Did Turkey take lessons from the July 15 coup attempt?

Did Turkey take lessons from the July 15 coup attempt?

I would sincerely reply to the question posed in the title in a positive manner. However, all we have been through since last year’s foiled coup attempt ais sufficient enough to prove the exact opposite. 

As a whole, we have failed to re-establish unity and togetherness, which we could’ve by rebuilding trust and instilling the notion of co-existence in the country where we endeavored to save our democracy from the hands of bloodyhanded coup plotters loyal to the self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen.

The coup attempt on July 15 last year was one of the hardest challenges Turkey ever faced in its history, and it was thwarted thanks to the thousands of people who hit the streets to stand against armed high-ranking generals and soldiers. 

The parliament with all four political parties stood resilient against aerial bombings while the Turkish media helped the government repress the coup attempt. 

A massive, but rare, rally held in Istanbul’s Yenikapı district on Aug. 9 made President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and all political parties come together to condemn the coup attempt, hail the people’s resistance and thank media outlets. However, this spirit failed to be a lasting one due to a widened range of purges. 

The Turkish parliament declared a state of emergency on July 20, 2016 upon the government’s demand in a bid to lead an efficient and speedy struggle against members of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) and their links within state institutions. Among many other excessive powers, the government has also been given the authority to issue decrees, but it preferred to use this power on issues other than those directly related to the coup attempt and the fight against FETÖ. 

Serious criticisms have been voiced against the government which expanded the scope of the ongoing crackdown on opposition groups in academia, media, non-governmental organizations and politics. As a result, more than 100,000 have been sacked from their jobs and around 50,000 have been imprisoned, including journalists, academics, politicians and activists who have nothing to do with Gülenist organizations. 

Only a few months after the coup attempt and while Turkey was still trying to heal its wounds, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) announced an alliance to amend Turkey’s constitution in a bid to change the existing parliamentary system into a presidential one, which would grant excessive powers to the elected president at the expense of undermining the very principle of the separation of powers.   

Turkey held a referendum under the state of emergency which yielded a very narrow win for the AKP-MHP coalition with all media support and use of state means, as cited by international observers.   

The referendum results displayed a divided society, with urban, well-educated and high-income segments of the nation voting against the changes, and rural and less-educated classes voting in favor of the constitutional amendments. 

In line with the amendments, Erdoğan rushed to regain the leadership of the AKP on May 21, signaling the beginning of the 2019 presidential and parliamentary election campaigns. 

Meanwhile, operations against opposition media members and institutions continued, strengthening Turkey’s infamous status as a country jailing the most journalists in the world. Hundreds of academics and human rights activists have recently been imprisoned on vague terror-related charges, accompanied by an unethical smear campaign carried out by a handful of pro-government newspapers. 

The crackdown included politicians as well. Two co-leaders and a dozen lawmakers of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) have been arrested only a few months after the coup attempt. Selahattin Demirtaş, HDP’s co-leader who has been behind the bars since October 2016, has already been designated as a terrorist by Erdoğan in a speech over the weekend, rendering a court decision on the jailed politician unnecessary. 

The wave of arrests hit the doors of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) on June 14 after an Istanbul court sentenced Enis Berberoğlu, a former well-known journalist and the party’s Istanbul deputy, to 25 years in prison on espionage charges. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was quick in challenging the arrest when he called for a justice march from Ankara to Istanbul in a bid to protest the arrest. The march followed a massive rally in Istanbul, with the participation of nearly 1 million people, indicating the masses’ call for the implementation of justice.

A quick summary of what we have been through since last year tells bluntly that Turkey performs poorer than ever in the field of democracy, rule of law and human rights. Although expectations were high for a dialogue-based and tension-free politics in Turkey after the coup attempt, the opposite seems to dominate the political arena and the entire nation.