Er­do­gan, please act wisely

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

On Satur­day July 16, a fac­tion of the Turk­ish army launched a coup at­tempt against the govern­ment of Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan. A group call­ing it­self the “Coun­cil for Peace in the Home­land” de­clared mar­tial law and a cur­few, say­ing it had launched the coup “to en­sure and re­store con­sti­tu­tional or­der, democ­racy, hu­man rights and free­doms and let the supremacy of the law in the coun­try pre­vail… ”The coup at­tempt was put down af­ter sev­eral hours due to re­sis­tance by the pub­lic and also be­cause ma­jor­ity of sol­diers and the po­lice stood by the elected govern­ment.

We join the rest of the world in con­demn­ing the at­tempted coup in Turkey which led to the loss of more than 200 lives. Even though Turkey has had a his­tory of mil­i­tary coups, it has been a sta­ble democ­racy for more than a decade now, even though with a lot of hu­man rights and in­tol­er­ance prob­lems. The Turk­ish mil­i­tary tra­di­tion­ally sees it­self as the guardian of the sec­u­lar­ist mod­ern Turk­ish state founded by Mustafa Ke­mal Ataturk in 1923. Since 1960, it has over­thrown four Turk­ish gov­ern­ments but al­ways re­stored demo­cratic rule af­ter some pe­riod of time.

While we con­demn the coup in Turkey, we also frown at its tur­bu­lent af­ter­math. From all in­di­ca­tions Pres­i­dent Er­do­gan, who is known to be in­tol­er­ant of op­po­si­tion, plans to use the coup to sup­press all op­po­si­tion to his rule once and for all by ar­rest­ing thou­sands of sol­diers and politi­cians, ban­ning many as­so­ci­a­tions, purg­ing thou­sands of judges and civil ser­vants and clos­ing down schools and news­pa­pers. There are even al­le­ga­tions that Er­do­gan stage man­aged the coup in or­der to use it as a pre­text to fur­ther his au­thor­i­tar­ian rule. But Turk­ish am­bas­sador to Nige­ria Mr. Hakan Cakil, has de­nied that the at­tempted coup d’état was staged man­aged. He said that such in­sin­u­a­tions from cer­tain sec­tions of the in­ter­na­tional me­dia were “reck­less, cruel and in­sen­si­tive.”

Er­do­gan him­self put the blame for the coup on sup­port­ers of his arch-foe, US-based Turk­ish cleric Fethul­lah Gulen, whose Hizmet move­ment has al­ready de­nied be­ing be­hind the coup at­tempt and con­demned it “in the strong­est terms.” Al­ready, there is wide­spread con­cern of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in the sweep­ing purges the govern­ment has car­ried out that have left at least 10,000 peo­ple in jail and another 60,000 re­lieved of their jobs. Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said it has “cred­i­ble ev­i­dence” that coup plot de­tainees are be­ing tor­tured, beaten, raped and de­nied food and wa­ter in of­fi­cial and un­of­fi­cial de­ten­tion cen­tres across Turkey.

Er­do­gan, who won the 2014 elec­tion with 52 per­cent of the vote, mak­ing him “the first di­rectly elected pres­i­dent of the peo­ple”, has im­posed a three-month state of emer­gency and de­tained or dis­missed tens of thou­sands of peo­ple in the mil­i­tary, the ju­di­ciary, the education sys­tem and other in­sti­tu­tions and may have also ruled out early elec­tions. We join the world in warn­ing Pres­i­dent Er­do­gan to act wisely in this sit­u­a­tion and not turn a na­tional tragedy into an op­por­tu­nity for per­sonal po­lit­i­cal ben­e­fit. We be­lieve that his au­thor­i­tar­ian and in­tol­er­ant style of rule and his in­or­di­nate am­bi­tion to rule Turkey un­chal­lenged and in per­pe­tu­ity by turn­ing his cer­e­mo­nial of­fice into a pow­er­ful ex­ec­u­tive pres­i­dency fu­elled the griev­ances that led to this coup at­tempt, un­jus­ti­fied though it was.

We con­demn the killing of civil­ians, clo­sure of sev­eral me­dia out­lets as well as the ar­rest and clam­p­down on aca­demi­cians es­pe­cially the re­cently is­sued de­ten­tion war­rants for 42 jour­nal­ists as part of an in­quiry. This is com­ing on the heels of seizure of more than 2,250 so­cial, ed­u­ca­tional or health care in­sti­tu­tions and fa­cil­i­ties that the govern­ment claims pose a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity. We praise Turk­ish cit­i­zens for the mas­sive show of sup­port for democ­racy, and not nec­es­sar­ily for Er­do­gan. Mil­i­tary coup is nei­ther tol­er­a­ble nor fash­ion­able it nar­rows the po­lit­i­cal space, sti­fles eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties and re­stricts per­sonal free­doms. Turk­ish democ­racy was saved from the coup plot­ters but it could yet be de­stroyed by Er­do­gan’s high handed and in­tol­er­ant ways.

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