Friday

28th Jul 2017

Opinion

Turkish coup was blessing for Erdogan

  • The coup played to president Erdogan's success. (Photo: Wikipedia)

It is now a year after Turkish democracy survived a military coup, but fell victim to another, which it was not familiar with.

On the fateful night of 15 July, 1.5 percent of the Turkish military tried to topple the democratically elected Turkish government with a planned coup that seemed doomed to fail from the very beginning. However, 250 innocent souls lost their lives.

Seasoned observers of Turkish politics were trying to understand why on earth an army as experienced as the Turkish military in staging coups and toppling governments would choose 10pm on a Friday night to block only one direction of the Bosporus Bridge and start a coup attempt.

Meanwhile, president Erdogan had already started naming and blaming the alleged culprits. When the events were unfolding, he was quite sure that the self-exiled Muslim cleric, Mr. Fethullah Gulen, was behind the coup.

We need to give due credit to president Erdogan. He became quite successful in his two very basic goals right after the coup. First and foremost, for putting all the blame squarely on the Hizmet movement, led by Gulen, and then carrying on a huge cover-up to hide other segments of the coup plotters.

Unconvinced US and EU

The problem is, while he has been quite successful in Turkey - he was not able to convince many in Europe and in the US.

Now that it is the anniversary of the botched coup, the Turkish government is doing its best to launch afresh another wave of persuasion by publishing articles written by ministers, and organising panels at think tanks.

Yet, Europe still seems not to be buying the narrative of the Turkish government that it was Gulen who ordered the coup. Although the EU believes that Gulenists were involved in the coup, it is not convinced that they were the only group and that the order came from the leader of this religious community.

Intcen, the EU’s intelligence centre, in its report published both on EUobserver and The Times, said the coup was staged by a range of opponents to Erdogan and his ruling AK Party.

The secret report said: "It is likely that a group of officers comprising Gulenists, Kemalists, opponents of AKP and opportunists were behind the coup. It is unlikely that Gulen himself played a role in the attempt".

In March, the German intelligence chief, Bruno Kahl, in an interview with Spiegel, was asked if he believed Gulen was behind the coup - as claimed by president Erdogan.

"Turkey has tried to convince us of that at every level but, so far, it has not succeeded," was Kahl's reply.

Then, the Spiegel journalist told him that what he was saying about the coup did not "sound like the kind of vast conspiracy that president Erdogan always claims." Kahl's answer: "The consequences of the putsch that we have seen would have happened anyway, if perhaps not as deep and radical. The coup was likely just a welcome pretext."

On 24 July last year, the German magazine Focus ran a story claiming that the British intelligence service GCHQ had intercepted the communications of the Turkish government on the coup night.

The British service reportedly learned that the Turkish government was giving instructions both to put the blame categorically on the Hizmet movement and to start the unprecedented purge. The Focus story has still not been denied.

There are other official documents that challenge the narrative of president Erdogan on the coup, such as a report by the British foreign affairs committee of the House of Commons.

'Controlled coup'

As one year has passed since the coup, the conviction in Europe about it deeply contradicts that of Erdogan.

The common belief is that the coup was neither staged by Erdogan himself, nor ordered by Gülen, but Erdogan knew it, let the tanks roll and designed it to remodel the Turkish state. It was led by a coalition of Kemalists, opportunists, secularists and Gulenists.

As Martin Schulz, the European Parliament's president at the time, aptly put it - the coup was not well-prepared at all, but the response was meticulously drawn up.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition party, CHP, keeps calling the events of 15 July "a controlled coup".

There are still many questions that need to be answered, yet the two most important personalities that could shed light on that night, the chief of staff, general Hulusi Akar and chief of intelligence, Hakan Fidan, refused to attend the hearings in the Turkish parliamentary commission created for the coup. The letter sent to the commission by General Akar created more questions than answers.

