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Turkey and Greece Are Working Together to Punish Dissidents

An arrest of suspected terrorists trying to go from Greece to Turkey is giving the Greek cops an excuse to crack down on anarchists, while Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan gets more paranoid about "foreign plotters."

Graffiti on the side of an ambulance during the recent unrest in Istanbul—which was caused, according to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, by disruptive foreign plotters. Photo via.

While Turkey continues to deal with the fallout from the massive protests in Istanbul and elsewhere, it's clear that the government isn't going to become more tolerant of dissent. Embattled Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan hasn't just been clamping down on his enemies on the streets of Istanbul and Ankara, however—he's also been pursuing them overseas, namely across the Aegean Sea in Greece, aided by the cooperation of that country's government.


Erdogan has claimed many times that Turkey's recent troubles have been caused by foreign plotters aiming to destabilize his government. While most observers dismiss these allegations as paranoia or deliberate lies on his part, this month, by pure coincidence, a boat carrying weapons, explosives, and flags bearing the insignia of the banned Turkish terrorist group DHKP/C was intercepted by the Greek navy as it made its way to Turkey. Its passengers were two Greeks and two Turkish nationals.

According to the Greek daily Eleftherotypia, one of the Turkish passengers was Hasan Biber, who is wanted in his homeland for attacks carried out by the DHKP/C. Biber is one of the chief suspects in two bombings that took place in March, one at the headquarters of Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and another at the justice ministry in Ankara.

Reports suggest that while one of the Greek suspects allegedly has connections with anarchist groups in Athens, the other claims he is innocent and was just paid $667.50 to drive the boat to Turkey.

Antitank shells, improvised explosive devices, bullets, hand grenades, pistols, and the flag of the outlawed Turkish leftist group DHKP/C found in the boat headed towards Turkey. Photo courtesy of Hellenic Police.

The boat incident has since been used by the Greek police to justify raids on homes in various Greek cities that are known to be housing Greek anarchists and Turkish citizens. It's a handy excuse as the government steps up the crackdown on Turkish dissidents seeking asylum in Greece and homebred anarchists (a war the Greek government has been waging aggressively for the past year or so). This isn't the first time that the Greek police have carried out the Turkish government's work. Earlier this year, alleged Turkish dissident Bulut Yayla was seemingly abducted by the Greek secret police and transported to Turkey under the cover of darkness. Meanwhile, details about the accused terrorists on the boat are scarce at best—in fact, pretty much the only thing we know for certain is that the suspects will be put on trial in Greece under terrorism charges.

The relationship between Turkey and Greece, who have clashed in the past and even gone to war with one another, is complicated and strange. A few weeks ago a 72-year-old German man was arrested on the Greek island of Chios on suspicion of spying for Turkey while taking photos of military camps, ships, and machinery. Yet the two countries will cooperate when it comes to the dissidents because it's mutually beneficial—Erdogan's spin on Turkey's recent protests gets legitimacy if he can point to foreign agitators coming in from Greece, while Greece gets to claim that its anarchist groups are linked with dangerous terrorists like the DHKP/C.

The governments of both countries are highly paranoid and on the constant lookout for scapegoats upon which to pin the failure of their economic and social policies—immigrants, terrorists, foreign agents, anyone.

Follow Yiannis on Twitter: @YiannisBab

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