Turkey Attempted Coup Aftermath: News & Analysis Roundup

[CN: discussions of military violence, interpersonal attacks, description of murder, abrogation of civil rights. Links may contain images and graphic descriptions.]

Here are some updates on the situation in Turkey after the unsuccessful coup attempt this past weekend. This is an image-free thread.

Orhan Coskun and Ercan Gurses report for Reuters that 8,000 police officers have been removed from their posts on suspicion of being involved with the coup. 7,543 people have been detained, including 6,038 soldiers. 30 regional governors and more than 50 high ranking officials have been dismissed.

And Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is doubling down on claims that US-based cleric Fethulleh Gülen is responsible, and demanding that the US extradite him.

Ankara has demanded Washington hand him over. Washington says it is prepared to extradite him but only if Turkey provides evidence linking him to crime. Yildirim rejected that demand.

"We would be disappointed if our (American) friends told us to present proof even though members of the assassin organization are trying to destroy an elected government under the directions of that person," Yildirim said.

"At this stage there could even be a questioning of our friendship," Yildirim added.

BBC has a roundup of newspaper reactions from around the world. The short version is that many foreign commenters fear for Turkey’s democracy, and for the civil rights and liberties of its people:

While voicing relief at the failure of the "amateurish" coup, Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German) predicts that the climate in Turkey will become "even more restrictive". "The Turkish government is likely to infringe on democracy, freedom of opinion, and fundamental rights," it says.

Some go even further. Switzerland's Neue Zuercher Zeitung (in German) believes that -"tragically" - ordinary Turks' rejection of the military coup will result in the opposite of stronger democracy, and that instead Mr Erdogan will launch a "final sweeping blow" and a "witch hunt" against his opponents.

In contrast, the media's mood in Turkey is largely one of jubilation. A commentary in Hurriyet (in Turkish) - which was raided by pro-coup troops - says democracy "would have been murdered" if the military uprising had succeeded, but warns that Turkey's future depends on "strengthening democracy and the constitutional state".

But there are dissenting voices. The secularist opposition paper Cumhuriyet (in Turkish) says not "millions", but only "thousands", of people came to defend Mr Erdogan, and describes them as governing "AK Party militants with jihadist aspirations".

There are signals that both the EU and NATO are concerned as well. From The Independent:

At a joint news conference with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that America stands "squarely on the side of the elected leadership in Turkey," but that "we urge the government of Turkey to uphold the highest standards of respect for the nation's democratic institutions and the rule of law".

While Ms Mogherini warned that countries that allow the death penalty cannot join the European Union, Mr Kerry added that "Nato also has a requirement with respect to democracy," Washington Post reported. The US "will certainly support bringing the perpetrators of the coup to justice," he said, "but we also caution against a reach that goes beyond that and stress the importance of the democratic rule being upheld".

Suraj Sharma, writing for Al-Jazeera, reports on Turkish suspicions of the United States, and fears about how those may damage relationships:

Retired Turkish diplomat Yalim Eralp, who has served as Turkey's ambassador to NATO, Washington, and the United Nations, warned that emotional responses by Ankara would be detrimental. "No government in the world will issue a statement while a coup is under way. It doesn't matter if it is in Turkey or anywhere else. I don't think the Turkish government should be offended by this," Eralp told Al Jazeera.

On Saturday, Labour Minister Suleyman Soylu accused the United States of being directly involved in the coup attempt during an appearance on local television.

According to Eralp, accusing Washington of involvement is a grave error and a diplomatic faux pas."I hope the Turkish government reacts sensibly," said Eralp. "However, my experience tells me that no Turkish government tries to see whether its own shortcomings resulted in a certain situation. They always and always try to put the blame on others."

