The power of people has been proved once again in Turkey. The unarmed people defeated an attempted coup by powerful armed forces. They turned a military black night into a democratic bright morning. The courageous people came out on to the streets and demanded that political disputes be settled through political means and democratic procedures. The people from all walks of life and persuasions came forward to reject the coup. They flooded onto the streets in support of the leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was democratically elected.
A coup is an illegal attempt to overthrow those in power by force. It comes from the French coup d’etat, which translates as “blow of state”. Turkey has a history of military coups, but has not experienced one for nearly two decades. Turkey remembers well the consequences and pains of each past coup; in 1960, 1971-1973, 1980 and 1997. The wounds are still fresh in people’s minds. So when a faction of the military, believed to be affiliated with the Gulen movement, led by the US-based scholar Fethullah Gulen – which is designated a suspicious terrorist group by Turkey – attempted to stage a coup against a democratically-elected government,
The scale of the coup operation – which included the deployment of fighter jets and tanks -would suggest it was planned by senior military figures. Elements of the Army and Air Force are involved in the coup, and it is unclear if the Navy is also behind it.
How it folded?
At 8 p.m. on July 15, local time, rebel troops in Istanbul closed the city’s landmark Bosporus Bridge. The troops fired into crowds on Istanbul, killing three people. An attack was launched on the police special forces loyal to Mr. Erdogan on the outskirts of Ankara, where explosions were heard by residents. The rebels then stormed the state-run television station and forced it off the air. Soldiers took control of TRT state television, which announced a countrywide curfew and martial law. A “Peace Council” had taken power, they said. A faction of the military issues a declaration, saying the “political administration that has lost all legitimacy has been forced to withdraw.” An announcer read a statement on the orders of the pro-coup faction that accused the government of eroding the democratic and secular rule of law.
Coup plotters seized many commanders from military staff headquarters and other posts and took them to undisclosed locations, according to Gen. Umit Dundar, who was appointed acting chief of staff. The chief of staff, Hulusi Akar, was later rescued in a Saturday morning operation at an Ankara air base, state-run Anadolu news agency said. The coup plotters also attempted to seize Parliament and the intelligence headquarters in Ankara.
CNN Turk reports that soldiers have entered its building as well, and have forced the network off the air. Hours after the attempted coup against him began, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the nation via FaceTime.
Speaking to an anchor on CNN Turk, who holds up her phone so viewers can see, Erdogan urges people to take to the streets to stand up to the military faction behind the uprising.
“Go to the streets and give them their answer,” he says.
Gunshots crack the night at the presidential complex in Ankara and there are reports of helicopters opening fire at the national intelligence headquarters. Videos and photos posted on social media show crowds marching through the streets — some marchers facing off against tanks and armored vehicles. The Turkish National Intelligence unit claims the coup is over. Meanwhile, there are reports of bombs thrown outside the parliament building in Ankara.
After several hours President Erdogan lands at Istanbul’s airport, having flown from the seaside resort of Marmaris. Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Mehmet Simsek, tells CNN by phone that the government is in full control after a failed coup attempt. As dawn breaks, Erdogan is hailed by a throng of cheering supporters. He declares the coup over and says it was treason. Video footage from Istanbul’s Bosphorus Bridge shows soldiers apparently involved in the coup attempt surrendering en masse, walking away from tanks and abandoning their posts.
Who is behind?
Erdogan speaks to another cheering, flag-waving crowd, blaming the coup attempt on rival Fethullah Gulen, a cleric and former ally who lives in exile in Pennsylvania. Erdogan demands the United States arrest or extradite Gulen. “This country suffered a lot in the hands of the Gulen movement,” Erdogan declares. Erdogan has long accused the cleric and his supporters of attempting to overthrow the government.
The cleric promotes a philosophy that blends a mystical form of Islam which is not public supported. So he cannot go through the fair election. Although the pro-Gulen Alliance for Shared Values has said, it condemned any military intervention in domestic politics.
In the Turkish political system, the term ‘parallel structure’ is too familiar to the public. This dual state structure was developed after the 1960 coup and further strengthened by the 1982 constitution. The division is composed of two components: The first is the elected, accountable, visible and civilian government; while the second, an unelected, unaccountable and invisible structure embedded in high bureaucracy with affiliates in media and big business.
Civilian governments have always been subordinate to this shady parallel structure, which has dictated the main agenda of the country and has the authority to have the last word on major issues. The democratization process of the last decade with an active struggle against the tutelage system, was believed to have freed civilian politics from the chains of this parallel state.
