The coup attempt has still not fully been clarified after two years
It was a nightmare. When it started with road blocks on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul and jets flying over the Turkish Parliament in Ankara at around 9 p.m. on July 15, 2016, many of us wished it was something else; many of us thought the time of coup d’états was over.
No, that was it once again. At around 11 p.m. it was first Binali Yıldırım, the prime minister of the time, who said the action was an uprising within the military, not representing the chain of command and instigated by the illegal network of United States-based Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen.
At that point, people did not know where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was. Communication channels were not working well. Then, a TV journalist for private broadcaster CNN Türk, Hande Fırat, managed to reach Erdoğan via Facetime, who was on holiday with his family near the Aegean resort of Marmaris, and broadcast him live. That was the president’s first opportunity to call on people to resist against the coup, as they had already started to take to the streets against tanks and armored carriers seized by the coup soldiers.
A group of them had landed with an army helicopter in the parking lot of the headquarters of daily Hürriyet and CNN Türk and raided our newsrooms to cease our work. As journalists and media employees, we resisted their weapons as much of we could; three captains who had led the raid have been sentenced for life in prison because of that act, along with hundreds of others.
All four parties in the parliament have resisted the attempt in solidarity and did not leave the building amid bombing by F-16 fighter jets. The parties soon split over the state of emergency declared right after the coup attempt on July 20, 2016. Perhaps it was necessary in the first stages for the serious security dimension of the event, but later on turned into a domestic and international matter of argument due to the restriction of rights, courts, and media freedom and by-passing of parliament. Now, in its second year, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government is planning to end it by taking additional precautions in anti-terrorism law.
It would be much easier in ideological terms for Erdoğan and his conservative AK Parti if there was once again the secularist establishment behind the heinous coup attempt. But this time, it was also a religious conservative group, which had been a major ally of the AK Parti until 2012-2013, despite warnings by opposition parties that Gülenists (now indicted as the Fethullahist Terror Organization [FETÖ]) had ulterior motives and sooner or later would work against the government as well.
The members of Gülen’s illegal network who fled the country after the defeated coup attempt cause problems between Ankara and Washington and also with a number of European capitals. Turkey has been asking for the extradition of Gülen and his indicted followers from the U.S., about 400 dismissed military officers who asked for asylum in Germany, and eight dismissed officers, who escaped to Greece after the failure of the coup by stealing a helicopter.
Despite dozens of court cases opened regarding the coup attempt, there are still points that still remained unsolved and need to be clarified. How was it possible for coup plotters to organize such a widespread uprising without being detected by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), the military counterintelligence and police intelligence? Their infiltration into all of them is not enough to explain this deficiency.
On the other hand, the military was able to launch a major operation into Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) only five weeks after the coup attempt. Amid ongoing cleansing operations, the military is undergoing a major restructuring; Erdoğan said before the recent NATO Summit that Turkey was planning to put the military under the defense ministry, reminding that it was among the criteria for the European Union’s (EU) harmonization standard.
After all, it was a major trauma for Turkish people and society with continuing effects. In rhetoric, politicians say the cure is to improve the quality of democracy, but in practice, it is obvious there needs to be more effort.