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Understanding Turkey's Authoritarian Turn

The program that both Mr. Cimperman and ourselves attended at the City Club on Friday concerned "Understanding Turkey's Authoritarian Turn" in which the speaker was Professor Asli U. Bali, Director of the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies and Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law where she is involved with the International and Comparative Law Program.

She was introduced by Professor Joshua Stacher from the Dept. of Political Science at KSU who noted that 10 years ago Turkey was considered a model of democracy for the Middle East but now it is seen as a "cautionary tale" of backsliding. For example, today under the governance of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan it has placed more journalists in prison than any other country.

In course of her presentation, Professor Bali named and described the "keys" that signified the "backsliding" which were tinkering with the democratic process in such a way that it excluded people who may not like the current government while making sure that those who favored it were lopsidedly well-represented; consolidation of executive power so that President Erdogan can put forth his program without the proper checks and balances of the legislative branch; repression of both the media and the judiciary who might otherwise mount an effective challenge; and polarization of society so that an effective middle-of-the-road opposition cannot be formed. Other countries that Professor Bali mentioned that have taken an authoritarian slide included Russia, Hungary, the Philippines, and, to a certain extent, the United States based on what we have seen the last several weeks.

We admired Professor Bali when she admitted that many of the people who opposed what the President was doing initially took a very snotty, we-know-more-than you attitude which alienated those who may have joined forces with them. Once again the professor gave the same advice that has been given at every human rights venue we have attended lately which is that listening to what one's opponents have to said is imperative and in order to move society forward and prevent demagoguery it is necessary to find a meeting ground and come to a common agreement that involves certain concessions on both sides. 

Of course we asked Professor Bali about the refugee situation in Turkey and she gave President Erdogan credit for taking in so many from Syria and providing for them. Nevertheless, she was worried because his government had strategically re-locating them into key areas and starting to push for citizenship for many of them possibly to obtain a new crop of loyal voters. 

During lunch, we introduced ourselves to Dr. Deniz Durmus from the Dept. of Philosophy at John Carroll who is here from Turkey, herself, and Ms. Deborah Wilcox from the Cleveland Association of Phi Beta Kappa which sponsored this program.

As we ate we visited with Mr. Aaron Jeter who is a history teacher at Solon High School and brought a table of students of with him. We mentioned to him that we had met several students from Solon High School the previous day at the City Club Youth Forum and he knew who they were right off.

Another person who was at both  the Youth Forum on Thursday and the program on Turkey on Friday, was Mr. Clint Delafield, who recently retired from being a market researcher and has time to go to events that he can both learn from and enjoy like City Club programs. He especially liked the Youth Forum on Thursday because he thought "it was fun to be around young minds and hear their thoughts."


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.


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