İbrahim Kalın: Erdoğan's U.S.-Trained Enforcer
by Stephen Schwartz
A "weaponized academic" trained in the U.S. has risen to become Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's "deputy undersecretary and senior advisor," yet another servant for Islamist ideology produced by the American Middle East studies industry.
İbrahim Kalın received his doctorate in Middle East Studies/Islamic Studies from George Washington University and is a senior fellow with the Saudi-funded Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU) at Georgetown University. He taught at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., from 2002 to 2005.
Kalın has served dutifully in his position since 2009, despite Erdoğan's increasingly autocratic rule. He has been Erdoğan's main spokesman in the aftermath of the failed military uprising in Turkey on July 15. Within days of the July 15 insurrectionary attempt, Erdoğan ordered the dismissal and/or arrests of tens of thousands of officers, teachers, school administrators, judges, and others suspected of disloyalty.
Most of the victims of Erdoğan's post-coup rage are charged, if only informally by state media, with involvement in an alleged conspiracy controlled from the U.S. by the Turkish Sufi Muslim Fethullah Gülen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. Clamoring for compliance from the U.S. in suppressing his ex-ally and opponent, the Turkish president depends on Kalın to press the case.
By all accounts, Kalın has performed his function well. On July 19, The Jerusalem Post described the effort by Erdoğan's apparatus to induce the U.S. to extradite the non-conforming cleric. The Israeli daily cited Kalın's comments, arguing "If the U.S. insists on keeping [Gülen], people will start thinking they are protecting him. A person can easily be extradited on the basis of suspicion, and on this occasion there is a lot of suspicion that he orchestrated this." Of course, Kalın lived in the U.S. long enough that he should know that suspicion is insufficient to sustain a case for Gülen's extradition to Turkey.
That same day, National Public Radio reported that Kalın identified the anxieties of the Erdoğan clique as a justification for the post-insurrection purge, saying "You have to understand that we survived a coup — we could have been killed."
On July 24, the New York Times published an op-ed in which Kalın again blamed Gülen and his movement for the failed takeover and insisted on his extradition. Worse, he defended Erdoğan's proclamation of a highly-questionable three-month state of emergency and the arrests of thousands, including members of the military and judiciary, which he claimed would make the Turkish government "more transparent." Yet he omitted mention of the firing of over 1,500 deans and thousands of educators across Turkey or reports of torture and deprivation among those arrested.
Among Kalın's chief enablers in this sordid scheme is Georgetown University's Islamic scholar John Esposito, who boasts numerous ties with Kalın: founding director of ACMCU, where Kalın is a senior fellow; co-editor with Kalın of Islamophobia: The Challenges of Pluralism in the 21st Century (2011); and his role as a key apologist for the Muslim Brotherhood, toward which the Erdoğan regime has adopted a sympathetic posture.
That no one in academia has taken Kalın to task for defending the repression of his country's educators is a telling indication of where American Middle East Studies has arrived. As the enabler of Erdoğan in the punishment of Turkish academics, Kalın has assumed a posture that ill fits the professed ethics of the American academy, based supposedly on fairness, objectivity, and respect for professional standing – which, of course, are jettisoned when the Middle East is involved.
Kalın's American academic patrons should be ashamed at what they have created: a man close to power, and distant from truth.