Turkey: Erdogan Marks Coup anniversary with more Crackdowns

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey commemorated on Saturday the anniversary of the failed coup in that country.

The coup attempt was genuinely unpopular. Erdogan blames it on the Gulen movement, a shadowy cult-like organization that for years was allied with Erdogan.

But in the aftermath, Erdogan took the failed coup as the pretext under which to strengthen the central state. He had had some 150,000 persons fired from government jobs, and arrested 100,000. Obviously, 250,000 people did not conspire to overthrow Erdogan on July 15. Moreover, many of those targeted had nothing to do with the Gulen movement, but had simply criticized Erdogan from a secular or leftist point of view.

Supporters of the center left Republican People’s Party (CHP), which now holds about 25% of the seats in parliament but had ruled Turkey for most of the 20th century, had rallied last Sunday in the thousands to protest Erdogan’s assault on the rule of law and civil liberties.

In his Istanbul speech on Saturday, Erdogan pledged to sign any law sent him by parliament reinstating the death penalty, which Turkey had abolished in 2004 as part of its attempt to join the European Union. He said of the coup plotters, “We will chop off their heads.” He also urged that they be made to appear in court in orange jumpsuits like those the US makes prisoners in Guantanamo wear. Obviously, such a procedure would prejudice the judge against the defendants even though they might not have been proved guilty by other means. Turkey would certainly be removed from any queue for EU membership if it resumes executing people.

Erdogan fired another 7,000 government workers on Saturday on political grounds.

Meanwhile, the The Republican People’s Party (CHP) announced that it would boycott the special night meeting on the coup, complaining that the talks by by its leaders had been cancelled. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu did address parliament. In Erdogan’s own speech the president branded the opposition leader a coward for not coming into the streets a year ago in the face of the coup.

In essence, the coup failed. But Erdogan’s countercoup has succeeded gloriously, and has functioned as a sort of a coup in its own right, turning Turkey definitively into a banana republic for the foreseeable future. It is a sad end to the brief turn 2002-2012 of Turkish politics toward greater pluralism and openness.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

PBS NewsHour: “Turkey continues crackdown one year after failed coup”

6 Responses

  1. There is no single thing as Democracy. As I wrote elsewhere, most national leaders hide behind the notion that periodic elections at variously free ballot boxes define democracy. This is a convenient illusion because those leaders, once elected then forget the masses in favour of small interest groups, normally financial or commercial, but in some cases even extra-national. Democracy as practised in the US, for instance, does not suit everyone. It’s not an issue that benefits from value judgement, it’s just a fact. The guy in the video says half the Turkish citizenry oppose Erdogan which is presumably why he is systematically reducing the more notable of their number. The practice is as old as time and a 5th century example is recorded in Herodotus link to perseus.tufts.edu but it is also to be found in several places in Machiavelli’s extensive oeuvre. Nothing very radical about it at all.

  2. Juan,
    For years I have relied on your blog for deeply informed commentary which is why I am puzzled at the use of the pejorative terms “shadowy” and “cult-like” in reference to the Hizmet movement inspired by Fethullah Gulen. I am an expert in neither Turkey nor Hizmet, but I have been teaching Middle Eastern history for 37 years. I have also interacted with Hizmet members for many years in the U.S. and in Turkey. Nothing in my experience accurately describes them as “shadowy” or “cult-like.” I would be happy to be further enlightened. Thanks for all that you are doing.

    • thanks for your comment, Don. Hizmet is not transparent about virtually anything–organization, leadership, money, etc, hence shadowy. It clearly infiltrated key Turkish institutions and recorded individuals, which is creepy behavior. I define cults as religious movements that demand high degrees of obedience and secretly engage in deviant behavior.

  3. Proof that leaders rarely improve in their second decade in office and almost never if they stay longer. One of the things I respected about Nelson Mandela was that having overthrown the Apartheid government and steered the country clear of civil war, he knew that even if he could do a better job than the people around him, he had to give them a chance to grow. Autocratic leaders eliminate all potential successors around them, like a tall tree casting shade on all the other plants within their radius. Then, when they fall or die, there is no one to replace them.

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