The Labour Party Annual Conference 2021
CEFTUS & Ahval Fringe: Turkish Twilight: How Erdoğan Gov’t Cornered Itself at Home and Abroad
Chair: Siobhain McDonagh MP
Speaker: Prof Erdi Öztürk
Speaker: George Howarth MP
Speaker: Fabian Hamilton MP
Speaker: Bambos Charalambous MP
Speaker: Simon Dubbins
Our discussion: “Turkish Twilight: How Erdoğan Gov’t Cornered Itself At Home And Abroad” brought together a panel of renowned experts on Turkey and the Government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to consider the ways in which the Turkish Government through its policies has become increasingly isolated on the world stage. Our panel discussed a range of issues: including the incursion into Syria, an increasingly oppressive Turkish Government at home, the ongoing tensions with Kurdish groups, as well as the significance of a deteriorating economy, rising inflation and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic exacerbating Turkey’s economic woes. Our panel included: Siobhain McDonagh MP – Chair, Professor Erdi Ozturk, George Howarth MP, Fabian Hamilton MP, Simon Dubbins of Unite the Union, and Bambos Charalambous MP.
Opening our discussion Professor Erdi Ozturk outlined the roots of President Erdoğan’s foreign policy, exploring the ways in which the initial liberalism of his Government gave way to an increasingly hostile foreign and domestic agenda. Professor Ozturk explored the ways in which an increasingly Islamist hard-line tendency within Erdoğan’s Government has emerged over the course of his presidency, outlining the significance of a number of factors including the 2016 attempted coup, a revanchist foreign policy with regards to the former Ottoman territories and the ongoing conflict with Kurdish groups both within Turkey and across the region. Professor Ozturk brought his considerable knowledge and expertise to the discussion and offered a powerful insight into the roots of the foreign and domestic policies of President Erdoğan.
Our discussion heard from a number of Labour MPs including Fabian Hamilton MP, George Howarth MP and Bambos Charalambous MP who each explored the increasingly hostile policies of the Government of Recep Erdoğan with regards to both the Kurdish people and Turkey’s neighbours. Fabian Hamilton MP explored the importance of continued international solidarity with the Kurdish people, offering a full exploration of the policies of Erdoğan’s Government and outlining what more Labour and its partners can do to support the Kurdish people. George Howarth MP offered an equally in-depth exploration of the policies of the Turkish Government with regards to both its neighbours and its domestic opponents, offering his solidarity to imprisoned Kurdish leaders including Leyla Guven and Abdullah Öcalan. Bambos Charalambous MP additionally offered a strong showing of solidarity to the Kurdish people, outlining the work of the APPG on the KRI for Kurds across the region including in Turkey, also highlighting the importance of the ongoing fight for the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan.
Closing our discussion was Simon Dubbins of Unite the Union who explored the work of Unite with regards to Turkey and stated the importance of international solidarity both with Trade Unionists within Turkey but also with the Kurdish people, within Turkey and across the region. Dubbins outlined his experiences of travelling to Rojava as well as the KRI, outlining both the significance of the secular Government based on equality established in Rojava as well as the intense difficulties experienced by the Kurdish people across the region. Dubbins reaffirmed the importance of continued solidarity from the Labour movement and restated his commitment to both Trade Unionists within Turkey and the Kurdish people.
Our discussion represented a significant exploration of the policies of the Government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and their impacts on his near neighbours, particularly the Kurdish people. Our discussion offered a powerful insight into both the roots and the consequences of an increasingly hostile Turkish Government both at home and abroad and highlighted the need for continued solidarity with the people of Turkey and its neighbours from the Labour movement in the UK.
Dr. Ahmet Erdi Öztürk is an associate professor and Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellow at Coventry University in the UK and GIGA in Germany (between 2021-2023) and at London Metropolitan University. He is also an associate researcher (Chercheur Associé) at Institut Français d’Études Anatoliennes and Non-Residence Scholar at ELIAMEP’s Turkey Programme. He is the co-editor of Edinburg University Press’ Series on Modern Turkey and editor of International Journal of Religion. He was a Swedish Institute Pre and Post-Doctoral Fellow at Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society (REMESO), at Linköping University, Scholar in Residence at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. He is the author of more than 25 peer-review journal articles, numerous policy reports, opinion pieces and co-editor of four special issues on religion and politics and Turkish politics. Dr. Öztürk is the co-editor of Authoritarian Politics in Turkey: Elections, Resistance and the AKP (IB Tauris 2017), Ruin or Resilience? The Future of the Gulen Movement in Transnational Political Exile (Routledge 2018) and Islam, Populism and Regime Change in Turkey (Routledge 2019). In January 2021, his first solo-authored book, Religion, Identity and Power: Turkey and the Balkans in the Twenty-First Century is published by Edinburgh University Press. He is a regular contributor to media outlets such as Open Democracy, The Conversation, Huffington Post and France 24.
Siobhain McDonagh MP is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Turks and Kurds. She is the Labour Member of Parliament for Mitcham and Morden.
George Howarth MP is a Labour Party politician who serves as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Knowsley.
Fabian Hamilton MP is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Leeds North East since 1997. He was appointed Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament in November 2016.
Simon Dubbins – director of international & research, Unite the Union