Looking back at July 15 on its fourth anniversary
If helicopter pilot Major O.K., tasked at Ankara Güvercinlik Army Aviation Regiment, did not back out from joining the coup - as a result of a conscientious reckoning - and did not disclose the plan by meeting with the Nationalist Intelligence Organization (MİT) at the last minute, and if the Fetullahist criminal organization did not start the coup earlier after being aware of some precautions (taken against them), what would have happened to the course of history in Turkey?
We can also unfold the question as follows: If the implementation of the coup took place during the early hours of July 16, at 3.00 a.m., while the majority of people in Turkey were sleeping, what would have happened? To what kind of Turkey would we wake up?
It is not possible to rewind the course of history and look at it with an assumption through a new fiction. However, this still does not prevent us from making a series of predictions, within reason.
If the execution of the coup took place during morning hours, without anyone noticing, we can guess that the putschists would have had the first-mover advantage and would hold the benefit it would have granted them. Thus, the organization of mass resistance could have faced obstacles, at least during the beginning.
Nevertheless, with the political cadres and a large part of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) resisting the coup and the mobilization of the police and the public — regardless of the delay, there would have been a much severe conflict period, in comparison to the situation witnessed on July 15. Yet, eventually, the “powers of democracy” would have risen triumphant from this fight.
However, a much more chaotic environment than July 15 would have become inevitable, and the price the country would have paid would have been higher in all respects. All in all, Turkey would not have been handed over to Fetullah Gülen.
One of the benefits in commemorating July 15 over these assumptions is that it creates the chance for us to deeply think of how Turkey turned away from the verge of such a big disaster, or rather from the brink of an abyss.
Of course, while thinking about this fact, we should not avoid confronting the answers to the question: “How did such an insidious organization penetrate the most delicate capillaries of the state’s institutions with a systematic and persistent effort spanning decades?”
No matter how malicious the July 15 coup attempt was, an auspicial result it has led to is the emergence of a social consensus against a coup attempt, which is rare in Turkey’s history.
The ruling party, oppositional parties, and a vast range of the public’s segments were able to stand on the same side with a common stance. For the first time, in a country which had been subjected to the irreparable destruction of the coup d’etat tradition, a vital test was passed regarding protecting democracy from a coup attempt, and an extremely critical threshold was passed.
However, let’s face it, it is difficult to say that the solidarity across the country, which took shape just after July 15, has the same strength today.
There are a lot of reasons for this. First of all, the grand polarization that dominates the country has discussions about July 15 within its sphere of influence, like it has for many more important topics. Within this context, when the ruling party re-identifies its political discourse through July 15, the opposition is finding itself at a different point over the ground of an already-deeply shattered politics.
The troubling situation here is that, the necessary authorities granted by the Turkish Parliament for the fight against FETÖ, with the support of the opposition, later was used against oppositional circles that did not have any connection with the FETÖ.
The use of authority justified over the need to fight against the FETÖ with the coup attempt to be used for the dismissal of many left-wing faculty members in universities has caused this perspective of struggle to become controversial in the perception of a considerable segment of the public.
Likewise, the rapid finalization of works of a parliamentary commission, established to investigate the coup, did not allow people to have time for clarification on a series of questions in their minds.
Also, with the tendency of conspiracy theories in our country, scenarios deeming July 15 as fiction, especially in the main opposition party’s circles, played a role in moving away from a common ground.
Regardless of the direction of the political debates on this matter, the reality of July 15 is that the incident that happened that night was a genuine coup attempt by the FETÖ.
The main theme of July 15 lies with the photograph showing Adil Öksüz, one of the leading civilian imams of the organization, who was caught near Akıncı Base in capital Ankara on July 15 morning, sitting in front of Fetullah Gülen on his knees in Pennsylvania.
Many people in Turkey were trying to understand what happened during the night [of July 15] on July 16 morning. We must admit that a considerable amount of ground has been covered in revealing many aspects of this attempt during the past four years.
The fact that 289 lawsuits have been filed against the coup attempt across Turkey and that the majority of the responsible are being held accountable, demonstrates the ground covered. The truth will appear more clearly when the appeals are completed.
Without a doubt, July 15 will continue to occupy the public, politicians, historians and journalists in the following years. An inevitable burden of being a citizen of Turkey is to learn to live with the ongoing discussions and questions about the past coups. Even in 2020, we are still busy with the debates of May 27 and September 12 coups.
What else can you do when a major part of your country’s history is filled with coups?