Turkish resident's view (long)(20 Posts)
A Turkish friend of mine from university days has messaged all his friends with his viewpoint on the current situation and asked us to share it widely. It's long but I found it really interesting - and concerning - so here goes:
STATE OF AFFAIRS
Thank you for those of you who wrote and ask me to write about the current state of affairs in Turkey. As many of you know I gave up writing a column in a daily newspaper quite some time ago because, amongst many other things, there no longer exists anything resembling press freedom in Turkey. To write in the Turkish press nowadays requires at least a degree of self-censorship. I couldn’t bring myself to do that, so I gave up.
On the 15th of July 2016, as I’m sure you all know, we had an odd military coup attempt. Unfortunately here in Turkey we are very used to military coups. Since 1960 we have had a military coup almost every decade, so we know how it is done. Firstly, the army takes control of the means of communication and arrests the main political figures: President, Government, Leaders of Opposition, MP’s, etc. Then it is broadcast that these things are done and there will be a period of curfew during which the entire country is brought swiftly under the control of the junta.
I said this was an 'odd' coup because this 15th of July was not like that at all; it felt like it was a half-hearted attempt at a coup, because none of the leaders of the country were detained by the army, and most broadcasters continued broadcasting uninterrupted. The internet continued strongly, which is quite odd because we are also used to the internet being slowed, or even turned off when there is any tension in the country. So, a few hours of uncertainty ensued during which, on the one hand we heard from state broadcaster, TRT that the army was in control. On the other hand the president, speaking via privately owned and run media, told us otherwise. It would have been like an episode from Black Adder if so many lives were not in jeopardy and if the fate and future of a country was not at risk!
In the early hours of the morning messages of solidarity and support came from other heads of states to the elected government of Turkey, however the office of the President of the USA was saying that the situation was being ‘monitored’. Towards morning it became clear that the coup attempt had failed. Eventually President Obama’s office also declared its support for the elected government of Turkey, but that was some three hours after Angela Merkel, for example, had done the same. This caused speculation that the USA wouldn’t have minded had the coup succeeded. We are accustomed, after all, to past US support for military coups in our country.
The thinking was that the USA wouldn’t have minded getting rid of Erdogan. He is seen as becoming increasingly problematic for the West due to his lack of enthusiasm for fighting ISIS. On the other hand, perhaps they felt that should the coup fail, it would be a good lesson for Turkey’s military, and might facilitate a certain ‘cleansing’ within the army. The Turkish army is fiercely nationalistic and loyal to the principles of Mustafa Kemal Atataürk, the founder of modern Turkey. Its instincts are rarely enthusiastic about free speech and democracy. Although it is a NATO army, when it comes to domestic matters, the USA exercises very little influence over it. The Americans may have speculated that an emasculated Turkish army could be a good thing in the medium term. In any case, they may have reasoned, Erdogan is getting older and his health may force him out of office in matter of a few years. So, many explain the failure of the coup by the fact that unlike previous coups, this time the army did not have the whole-hearted support of the USA. Like many coups in recent history, we will find out what really happened with the passage of time.
Speculation aside, what the 15th July did to the country is not good at all. The image of Turkey is obviously tarnished; the already badly suffering tourism industry just took another major blow; markets are all down and as yet not recovering; and the Turkish Lira is under heavy strain. What is worst of all however is that the dictatorial leadership of Turkey went from bad to worse. Instead of urging calm and peace in the country, the leadership of the ruling AK Party clearly want to use this unfortunate coup attempt to strengthen its hand against its opponents. The president himself is urging his supporters to stay outdoors, occupying city squares and public spaces across Turkey. To date, 50,000 civil servants, including soldiers, judges, prosecutors, academics and policemen, have been arrested, and/or purged from their posts. All academic staff of all universities are forbidden to travel abroad and those who are abroad have been recalled!
