On Wednesday, July 20, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency in Turkey in order to hunt down all those deemed to be behind an attempted coup. The state of emergency was needed “in order to remove swiftly all the elements of the terrorist organization involved in the coup attempt,” he told a press conference.
Turkey has accused the group of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen of being behind the coup and acting as a terror group. “The decision has been made to declare the state of emergency for a period of three months,” Erdogan said adding that the state of emergency is a measure “against the terror threat facing our country”.
On Saturday, Erdogan called the attempted coup “treason” and took to task the forces he apparently suspects of masterminding it. “Now I’m addressing those in Pennsylvania,” he said, in an apparent reference to Fethullah Gulen, a cleric and former ally who lives in exile in Pennsylvania.
“The betrayal you have shown to this nation and to this community, that’s enough. If you have the courage, come back to your country. If you can. You will not have the means to turn this country into a mess from where you are.” In a statement, Gulen denied any connection to the coup attempt.
Tellingly, Gulen had supported the military coup of 1980 and the soft coup in 1997, which forced Necmettin Erbakan, the prime minister, to resign.
Gulen movement declared a terrorist group
On June 1, 2016, President Erdogan officially designated the Gulen movement a terrorist group and said he would pursue its members whom he accused of trying to topple the government.
Gülen, described by Pape Escobar as a CIA asset, has long been accused by leading Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers, President Erdoğan and his inner circle of forming and heading a terrorist organization to topple the Turkish government through insiders in the police and other state institutions.
Critics point to a video that emerged in 1999 in which Gülen seemed to suggest that his followers should infiltrate mainstream institutions. “You must move within the arteries of the system, without anyone noticing your existence, until you reach all the power centres … You must wait until such time as you have got all the state power, until you have brought to your side all the power of the constitutional institution in Turkey.”
According to the Diplomat, in May 2015, Tajikistan had become the latest Central Asian country to close schools linked to the Gülen movement. In fact, Tajikistan’s decision to close the schools reflected a wider trend in the region. The Turkish Daily Sabah reported in mid-May 2015 that Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kazakhstan, Somalia, and Japan have all begun procedures to close Gülen-linked schools. In July 2014, Azerbaijan closed Gülen schools on fears of a parallel government. Uzbekistan shut down its Gülen schools in 1999. In Russian Chechnya and Dagestan regions Gulen-backed schools were once banned by President Putin. The Gulen website says that the schools are back in operation.
A Turkish court in December 2014 issued an arrest warrant for Gülen. Turkish government has asked for his repatriation.
Massive purge launched
While the July 14 (Friday) abortive coup in Turkey highlighted the fragile nature of democracy in that country, the aftermath will have long-term consequences as President Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to cleanse the Turkish state of dissidents. On Saturday (July 15) morning he declared the attempted coup against his government a failure and a “gift from God.”
So far, thousands of soldiers, including 112 generals and admirals, have been suspended or arrested in what obviously is a purge of the armed forces. One of the captured generals was Erdal Öztürk, the commander of Turkey’s third army, who could now face the death penalty after Erdoğan’s allies called for a change to the constitution to allow the execution of plotters.
In addition, an astonishing number of police personnel, estimated at nearly 9,000, with more than 2,700 judges were fired from their posts.
According to Foreign Policy Magazine, more than 50,000 people have been rounded up and either arrested or suspended from their jobs as the Turkish government continues its purge of the country after last week’s failed coup attempt. The country-wide purge has been expanded to include journalists and academics who the government claims are disloyal to Erdogan. That includes almost 17,000 teachers, educators, and university deans.
Erdogan had it coming
The danger of the military striking back has not gone away as Erdogan consolidates his power.
Robert Fisk of Independent writes:
“Recep Tayyip Erdogan had it coming. The Turkish army was never going to remain compliant while the man who would recreate the Ottoman Empire turned his neighbours into enemies and his country into a mockery of itself. But it would be a grave mistake to assume two things: that the putting down of a military coup is a momentary matter after which the Turkish army will remain obedient to its sultan; and to regard at least 161 deaths and more than 2,839 detained in isolation from the collapse of the nation-states of the Middle East.
“For the weekend’s events in Istanbul and Ankara are intimately related to the breakdown of frontiers and state-belief – the assumption that Middle East nations have permanent institutions and borders – that has inflicted such wounds across Iraq, Syria, Egypt and other countries in the Arab world. Instability is now as contagious as corruption in the region, especially among its potentates and dictators, a class of autocrat of which Erdogan has been a member ever since he changed the constitution for his own benefit and restarted his wicked conflict with the Kurds.
“Sir Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot began the Ottoman Empire’s dismemberment – with help from Arthur Balfour — but it continues to this day. In this grim historical framework must we view the coup-that-wasn’t in Ankara. Stand by for another one in the months or years to come.”
Erdogan consolidates power
For almost a century, since the birth of modern Turkey, the military had remained the guardian of the country’s secular tradition. The military’s political role has been enshrined in the constitution that legitimised its frequent intervention in the country’s politics. It had successfully staged three coups in the last century and had executed elected leaders. The Islamists were barred from politics for not being in line with the country’s founding vision.
But the situation changed dramatically over the past decade with the coming to power of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a socially conservative party with an agenda for economic development led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in 2002. The party has won four elections since then. Its popularity went up each time it pulled out the country out of political instability and perpetual economic crisis. Turkey became one of the fastest-growing economies. The country has earned a coveted place among the top 20 global economies.
This remarkable economic turnaround of Turkey strengthened the civilian authority and consequently undermined the power and influence of the military. Erdogan, who earlier served two terms as prime minister and was recently elected as the country’s president, had opened up cases against retired top military officers for plotting a coup against elected governments, many of whom are serving jail sentences. He had further consolidated his power by purging the military.
Egypt blocks U.N. call
Interestingly, the United Nations Security Council failed on Saturday to condemn the violence and unrest in Turkey after Egypt objected to a statement that called on all parties to “respect the democratically elected government of Turkey,” diplomats were quoted by Reuters. The U.S.-drafted statement, also expressed grave concern over the situation in Turkey, urged the parties to show restraint, avoid any violence or bloodshed, and called for an urgent end to the crisis and return to rule of law.
Statements by the 15-member Security Council have to be agreed by consensus.
Diplomats said Egypt asked for a call for all parties to “respect the democratically elected government of Turkey” to be removed from the draft statement, saying the council is “in no position to qualify, or label that government – or any other government for that matter – as democratically elected or not.”
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com