Archives for the month of: July, 2016

it’s the 4th day of the purge.  the turkish purge of 2016, in its fourth day, finally surpassed the installments of the purge series, and, is far, far more bloodier and terrifying: as of today, the body count hit 49,321.  let’s round it up to 50,000.  50,000 people lost their jobs, were forced to resign, etc, and are about to get persecuted.  i am not saying all were innocent– i am sure there were some bad apples in the basket, but 50,000?  imagine the US government purging 50,000 government employees overnight?  the number is mind boggling.

the 50,000 allegedly has links to the gulen movement– a movement designated as a terrorist group by the turkish government.  now, purging 50,000 potential “terrorists” is a good soundbyte and makes sense in first blush.  but, when you look at who was purged, it is not only the suspected gulen followers, but, anyone and everyone who doesn’t support the erdogan government.  from religious minorities (not talking about the jews– they were purged long ago), but, different sects of islam, ethnic minorities, anyone with dissenting voices or anyone affiliated with them.

let’s look at the ramifications of this humongous purge:  at least 15,200 of the purged were in education, including 1,500 university deans.  15,200 teachers (including private school teachers who had their teaching licenses yanked), deans, professors, administrators, and everyone in between.  as with all the other purges in the AKP and erdogan regime, those 15,200 will be replaced with their “people”.  then the 2,000 judges and prosecutors that were purged over the weekend.  the list goes on and on.  after this last purge wave, the entire turkish government and education, will be one huge and happy erdogan cadre.

moreover, until the vacancies are filled, and the new appointments gain sufficient experience (presuming that they have the minimum qualifications– after all, how can you fill up a 50,000 vacancy overnight with qualified candidates?), the infrastructure may crumble, the economy could tank, and, the country’s security is susceptible at best.

but, mr. erdogan and AKP are confident.  they know what they want and they are getting it.  as mr. erdogan said immediately after the coup attempt, the revolt “was a great gift from allah” to him and his followers”.

and the purge is nothing but another solid step towards a totalitarian islamic state (slight oxymoron here) after the first official flirtations with mr. erdogan’s new and emerging revolutionary guard.

democracies work with checks and balances– with checks and balances, dictatorships, capricious administrations, corruption, favoritism, discrimination, persecutions of minorities may be prohibited or at least minimized.

the most traditional way of checks and balances stem from the separation of powers– judiciary, legislative and executive bodies should work independently and check each other’s actions.

if one person or persons take control of all three powers, ie. judiciary, legislation and the executive branch, then, there can be no democracy, no due process of the law, no equality, no liberty, no pursuit of happiness or no justice for all, except a select few.

and, this is precisely the threat of these purges.  as well as their perceived raison d’etre.

the question begs itself:  how did 50,000 gulen followers (actually probably the double or triple of that, given the past and future purges) were placed in the turkish government, under the micromanaging nose of mr. erdogan and his executives?

first of all, we should discount this number a little– with the presumed gulen followers, all the other undesirables, ie. those who refused to drink mr. erdogan’s kool-aid, those with “undesirable” ethnicities, religions, etc., those who had the courage to express opinions against the erdogan administration, those who were photographed with other undesirables and had those photos posted on facebook, etc. were also purged.   as if someone had a wish-list of “undesirables” and they were folded in with the rest…

discounting the “undesirable” that still leaves a huge chunk of “how on hell did they get into the government in such big numbers under erdogan’s nose?”.

the answer is obvious and not pleasant:  mr. erdogan placed them there.  or, at the very least, he was complacent and conspiring in their placement.

you see, mr. erdogan and mr. gulen used to be allies.  until they fell apart in 2013.  up to that point, their interests were aligned, and, the gulen movement was mr. erdogan’s lifeline.   the largest turkish civic and military purges of recent history, before the purge of 2016, ergenekon and the sledgehammer (balyoz) operations were the illegitimate love children of mr. gulen and mr. erdogan, with the premise of purging “dissidents” and placing them with gulen and erdogan followers.  mostly the gulen followers benefited.

but, don’t take my word for it– according to the 600 page criminal complaint filed by mr. erdogan’s prosecutors in turkey, “Harp okullarından en çok öğrenci 2007-2013 yılı aralığında atılmıştır. Bu tarih aralığı FETÖ’nün TSK’nin içerisine en fazla öğrenci yerleştirdiği dönem olmuştur” which translates to: “2007-2013 marks the years when highest number of students were expelled from military academies.  during that period FETÖ (the gulen movement) placed the highest numbers of replacement cadets”.