The ruling AK Party is seriously threatening the retrogressive step of reintroducing the death penalty to the Turkish Penal Code. The Turkish government is demanding that the US deport Fethullah Gülen, the former friend and confidant of Erdogan. Gülen has been in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, USA. Prior to his flight into exile, Gülen was a well known political figure, coming to prominence for his anti-communist rhetoric. He is a fiery cleric who was a very close ally of the ruling AK Party. He is believed to have been very influential in bringing the AK Party to power and in keeping them there all these years, however in recent years Erdogan has felt threatened by this power, especially due to the presence of Gülen supporters in the police, army, and judiciary. So, in a fairly short space of time this once highly respected cleric has gone from being an AK Party hero to Public Enemy #1! Apparently, or allegedly, it was Gülen’s supporters who were behind last Friday’s failed coup attempt. Erdogan is demanding the USA extradite him so he can be tried in Turkey!
In reality Turkey has never really been a secular, human rights-respecting democracy subject to the rule of law. Nevertheless, those were principles by which we tried to abide, and they were written into our constitution. Indeed, the reason that there was so much widespread support for Turkey’s efforts to join the EU was because many thought that EU membership would guarantee and reinforce these principles. The West in general, and the EU in particular, far from bolstering this modernising impetus and recognising the democratic and secular desires of much of the country, approached Turkey’s accession talk from their own self-serving national and political interests. Unfortunately, nothing has changed, and they still do. How many refugees can Turkey absorb and keep away from our borders? How can we exploit a potential and expanding market of 80 million consumers?
The current burning question should not be about how we can introduce more visa restrictions on Turkish travellers, but why political Islam is on the rise in Turkey. How can we help Turkey become more, not less democratic? And why are levels of corruption so high, while the rule of law is so weak? Alas, in this dark period of our country, almost half of our people seem to think human rights, the rule of law, and democracy are unimportant. This rather large minority is imposing its will upon the rest of the country. The argument is twisted: Democracy means an elected government can do what ever it wants; human rights means only one thing: a woman’s right to cover herself; all opposition to the ruling party - Kurds, Gülenists, Kemalists - are terrorists; and the main opposition party, academics, the judiciary, anyone who will not do what government demands, are terrorist sympathisers! Secularism must be destroyed. Nationalism, which the Turkish State was founded upon, should be replaced with Pan-Islamism. We can expect less freedom of speech and press, less human rights, more oppression of minorities and women. We have no right to expect democracy, but must accept an elective dictatorship of committed Islamists ruling Turkey with an iron fist!
If you are looking for good news, or rather some consolation amongst all this gloom and doom, I suppose I can speculate. If what the AK Party claims to be true, i.e. if Gülen’s ‘terrorist organisation’ is really behind the coup attempt, and had it succeeded, then I suppose a military junta inspired by a cleric would have been slightly worse! I fear Turkey is heading for the worst of times. The war in Syria and Iraq is already upon us. All sorts of minorities, Kurds, religious minorities, LGBTI are all being terribly oppressed. The response of the state to the 15th July coup attempt is just making the situation worse. I fear a civil war. I fear Islamic rule. I fear the self-inflicted division of Turkey as we know it. These horrible scenarios are all on the cards for my country, right now. Brexit, Boris, and the treachery of the Labour right against their elected leader in my other country seem quite a picnic compared to what is going on in Turkey!
July 20, 2016
Wow - thanks for that I had read similar reports but only snippets, that is clear & concise & very very worrying. I hope your friend is ok?
I am seriously concerned about what's happening in Turkey and your friend writes clearly and eloquently. I too think what's happening in Turkey, and with its being positioned where it is geographically, is extremely significant and worrying for the rest of the world.
The USA is currently refusing to deport Gülen without evidence he's committed a crime but I wonder what will happen if Trump gets in. He'd probably get rid of him like a shot and if he was then executed there certainly would be a civil war in Turkey.
Thank you for sharing this. It's a really worrying situation.
I have a good friend who is an academic in a Turkish university. I've been in touch and he told me that his overseas travel plans have had to be cancelled and that they have all been told to go into work even though it's his summer holiday.