John R. Schindler, writing for The Observer, voices quite a different possibility about the coup’s origins:

Vowing to “clean all state institutions of the virus,” President Erdoğan has threatened retribution as well as demanded the extradition of Gülen back home to face terrorism and treason charges. His equally vehement demands to restore the death penalty indicate where this may be headed, as has word of mass purges, in the many thousands, of the civil service. In this, Erdoğan has demonstrated a discipline and planning that was altogether lacking on the part of the coup plotters. Given the speed and scope of this purge, the biggest in recent Turkish history, it’s clear that the AKP had lists of thousands of official enemies ready to go, once the right opportunity to clean house presented itself.

That the abortive coup did nicely. It’s remarkable that Turkey’s military—the second-biggest in NATO—with more than 500,000 troops on active duty, managed to stage a revolt against the government that amounted to not much more than a battalion. Questions abound about what really happened on the night of July 15-16. Turks with experience of past military coups have noted how laughably small and inept this effort actually was. .. To top it off, the plotters made scant effort to seize or harm the president, whose whereabouts they knew. At the height of the short-lived coup, Erdoğan was flying on his private jet, returning to Istanbul from a holiday on the Aegean coast. Rebel F-16 fighters, fully armed for combat air patrol, intercepted the president’s plane, yet mysteriously they made no effort to shoot it down or even force it to land.

Since the first act of any coup d’état is neutralizing the regime’s leadership, that the plotters refrained from doing so, despite having easy opportunity, raises awkward questions about the entire affair. The notion that the coup was a stage-managed drama—a pretext for the regime to purge its remaining enemies—may seem fanciful to Westerners, yet is entirely within the realm of possibility for Turks…Turkish politics are filled with plots and coups, often of mysterious provenance, including shadowy terrorist groups that may—or may not—be controlled by the government, so it’s worthwhile asking what’s actually happening in Ankara.

At the Balkanist, Ozan Agbas asks “WTF is Going on in Turkey?” In a post which contains descriptions of the violence enacted by pro-government crowds on soldiers, he notes that the anti-coup crowds seemed dominated by violent, extremist followers of Erdogan rather than a broad cross section of Turkish people [CN: description of murder in this excerpt]:

However, Erdoğan’s call was not persuasive at all for those who have been craving a shred of democracy and fundamental rights in Turkey for years — namely ethnic minorities, members of the LGBT community, women and students – but it did resonate quite well with one group, a group that many of us actually remember quite well from the Gezi Protests when they were “hunting” young demonstrators, or more recently, the bearers of a conservative outrage that manifested during Ramadan in an Istanbul café where a Radiohead tribute event was held. Following Erdoğan’s call to defend democracy, the main boulevards in many cities were immediately rushed by that particular demographic of (almost certainly) pre-organized, AKP-supporting, men-only groups….what democracy is there to save when the lowest level soldiers are beheaded, or when democracy is protected by those carriers of a Turkish flag with a long knife in hand? Even if there is such a democracy, I believe the silent majority of this country does not seek it. Many people in Turkey yesterday had extremely complex feelings about the dilemma posed to them: getting rid of Erdogan or facing yet another military coup.

Writing at India’s First Post, Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi has an interesting backgrounder on the man Erdogan’s government is blaming for the coup. The title asks, “Why Blame a Progressive Islamic Modernist?”

It is not going to be all that easy to blame Gülen for the Turkish coup for two main reasons: First, Fathullah Gülen and his Hizmet movement fully supported the Turkish president Erdoğan when his ruling party, Justice and Development Party democratically rose to power. Second, the mainstream peace-loving Turkish people around the world endorse the writings and teachings of Fethullah Gülen, which lay the foundation of the Hizmet Movement. It has earned huge appreciation from an overwhelming number of independent researchers and writers, both from Turkey and foreign countries. Even the Turkish media has favoured the humanitarianism of the Gülen movement until the recent forced capture of the mainstream media outlets like the most popular daily newspapers Zaman and Today’s Zaman which often spoke for the Hizmet. Reporters Without Borders' security-general Christophe Deloire released a hard-hitting statement about the takeover of independent media in Turkey, calling it "ideological and unlawful." He wrote: "Erdoğan is now moving from authoritarianism to all-out despotism". As a result, the editorial tone of several media outlets in connection to the Hizmet movement has changed after the takeover, as Al-Jazeera has pointed out in an article dated 6 March.