The existence of such a group poses great danger to civilian politics and democracy. At this juncture, the government needs to undertake two cleaning operations in tandem. First, it should get rid of anyone who is convicted in these cases, and continue on the path of transparency and accountability. Second, it needs to deconstruct the “parallel structure” that has been developed by the Movement, in order to have a tutelary free democracy and strong civilian politics.
No return in millitary rule
More than 35 years after the last coup, and almost two decades after the 1997 military intervention, Turks do not want a return to the seesawing military and civilian rule that characterized the country between 1960 and 1980. On the contrary, they are attached to their democratic institutions and the constitutional order. The army, a pillar of Kemal Atatürk’s secular order, is weaker. Every major political party condemned the attempted coup, whatever their growing anger against the president, Turks do not want to go backward.
A successful coup would have been a disaster. Erdogan has massive support in the Anatolian heartland, particularly among religious conservatives. Mosques all over the country were lit through the night as imams echoed the president’s call for people to pour into the street. There can be little doubt that any military-controlled administration would have faced a Syria-like insurgency of Islamists and others. The blow to what is left in the Middle East of democratic institutions and the rule of law would have been devastating.
Rejecting the coup has now become Turkey’s new common denominator. Given the political polarisation of recent years, it became a rare symbol of national unity for Turkey.
Now Turkey has an opportunity to use this plot as a means for national reconciliation. There has been a societal and political consensus in rejecting the attempted coup and the government should take comfort from this.
Suspicious Role of Western Media
The reaction and reporting of western media on the failed coup in Turkey was very suspicious and irresponsible. Many of them to be engaging in propaganda and duplicitous behaviour, as if they were expecting to see the will of Turkish people fail against the catastrophic coup.
British newspaper The Independent has been working hard to be as biased as possible against Erdogan. They wrote, “President Erdogan denounces treason of attempted coup.” Here they are putting quotation marks around the word “treason” because apparently a deadly military coup against a civilian government leaves some room for doubt on whether it is a crime against the state.
The Telegraph (amongst many others) got to work early quoting experts trying to legitimise the army faction and their actions by labelling them “guardians of Turkey’s secular constitution.” Rather than present them as traitors to their uniform and their nation, noble intentions were being ascribed to one side.
The “strategic analyst” of Fox News was happy to exclaim that if the coup succeeds, “we win.” In fact, Lt Col Ralph Peters went a step ahead, writing on the Fox News website: “That tragically failed coup was a forlorn hope, not an attempt to take over a country. Turkey is not a banana republic in which the military grasps the reins for its own profit. For almost a century, the Turkish armed forces have been the guardians of the country’s secular constitution.”
The New York Times decided that the early and confusing moments of a coup would also be the perfect time to remind everyone of their obsession with Erdogan as a uniquely authoritarian leader. Again, the legitimate government of Turkey was being painted as somehow not so legitimate thereby attempting to soften the blow of the putsch.
The Times of Malta decided to go even further and along with other publications, started tweeting an unnamed EU source saying that the coup was “likely to succeed.” The unverified nature of the comment and the sheer lack of journalistic integrity of publishing it at such a sensitive time is a gross betrayal of journalistic responsibility. Surely, this helped the coup plotters immensely in their goal to give the impression they had won.
Sputnik News from Russia was never going to be impartial, but presenting people who were risking their lives demonstrating against the coup as “celebrating” it is straight out of the propaganda books of the USSR. Again, publication after publication is pushing a consistent line that is pro-coup and anti-democracy.
It was painful to see The Daily Beast, a publication that I actually follow, too falling prey to propaganda. According to The Daily Beast, President Erdogan was denied asylum in Germany (even though he never sought it in the first place). Again, facts? Nope! As they and other journalists know, if Erdogan had fled the country then forces loyal to the government may well surrender thinking that all was lost. Despite knowing how high the stakes were, they persisted in publishing this blatant lie and still haven’t the decency to apologise or to investigate who fed them this misinformation and why.
The above, obviously, are just some instances wherein Western Media failed miserably at journalism, and excelled at propaganda. By and large, the Western media outlets failed to realize that it was not just the police that arrested the rebellious soldiers, but even the common people who, in spite of the firing, came out in large numbers and challenged the coup. They further failed to notice the ground reality; the mood on the streets was different. Anyone who even casually browsed through alternative media sources or even social networks knew that the mood was in favour of Erdogan.
In fact the western media wanted Erdogan out of power. They badly hoped the AK Parti would fall out of favor. Blinded by their bias, it was only natural that they projected rumors and propaganda as “news”.
Md. Hasanuzzaman is journalist and geopolitical analyst.