Turkey’s coup: Ques­tions linger one year on

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Just be­fore mid­night on July 15, 2016, a tear-stained an­chor­woman, clearly un­der duress, ap­peared on Turk­ish state tele­vi­sion to an­nounce the pur­ported seizure of power by the army. Shortly after she read the state­ment-said to be in the name of the armed forces-war planes bombed Ankara and tanks surged into the streets of Is­tan­bul in a night of vi­o­lence that left 249 peo­ple dead. But 12 hours later, Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim was able to ap­pear out­side his of­fices to de­clare that this “ig­no­min­ious bid” to seize power “has been de­feated”.

The coup’s de­feat was rapid and the con­se­quences mer­ci­less, as the big­gest crackdown in Turk­ish his­tory tar­geted sup­port­ers of the US-based preacher Fethul­lah Gulen, who was blamed for the coup but de­nies the charges. Yet ques­tions re­main over the time­line of the events on July 15, with Turkey’s op­po­si­tion look­ing for an­swers with in­creased stri­dency. How come the coup erupted un­de­tected by Turkey’s vast in­tel­li­gence ser­vice and was then put down so quickly?

Why was in­for­ma­tion gar­nered on the af­ter­noon of July 15 that some­thing se­ri­ous was afoot not shared with Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan? And why have key fig­ures failed to give per­sonal tes­ti­mony to a par­lia­men­tary com­mis­sion sup­posed to in­ves­ti­gate the failed coup bid? “We are not see­ing an open in­ves­ti­ga­tion. It’s been very, very dis­ap­point­ing and in fact very fright­en­ing,” Gareth Jenk­ins, Is­tan­bul­based non-res­i­dent se­nior re­search fel­low at the Silk Road Stud­ies Pro­gram said. The gov­ern­ment in­sists that it is not hid­ing any­thing and has de­cried claims of a cover-up as an in­sult to those who lost their lives de­feat­ing the coup.

Mas­sive ac­tion

Wit­ness tes­ti­monies pub­lished in Turk­ish me­dia from a par­lia­men­tary com­mis­sion and tri­als of sus­pects showed in­tel­li­gence chief Hakan Fi­dan and the head of the mil­i­tary, Gen­eral Hu­lusi Akar, were aware of a plot as early as the af­ter­noon of July 15. An army he­li­copter pi­lot, iden­ti­fied only as Ma­jor OK went to the head­quar­ters of the spy agency in Ankara at 2:20 pm on the af­ter­noon of July 15 and warned of­fi­cials that some ac­tion-at least against the Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice (MIT) — was afoot.

“I said there could be a mas­sive ac­tion and even a coup,” the wit­ness re­port­edly said. “I re­mem­ber very well that I used the word ‘coup’.” The warn­ing was passed on by the MIT to the army at around 4:30 pm. Fi­dan then met with Akar. Yet Er­do­gan said he found out about the failed putsch from his brother-in-law late in the evening of July 15, not from the se­cret ser­vice.

Akar was held by the coup plot­ters through­out the night. He re­turned to cen­tral Ankara by he­li­copter in the morn­ing, ac­com­pa­nied by Gen­eral Mehmet Disli, who was later ar­rested on charges of be­ing one of the key plot­ters. Spe­cial forces com­man­der Zekai Ak­sakalli re­port­edly crit­i­cised the top mil­i­tary com­man­der for his fail­ure to shut Turk­ish airspace to all flights while he has also been crit­i­cised for not con­fin­ing sol­diers to bar­racks that night.

Question marks

In Oc­to­ber, a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee made up of law­mak­ers from po­lit­i­cal par­ties rep­re­sented in the par­lia­ment started in­ves­ti­gat­ing the failed coup. The op­po­si­tion de­manded both Fi­dan and Akar be called to ap­pear. But the calls were re­jected by the rul­ing party. “We are not pros­e­cu­tors, nor judges. We will not con­vict any­one. We only wanted to re­ceive a re­sponse to our ques­tions,” Sez­gin Tan­rikulu, MP from the main op­po­si­tion Repub­li­can Peo­ple’s Party (CHP), said. “Un­for­tu­nately, they kick this op­por­tu­nity away... and the question marks will con­tinue to hang,” Tan­rikulu, who is a mem­ber of the com­mit­tee, said. After lis­ten­ing to for­mer army chiefs, a for­mer spy chief as well as bu­reau­crats and wit­nesses, the com­mit­tee was or­dered to wrap up its work in De­cem­ber, one month ear­lier than sched­uled. “It may be that the gov­ern­ment has some­thing sin­is­ter to hide. Maybe it is just hid­ing its own in­com­pe­tence be­cause of the re­sponse to the coup. It was very, very chaotic, it was not well or­ga­nized,” said Jenk­ins. “We hope even­tu­ally that the truth will come out,” he added.

The CHP’s leader, Ke­mal Kil­ic­daroglu, had in­fu­ri­ated the gov­ern­ment by us­ing the term “con­trolled coup”-claim­ing the au­thor­i­ties knew in ad­vance about the plot, al­lowed the coup to play out in or­der to profit from it later. Tes­ti­mony has sug­gested that in fact the plot­ters wanted to launch the coup at 3:00 am on the morn­ing of July 16 but brought for­ward the plan to around 10:00 pm on July 15 after au­thor­i­ties got wind of it. Ques­tions also linger over who was be­hind the coup and which po­lit­i­cal lead­ers the plot­ters wanted to take over should it have been suc­cess­ful.

The gov­ern­ment says that the plot was a straight­for­ward at­tempt to take over power by Gulen’s group, which it calls the “Fethul­lah Ter­ror Group (FETO)”. But some ob­servers see the re­al­ity as more nu­anced. “It was prob­a­bly an al­liance of cir­cum­stance be­tween Gu­lenist, Ke­mal­ist (sec­u­lar) of­fi­cers and op­por­tunists,” said a Euro­pean diplo­matic source. “It was badly pre­pared and badly ex­e­cuted.”—AFP

NETHER­LANDS: Peo­ple wave Turk­ish flags dur­ing a cer­e­mony mark­ing the an­niver­sary of last year’s failed coup at­tempt in Turkey, and or­ga­nized by the Union of Euro­pean Turk­ish Democrats (UETD), at the Or­pheus the­atre in Apel­doorn.—AFP

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