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Home > English > Alternatives International Journal > 2016 > September 2016 > Reflections on The Turkish Coup

Reflections on The Turkish Coup

Tuesday 6 September 2016, by Taha Öztürk

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” - Malcolm X

Throughout history, rulers had various methods to maintain control over their people; either by oppressing them with the means of brute strength or by astonishing them with their mysteriousness and sacredness. Yet both methods had one major thing in common:

“Superiority of the rulers”

The first method was quite clear and straightforward; obey and live. But the second method was way more complicated. The rulers had to form an inaccessible and unquestionable image and a mythical basis to justify their dominance over the people. To achieve that goal, they had to delude, deceive and trick people into believing that ‘their lives and worthiness cannot be comparable to their leaders’. Surely, there were influential ways to mislead people. And one of the most common tactics was using ‘arts’ like poetry, dance, illusion and science.

However in today’s world, we have all these tactics combined in one body; ‘The Media’.

It is true that the media can make you believe that current wars in our world are taking place for the good of humanity, that the people who are constantly and systematically murdering innocent people are actually democracy and freedom fighters or the ‘developments’ and ‘civilization’ we have today are not built on what we stole from the past.

As one of the recent appearances of media illusion, we saw the smear campaign that took place after the attempted coup in Turkey on 15 July 2016. But before coming to the dissection part, let’s break down what happened in Turkey in a general sense.


Starting in 1980s, the Gülen movement under the leadership of the preacher Fethullah Gülen, adopted the method of infiltrating various institutions of the Republic of Turkey such as military, education, security forces, jurisdiction and engaging in ‘deception’ to maintain its position in essential joints of the governmental body. With its multiple branches of operation, the Gülen movement had a special interest in these institutions. As is known, Turkey had a strict secular character in both government and military. There have been several military coups in Turkey since its foundation in 1923. 1960, 1980 and 1997 coups were the most crucial ones.

Having a religious character, the Gülen movement formed a social communication and foundation chain and called itself the ‘service movement’ referring to its alleged serving to the religion of Islam. By using its religious reference, the Gülen movement was able to attract more and more members under a ‘common goal’. It has established countless private schools all over the world and claimed to convey the ‘Turkish national and religious culture’. This cultural and national approach was welcomed by the Turkish society and the government officials in the beginning. However, there had been accusations by some countries like Russia that the Gülen schools were operating in coordination with the CIA.

In the meantime, the relationship between the Gülen movement and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) was quite close. The AKP was taking advantage of the Gülen movement’s infiltration of the government bodies in order to purge opposition forces who could possibly or probably cause ‘trouble’ to the authority of the new administration. Nonetheless, with the unstoppable growth and domination of the movement in capillary vessels of the whole country, a rivalry emerged between the ruling party and what has been called later ‘the parallel state’. Until 2013, before the corruption and bribery operation was put into action, the ruling party had already ‘given them whatever they asked for’ in Erdoğan’s words. Apparently, the movement wanted ‘more’ and this was the start of a breaking point in the relationship between the two sides.

After the corruption operation in December, 17-25, (2013) the AKP administration launched a campaign of purge, this time against the Gülen movement, with Erdoğan stating that ‘they had been deceived’. Following this purging process and calling the movement as ‘the parallel state’ operating within the government, now the old friend had become the new foe. Huge numbers of the Gülen movement members were displaced and downgraded from several government positions including police forces, jurisdiction, education and military. Until the attempted coup on July, 15, it was clear that the government was not able to completely purge itself from Gülen movement members, since they had been hiding themselves vigilantly to the extent that they even hid their religious practices when necessary such as praying five times a day, fasting in Ramadan and so on.

The Coup Bid

It was not hard for anyone who has been observing the developments carefully to predict that the months of silence before the coup attempt was just the calm before the storm. During the prior weeks to the coup bid, Turkey had swift changes in its foreign policy after a ‘replacement’ in prime ministry office. New Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s period started with significant developments such as signing an agreement with Israel and making an apology for having downed the Russian warplane in the same day. Turkey also witnessed Binali Yıldırım making statements about his hopes that Turkey and Syria would normalize their relations again.

