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Turkey and Greece Are Working Together to Punish Dissidents

Both sides get to catch revolutionaries – it's a win-win situation.

Anti-Erdogan graffiti on the side of an ambulance during the recent unrest in Istanbul – which was caused, according to Erdogan, by disruptive foreign plotters. (Photo via

While Turkey stagnates in political turmoil, it continues to wage war on its dissidents. 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.

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Erdogan has claimed many times that Turkey's recent troubles have been caused by foreign plotters aiming to destabilise his government. While most observers dismiss these allegations as paranoia or smoke-screening on the PM's part, in a moment of pure coincidence a boat carrying weapons, explosives and flags bearing the insignia of the banned Turkish activist group DHKP/C was intercepted by the Greek navy as it made its way to Turkey. Its passengers: 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 claimed by the DHKP/C – or Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front, who are considered to be a terrorist group by Turkey, the EU and the US. According to Turkish media reports, Biber is one of the chief suspects in two bomb attacks carried out 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 is declaring his innocence, claiming he was simply paid €500 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)

Annons

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 – a handy lauchpad to step up the crackdown on Turkish dissidents seeking asylum in Greece and homebred anarchists (a battle the Greek government have been fighting 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.

Under the new spirit of cooperation that Greece and Turkey's governments have demonstrated over the last few months, you can't help but wonder how much of the boat story is legitimate – whether, perhaps, the convenient fact that it has allowed police to ramp up their pressure on dissidents might be a little too convenient.

I'm trying to avoid InfoWars territory here, but – for a start – what sort of terrorist group carries six of its own flags on a boat smuggling guns, ammunition and explosives to another country? Who is the Greek anarchist whose details we're yet to hear of, three weeks after the arrests? And how has this multinational consortium of allegedly wannabe terrorists come together?

Details are shabby 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. Opportunely for the authorities, Greece's terrorism laws can be used to cover up details of a case, which might expain why the country has such an awful track record of granting people charged under the laws a fair trial through transparent procedures.

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A wall of Greek riot police. (Photo by Henry Langston

This is just one element of the paranoia currently gripping the politics of the region. 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. What's weird about this story, besides the fact Turkey and Greece are working together while also spying on each other, is that these camps are routinely photographed by Turkish planes flying over the Greek islands. So it seems a little odd to have a civilian pensioner on the ground photographing military movement in the area when there's already presumably piles of the stuff being held somewhere in Ankara.

All of these incidents paint a rather strange picture of the region – spies and terrorists, guns and explosives, rebels and dissidents. And in order for the two governments to proceed with their joint effort to crack down on dissidents hiding abroad, these stories will keep finding their way into the spotlight.

So how is it that two countries that regularly spy on each other can cooperate so willingly? Because doing so is mutually beneficial; Erdogan's spin on Turkey's recent revolution gets its verification and aids his battle against those speaking out against his rule. Greece, on the other side of the deal, are granted justification as they pursue their agenda of crushing any domestic anarchist groups.

Looking at these incidents, it becomes clear what exactly it is that is wrong with the two neighbouring countries these days: they are both 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. And if these enemies don't present themselves, they'll find them in a boat somewhere in the Aegean Sea.

Follow Yiannis on Twitter: @YiannisBab

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