I think it was a very convenient 'coup' for Erdogan, if it was one at all, and not a put up by him.
A very eloquent and succinct summary of the situation. I think he may well be right and very dark days lay ahead, not for just Turkey but for all of us. I hope your friend can stay safe.
Feels as though Turkey is teetering on the brink of civil war. Erdogan is taking the steps to have only his supporters in prominent positions. This (so called) coup has given him the legitimate means to carry out his cull and take any power away from his political opponents. By coincidence Isis seem to have sent out a call to their 'soldiers' in Europe that now is the time to unleash their murderous barbarism. The West have no real idea who or where the enemy is. Russia Looks to have it's eye on reclaiming much of the Balkans. Scarey times and not too farfetched is the prospect of all out war in our lifetime. Added to this the growing real possibility of Donald Trump as the next US president. I'm on the wine now.
The central question,..
Why is political islam on the rise?
Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Maylasia?
Is Islam really a peaceful relegion?
Professor, I remember a documentary years ago re the rise of Islam in the UK. The gist was that the long term aim was a future Europe including the UK governed by Islamic law and this would be obtained through peaceful political moves. Seemed laughable and anyone questioning the motives of Islam was shouted down as islamaphobic. The world has changed faster in the last 15 years than at any other modern time.
I also raise an eyebrow at this 'coup'. Thanks for posting this. Troubling times.
It does seem to have been terribly convenient for Erdogan in terms of getting rid of opponents doesn't it? I think Turkey is moving further and further away from democratic rule. Only this morning on BBC news there was a report to the fact that hundreds of media organisations have been closed in the country. This to me indicates that Turkey is moving closer to dictatorship.
Yes professor, serious questions have to be asked.
I suppose a military junta inspired by a cleric would have been slightly worse!
When you have mosques calling people to the streets to oppose a coup, one would think some clerics already have what they want. I know the great trust in which the Turkish people regard the army, as eternal protectors of Ataturks secular vision, however history is sadly littered with endless examples of people who suffered and died totally surprised 'it came to this'.
And the US were responsible for 9/11.
Another long-term Turkish resident's view.
OP - I think I know who the author is. He used to write for this paper. Most of the OP is correct, but I question his judgement re these statements:
"however the office of the President of the USA was saying that the situation was being ‘monitored’... Eventually President Obama’s office also declared its support for the elected government of Turkey, but that was some three hours after Angela Merkel, for example, had done the same. This caused speculation that the USA wouldn’t have minded had the coup succeeded."
As the author says, this was an odd "coup" and "We are monitoring it" probably meant that US didn't know what to make of it at first.
"We are accustomed, after all, to past US support for military coups in our country."
We are also accustomed to popular national support for military coups in our country, strangely enough. He is a bit older than me so must remember what it was like in Turkey before and after the last coup d'état in 1980. There was overwhelming gratitude to the army when they took over & put an end to the de facto civil war raging on the streets between fascist nationalists and Soviet-backed communists, and when they withdrew in favour of democratic elections three years later.
"The thinking was that the USA wouldn’t have minded getting rid of Erdogan. He is seen as becoming increasingly problematic for the West due to his lack of enthusiasm for fighting ISIS."
I don't agree with this at all. If indeed this was a Gulenist coup attempt, it would have been to bring Gulen back to Turkey as a sort of Khomeini figure, in what would look very much like an Islamist revolution. I really doubt if the US would want another Iran in the Middle East, right next to the EU.
russia has its eye on reclaiming the balkans
The countries which made up Yugoslavia were not client states of Russia, being part of the non-aligned movement. They were never Russian colonies, or part of Russia.
I could say the same for Greece, Albania or Turkey - none were ever claimed by Russia in any sense.
I can't imagine what this poster is referring to, but this level of ignorance about the region is pretty typical in the West.
Don't let it stop you pontificating though
I should have said claiming the Balkans. Meaning Russia is very keen for these countries to be linked to it as opposed to them moving more towards the EU and NATO.
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