With all these events taking place, Turkish people were yet to hit by another shock on the 15th of July, 2016, when in the evening Turkish military tanks blocked the major bridges over the Bosporus and jet planes started circling above the capital, Ankara. Helicopters seen over Istanbul and gunfire heard in Ankara. Soon enough, Prime Minister Yıldırım declared via CNN Turk TV, since the state television was off air at the time, that a military bid was unfolding and Turkish government forces would do what is necessary. The chief of staff of the Turkish military was held hostage by the plotters and the state television TRT was taken over. Plotters forced a presenter to read a statement declaring curfew and that ‘the military took over the government to reestablish the constitutional order’, accusing President Erdogan of depleting democracy. Finally, Erdogan addressed Turkish people via facetime on CNN Turk, stating that the attempt was carried out by a minority within the army. He immediately urged Turkish people to take to the streets to protest against the coup. After when lots of Turkish people surged into the streets after being called to do so by mosque and municipality loudspeakers and also because of major commanders did not support the plotters, the coup bid was almost completely repelled within a half day. During these events, over 250 people lost their lives, 1500 people got injured, and more than 20 soldiers engaged in the attempted coup, were captured dead. The Turkish parliament, the National İntelligence Service (MIT) and the special forces headquarters in Ankara were targeted as well.

The Aftermath of the Coup Bid

After what happened on Friday, 15th of July, the Yıldırım administration acted quickly and took thousands of people into custody. The number of people including army officials, judges, police officers, attorney generals, civil servants and civilians has reached to 18.000 so far. 10.192 people were arrested. Over 76.000 civil servants were suspended, and 4.897 were removed from their positions. 104 foundations, 109 dormitories, 1.934 schools, 1.125 associations, 15 universities, 19 unions, 16 TV channels, 23 radio stations, 45 newspapers, 15 magazines and 29 publishers were shut down.

Having all this said, when the dust started to settle, the question that came to everyone’s mind was ‘What really happened on that night?’

Although it is not easy to make precise judgements about what happened, we can focus on high probabilities on what happened during the coup bid.

There are two major stances towards the coup bid in Turkey. The first one is that the coup bid was a ‘staged event by Erdogan to grip more power and crackdown on the opposition for obtaining more authority’. The second one which is adopted by the Turkish government and the majority of Turkish people is that ‘it was a coup bid organized by the Gülen movement, backed by the USA and the NATO with the aim to divide Turkey and replace Erdoğan with Fethullah Gülen and establish a more secular regime’, since Erdoğan was allegedly planning to arrest pro-Gülen army officials on 16th of July.

Supporters of the first opinion pointed at several issues such as;

• Erdogan stating “They will pay a heavy price for this. This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army” and “We will complete the project in Gezi Park (Taksim Square)”. (That was translated as taking revenge of what happened in 2013)

• Erdoğan had an hour long flight from his hotel in Marmaris to Istanbul while the F-16 jets controlled by coup plotters didn’t target Erdoğan’s plane, even though they had locked on it.

• Coup plotters didn’t read their official coup statement themselves but forced a presenter to read it. That was something unseen during the previous coups in Turkey.

• The number of plotters obviously was not sufficient to achieve an overall coup so the attempt had already been born dead.

• The timing of the coup was not appropriate for a coup to succeed because the people were not in bed at that time. This allowed them to be aware of what was happening and take action.

• It was not possible for the Turkish intelligence officials not to have any foreknowledge of the attempted coup. So ‘being caught unprepared’ was not a possibility, if not an insult to Turkey.

On the other hand, the second opinion, namely the majority opinion argues as follows:

• Fethullah Gülen has been living in the USA for so long, since 1997. After the 17-25 December (2013) corruption operation, Turkey demanded Gülen’s extradition. Yet the US government kept finding excuses not to comply with this demand. Stating ‘They did not receive a formal request’ although this request was made by the Ministry of Justice in Turkey.

• Harbouring a cleric who is declared criminal by Turkey, a NATO member/ally and a US ally in the Middle East, does not go along with alleged ‘alliance’ and ‘good will’ between two countries.

