March 12, 2015

What Turkey has been experiencing is a civilian coup, intellectuals say

Various intellectuals have said that while the Turkish Republic has already experienced military coups in its history, it is the first time that it has undergone a civilian coup, referring to the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) attempts to seize judicial and legislative bodies and take control of the country's media.

The Freedom and Democracy Platform panel
The Freedom and Democracy Platform organized a panel on Wednesday over the common features of coup periods. (Photo: Cihan)

At a panel on Wednesday organized by the Freedom and Democracy Platform -- a representative body of 922 civil society organizations across Turkey -- veteran Turkish journalist Nazlı Ilıcak told participants that thieves are now partnering with coup makers in the country.

Ilıcak, who works at the Bugün daily, was making a clear reference to a covert alliance between the AK Party government -- some of whose high-ranking members were implicated in a major corruption and bribery scandal that broke on Dec. 17, 2013 -- and military officers who were recently freed after being convicted in the high-profile Ergenekon and Sledgehammer (Balyoz) military coup plot trials. This covert alliance is allegedly against the Gülen movement, also known as Hizmet, which is inspired by the teachings of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Asserting that Turkey is currently undergoing a civilian coup, Ilıcak went on to say: “We experienced a postmodern coup on Feb. 28 [1997]. Before this, we had experienced military coups. We had May 27 [coup] and March 12 [the military memorandum of March 12, 1971]. I witnessed all of the coups Turkey experienced in the past. However, this is the first time I have experienced a civilian coup like this. There has never been this kind of civilian coup. I think the government's seizure of the legislative body and [almost] all of the media, its claim that it is supported by the national will and its suspension of the judiciary is a civilian coup.”

Recalling the government's argument saying the Dec. 17 corruption probe was a coup attempt against the AK Party, Ilıcak said the corruption probe was certainly not a coup.

However, he said, the AK Party's seizure of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), which is dominated by a majority of pro-government members following an election held late in 2014; government-sponsored operations conducted against the police force; and the reassignments of the prosecutors who conducted the Dec. 17 and 25 corruption probes constitute a real civilian coup.

The AK Party government has reassigned thousands of police officers, prosecutors and judges following the graft probes, in addition to launching successive operations against thousands of police officers whom the government has accused of being linked to the so-called “parallel structure.”

The “parallel structure” is a term invented by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to refer to followers of the Hizmet movement, particularly followers within the state bureaucracy.

The panel, titled “Points in common during coup periods,” also saw the participation of lawyer, activist and Today's Zaman and Bugün columnist Orhan Kemal Cengiz. The columnist said that some developments that occurred during the old military coup periods in Turkey are also taking place in the country now.

“We now have many things in common with Russia. If we compare with Russia and China, soft instruments are being used to shape the media in Turkey. How is it being done In Turkey? They [the government] send tax officials [to media outlets] and then seize them. In Russia, [journalists] are staring down the barrel of gun. We have not experienced this yet in Turkey. I hope we will never see such days,” Cengiz said.

Referring to previous periods of military tutelage in Turkey, Cengiz also said that it had been impossible to launch legal action against members of the military for potential wrongdoing, and that members of the military could imprison whomever they wanted during the military tutelage period; The columnist added that the same things are happening now in Turkey under AK Party rule.

Cengiz also said the AK Party has resorted to certain dirty alliances to be able to remain in power in Turkey and has used the so-called “parallel structure” as a pretext for its recent unlawful acts.

A prominent sociologist, Professor Ferhat Kentel, said during the panel that what is happening now in Turkey is the struggle of a group to protect itself after its corruption was revealed via graft probes, a reference to ruling party members.

Published on Today's Zaman, 12 March 2015, Thursday