2007 to 2013 also happens to be the strongest AKP administration in history (their votes and parliamentary power decreased consistently since 2013).   hence, the fact that AKP and mr. erdogan were complacent, if not outright responsible, for placing the gulen followers in the military, according to the AKP prosecutors themselves.  and, they would have stayed there happily after if not for the nasty divorce between mr. gulen and mr. erdogan.

but, like all love relationships between two alpha males, they fell apart- the details are still murky as to how, and even murkier as to the why.

but, forget the why and the how, the split was internecine.  both sides suffered immensely.  the scandal of december 17 for erdogan, and the ensuing purges and the persecution of the gulen movement were vicious.

after the divorce, mr. erdogan played the part of the betrayed partner, the strong and democratic world leader, who will clean up his country no matter what (without mentioning cleaning it up from the “monster” he helped create), and, mr. gulen assumed the part of the misunderstood peace loving borderline hippy religious leader, with peace and freedom awards to show for it.   but, behind the scenes, their infighting grew more vicious and internecine.

now, 4 days after the coup attempt, allegedly by a handful of military officers under the control of mr. gulen, mr. erdogan is inches away from convincing his followers that this 50,000 gulenists infiltrated the ranks of the government, military, judiciary, and education without his knowledge, and, he, the hero is swiftly dealing with them.  kudos to mr. erdogan for selling such myth and fiction.  and i am serious in my congratulations– never thought someone would sell such a hoax.  and i am equally awed by mr. erdogan’s followers– never thought the turkish people would be this gullible.  but, nevertheless,  to give credit to my people, given that it is a time of crises and desperation, perhaps blind faith may be excused and understood.  as they say, the bigger the lie…

in the meantime, both the US, EU, and NATO are warning mr. erdogan for his undemocratic measures, purges, and his calls for executions (and, the prerequisite calls for the resurrection of the death penalty in turkey), and implying, very explicitly that turkey may lose its NATO membership and any and all hopes of joining the EU if he proceeds in this trajectory.

and, finally, reporting from the trenches of the turkish social media, his emerging “revolutionary guard” is on a rampage under the hashtag #turkiyemeydanlarda, meaning, turkey (or turkish people) in the plazas, with all forms of calls of violence and mayhem:  twitter and facebook are full of “good riddances”, “we’ll kill ’em alls”, “we will burn thems”, etc. from his emerging revolutionary guard to the rest of the turkish people, who beg to differ with mr. erdogan, and are living in fear.

to be continued (unfortunately) in this vein..

so, what happened in the last 24 hours?  well, only the violent, predictable, and depressing inevitable.

for some context, please read the first part of this series.  

the inevitable purge began.  almost immediately.  thousands of military personnel, allegedly belonging to the faction of the military that launched the coup attempt were arrested.  well, that may be understandable.  but, 2,745 judges and prosecutors were also arrested in a matter of hours for their involvement with the coup attempt.  2, 475.  wait, i should repeat it again: 2,475.  two immediate questions come to mind:

  1. who will they replace the 2,475 judges and prosecutors with?  does the turkish government have a secret stash of 2,475 qualified judges and prosecutors in a cold storage somewhere?
  2. how did they find 2,475 judges and prosecutors linked to the coup attempt in a matter of hours, while they couldn’t even name who was leading the coup and what was happening within the first 12 hours of the revolt?  the fighting allegedly ended in the morning, and, within a few hours comes the arrest of the 2,475.  military personnel– perhaps i can understand– the coup attempt was the work of a faction of the military they say, for what it is worth, so it may be a little bit easier to find who belong to the faction.  but judges and prosecutors?  how can you diligently investigate, review, and decide which 2,475 to arrest in a matter of hours whilst in a state of crises?  feels like the wish list of 2,475 was made long before the coup attempt.