• Turkey has achieved major developments in industry, economy, health, administrative order and many other social fields. Western powers and in particular the US do not wish Turkey to become more powerful than they can have control over. So when Turkey attempts to behave independently in its foreign policy, as it appeared to have taken place in the recent years; the West, the US and the NATO started to speak softly but carried a big stick to prevent Turkey from damaging their interests.

• Turkey called out to the US to stop its backing of the Kurdish armed group PYD in Syria, based on its ties to the terrorist organization PKK. But the US does not seem to cease this support to the group under the pretext of ‘the fight against ISIS’. There is also a common belief among Turkish people that the US has been aiding the PKK for decades and also supported the Gezi Park protests against the government to topple the Erdoğan regime.

• After the coup bid in Turkey, the US was too slow to condemn the attempt and fast to warn Turkey about its NATO membership, with US Secretary of State John Kerry stating ‘Turkey’s NATO membership could be at risk after the changes in Turkish military’ and also the Commander of the US Central Command, General Joseph Votel stating that ‘Some military figures the United States had worked with were in jail as a result of the purge’.

• There is also a strong argument of fighter jets taking off from US-led NATO İncirlik base to bomb government institutions on Friday, the 15th. Being known as one of the most secure air bases in the world, this kind of a security flaw did not seem to happen coincidentally or accidentally.

Why did the Coup Bid Fail?

There were several elements contributed to cessation of the coup bid in Turkey that night:

• The coup bid did not have ideological support from the people or the army. This showed itself on the ground as lacking support of army officials, even some high rank officials opposing the coup attempt and blocking major joints of operation flow, and strong opposition of the Turkish people.

• Probably one of the most important characteristics of the military, namely the chain of command could not work at the night of the coup bid. Causing a cut between the plotters and other army members and being unable to achieve predetermined goals or gather more supporters from the army officials.

• Mainstream media was not able to shut down, except from the state television and a couple of others. This allowed Turkish people to catch up on what was taking place simultaneously and government officials to address people to act together and update on where the events were heading towards.

• Erdoğan’s call to people to take to the streets and protest against the coup attempt even after Friday night, for over 3 weeks. People were vigilant against another attempt. Keeping in mind that the coup in Egypt succeeded when people left the streets and returned to their homes, and then the Egyptian army took over the government in the second wave.

• Opposition parties did not support the coup attempt. That left plotters from Gülen movement alone and allowed the government to act stricter against the plotters.

• Social media had an important role in communicating during the events. Keeping people updated on the developments. This major factor did not exist during the previous coups in Turkey.

Regardless of how many of the arguments listed above represent the reality, there is one undeniable fact; ‘If the coup had succeeded, things would be really different in Turkey at the moment.’ It is a commonly accepted principle that coups are bad. It doesn’t matter who makes it, it doesn’t matter who is the victim of it. That is what the common sense of the whole world tells us. Yet, we again saw the hypocrisy of major media outlets, trying to find excuses not to condemn the coup bid in Turkey, just as they did in Egypt. It was not relevant if Erdoğan was heading towards a more authoritarian regime or eroding democracy, the coup was coup. And whether other people like it or not, the majority of Turkish people chose Erdoğan and his administration as their political leadership. So instead of initiating a smear campaign and black propaganda against the ‘evilness’ of Erdoğan, Western and US mainstream media could have had respect for the will of the Turkish people, even if it doesn’t meet ‘their standards’ and being blinded by their prejudice towards Erdoğan to a point that prevents them from condemning an action which is accepted as ‘purely bad’ against anyone.

Although things seem to have settled for now, another coup attempt still appears likely and roles and sides in regional policies seem to have radical changes in near future. Our hope is that, no matter what changes take place, may they be for the good of people of the region in particular, and for the good of the whole humankind in general. For that purpose, we should keep in mind that sanctity of life is equal in everywhere in the world and for every single person without any differences based on anyone’s position or reputation and we should ‘aim for the puppeteer and not the puppet’.

On Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016 in Blog, News.