Erdogan famously called the coup "a gift from God". Right after the putsch, a quarter of Turkish judges and prosecutors were dismissed, and many ended up in jail.

The government is pushing ahead the greatest purge the Turkish republic has ever seen as of today, with no end in sight. Some 150 thousand people have been sacked from their government posts. Around 50 thousand people are in jail, of which 17 thousand are women and there have been at least 500 babies born in prisons.

According to Stockholm Center for Freedom - a rights advocate organisation created by exiled Turkish journalists in Sweden - there are currently 200 journalists behind bars in the country. This figure makes Turkey the champion of journalist jailers, well ahead of China.

Some 189 media outlets have either been seized or banned after the coup, while 35 percent of the journalists lost their jobs.

Most shockingly, the chief of staff publicly declared that only 1.5 percent of the Turkish army had joined the coup and most of them were privates.

According to chief of staff registry, there are currently 356 generals in the Turkish military. The number of generals who have been arrested after the coup is 167, which means 47 percent of the top brass is behind the bars. If only 1.5 percent of the military joined the putsch, why has almost 50 percent of the top brass been arrested?

And if 50 percent of the generals joined the coup, how come it collapsed so quickly?

These are still very legitimate questions that beg answers, while the wave of purges, arrests and detentions target not only Gulenists, but all those who dare to criticise Erdogan.

Selcuk Gultasli is a journalist. He was Zaman's Brussels bureau chief until the newspaper was taken over by the Turkish government.

Overcoming the plot against Turkish democracy

One year after an attempted coup, what Turkey needs is not biased and groundless criticism but more cooperation, dialogue and understanding, writes its Europe minister Omer Celik.

Turkey's accelerated drift from Europe

Turkey's path towards EU membership seems harder than ever in the past 54 years, after Erdogan, this week, threatened to "wave" goodbye to the bloc.

Juncker: Death penalty will end Turkey's EU bid

Turkish president Erdogan said he would reinstate capital punishment, for people behind last year's failed military coup. But European Commission president Juncker says the move would end Turkey's bid to join the EU.

Stronger EU-Egypt ties must not disregard human rights

The EU’s apparent willingness to water down its stance on human rights in Egypt could seriously compromise its credibility and have far-reaching consequences for its relations with other countries in the region.

News in Brief

  1. EU citizens will need registration to enter UK in Brexit transition
  2. Italy weighs up sending navy into Libyan waters
  3. Swedish PM fights for survival amid IT scandal
  4. Poland's Kaczynski vows to continue judicial reform
  5. Werner Hoyer re-appointed as EU investment bank chief
  6. Spanish PM denies knowledge of party corruption
  7. France 'routinely' abuses migrants, says NGO
  8. Swedish government rocked by data scandal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  2. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  3. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  5. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  6. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  7. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  9. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  10. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  11. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  12. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug

Latest News

  1. Senate backs Russia sanctions, setting scene for EU clash
  2. France and Italy quarrel over shipyard and Libya
  3. Corbyn re-opens Labour's single market wound
  4. Visegrad lobby makes food quality an EU issue
  5. EU court could dismiss national borders in cyberspace
  6. Confusion swirls round Macron's Libya 'hotspots'
  7. Insults fly after EU ultimatum to Poland
  8. UK requests EU migration study, 13 months after Brexit vote

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  2. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  4. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  5. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead
  7. EU2017EEPM Ratas: EU Is Not Only an Idea for the 500mn People in the Bloc, It Is Their Daily Reality
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersCloser Energy Co-Operation Keeps Nordic Region on Top in Green Energy
  9. ILGA-EuropeGermany Finally Says Ja - Bundestag Votes for Marriage Equality!
  10. EPSUJapanese and European Public Sector Unions Slam JEFTA
  11. World VisionEU, Young Leaders and Civil Society Join Forces to End Violence Against Girls
  12. UNICEFNarrowing the Gaps: The Power of Investing in the Health of the Poorest Children