Erdogan, please act wisely
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.