mr. erdogan, almost immediately, re-requested, actually demanded, the extradition of fethullah gulen.  which was also inevitable as i wrote yesterday.  as a matter of fact, many denizens of the turkish social media think that one of the major reasons behind the attempted coup, which they call “theatrics”, was the extradition of mr. gulen.  mr. gulen, of course, denied any involvement with the coup attempt whatsoever.  now, i am no fan of mr. gulen andthe jury is still out on that one.

mr. erdogan’s revolutionary guard finally emerged en masse.  as i wrote yesterday, in the first public statement he made during the coup attempt, mr. erdogan called his “followers” to the streets, despite a curfew imposed by the government— it was a call for battle.  and the followers heeded.  turkish media (and social media) is full of videos and photos of these fine gentlemen armed to the teeth, with their jihadist beards and battle cries, executing soldiers on bridges, beating up people, raiding stores, screaming jihadist mantras, and firing their guns indiscriminately.  there were reports of them raiding cafes where alcohol is served, bothering people at parks, and other assorted tehran behavior.

mr. erdogan’s revolutionary guards’ demeanors, outfits, facial hair, and speech, if you can photoshop out the istanbul background and turkish license plates (for that matter anything turkish) from the photos and the videos, are straight out ISIS jihadists photos.  which should not be all that surprising given turkey’s notorious history with ISIS militant recruitment.

one really fears this will be the revolutionary guard of the caliphate of turkey; albeit with a very ironic use of the word “revolutionary”– someone tried to start a revolution (that’s what successful coups are generally called), and, the jihadist who stopped it could perceivably become the revolutionary guard.

there are already calls from the government controlled media (as if there was any other form of major media in turkey) for pardoning all the “crimes” of these patriotic heroes during the coup attempt.  which, basically, translates to legitimizing this jihadist militia.

the death toll is still up in the air.  the numbers are very, very minimized according to anecdotal reports.  but, that’s the way it always is in turkey.

the FAA  put a ban on flights between turkey and the united states almost around the same time the turkish airlines, whose slogan, ironically, is “widen your world”, put out the strangest press release i have ever read from an airline, boldly stating that “with the unflinching will of the people, turkey has waken to a new day with a much stronger sense of democracy and freedom”, while citizens were summarily executing fellow citizens in the streets.  then, the press release claimed, “upon the call of our president his excellency recep tayyip erdoğan our operations at istanbul atatürk airport is now back to normal and flights have begun”, while all the flights to their top international market, the US, were grounded.

thy basin duyurusu

mr. erdogan quickly started expanding his powers as permitted (and perhaps even as not permitted) by the turkish constitution.  which was also inevitable as i wrote yesterday.  as a matter of fact, many denizens of the turkish social media think that another one of the major reasons behind the attempted coup, which they call “theatrics”, was the expansion of mr. erdogan’s powers, resulting in the executive presidency he pines for.

and a good majority of turkey is still at shock– this was unlike any coup d’etat in turkish history.  as a matter of fact the world history.  coup’s are never faceless– immediately at their inception, someone, a face, a human being (or human beings) take responsibility.  didn’t happen here.  the names of the conspirators were released at least 12-hours after the fact.  how was the government this prepared (with a detailed list) for the purge after the coup?  and, who really was behind this coup attempt?

conspiracy theories aside, this coup is immensely benefiting erdogan: he is expanding his powers, purging anyone who may stand in his way (and, this is not his first purge– it feels like now they’re purging the leftovers), legitimizing his revolutionary guard, gaining more confidence among his supporters while instilling more fear and terror on his opponents, has a good shot at getting gulen back for vengeance, and a decent shot at the executive presidency, ie. absolute power.

to the credit of the conspiracy theories, at last night’s speech at the istanbul ataturk airport, mr. erdogan seemed to aware of his windfall– he exclaimed to his followers, in a moment of excitement, “Eninde sonunda şu anda bu hareket, Allah’ın bize büyük bir lütfudur”, which translates to “after all, this coup attempt is a great gift from allah to us”.

i fear, if he really feels that way, the worst is still yet to come.

