Country Study), but it has withheld support to Kurdish areas besieged both by the Syrian government and the Islamic State terror group. After an influx 1 million refugees fleeing the conflict, including 130,000 Syrian Kurds, Turkey closed its border and prevented Turkish Kurds from joining Syrian Kurdish fighters. The air force recently began bombing Kurdish units fighting the Assad regime (claiming they are part of the PKK’s campaign to create a single Kurdish state). Conflict with the PKK, which carried out retaliatory activities within Turkey, was resumed in a campaign related to the AK’s election campaign (see also below). of majority abuse of power and the abuse of minority rights are intertwined.

Current Issues

In recent years, the government of Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s leadership, both as prime minister and after being elected president in 2014, has increasingly abused its power in a manner to silence critics, weaken political challengers, impose religious conformity, and violate minority group rights. In general, majority rule has been used not to respect minority rights but to strengthen the ruling party’s and Erdogan’s hold on state power. 

The Gezi Park Protests and Their Aftermath

Growing disenchantment with government abuse of power erupted in May 2013 when tens of thousands of people protested the demolition of Gezi Park in Taksim Square, Istanbul’s last remaining large public space, for a shopping mall. After police attacked demonstrators, the Taksim Square gatherings grew into a broad national movement involving several million people voicing protest against Erdogan’s authoritarianism and the AK party’s imposition of religious restrictions (such as limits placed on alcohol sales). Trade union federations supported the demonstrators by organizing a general strike. Erdogan ordered police on June 16 to clear the square and disperse nationwide protests. The police attacks resulted in 11 deaths, 8,000 injuries, and 3,000 arrests. Three hundred were sentenced to significant prison terms. As a result of the crackdown, the EU again suspended the next phase of membership talks with Turkey, but the government continued to forcibly disperse other opposition protests and May Day demonstrations. A new law enacted in January 2014 made it a crime for medical personnel to treat injured protesters absent government approval. 

Restrictions on Freedom of Expression

The government has also taken strong action to bring journalists and others to court on criminal charges under Article 301 of the Anti-Terror Act and laws against defaming the state or religion. In recent years, hundreds of scholars, authors, and others have faced charges for free expression, mostly for reporting on national minority issues. For example, the editors of Turkey’s largest newspaper, Cumhuriyet, were arrested in November 2015 for publishing the contents of a video alleging that the government was siphoning off humanitarian assistance funds in order to send arms to anti-Assad fighters in Syria; both were released in April when the Constitutional Court ruled their arrests as invalid.In addition, more than 1,800 people have faced both civil and criminal cases for “insulting the president” since Recep Tayyip Erdogan won the presidency (see below). Reporters Without Borders ranks Turkey 149th in press freedom out of 180 countries. 

Dozens of journalists investigating corruption of government officials have been pressured to resign from their jobs. Freedom House reports that such targeted repression has generally succeeded in intimidating other journalists to adopt self-censorship, especially in local media (see Freedom House Special Report in Resource links). In February 2014, the parliament approved restrictions on the internet, leading to citizens’ protests that were dispersed by force by police. In March 2014, prior to local elections, the government ordered restrictions on Twitter and YouTube following postings of recordings regarding a growing corruption scandal. The Constitutional Court removed the bans and internet restrictions but the government succeeded in using special courts to pressure social media sites to remove accounts of government critics. The government also began prosecutions under a blasphemy law. In one notable case, world renowned pianist Fazil Say was tried for “inciting hatred” and “insulting Islam” after writing a jocular Tweet about religious officials. He received a suspended sentence. Many other cases followed. 

The Rule of Law, Corruption and Political Power

The government’s effort to reduce the role of the military in political affairs initially earned international praise but over time questions arose over its abuse of the rule of law. In the prosecution of two conspiracy cases, dubbed “Ergenekon” and “Sledgehammer,” more than one thousand military officers and civilians were arrested (most held for several years of pre-trial detention); more than 500 were ultimately prosecuted on charges of taking part in plots to overthrow Turkish governments (most were convicted). The broad sweep of arrests and trials prompted the chiefs of staff of the armed forces, navy, and air force to resign in July 2011. New appointments by the AK cemented its own political control over the military. In early 2014, however, Prime Minister Erdogan did an about-face and stated that the trials had used false evidence to frame the defendants and charged the prosecutors with “a conspiracy against the national army.” Later that year, the Constitutional Court overturned the convictions of most of the military officers and ordered their release and retrial. 

