Zeinab Badawi speaks to Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul. Erdogan has been accused of purging Turkey of all opposition forces - is he a danger to democracy?
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With me Zeinab Badawi, from Istanbul, for this special
I am at the presidential palace and my guest is the man inside, the
president of Turkey, whom coup plotters tried to remove from power
exactly one year ago. On the first anniversary of that failed coup, I
asked him what his response is to critics who say he has used it as a
pretext to purge all of his opponents. President Recep Tayyip
Erdogan, welcomed the HARDtalk This time last year there was the failed
coup. The country came together like never before. What has happened to
that spirit of unity? But that's the point. Everybody came
together. People of all ages, from different political persuasions,
came out saying, we are for democracy, we are against the failed
coup. But that spirit of unity has now gone and there are many critics
inside the country and outside who say that you are using the failed
coup as a pretext to clear all opposition against you. Not just the
coup plotters. But we saw an unprecedented march
from Ankara to Istanbul. Its slogan was 'law, rights, justice'. The
feeling is, or the strong belief, that you are really pursuing anybody
who criticises you. It's a case of if you're not with me, you're
against me. But that's the point I was making.
Millions came out after the failed coup. Now you see people coming out,
marching in protest, which is why my original question to you was what
has happened to that spirit of unity?
I want to ask you specifically about the fact that journalists feel that
they are not able to speak out openly, that the first thing, and
secondly we've got to the stage where Turkey locks up more
journalists than any other country in the world. In the last year with
scene 160 media outlets close down, we seem to govern 500 journalists or
media workers sacked from their jobs, you have 150 journalists in
prison, which accounts for a third of all journalists in prison
globally. What is it that makes you fear freedom of speech?
Right, well, as I said, the figure is from Reporters Without Borders
and there have been many people, European leaders and critics within
the country, who have said that if the state of affairs. You have given
your answer. Now we have nearly 200,000 Turkish citizens who are
either detained, sucked or suspended from their jobs. Politicians,
academics, journalists, we mentioned, following the failed
coup. I want to ask you this. While you are waiting to see whether the
courts find them guilty or not, how are they going to survive if they've
lost their jobs? They also have dependents, they have elderly
relatives, children. What happens to these people without jobs?
But those who were sacked and suspended from their jobs, Mr
president, how are they expected to survive? Does the Turkish government
provided with social security payments? Because they have been
stripped of their livelihoods. What happens to their families if they
can't work again? You mentioned the fact that you say
that they are guilty of being coup plotters, therefore they are
supporters of the US -based cleric living in Pennsylvania, you have
asked the US for his extradition. You had a meeting with President
Donald Trump not that long ago. What did he say to you about extraditing
him, who denies involvement in the coup?
Relations with the European Union are pretty much at an all-time low
between Turkey and the EU, in particular Germany. What exactly is
the problem between you and Chancellor Angela Merkel?
Do you personally believe that Turkey is better in or out of the
European Union? What is your personal opinion?
Mr President, it sounds like you are saying you personally believe Turkey
would be better out of the EU. Or, not...
What about the United Kingdom? Because the Foreign Secretary Boris
Johnson of course has Turkish ancestry and he wrote very rude:
about you. Has he apologised about that and has that incident in any
way damaged UK- Turkish ties? No, I was just...! I was just asking
if he perhaps apologised to you for having a Schleck did he apologise?
Talking about the United Kingdom of course, post- Brexit, your Prime
Minister has said in talks that he had with Theresa May, the British
Prime Minister, in February but after Britain leads the United union
any bilateral deal, trade deal, between Turkey and the United
Kingdom would have to be based on the fact that there would have to be
freedom of movement for Turkish citizens between the UK and Turkey,
if there is to be a bilateral deal, that is the condition. Is that the
case? But will you say, as your Prime
Minister has stated, that it is a condition of any bilateral trade
agreement between Turkey and the UK post- Brexit that there has to be
freedom of movement for Turkish citizens?
So it's an objective? Turkey is a really pivotal nation. In that you
have the second-biggest army in Nato and when it comes to this
neighbourhood, the Middle East, it's a very, very tough on anti- plate he
rolled and given the tensions between Qatar and four other Arab
states, and one of the conditions that have been put on Tata is that
the Turkish military base be closed, gives a more military personnel so
it's simple question really, do you think there is a danger that the
tensions could escalate into something militaristic and what
would be your response? Would you be a party to such a conflict if it
happened? You mentioned Syria and of course
the talks going on in Geneva to try to see if there is any way forward
on Syria. Is there a future for President al-Assad for any shape or
form in the transition or otherwise, is there a future for him?
I think it's about 600,000. What about...? What about the PKK which
is of course at organisation as far as the United States, the European
Union and of course Turkey is concerned. What is the possibility
of seeing the start to a process that could bring about a resolution?
And finally and very briefly, the referendum on constitutional changes
means that if you wish you could stand for presidential elections in
2019 for two five-year terms which means if you when you could be in
power until 2029, are you going to be running for president in 2019,
possibly after that? President Erdogan of Turkey, thank
you very much indeed for coming on HARDtalk. Thank you.
With the weekend fast approaching, please don't make this the last
We'll be fine-tuning the details because we will have some
But one thing's for sure, it won't be as hot as it's
In a special edition of the programme, Zeinab Badawi speaks to Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul. It is a year since coup plotters tried to remove him from office in a series of events that were condemned by the international community and Turks from all backgrounds and political persuasions. But now hundreds of thousands of Turks have been on the march protesting at what they say is President Erdogan's purge of all opposition forces - not just the coup plotters. Is President Erdogan a danger to democracy in Turkey?