A TURN­ING POINT FOR TUR­KEY

Re­mem­ber­ing the ter­ror­ist coup at­tempt of July 15

New Straits Times - - NEWS / NATION -

“IHAVE yet to see any power greater than that of the peo­ple” chal­lenged Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan foes of his coun­try that night, up in the air, as his plane en­sconced in the dark­ness.

Ac­com­pa­ny­ing him in the flight were his ex­tended fam­ily in­clud­ing his grand­chil­dren among whom was also a new­born. The date was sig­nif­i­cant.

July 15, 2016, started like any other day, lit­tle we knew then that it would usher Tur­key into a new era on its long jour­ney into democrati­sa­tion marred by many coup d’etat over the years. This time though, it was dif­fer­ent.

Un­like the sys­tem­atic in­ter­ven­tions that re­sulted in 1960, 1971, 1980, 1997 top­pling of duly elected gov­ern­ments and the en­su­ing “e-mem­o­ran­dum” of 2007, this time the re­ac­tion of the Turk­ish na­tion would be dif­fer­ent.

What was com­ing dur­ing the hours into the night and en­su­ing dawn, was the de­feat of an egre­gious coup plot by the cit­i­zens of Tur­key in­side out. The coup at­tempt was car­ried out by maybe the least ex­pected, a self-pro­fessed quasi-re­li­gious group namely FETO (Fethul­lah Gulen Ter­ror­ist Or­gan­i­sa­tion), to put it more rightly, a modern day cult with per­ni­cious mo­tives to de­stroy a rapidly democratis­ing so­ci­ety.

The na­tion, com­prised peo­ple from dif­fer­ent walks of life, cul­tures, re­li­gious de­nom­i­na­tions or eth­nic back­grounds and vary­ing his­tor­i­cal or po­lit­i­cal her­itages stood still in re­solve, in no time, be­hind their leader, aka “Reis” the Turk­ish Pres­i­dent to re­spond.

Since tak­ing the na­tional scene as the leader of Tur­key at the out­set of the mil­len­nium, Er­do­gan, as part of his com­mit­ment to democratis­ing the coun­try was deter­mined to do away with the par­al­lel state fac­tions in­fest­ing the po­lit­i­cal ma­chin­ery. That very night, as he called out upon his peo­ple to take the streets and fight for their will power, he knew that there was no go­ing back for the na­tion. No longer suc­cumb­ing to the pow­ers that be to re­pro­duce de­pen­dency and com­mit­ted to con­tinue on the road to a sus­tain­able eco­nomic, so­cial and po­lit­i­cal devel­op­ment in their own right, the peo­ple of Tur­key heard him out thus fol­lowed suit.

The July 15 coup at­tempt was a bla­tant as­sail­ment on Tur­key’s sovereignty that, by all means, be­longed to no­body but its peo­ple. The na­tion ac­knowl­edged that the mas­ter plan­ner(s) be­hind the at­tacks would wish for Tur­key to go back to its old self of docile stance ready to bow to some of the long­stand­ing pow­ers of the world.

That Tur­key was in­vari­ably star-struck by them. On that par­tic­u­lar warm sum­mer day, the im­age of an un­der­priv­i­leged Tur­key was long gone. Tur­key now was de­mand­ing to stand on equal grounds in a lev­eled play­ing field with self-con­fi­dence and stature of un­pre­ten­tious de­meanour.

Tur­key, a home not just to Turks but to 3.5 mil­lion Syr­ian guests be­came a role model for mil­lions with its gen­uine stance against vi­o­lence, poverty, sick­ness and more. A fer­vent pro­po­nent of so­cial jus­tice and eq­uity, Turk­ish lead­er­ship drew world’s at­ten­tion to the dis­par­i­ties en­gen­dered by man-made con­di­tion­al­i­ties stemmed from the chasm be­tween the haves and the have-nots. Pres­i­dent Er­do­gan’s lamen­ta­tion in this re­spect, is em­bed­ded in his ubiq­ui­tously re­ferred state­ment which read “the world is greater than five”.

In short, Er­do­gan’s Tur­key grew coura­geous enough to overtly pin­point the ills of world eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal sys­tems. Tur­key grew 4.5 per cent be­tween 1923 and 2002, in other words, up un­til Er­do­gan’s Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Party (AKP) came to power since the in­cep­tion of the repub­lic.

Be­tween 2003 and 2016, on the other hand, Tur­key’s growth rate soared up to 5.7 per cent. That is to say, the strides made un­der AKP’s decade and half long reign, in re­spec­tive ar­eas pur­port to more sig­nif­i­cance than what has un­til then been car­ried out by any other gov­ern­ment in of­fice. Po­lit­i­cal lib­er­al­i­sa­tion and eco­nomic devel­op­ment went hand in hand on Er­do­gan’s watch.

Long awaited eco­nomic boom was not a co­in­ci­den­tal byprod­uct of his ref­or­ma­tion poli­cies. Nei­ther was the fact that Tur­key cleared out the en­tirety of its debts to the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund only a few years af­ter AKP as­sumed of­fice. These were the end re­sults of metic­u­lous ef­forts and earnest­ness of a vi­sion­ary team un­der Er­do­gan lead­er­ship.

Tur­key’s GDP growth rate for the first quar­ter of 2018 was 7.3 per cent, rank­ing it sec­ond on the list of G20 coun­tries af­ter In­dia and right above China. Fur­ther­more, while Tur­key was not able to build on to any sig­nif­i­cance on in­no­va­tive tech­nol­ogy by 2000, it is now ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing a siz­able por­tion of its de­fence in­dus­try, in­clud­ing the un­manned air and ground ve­hi­cles.

Two years ago on that in­fa­mous night, cog­nisant of be­fore and af­ter, what has so far been gained and what could then go in vain, with no trep­i­da­tion, vac­il­la­tion in their minds or fear in their hearts, masses took on the tanks head­ing to­wards them and the bul­lets sniped at them. Men, women and chil­dren, the young and the old, the left­ists with the right­ist joined hands in thwart­ing the most atro­cious at­tack in modern Tur­key’s his­tory to change the turn of events in that very night.

Some 248 lost their lives, some smashed un­der the pal­lets of the tanks which were roam­ing the streets of Is­tan­bul, some with their heads blown up, brains scat­tered all around, with one goal in mind: to pro­tect what is theirs, the in­alien­able gift of rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­racy. Across the board, 2,193 peo­ple were wounded as a re­sult of at­tacks on civil­ians by hov­er­ing F16s and bombings on the Pres­i­den­tial Com­plex, the Turk­ish Par­lia­ment, the Head­quar­ters of Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions, Turk­ish Armed Forces Head­quar­ters.

The ex­pe­ri­ence of the July 15 coup at­tempt was a hard les­son learned, but, un­doubt­edly a telling one. Never and ever again, one could usurp the will power of the Turk­ish na­tion to suc­ceed and thrive.

The July 15 coup at­tempt was a bla­tant as­sail­ment on Tur­key’s sovereignty that, by all means, be­longed to no­body but its peo­ple. The na­tion ac­knowl­edged that the mas­ter plan­ner(s) be­hind the at­tacks would wish for Tur­key to go back to its old self of docile stance ready to bow to some of the long­stand­ing pow­ers of the world.

The writer is the am­bas­sador of the Turk­ish Repub­lic to Malaysia

REUTERS PIC

Peo­ple shout slo­gans and wave Turk­ish na­tional flags as they gather in sol­i­dar­ity, night af­ter night, since the July 15 coup at­tempt in cen­tral Ankara.

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