In 1995, Pastor Andrew Brunson moved to the port city of Izmir to start a church. His congregation, after more than 20 years, reached 25 people. Brunson did not pose any threat to Turkey’s government or stability.
Fast forward to the summer of 2016, Turkey finds itself struggling to deal with yet another coup. The government, lead by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), began a series of intense purges. The purges aimed to imprison people that spied on the government and helped coordinate the coup, however they were primarily targeted towards members of the Hizmet movement. The Movement is led by Fetullah Gülen, an Islamic cleric in self imposed exile that has been living in Pennsylvania since the early 1990’s, and aims to provide education and a higher quality of life to people across the globe. Tens of thousands of cops, teachers, soldiers, officers, and pastors all lost their livelihoods and were taken off to jail. Pastor Brunson was one of these people.
Turkey’s government realizes that Brunson is a powerful bargaining chip and has thus resisted America’s continuous calls for his release. But now, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have intensely racketed up the pressure. Trump gave Erdogan until last Wednesday, August 8th, to release Brunson or face consequences. Erdogan refused and Trump followed up with steep tariffs on aluminum and steel at 20% and 50% respectively.
Turkey’s market took an intense nosedive after the sanctions were announced. The Turkish Lira fell from 4.7 to the dollar to 6.4, passing the 6:1 ratio for the first time in Turkey’s history. Inflation within the country is also running at 15%to TradingEconomics. Simon Constable, a contributor to Forbes, also notes that Trump is only partially responsible for Turkey’s economic collapse. He argues that previous reckless economic policies regarding government spending and interest rates would eventually result in a crash.
Now at the centre of discussion, Turkey’s next moves will be closely observed. Perhaps they will cave in to Trump’s pressure and release Pastor Brunson, or maybe they will continue resisting because they view him to be too valuable to give up. Predicting the future is hardly easy, but if I had to take any guess I would suggest that Erdogan will take the most brash and stubborn action due to his character of being a strongman that does not like to throw in the towel.
*Cemal Latif Ozgur is a Boston College graduate that currently lives in Washington D.C. He writes about foreign policy and international affairs. @CemalLOzgur
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