‘AK Party able to bring millions to the street in one hour’
I recently asked Mustafa Ataş, the head of the organization of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), whether the government had run any drills for what would happen in the event of a coup d’état before the July 15 coup attempt.
He replied “No” and looked at me with a surprised expression. “A coup d’état never crossed our minds because we thought they were a thing of the past. There was not even a one-in-a-thousand probability in our minds,” he replied.
The reason I asked this question is that the AK Party branches were very swiftly organized on the night of the coup attempt, mobilizing heavy vehicles to block the military barracks.
In Turkish political history, no other political party has staged such a resistance against any coup d’état. This was a first. I spoke to Ataş in order to learn more about the mechanism within the AK Party on that night.
“Our prime minister called us at 10:25 p.m. He said a coup attempt was possibly ongoing. He asked me to call our branches to ask members to go to our province and district headquarters with Turkish flags, to take to central squares. As the head of the AK Party’s organization, I have seven deputies, each one covering 12 to 13 provinces. I called all of them and told them to get in touch with each of their branches. I personally called the provincial heads of the biggest cities. Within half an hour, we had reached all provinces,” Ataş said.
At 11:30 p.m. SMS messages were sent from the headquarters. “We have about 10 million registered members. Our IT service sent text messages to our members at 11:30 p.m. Provincial organizations also sent out text messages separately. That night, 30 million text messages were sent,” he added.
In the first text message, protecting democracy was emphasized and members were asked to take their Turkish flags and head to local party offices.
Ataş told me that after the party’s 2015 congress, they realized that they could reach only 3 million of their 9 million members. When member contact information was updated, about 7 million members were able to be reached.
What if the internet fails, text messages cannot be sent, and phones are out of order?
Ataş said they had considered these possibilities and developed an alternative system. In such an eventuality one member would be able to reach 10 members, 10 members would reach 100 members, and so on…
“We have the power to make millions take to the streets in one hour by instructing our organizational branches,” Ataş said.
Within a short period of time, on the night of the coup, strategic locations were held.
At around 10:45 p.m., local administrations’ heavy vehicles were driven to the main entrance and exits of cities, main junctions, and at the entrances of military facilities. The parliament, the AK Party headquarters, the Presidential Complex and the Prime Ministerial Mansion were all swarmed with people.
But it was not only AK Party members who took to the streets that night. Party members, non-members, pro-government and anti-government people all took to the streets to protect democracy. That is the great honor of this nation. Upon the call of the president, people took to the streets and marched against the tanks.
“President Erdoğan’s call from the screens of CNN Türk changed the destiny of the country. Nobody but Recep Tayyip Erdoğan could have done this,” Ataş said.
What was the motivation, the emotional sentiment that caused people to risk their lives and resist the coup attempt? The secret of this lays within Erdoğan’s leadership.