Turkey marks failed coup that changed coun­try

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

ISTANBUL: Turkey marks one year on July 15 since a coup at­tempt aim­ing to top­ple Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan that failed within hours but etched far-reach­ing con­se­quences into its so­ci­ety and pol­i­tics. The coun­try is in the throes of the big­gest purge in its his­tory against al­leged coup sup­port­ers while Er­do­gan has seen his grip on power tight­ened rather than weak­ened. But Turkey is also fac­ing some iso­la­tion on the diplo­matic stage, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing tense re­la­tions with the European Union and the United States, and now try­ing to limit the dam­age from an ex­plo­sive cri­sis over its ally Qatar in the Gulf.

“One year on from the coup bid, Pres­i­dent Er­do­gan is stronger than ever,” said Ozgur Un­luhis­ar­cikli, Ankara of­fice di­rec­tor of the Ger­man Mar­shall Fund of the United States. But he added the crack­down has “un­avoid­ably weak­ened Turkey’s in­ter­na­tional stand­ing par­tic­u­larly vis-a-vis Europe and the United States.”

Mar­tyrs of July 15

On the night of July 15, 2016, an army fac­tion dis­grun­tled with Er­do­gan’s one-and-a-half decades of dom­i­na­tion sought to seize power, clos­ing the bridges in Istanbul, bomb­ing par­lia­ment in Ankara and de­ploy­ing tanks in the streets. But the coup bid un­rav­eled as Er­do­gan re­turned in tri­umph to Istanbul from hol­i­day and tens of thou­sands of or­di­nary Turks poured into the streets to op­pose the plot­ters. Two hun­dred and forty nine in­no­cent peo­ple died in the coup and are re­garded as “se­hitler” (mar­tyrs for Is­lam).

The au­thor­i­ties see the coup bid’s de­feat as a vic­tory for democ­racy and have re­named the Bospho­rus Bridge in Istanbul that was a cen­tre of the fight­ing the “Bridge of the 15 of July Mar­tyrs”. Ex­ten­sive com­mem­o­ra­tions are planned for Satur­day in­clud­ing a speech by Er­do­gan on the bridge, with July 15 now de­clared an an­nual hol­i­day, the Democ­racy and Na­tional Unity Day.

Ab­so­lute con­trol

Turkey’s long­est night left a litany of im­ages en­graved into the mem­ory-the tear-stained face of the state TV pre­sen­ter forced to make a state­ment by the coup plot­ters, or Er­do­gan peer­ing out through the FaceTime app as he made a live ap­peal to sup­port­ers. Er­do­gan swiftly said that the coup bid was mas­ter­minded by his one time ally turned neme­sis, the USbased Is­lamic preacher Fethul­lah Gulen who over decades as­sid­u­ously built up in­flu­ence in the ju­di­ciary, po­lice and the army.

From his se­cluded base in Penn­syl­va­nia, Gulen de­nied the charges. But Er­do­gan vowed to wipe out the “virus” of Gulen from Turk­ish in­sti­tu­tions. Turkey sub­se­quently em­barked on the most ex­ten­sive crack­down in its modern his­tory, ar­rest­ing over 50,000 peo­ple and sack­ing 100,000 more from their jobs. Crit­ics say the state of emer­gency im­posed last July 20 — which re­mains in place-has been used to go af­ter all op­po­nents of Er­do­gan, in­clud­ing crit­i­cal jour­nal­ists, ac­tivists and pro-Kur­dish politi­cians who op­posed the putsch bid.

Af­ter land­ing in Istanbul in one of the turn­ing points of the July 15 coup bid, Er­do­gan de­scribed the at­tempt as a “bless­ing from God” and crit­ics have ac­cused him of op­por­tunis­ti­cally ex­ploit­ing the events. On April 16, Er­do­gan nar­rowly won a ref­er­en­dum that from 2019 will grant him sweep­ing new pow­ers and also al­low him to re­sume his lead­er­ship of the rul­ing Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party (AKP). “His con­trol over the AKP is ab­so­lute and as a re­sult of the at­mos­phere of fear cre­ated through the post-coup at­tempt purges, his con­trol over the bu­reau­cracy, pri­vate sec­tor and me­dia are tighter than ever,” said Un­luhis­ar­cikli.

Be­trayal burned the heart

Turkey’s modern his­tory has been lit­tered with re­peated in­ter­ven­tions by the once all-pow­er­ful mil­i­tary, in­clud­ing the 1960 coup that led to the ex­e­cu­tion of then prime min­is­ter Ad­nan Men­deres, Er­do­gan’s po­lit­i­cal hero. The July 15 bid marked the first time in Turkey’s his­tory a mil­i­tary coup had be­tween thwarted and Er­do­gan rapidly put the mil­i­tary more un­der his di­rect con­trol. Around half of all Turk­ish gen­er­als were ei­ther ar­rested or fired af­ter the coup bid.

The coup’s de­feat even spawned an of­fi­cially-ap­proved an­them that blares out at Er­do­gan ral­lies: “On the night of July 15, the weather was hot/ an at­tempt of be­trayal that burned the heart”. Yet ques­tions re­main over the time­line, with tes­ti­mony in­di­cat­ing the army re­ceived in­tel­li­gence of a pos­si­ble upris­ing as early as the af­ter­noon of July 15. But Er­do­gan, who was hol­i­day­ing in the re­sort of Mar­maris, found out about the plot so late that, ac­cord­ing to his own state­ments, he was just 15 min­utes from death.

“Al­though it is nearly one year af­ter the coup, it does not seem easy to close the dis­cus­sion over the in­tel­li­gence as­pects,” wrote a colum­nist for the Hur­riyet daily, Se­dat Er­gin. As a NATO mem­ber and EU can­di­date, Turkey lamented the lack of Amer­i­can and European sol­i­dar­ity, with Ankara see­ing Brus­sels as more fix­ated on the en­su­ing crack­down than con­demn­ing the at­tempt to oust the demo­crat­i­cal­ly­elected gov­ern­ment. —AFP


ISTANBUL: A handout pic­ture take shows Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, cen­ter, US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, left, and Turkey’s For­eign Min­is­ter Mev­lut Cavu­soglu dur­ing their meet­ing in Istanbul.

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