Follow us on:   

A turning point in Turkey’s history
July 26, 2016, 12:09 pm

In Turkey the purges continue. There is little point in giving numbers because they change, upwards, every day but so far ‘about’ 60,000 people are reported to have been cleaned out of the education ministry, the judiciary, the police and the army, some dismissed, some suspended and some prosecuted. Thousands of private schools connected with Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen’s teachings have been closed: 15 universities have been closed or are in the process of being closed, along with numerous charities and unions deemed as Gulenist.

Academics have been forbidden from leaving the country and more than 1500 deans have been forced to resign, presumably to be reinstated once their innocence is proven. The government has put out arrest warrants for scores of journalists and university professors.

Emergency law allows the government, headed by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to rule by decree for the next three months and possibly longer, as this period can he extended.

Only the coup of 1980 has been followed by a greater clean-up although the journalist Can Dundar thinks this is the greatest ‘witch-hunt’ in the country’s history. Dundar, editor of Cumhuriyet newspaper, by publishing still photos of a video showing arms being smuggled across to Syria by the Turkish national intelligence organization (MIT), was prosecuted and faces more than five years in prison if his conviction is upheld.

256968163_8[1]Gulen, an elderly cleric, living in a secluded compound in Pennsylvania, has been accused of orchestrating the failed coup, in coordination, according to the ‘Erdoganist’ media, with the US. Conservative Turkish daily, Yeni Safak (New Dawn), has gone ahead and named the man it says organized and financed the failed coup, General John F. Campbell, former commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. He is accused of holding secret meetings at the Incirlik air base in south-eastern Turkey and of transferring $2 billion from a Nigerian bank to finance the operation. This comes from a newspaper, not the government, so we have to wait and see what evidence might be produced at the trials in support of such claims.

As for Gulen the government has been after him for years, claiming that he is the head or the mastermind of ‘ FETO’, the Fethullah Terrorist Organization.   Again, we have to wait for solid evidence that there is an actual organization, rather than a network of sympathisers and that Gulen masterminded the coup attempt. The government says it has the evidence, which it has presented to the US to support its demand that Gulen be extradited. The Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, has warned that relations with the US will be badly damaged if he is not.

For the moment the country is in somewhat of a feverish mood. The mosques had called on people to go into the streets on the night of the coup, and tens of thousands of them did, very bravely confronting the tanks on the Bosporus Bridge and in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, the focal point of the Gezi Park protests in 2013.

‘People power’ was clearly a central element in blocking the coup, which, however, as it progressed, also seemed to be badly thought out or somehow to have been disrupted. There were not enough troops on the streets, for one thing, to hold down all the positions the coup-makers were trying to hold; furthermore many of them were very possibly conscripts who seemed bewildered and were completely incapable of handling the situation into which they had been thrust. It seems very likely, as some reportedly said, that they were told they were being send on a training exercise.

The coup attempt was a bloody affair, with hundreds of civilians and soldiers being killed, with warplanes flying over Ankara, the focal point of the plotters, all night and the sound of heavy explosions and machine-gun fire interspersed with exhortations from the mosques for people to come into the streets. By 3am the coup attempt was faltering and by 8am it had completely failed. The military later put out a statement that it knew at 4pm on Friday that a coup was underway. This raises the question of how it reacted: again, the answer will presumably emerge in the coming months. It may yet turn out that the plotters knew the military high command was on to them and were forced to launch their coup somewhat prematurely.

The failed coup puts Erdogan in a position of seemingly unassailable power. There have been purges of Gulenists before, notably from the judiciary and the police force, but this failed coup has ushered in a complete cleanup.

Erdogan himself said he has Allah on his side and his supporters will believe it: how else could he have come through all this unscathed, flying from southwestern Turkey to Istanbul without one shot being fired at his aircraft? At the moment the people are answering the call to stay on the streets, in the city and town squares at night. There have been popular demands for the restoration of capital punishment which the government says it will seriously consider, whether the EU likes it not. What happens after the trials is the longer-term question: however, as the numbers of people pouring into the streets on the night of July 15 demonstrated, Erdogan has critical mass behind him and is thus well placed to complete the building of his ‘new Turkey’ in time for the centennial of the republic’s founding in 2023.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the publisher's editorial policy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Anti-Spam * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.