Gülen’s ideas, primarily drawn from Islamic sources, have inspired the powerful civic and social movement, Hizmet or what is popularly known as ‘Gülen movement’ within Turkey and abroad. The Turkish word ‘Hizmet’ is derivative of the Arabic-Persian word “Kihdmat” meaning “service” and hence the movement has established hundreds of educational, civic service organisations and institutions in over 160 countries, actively contributing in the areas of peacebuilding, conflict resolution, intercultural-interfaith dialogue, education, media and relief work. These institutions engage in various initiatives that foster inclusiveness, build community capacity and create shared spaces.

Fethulleh Gulen gave a rare interview to a number of news agencies over the weekend. Reporters were invited to the Pennsylvania compound where he lives, where he granted a rare interview and invited reporters to see his personal quarters as well as the public areas of the compound. CNN's coverage is here. (Video autoplays at link; it has more background and different information than the story.)

It is worth noting that Erdogan’s government has been fighting (and losing) a battle against Gulen in the US courts. At the end of June, a United States judge tossed out a lawsuit from the Turkish government. According to the Wall Street Journal:

A U.S. judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought on behalf of the Turkish government against an Islamic preacher in Pennsylvania, saying the case didn’t belong in U.S. courts.

The civil lawsuit was filed last December in Scranton, Pa., federal court by three Turkish citizens who alleged that Turkish imam Fethullah Gulen directed his religious followers to carry out human rights abuses against the plaintiffs in Turkey, including illegal imprisonment.

The plaintiffs, who were members of a rival religious movement in Turkey, alleged that Mr. Gulen used coded language in a video speech to encourage his followers to “misuse the Turkish law enforcement system” against the rival group. Mr. Gulen has denied the allegations.

The Turkish government has also recently sued in US courts against Gulen-connected schools in California and in Texas.

I will be honest: I have no idea, at this point, who was behind the coup. What I do know is that Turkey’s parliament was bombed and is in ruins, and that many lives were lost and many other people injured in body, in mind, in spirit. There are conflicting signs about what this means for those who opposed the coup, but who also are opposed to Erdogan for various reasons. Buzzfeed News has an interview with Selahattin Demirtas, one of the coleaders of Turkey’s Turkey’s leftist, Kurdish-rooted opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP), and the third-largest party in Turkey’s parliament. It was one of several parties that spoke out against the coup:

On Saturday, after it was certain that the coup had failed, Erdogan called leaders of the two opposition parties to thank them for their support — but he didn’t call Demirtas. And despite the HDP’s vocal support for the government, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported that only three parties had spoken out against the coup. “It’s really awful that they didn’t mention us and treated us like we didn’t exist,” he said.

But the coup attempt, even though it failed, has shaken up the political scene in Turkey, perhaps permanently. As the morning wore on, some in Ankara softened their stance on the HDP. Demirtas, stuck in his hometown of Diyarbakir because of flights canceled in the wake of the coup, eventually spoke by phone to Ismail Kahraman, the speaker of parliament and a leading member of Erdogan’s AKP. During a speech broadcast on television from the parliament Saturday, Kahraman mentioned Demirtas and acknowledged the HDP’s support. The simple gesture cheered some who see the HDP as a way for Turkey to draw Kurds into the political process instead of the ongoing war.

In a less optimistic sign, three HDP offices were targeted for attacks, although it’s unclear who was behind the violence.

That’s all I have today. I wish I had a suggestion for action to support the people of Turkey in this difficult time. My thoughts are with them, and particularly with any Turkish readers of this space. I hope the rule of law, respect for democracy, and care for human rights prevail as Turkey puts itself back together and seeks answers as to who was behind the coup and what it should mean for the future of the country.

If you are outside Turkey, you can always contact your own country’s state department, ministry of foreign affairs, or similar government agency, and express your concerns. I will be paying attention as to whether any NGOs or other international bodies monitor the situation as well.

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