The Gülenist faction within the Turkish Armed Forces attempted a coup on 15th of July against President Erdoğan, leading to huge turmoil some of which is still ongoing, albeit fading away. In addition to the confusion inside the country, the international community is puzzled and many outside are trying to understand what is actually going on.
The attempted coup was an example of the decapitation strike method. As the faction did not have the support of the rank and file members of the army, they had to focus all their force to decapitate the military’s high command, destroying the chain of command and forcing all opponents of Erdoğan to support them as the only remaining disciplined and armed force within the borders.
However, the rapid reaction of the Turkish police and intervention by civilians who President Erdoğan urged to gather and protest, made them unable to achieve most of their goals. Since the very beginning, the coup attempt lost its impetus and perpetrators found themselves in a defending position – a surprising turn, as they were supposed to be attacking. This caused them to be even more desperate; they bombed the National Grand Assembly and headquarters of the Special Police Forces and Intelligence Agency. Eventually, most of them were arrested thanks to the resistance of army commanders that evaded being detained by the mutineers, order was restored, and since then, here and there only individual rebels resisted the police operations. The Chief of Staff and other commanders were rescued from the hands of the rebels, and today the armed conflict seems to be over.
However, something is still ongoing in Turkey: many members of juridical bodies, judges, prosecutors, and, of course, military officers are still being arrested. The number of those arrested is reaching great numbers – more than 3,000 people, according to the Prime Minister, with the list being predetermined before the coup. This brings benefits to Erdoğan.
First, Erdoğan is now free to dominate the domestic politics of Turkey as he wants. He urged civilians to go out and protest, leading to a rise in civilian casualties (161 government forces and civilians, and more than 1000 people wounded). Thus, he was able to stir a huge sentiment among supporters of Turkey’s largest Justice and Development Party (AKP), of which he is former President, persuading them further that he is battling against a huge conspiracy that threatens democracy in Turkey. Ironically, those “democratic” protesters lynched privates that were abandoned by their mutinous commanders.
As Erdoğan was the one who repeatedly violated the constitution, and Minister of Interior Efkan Ala even said “we do not recognize the constitution,” this gives reason to believe that the unsuccessful coup will make him lean even more on illegal means of manipulating the country. Armed, islamist-looking civilians resembling paramilitary forces of fascist organizations are seen during the protests.
His second benefit is to redesign the army completely according to his taste. A historic parallel could be traced to Stalin’s infamous collaboration with Hitler’s intelligence officers to fabricate false documents regarding a Trotskyist coup supported by his famous rival General Tukhachevsky, after which the to-be dictator had an excuse to start a great purge. During Turkish Coup D’etat in 1960, a similar witch-hunt with the aim of eradicating Turkey’s west-wary opposition. Therefore, it is likely that Erdoğan is going to change Turkey’s international course completely.
Thirdly, Erdoğan now has another chance to convince the international community that Gülen is a terrorist. While that is likely to be true, Erdoğan, however, was unable to find support. In addition, his former collaboration with Gülen restricted his maneuverability. This coup attempt may provide a chance to again persuade international leaders, though the first reactions did not display much persuasion. Therefore, it is likely that even if Erdoğan didn’t “fake” the coup he was aware of it and didn’t take action to stop it. Gülenists, fearing that incoming Grand Military Council will fire them from the army, acted in haste, without proper preparation and careful planning. The clumsiness of the initial operations and harshness, nothing-to-win bombings during the later phase make this seem like a likely scenario.
During Ergenekon and Balyoz trials of the unsuccessful coup in 2010, of which Erdoğan, in his own words, was “the prosecutor of this trial,” many members of the military were arrested, jailed or forced to retire to make room for Gülenist officers. Back then, Erdoğan was trying to find strong allies in the west, and as he now wants to lean more on the Russian side, he is now “cleaning” all potential opposition within the army. He ordered the arrests of numerous military members, even high commanders that immediately condemned the coup while it was going on. One would think that if the coup had such little support, as its clumsiness and unsuccessful outcome demonstrates, what do so many officers have to do with the conspiracy? If they were so numerous, on the other hand, how come they managed to fail?
The West had supported both Erdoğan and Gülen at different periods. Erdoğan was supported in order to “civilize” Turkey when they were annoyed by the high influence of the military over politics. However, democracy is a regime of checks and balances, and the military in Turkey was a guarantee of secularism, a parliamentary republic, and legalism. Today, the Gülenist movement is still backed by various western organizations, yet it is not much different from Erdoğan: both are anti-secularist Islamists, therefore they are also anti-republican and anti-democratic.
But in fact, neither side is worth the West’s support. If the western nations really hold values such as democracy, human rights, legalism etc with high regard, they should support Meral Akşener. She is the only potential politician who can hold her ground before Erdoğan and challenge his infamous manipulations and demagogy. She is a nationalist and an advocate of democracy, secular republic, human rights and women’s struggle.
The West has always resented Turkish nationalism. If the international community once again supports either Erdoğan or Gülen’s side, Turkey will be ruined by a conventional or post-modern civil war. I hope Ms. Akşener will emerge as the hope for my nation, and the international community will not support another Islamist this time.