On Friday, July 15 2016, the world stood still as a coup was attempted in Turkey.
Tanks rolled into the Turkish Capital, Ankara, with soldiers blocking the popular Bosphorus Bridge. The state-run TV station, TRT, was taken over by soldiers; and at 11:25pm local time, a faction of the military issued a declaration saying “the political administration that has lost all legitimacy has been forced to withdraw.”
However, a few hours after the onset of the coup, Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, addressed the nation via FaceTime, urging Turks to march into the streets and face-off with the soldiers. They listened.
In no time, thousands of Turks, unwilling to see their democratically-elected Government overthrown by a military coup, poured into the streets and clashed with soldiers. As scenes of chaos unfolded, the soldiers were eventually overpowered by the mob, and they surrendered.
At 2:51am, Saturday, July 16th, the coup was over…leaving in its wake, over 200 dead, and more than 1400 injured!
Erdogan flew into Istanbul at 3:20am, to a hero’s welcome. He immediately laid responsibility for the failed coup squarely on the shoulders of an influential Turkish moderate Muslim cleric, Fathullah Gulen, who had been on self-imposed exile in the US state of Pennsylvania, since 1999.
Gulen and Erdogan are former allies who fell out in 2013. Since then, Erdogan has continually accused the Gulen-movement of plotting to oust him.
Erdogan vowed a crackdown on all those who had orchestrated the coup. A 3-month state of emergency was imposed, with the President urging his countrymen to keep on taking to the streets, until the threat was over.
In an unprecedented and unexpected show of unity, the opposition parties came together to condemn the failed coup. With widespread support of the citizenry and a state of emergency in place, Erdogan immediately embarked on a purge. More than 58,000 public sector workers have so far been thrown out of their jobs. Tens of thousands of soldiers, judges, and others believed to be associated with Gulen have been arrested. Thousands of private schools, universities, charities, and other institutions believed to be associated with the Gulen-movement have been shut down. The Turkish Government even went beyond its own borders, asking another sovereign nation- Nigeria- to shut down 17 schools which it says are affiliated with Gulen’s movement! It has also called on the United States to extradite Gulen back to Turkey to face charges.
As the purge continues, there have been widespread allegations of mistreatment of those detained. According to Amnesty international, detained soldiers have allegedly been starved and even raped. The human rights organization has condemned the purge, stating that the world was witnessing a “crackdown of exceptional proportions in Turkey at the moment;” and that “while it is understandable and legitimate that the Government wishes to investigate and punish those responsible for this bloody coup attempt, they must abide by the rule of law, and respect freedom of expression.”
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, even before the coup occurred, has been seen as a dictator who has constantly sought to crackdown on his opponents, and consolidate his power within the country. Turkey has one of the worst freedoms of expression record globally, with tons of journalists imprisoned for criticizing the Turkish Government. The faction of the military which orchestrated the coup, claimed that they had done so in order to protect Turkey’s secularist nature from the Islamist grasp of Erdogan and his ruling AK party; and while their means of achieving this aim was illegal, it seems that the Turkish President has indeed used the coup as a cover for actualizing his agenda within Turkey.
The imposed state of emergency allows Erdogan to pass laws as he sees fit. He has now begun restructuring the military to prevent any further dissent. With the President going to great lengths to supposedly punish those responsible for the coup, one only needs to look at the retributions already embarked upon, to realize that there is a wider agenda at play…one which may not be so palatable for democracy when the dust settles.
Democracy and the rule of law thrive on the fact that the voices of all (supporters and dissenters alike) will always be heard. But by the time all is said and done, there may not be enough members of the opposition left standing in Erdogan’s way, to check the excesses of his high-handed Government.
A coup- whatever the motive(s) - will always be seen as an unlawful and illegal way to bring about a change of Government; and it will be condemned as such. But while the Turkish people will no doubt take pride in their role of suppressing one, it is highly likely that someday soon, they will become strangely aware, that they have also unknowingly aided and abetted the rise of a 21st century Pharaoh!
*Editor’s note: Hizmet Movement Blog reaffirms its non-endorsement policy of the various viewpoints expressed throughout the articles that are solely shared for the convenience of the readers.
Published on Obiaks News, 6 August 2016, Saturday