July 15: United we stand, divided we fall
The Kurdish opening initiated by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to solve Turkey’s Kurdish problem as well as the famous “zero problems with neighbors” policy was a reflection of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s famous “peace at home, peace in the world” motto.
Filled with the aspiration of becoming an active middle power, AKP’s ruling elites realized that this aspiration could not have been fulfilled if Turkey was not in peace with itself and its neighbors.
The successors of Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, failed to implement his motto, as they have been incremental in aggravating existing grievances while creating new ones domestically. On foreign policy, they might have refrained from creating new troubles but lacked self-confidence, initiative and creativity to solve problems.
While the AKP started several initiatives, it fell victim to overconfidence and an ideology heavily tainted by religious views.
Prior to the arrival of the AKP’s succession to power, the Turkish society did have many internal divisions, including secularism versus piety, liberals versus conservatives, and rightwing versus leftwing. With the AKP, the society has been divided into two: supporters of the AKP and opponents of the AKP. This is a tremendously dangerous polarization; so dangerous that even Gülenist putschists, who undoubtedly were dreaming of replacing the government in the mid-term with an Islamofascist regime, thought they could get the support of secular segments assuming that opponents to the AKP would like to see the fall of the government even if it comes with a military coup. In the end, however, it was the secular soldiers who quelled the coup.
It would be awfully disrespectful to the memory of more than 200 civilians who died standing against the putschist tanks and bombs to say that the coup was averted thanks only to the effort of the secular soldiers. Similarly, it would be equally disrespectful to the memory of the dead soldiers to claim that it was only thanks to civilians that the coup was thwarted. It would have been extremely difficult to avert the coup had all of the members of the armed forces sided with the putschists.
Yet, pictures prepared by the presidency that are being posted all across Turkey on the first anniversary of the coup attempt are prioritizing civilians while depicting soldiers in a humiliated and miserable way. The government itself has blamed the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) for the coup and never the army as an institution. Therefore, it has been tremendously unfortunate to spread a message that could be interpreted as denigrating the army. Another formula could have been found to underline the democratic resistance civilians have showed without creating potential resentment.
The failed coup offered a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between the polarized segments of the society. This opportunity was wasted as it was used as an occasion to further oppress dissenting voices, consolidating the polarization in the country further.
The first anniversary of the coup attempt could have been marked by a spirit of joy, saluting the unity of the nation and success of democratic forces over despotic ones, without forgetting the lost souls.
Yet if millions joined main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in his “Justice March” against all the injustices that have taken place after the coup, and if half of the nation feels as though they are living in a climate of fear, that unfortunately overshadows the democratic resistance displayed by millions on the night of the coup attempt, as the aftermath has not made Turkey more democratic.
It seems that while half of the nation will get mobilized to mark the anniversary of the coup attempt, the other half will have a bitter feeling about it.
The president and the government continue to aspire making Turkey an influential middle power, yet it has never been surrounded by such a hostile environment as it is in currently today. Turkey can’t be strong in the world if it remains divided, therefore weak internally. The anniversary of the coup attempt should have been an occasion to remember that united we stand, divided we fall.