Turkish columnist Burak Bekdil from the Middle East Forum contributes this worthwhile piece.
There are a couple of points I would mention: Based on my current level of understanding, the Turkish military have a fine tradition of launching coups (four since 1967) to restore secular democracies and then as quickly as they are able hand over to the democratic process. Egypt followed this path when General Sisi's army overthrew Morsi and the Ikhwan, but Sisi was not able to push for democracy due to the vast extent of Islamist penetration into all aspects of Egyptian life. There, a hasty return to democracy and a new election would only lead to the Muslim Brotherhood regaining power or perhaps civil war. In Turkey, things would be limited to Erdogan, those close to him and some provincial leaders. Things would be different.
Secondly, although Erdogan has laid the blame at the feet of his fellow Islamist and competitor, Fethullah Gulen, it seems to me to be an attempt on his part to frame a rival. Erdogan has spent the last few years thinning out and imprisoning secularist Judges and Generals. The coup originating within the ranks of the armed forces still seems to me to bear the marks of the enemies of both Gulen & Erdogan - the strong and thoughtful secularists who have a similar fear and loathing of Islam as did Kemal Ataturk, who said the following:~
"For nearly five hundred years, these rules and theories [regarding civil and criminal law] of an Arab Shaikh and the interpretations of generations of lazy and good-for-nothing priests have decided the civil and criminal law of Turkey. They have decided the form of the Constitution, the details of the lives of each Turk, his food, his hours of rising and sleeping, the shape of his clothes, the routine of the midwife who produced his children, what he learned in his schools, his customs, his thoughts-even his most intimate habits. This theology of an immoral Arab ... is a dead thing. Possibly it might have suited tribes in the desert. It is no good for modern, progressive state."
Lastly, there have been suggestions from some quarters that Erdogan himself staged a mock coup in order to strengthen his grip. This is not at all beyond the bounds of possibility and should not be dismissed out of hand.
Crushing dissent in Turkey, by Burak Bekdil.
Thanks to MEF.
In 1853, John Russell quoted Tsar Nicholas I of Russia as saying that the Ottoman Empire was "a sick man -- a very sick man," in reference to the ailing empire's fall into a state of decrepitude. Some 163 years after that, the modern Turkish state follows in the Ottoman steps.
Turkey, under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rule, was staggering between a hybrid democracy and bitter authoritarianism. After the failed putsch of July 15, it is being dragged into worse darkness. The silly attempt gives Erdogan what he wanted: a pretext to go after every dissident Turk. A witch-hunt is badly shattering the democratic foundations of the country.
Taking advantage of the putsch attempt, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency that will run for a period of three months, with an option to extend it for another quarter of a year. Erdogan, declaring the state of emergency, promised to "clean out the cancer viruses like metastasis" in the body called Turkey. With the move for a state of emergency, Turkey also suspended the European Convention on Human Rights, citing Article 15 of the Convention, which stipulates:
In time of war or other public emergencies threatening the life of the nation, any High Contracting Party may take measures derogating from its obligations under this Convention to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with its other obligations under international law.
Before July 15, civil liberties in Turkey were de facto in the deep freeze. Now they are de jure in the deep freeze.
On July 27, the Turkish military purged 1,684 officers, including 149 generals, on suspicion that they had links with Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Muslim cleric who once was Erdogan's staunchest political ally but is now his biggest nemesis and the suspected mastermind of the coup attempt. On the same day, the government closed down three news agencies, 16 television stations, 23 radio stations, 45 newspapers, 15 magazines and 29 publishers on the same charges. Two days before those actions, warrants were issued for 42 journalists, as a part of an investigation against members of the "Fethullah [Gulen] terrorist organization."
Under the state of emergency, it is dangerous in Turkey even to question whether July 15 was a fake coup orchestrated or tolerated by Erdogan for longer-term political gains. Turkish prosecutors are investigating people who allege on social media that the coup attempt was in fact a hoax. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said that: "Anyone who suggests the coup attempt was staged 'likely had a role' in the insurrection." But there is more.
In a massive purge, the government sacked more than 60,000 civil servants from the military, judiciary, police, schools and academia, including 1,577 faculty deans who were suspended. More than 10,000 people have been arrested, and there are serious allegations of torture. Witnesses told Amnesty International that captured military officers were raped by police, hundreds of soldiers were beaten, and some detainees were denied food, water and access to lawyers for days. Turkish authorities also arrested 62 children and accused them of treason. The youngsters, aged 14 to 17, were from Kuleli Military School in Istanbul. The students have reportedly been thrown in jail and are not allowed to speak to their parents.
The witch-hunt is not in the governmental sector only. Several Turkish companies have fired hundreds of personnel suspected of having links with Gulen. Turkish Airlines, Turkey's national airline, fired 211 employees, including a vice-general manager and a number of cabin crew members.
Sadly, Turks had to choose between two unpleasant options: military dictatorship and elected dictatorship. The good news is that the coup attempt failed and Turkey is not a third-world dictatorship run by an unpredictable military general who loves to crush dissent. The bad news is that Turkey is run by an unpredictable, elected president who loves to crush dissent.
Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist for the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.