A gift from God? : an analysis of the role of religion in the restriction of free speech and the reversal of democracy in Turkey in the aftermath of the attempted coup in Istanbul 16th of July 2016
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This thesis presents a case study that aims to analyze the relationship between freedom of speech, democracy and religion. The case study is conducted as an analysis of the ongoing political shift in the aftermath of the attempted coup in Turkey in 2016. My research question is: To what degree and in what ways does religion play a legitimating role in the restriction of free speech and democratic reversal after the attempted coup in Turkey? My motivation for this thesis is to develop a more profound understanding of what happens to the democracy when a given government take control of free speech, and which role religion can play in legitimizing the use of controversial means in this process. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the attempted coup as a gift from God, and this was the basis that initiated my search for religious components in the discourse on the legitimization of free speech restrictions. The timeframe of this study extends from the attempted coup in July 2016 until now (May 2018). To answer the research question, I will analyze the collected data, including primary sources such as in-depth informant interviews, official documents and statements, and secondary sources such as literature and news articles. I have conducted interviews with five informants in Turkey, chosen based on their professions as academicians or journalists, in addition to their extensive knowledge on the field of freedom of speech and expression and personal experiences with the contemporary situation in Turkey. In their opinion, the conditions of freedom of expression in Turkey have worsened within this timeframe. This thesis aims to describe experiences and consequences of this process, emphasizing on religion as legitimizing force. The findings from the interviews show a restricted policy of freedom of speech and knowledge control in Turkey, a reversal of the democratic conditions reinforced by the declared state of emergency, and a deeply cultural, intertwined relationship between religion and politics in Turkey. This facilitates the use, and misuse, of religious rhetoric for political purposes. The findings of this and other studies conclude that the attempted coup has been anything but a gift from God, even though the religious-political rhetoric in Turkey have made many people believe that it was. Freedom of speech is restricted to a serious extent in Turkey today and the democratic conditions are being reversed. This thesis has shown that religion is playing a legitimizing role in the political discourse that is ultimately justifying this process.