Beer halls are being used to orchestrate coup attempts in Turkey and could be used again as the country braces for a nationwide crackdown on dissent.
In the past week, the president of the country’s top beer hall, a popular tourist destination, has been detained for allegedly collaborating with coup plotters.
An influential cleric in Turkey’s southeast has also been detained, as has a senior figure in the nationalist nationalist Justice and Development Party (AKP), which is running the country.
This latest move by the ruling Justice and National Security (AK) party has sparked widespread fears that the party’s increasingly authoritarian leadership is ready to use the power it has gained under Erdogan to rein in the opposition and seize power in an increasingly polarized society.
“The AK Party is in a position to make this move because it’s the one who controls the country,” says Zafer Yildirim, a senior research fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
“They are the ones who are doing this.
They have the means to do so.
They know they can do this.”
Yildim says the rise of the AK Party has coincided with the rise in the number of arrests of opponents, as well as the arrests of hundreds of journalists and opposition figures for allegedly participating in a plot.
“This is just another indication that Erdogan is taking the reins of power,” Yildi says.
The crackdown on political dissent has been a feature of Erdogan’s rule since the start of the decade, but it’s been particularly hard to control after the failed coup attempt in July 2016, when Erdogan fired then-prime minister Necmettin Erbakan.
Erbaka, who was in power for less than a year, has remained in office, though he was subsequently arrested for his part in the coup attempt.
While Erdogan has remained a prominent figure in Turkey, his party has lost the most seats in parliament and lost the largest number of seats to the opposition.
Since then, the AKP has been in control of a majority in parliament.
The AK Party, which has been under constant pressure from the U.S. and other Western powers to change course, has faced increasing pressure from a resurgent military, which is facing its biggest internal crisis since the end of the Cold War.
The military has recently cracked down on dissent by arresting thousands of military personnel for allegedly aiding the coup plot.
The number of coup plot members detained in the past three months alone has reached at least 50,000, including many of those who were not involved in the attempted coup.
“It’s clear that the AK party is determined to use this opportunity to consolidate its control over the country, and that it has the means, the means of doing so,” Yilmaz Dokan, a Turkey analyst at the University of Maryland, told the New York Times.
“Erdogan is taking it upon himself to use all the means he has at his disposal to crush the opposition, including cracking down on the media.”
Turkey’s government, which recently announced that it would extend the countrys military-led rule until 2021, has also made a concerted effort to clamp down on opposition figures, including by detaining some opposition politicians and banning opposition parties from participating in parliament in 2017.
That year, the government also introduced an online “blacklist” system that forces those who publicly criticize it to register as “terrorists,” according to the Associated Press.
“We are not talking about a free press here,” Yiles Fazli, a journalist who has been imprisoned for seven years in Turkey for alleged links to the Gulen movement, told CNN in March.
“These people are being labeled terrorists because they are criticizing the government.”
Fazlı is now appealing to the international community to help him release his freedom, according to Reuters.
“I am not talking for free.
I am not speaking for free,” he told Reuters.
The U.N. human rights chief has also voiced concerns about the crackdown.
“Turkey has made progress in cracking down, but we must not forget that the country is still vulnerable to a violent crackdown,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the U,N.
special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
“There is no doubt that the crackdown on media freedom, the clampdown on opposition leaders and political opponents and the denial of freedom of expression are steps that have led to serious human rights violations,” he said.