The reason for the reversal was Erdogan’s need to discredit the law enforcement and judicial system after prosecutors brought bribery charges against businessmen — sons of several of Erdogan’s closest ministers — involved in government construction projects. The ministers were forced to resign in late December 2013. Erdogan’s own son was accused of amassing a large fortune illegally. In response to the scandals, Erdogan accused the prosecutors and police officials in charge of forming a “parallel state” on behalf of a former political ally turned critic, Abdullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who leads a popular educational and social religious movement. The government removed or reassigned 5,500 police officers, prosecutors, and judges suspected of being tied to Gulen’s network and the bribery charges were dropped against the ministers’ sons. In April 2014, the government requested extradition of Gulen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, on charges of “attempting to overthrow the government.” Extradition has not been granted and Gulen denies the charges, but in widely circulated taped sermons he has criticized Erdogan for authoritarian rule and encouraged support for opposition candidates in elections. In December 2014, police arrested the editor of Turkey’s largest daily newspaper, Zaman, which is critical of the government and sympathetic to Gulen, along with twenty other journalists and editors, charging them with forming a terrorist plot directed at another Islamic group. 

Elections and the Refugee Crisis

Against this backdrop, the AK party again won municipal elections in April 2014, retaining the mayoralties and city councils of most major cities. In August 2014, Recep Tayyip Erdogan won Turkey’s first direct national election for president under the amended constitution, with 51.4 percent of the vote against three candidates. As president, Erdogan ceded the leadership of the AK party to the new Prime Minister (the former Foreign Minister) Ahmet Davutoglu, but he remained the country’s dominant politician. With parliamentary elections approaching in June 2015, Erdogan promised to push for changes in the constitution to enhance the presidency’s powers and control over the national government if the AK won sufficient seats. The elections, however, were a major rebuff to the ruling party, which garnered just 41 percent of the vote and lost its majority in parliament for the first time since 2002. The secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) retained its position as the main opposition with 25 percent, while the Kurdish-dominated People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which risked running a slate of candidates instead of independents, surpassed the 10 percent barrier to win 13.2 percent, surprising most analysts. The rightist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) won 16 percent.

While it appeared that AK’s hold on power had been loosened, Prime Minister Davutoglu deliberately avoided any serious coalition talks with the CHP over two months and when the time-frame for forming a government expired President Erdogan called new elections for November 2015. By then, his strategy was clear: he asserted a stronger nationalist position against the Kurdish minority and ordered a renewed military campaign against the PKK, including sieges of main Kurdish cities. The government took no action as Islamic State terrorists carried out assassinations and major suicide attacks aimed at Kurdish refugees from Syria; the inaction fueled retaliatory attacks by PKK and Kurdish youth, while the Erdogan government encouraged mob attacks on Kurdish civilian and political offices. As elections approached, the government also cracked down on dissent by arresting numerous journalists, pressuring media outlets to fire others, and ordering the closure or takeover of major media outlets, including four opposition newspapers associated with the Gulen movement. In the year’s second election, held on November 3, citizens responded to Erdogan’s call to support “order” and the AK retook its majority in parliament with nearly 50 percent of the vote. The Kurdish HDP barely surpassed the 10 percent threshold. Since the elections, the government has heightened its pressure on opposition media, including taking over a major news agency and putting the editors of two major newspapers on trial for espionage. The government has also intensified its military campaign against the PKP and bombed Kurdish positions and refugee areas in Syria in response to several PKP terrorist attacks in Turkey (even though some of these attacks are claimed by ISIS).

The elections also took place in the midst of the months-long refugee crisis, with more than 1 million refugees from Syria and the Middle East making desperate crossings into Europe by land and sea after fleeing war, conflict, or desperate conditions in refugee camps. By November, it was estimated that there were also 2.2 million refugees in Turkey. German Chancellor Angela Merkel traveled to Istanbul just prior to the elections to arrange with President Erdogan an agreement for Turkey to halt the refugee migration to Europe, especially illegal smuggling networks, in exchange for major support from the EU (3 billion Euro) and an agreement to resume EU accession negotiations without consideration of Turkey’s human rights violations. The agreement was formally agreed to in March 2016 despite protests by Cyprus and amid concerns by human rights organizations that the terms might violate refugee rights by requiring the forcible return of migrants to Turkey after crossing into the EU. Human rights groups have also expressed concern that Turkey is using the agreement to continue repression of the Kurdish minority and extend its military campaign against Kurdish camps in Syria.

Since signing the agreement, President Erdogan has further challenged the EU’s tolerance of his authoritarian policies. In April, he proposed that a law be passed stripping citizenship from “sympathizers of terrorism,” threatening a widespread sweep against Kurdish activists as well as participants in the Gulen education movement, which has been deemed a terror organization. In early May 2016, he forced his successor as Prime Minister and leader of the AK party, Ahmet Davutoglu, who was considered a more moderate and liberal politician balancing Turkish politics, to resign. As well, Erdogan is utilizing an arcane German law against insulting foreign leaders to file civil and criminal suits in German courts against individuals who have harshly criticized his crackdowns on freedom of expression and the Kurdish minority. Most notably, Erdogan has filed suit against a comedian who recited a provocative and purposefully crude poem deriding the Turkish leader on German television. These court actions have given rise to widespread criticism of the German government for tolerating the Turkish leader’s effort to infringe freedom of expression. (For ongoing issues, see Resources for links to articles in the Economist and The New York Times and also reports by Freedom House, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders.)