The Foundation for Defense of Democracies hosted a by-invitation-only lunch conversation on the results of Erdogan’s snap election gambit, featuring remarks by Dr. Sinan Ciddi, Executive Director of the Institute of Turkish Studies; Dr. Aykan Erdemir, FDD Senior Fellow and former member of Turkish parliament; Nate Schenkkan, Project Director for Nations in Transit at Freedom House, and Dr. Gönül Tol, founding director of The Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies. Introductory remarks were conducted by Senator James Lankford and was moderated by Amb. Eric S. Edelman.
Turkey’s incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has secured a first round win in the snap election of June 24, 2018, but lost his party’s parliamentary majority. As he is now dependent on his ultranationalist allies, Turkey’s economy, democracy, and foreign policy hang in the balance. Sunday’s results will have significant implications for U.S.-Turkish relations. In the meantime, Congress is considering several important actions against this problematic NATO ally, including blocking the sale of F-35s and a possible response to Erdogan’s “hostage diplomacy” — the practice of holding Western prisoners as political bargaining chips.
Dr. Sinan Ciddi was appointed as the fourth Executive Director of the Institute of Turkish Studies, succeeding David C. Cuthell at the end of August 2011. Dr. Ciddi was born in Turkey and educated in the United Kingdom, where he gained his PhD in Political Science from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London in June 2007. He was previously an instructor at Sabanci University between 2004-2008 and completed his Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the same institution between 2007-2008. He recently published a book titled Kemalism in Turkish Politics: The Republican People’s Party: Secularism and Nationalism (Routledge, January 2009) focusing on the electoral weakness of the Republican People’s Party. Between 2008-2011, he established the Turkish Studies program at the University of Florida’s Center for European Studies.
Amb. Eric S. Edelman retired as a career minister from the U.S. Foreign Service on May 1, 2009. He is a Senior Advisor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a member of its Advisory Board on Turkey. As the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (August 2005 – January 2009) he oversaw strategy development as DoD’s senior policy official with global responsibility for bilateral defense relations, war plans, special operations forces, homeland defense, missile defense, nuclear weapons and arms control policies, counter-proliferation, counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, arms sales, and defense trade controls. He served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republics of Finland and Turkey in the Clinton and Bush Administraations and was principal deputy assistant to the vice president for national security affairs. He is currently a distinguished fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a visiting scholar at the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies at the Johns Hopkins University, and a senior associate of the International Security Program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University.
Dr. Aykan Erdemir is a former member of the Turkish Parliament (2011-2015) who served in the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, EU Harmonization Committee, and the Ad Hoc Parliamentary Committee on the IT Sector and the Internet. As an outspoken defender of pluralism, minority rights, and religious freedoms in the Middle East, Dr. Erdemir has been at the forefront of the struggle against religious persecution, hate crimes, and hate speech in Turkey. He is a founding member of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief, and a drafter of and signatory legislator to the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism. In 2016, Dr. Erdemir was awarded the Stefanus Prize for Religious Freedom in recognition of his advocacy for minority rights and religious freedoms. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies focusing on Turkey. Dr. Erdemir is co-author of Antagonistic Tolerance: Competitive Sharing of Religious Sites and Spaces (Routledge).
Senator James Lankford is a U.S. Senator for Oklahoma. After serving four years in the U.S. House of Representatives, he was elected to the U.S. Senate to complete an unexpired term on November 4, 2014 and re-elected to a full six-year senate term on November 8, 2016. Senator Lankford is a member of several committees, including the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operation, and Related Programs; the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Senator Lankford has been a leading voice in the U.S. Senate in highlighting the unjust imprisonment of Americans in Turkey and calling for the immediate release of Pastor Andrew Brunson.
Nate Schenkkan is the Project Director for Nations in Transit, Freedom House’s annual survey of democratic governance from Central Europe to Eurasia. He previously served as Senior Program Officer for Freedom House’s Eurasia programs, covering Turkey and Central Asia. His recent research on Central Asia focuses on the regional economic crisis and the evolution of the Eurasian Economic Union treaty in the wake of the Ukrainian revolution. He is the creator and host of “The Central Asianist Podcast,” a regular interview series with experts and journalists covering the region. Prior to joining Freedom House in 2012, he worked as a journalist in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. His reporting and analysis has been published in Foreign Affairs Online, The Atlantic Online, Eurasianet, World Politics Review, and Russian Analytical Digest. He was the lead researcher and co-author of two Freedom House special reports including The Struggle of Turkey’s Internet and Democracy in Crisis: Corruption, Media and Power in Turkey.
Dr. Gönül Tol is the founding director of The Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies. She is also an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Institute for Middle East Studies. After three years of field research in Germany and the Netherlands, she wrote her dissertation on the radicalization of the Turkish Islamist movement Milli Gorus in Western Europe. She was also an adjunct professor at the College of International Security Affairs at the National Defense University. She has taught courses on Islamist movements in Western Europe, Turkey, world politics, and the Middle East. She has written extensively on Turkey-U.S. relations, Turkish domestic politics, and foreign policy and the Kurdish issue.