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Despite Disagreements, Turkish Parties Show Unity in Washington

Turkish political parties disagree on many things when it comes to secularism, the rule of law, freedom of speech, and democratic governance.

People with Turkish flags protest against the resolution German lawmakers are preparing to pass that recognises the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces as genocide, despite stark warnings from Turkey that the vote could hurt ties in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on June 1, 2016.
 / AFP / John MACDOUGALL        (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
People with Turkish flags protest against the resolution German lawmakers are preparing to pass that recognises the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces as genocide, despite stark warnings from Turkey that the vote could hurt ties in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on June 1, 2016. / AFP / John MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)
People with Turkish flags protest against the resolution German lawmakers are preparing to pass that recognises the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces as genocide, despite stark warnings from Turkey that the vote could hurt ties in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on June 1, 2016. / AFP / John MACDOUGALL (Photo credit should read JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Turkish political parties disagree on many things when it comes to secularism, the rule of law, freedom of speech, and democratic governance.

But when it comes to the failed military coup aimed at overthrowing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ankara’s leading parties are on the same page in condemning the botched putsch and demanding that the U.S. agree to the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based cleric accused of orchestrating the coup.

On Monday, a delegation of Turkish lawmakers -- including opposition party representatives -- brought that message to Washington. Their visit comes amid growing  international condemnation of Ankara’s massive crackdown on politicians, academics, and military and police personnel. Tens of thousands have been fired from their posts, detained, or arrested since the July 15 coup.

Turkish political parties disagree on many things when it comes to secularism, the rule of law, freedom of speech, and democratic governance.

But when it comes to the failed military coup aimed at overthrowing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ankara’s leading parties are on the same page in condemning the botched putsch and demanding that the U.S. agree to the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based cleric accused of orchestrating the coup.

On Monday, a delegation of Turkish lawmakers — including opposition party representatives — brought that message to Washington. Their visit comes amid growing  international condemnation of Ankara’s massive crackdown on politicians, academics, and military and police personnel. Tens of thousands have been fired from their posts, detained, or arrested since the July 15 coup.

“We are here in order to show that we are together in Turkey regardless of our political differences,” said Kamil Aydin, a member of Parliament from Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party or MHP.  “We totally were against [the coup]… Unfortunately it was misunderstood by some Western media.”

Members of the delegation, including a representative of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, spoke at a press conference hosted by the Turkish Embassy. Ankara has been working overtime to push back against allegations that Erdogan’s crackdown is disproportionate or that the president manufactured the coup in order to consolidate his power in the country.

Members of parliament condemned those allegations and equated them to the 9/11 truthers who accuse the Bush administration of orchestrating the attack on the World Trade Center in order to justify the invasion of Iraq.

“Allowing Gulen to operate is unacceptable and having him appear every day in another TV channel and directing his message through those interviews is unacceptable and having him freely contact anyone he wants to is unacceptable,” said Taha Özhan, chairman of the Commission of Foreign Affairs of the Grand National Assembly and an MP representing Malatya.

During the briefing, opposition members largely avoided criticizing the government’s purge, which has prompted recent statements of concern from U.S. officials, including Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who Turkish citizens protested on a recent trip to the country.

Aaron Stein, a Turkey expert at the Atlantic Council, said the show of unity largely reflected how opposition groups have been reacting inside Turkey’s political system. “The purges have the support of the people,” he said.

But when asked about the mass detentions following the briefing, Oğuz Kaan Salici, an MP representing CHP, said his party continues to criticize the way the purges have been carried out. “We are not waiting. We are criticizing at the moment,” he told Foreign Policy. “The level of criticism from opposition to the government is very much linked with the percentage of the people who are dismissed from the their positions but they have no relation to [the Gulen movement].”

When warned by an embassy official that his words were being recorded by a journalist, Salici said, “I know.”

Getty Images

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