Turkey’s coups

Turkey’s coups

The Supreme Court of Appeals has overturned convictions in the Ergenekon coup plot trial as the alleged Ergenekon Terror Organization could not be found and identified. The Ergenekon probe dates back to 2007 after a cache of explosives found at the home of a former military officer was alleged to be part of a big conspiracy against the government. Then it was tied to the separate “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) coup plot, but that was ended, too, when it was proved that evidence against the plotters was fabricated.

At the time, it was a big issue, and most democratic intellectuals, along with the governing party, presented the trial as a “historical case against the deep state apparatus” and considered the “Ergenekon issue” a giant step toward democratization in Turkey – so much so that those who were skeptical were accused of supporting plotters and the deep state. I, for one, was not only attacked by democratic intellectuals, but also accused of being part of the Balyoz plot after I raised some concerns about the trial and its discourse and suggested that it may not be a sign of democratization but might pave the way for the replacement of military hegemony with “civilian tyranny.” In the face of the undeniable injustice of the Ergenekon trials, one of the arrogant democrats of the time infamously suggested that “the innocent may sometimes suffer along with the guilty” (a Turkish saying which can be literally translated as “alongside the dry, the green sometimes also burns.”)

Now, the blame has been pinned on the Gülen movement on account of allegations that some police officers and judges acted on commands from Fethullah Gülen. It is sheer chutzpah on the part of the government and its politicians but unfortunately, the claims have worked well for the ruling party to whitewash a great political and judicial scandal with such ease. Moreover, now we have another coup case and another terror organization that is being accused of plotting a coup against the government and indeed the Turkish state.

Now, the new enemy is the Gülen movement, which is alleged to have established a “parallel state” and managed to deceive the ruling party for years. Now, the alleged members of the group are being prosecuted for being members of the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) terrorist group. It can only be described as an expression of sardonic humor to call the actors who were supported by the ruling party and given the green light to stop a supposed coup personified by the status quo ante as coup plotters themselves.

In the Old Turkey, military coups were staged to “fix civilian politics,” but in the New Turkey, it is now coup allegations that work to eliminate political enemies. This is the tragic history of “coup politics” in Turkey. So far, so bad.

By the way, if anybody wonders why I was skeptical of the Ergenekon trials from the beginning, it hardly needs mentioning that I was never among the apologists of the status quo or the Old Turkey at all in my life.

I was skeptical for various reasons that I detailed extensively at the time, but my major concern derived from the fact that the Ergenekon myth (as I called it) had nothing to do with a serious encounter with the authoritarian aspects of Turkish politics, in my view. It was not based on a real critique of the issues of Turkey’s political ills, namely, “the authoritarian state,” militarism and Turkish nationalism. Moreover I sensed that such a comic theater would hinder the chance for real criticism and encounter. The ruling party’s game was only about eliminating secularist political power and its guardians so that it could enforce its own brand of authoritarian politics in their stead.