President Erdoğan is using the defeat of the coup in Turkey to repress opposition, as this analysis from the Turkish and Kurdish Centre Day-Mer explains
On Friday, 15 July 2016, Turkey witnessed a coup attempt which led to the killing of more than 300 people, and over a thousand injured. The coup is said to be attempted by some sections of the military. So far over 8000 people have been arrested. At the time of writing this statement a further 9,000 police officers have been sacked, 3,000 judges have been suspended, some 1,500 employees of Turkey's finance ministry have been dismissed and the licenses of 21,000 staff working in private schools were revoked, more than 15,000 employees at the education ministry were sacked, and the state-run higher education council demanded the resignation of 1,577 university deans.
This confrontation, with the sections of military, judiciary and police who were once deemed friends, was a long time coming. When Erdoğan first became Prime Minister, in 2003, he was the Islamic world’s great democratic hope, a leader of enormous vitality who would show the world that an avowedly Islamist politician could lead a stable democracy and carry on as a member of NATO, too. As Erdogan started to show his true colours, the clouds of expectations soon evaporated into thin air with everyone now getting worried about the developments in Turkey.
Over the past decade, Erdoğan has silenced, marginalised, or crushed anyone in the country who oppose him, including newspaper editors, university professors, aid workers, and dissident politicians. Most of these groups demanded either peace or a more stable democracy in Turkey. The desperation around resolving the migrant issue and the ongoing wars in the Middle East allowed western countries and leaders to turn a blind eye to the real democratic challenges in Turkey. In his most recent grab for further power, Erdoğan pushed through a law that stripped Members of Parliament of immunity from prosecution, a measure that his critics feared, with good reason, that he would use to remove the few remaining lawmakers who still oppose him. The key members of the opposition targeted were members of the pro- Kurdish party HDP.
In 2007, Erdoğan’s henchmen initiated a series of show trials, known collectively as Sledgehammer, where fabricated evidence was used to remove the top tier Turkish military officers. Hundreds were sent to prison, and the military itself seemed banished from politics forever. To take full control of the army, president Erdogan has been discharging military personnel who do not share his political line. Indeed, Erdoğan must have been surprised that there was still a dissident faction of the armed forces large enough to try to bring him down.
On the aftermath of the failed coup Erdogan was pointing the finger at one person, the exiled cleric Fetullah Gulen, a reclusive figure who lives in the USA. “I have a message for Pennsylvania,’’ Erdoğan said, a reference that must have baffled many. “You have engaged in enough treason against this nation. If you dare, come back to your country.” Gulen, an aging cleric who heads one of the world’s largest Islamic orders, fled Turkey in 1999, when it appeared that the military was going to arrest him. For years, he was one of Erdoğan’s closest allies, helping him in his rise to power. This friendship over the years allowed Gulen’s followers to quietly find positions within many Turkish institutions, particularly the courts and police. This love story between Gulen and Erdoğan ended in 2013 with what appears to be part of a naked struggle for power. In the years since, Erdoğan has purged the courts and police of thousands of men and women presumed to be Gulen loyalists. It’s hard to know whether Gulen was behind Friday’s attempted coup, but at this point it seems unlikely.
What seems certain is that the nature of the incident on Friday which demonstrated the clash between oppressive forces, was not in the interest of the people of Turkey. This was a direct result of Erdogan’s vision to build a ‘one-man nation’, which has divided the nation and stoked conflicts both within his party as well as those in opposition. This has inevitably laid the foundations for civil war and a clamp down all opposition. Erdogan is determined to take control of all parts of life which he sees as a threat to his rule, and continues attack many communities including the Kurdish, LGBT, environmentalists, journalists and academics.
On the night of 15 July the coup plotters took over the state TV channel TRT and announced that they had taken over the administration of government. On the other hand, the radio and television regulator RTUK under President Erdogan's control shut down the broadcasts of Hayatin Sesi TV and Halk TV which are considered to be opposition. At the same time, the soldiers attempting a military coup raided another TV channel and newspaper. There was no attempt to arrest either the president or the prime minister during this failed coup which was not the case in the previous 1980’s or 1970’s military coups in Turkey. It is ironic that the same president that ordered police to fire at protestors during the Gezi uprising in 2013, last night used social media to call on his supporters to come onto the streets in defiance of the attempted military coup.
During his first speech after the failed coup at the Istanbul Airport, Erdoğan referred to the attempted coup as a “gift from God.” Erdoğan is usually a precise speaker, but in this case, perhaps in his excitement, he showed his hand. With the coup attempt thwarted, he will no doubt seize the moment. In recent months, Erdogan has made little secret of his desire to rewrite the constitution to give himself total power. As a leader who has been criticised heavily on human rights and freedom of speech violations, this so called ‘gift from God’ might be the perfect cover to implement and impose more Islamic and oppressive policies.
We in Europe and the people of Turkey say “No to military coups and no to an authoritarian regime. We want a secular and democratic Turkey". This conflict of competing interests between some sections of the military and the ruling AKP is not in the interests of the people.
We stand against these forces and stand with the people of Turkey for a secular, democratic and free country.
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