“what’s happening in turkey?”– thanks for asking friends– i’ve been commenting in turkish for the last few hours on social media, and many asked for english commentary. the short and true answer is “i don’t know”.
what i know is there was a “coup attempt” (or, an “attempted coup-attempt”, whatever the hell that means, according to the turkish government pundits). who is really involved, to what extent, how many people died, who is injured, what damage the cities have suffered, etc. is unknown. turkish government, as usual with attacks and tragedies, has shut down most forms of social media. citizens are resorting to VPNs and other circumventions to communicate. i am receiving emails, messages, comments, etc from friends in turkey asking me what’s going on in turkey and what the foreign press is reporting. they have little or no access to information there. and, social media, (and, for that matter media), as usual, is full of disinformation and all shades of propaganda.
i am receiving anecdotal reports from all over the country. people stuck behind barricades with their infant children, guns and tanks ablaze, mass arrests, a coup soldier who was executed on a bridge by having his throat cut (and a video of it), so on and so forth. there are rumors of fighter jets crashing, or bombing, or engaging in dogfights. there are rumors of numerous civilian deaths. of course there are no official numbers– and, when and if they’re released, i fear the numbers will be greatly falsified as it was the case in the tragedies and the bombings of the last few years.
in the meantime, the “military” leaders are calling the soldiers behind the coup back to their barracks. but the top brass of the turkish military are MIA. all the orders, news, etc. are coming from second tier commanders.
there are rumors that the joint chief of staff is held hostage. but no real verification.
the turkish government quickly blamed fethullah gulen and his merry band of dissenters. they’ve been calling his group a terrorist organization, sans any terror attacks.
allegedly, a faction in the military, controlled by the gulen movement, is behind the coup. which sounds like an impossibility to me. at least, the fact that such a marginalized portion of the military can organize a coup without the knowledge of the regime sounds implausible and i am not the only one.  the washington times actually wrote an article on this back in april, arguing how the rumors of a potential coup d’etat is actually helping recep tayyip erdogan, the president of the turkish republic, politically.  
the perceived “impossibility” of a military coup is also making the conspiracy theories discussed below more plausible.
but, if the government can establish a gulen link, one way or another, it will pave the way for the turkish president erdogan to achieve one of his long-term dream of gulen’s extradition back to turkey.  a dream which has been futile so far.
gulen and erdogan were once allies.  but, a few years ago they fell apart and have been engaged in a feud ever since.  a feud that has resulted in purges, persecutions and scandals like the now infamous corruption scandal of december 17, 2013, that would topple any democratic government anywhere but in turkey.  a scandal which had very serious implications for erdogan, his immediate family, and his cronies, with taped phone conversations, but was quickly brushed under the carpet.  and a scandal that was recently resurrected in the highly publicized federal trial of reza zarrab in the southern district of new york.
so far, the US government has refused to extradite gulen.  designating his group as a terrorist organization sans any real acts of terrorism was not enough.  but, if this coup is somehow tied to him, the US government’s position on the extradition may change.
this is one of the reasons why the turkish social media denizens predominantly think that the coup is either planned or permitted by erdogan.
the other reason is the simple fact that erdogan is pining for a presidential system in turkey.  in social media, the term “sultan” is even used. erdogan has implied himself, numerous times, how he sees himself as a caliph, or a sultan, and how he wishes to resurrect the ottoman empire.  though these statements may seem delusional if they were heard from anyone else, when they come from erdogan’s mouth, it sends shivers down democratic citizens’ spines.  and, social media is full of “fan pages” for the “grand master”, a term his dedicated followers use for erdogan, started by his supporters, chuck full of ottoman and ultra nationalistic fantasies, xenophobia, and rampant anti-semitism. 
the anti-semitism goes so far that yeni akit (the new covenant), a radical newspaper aligned with erdogan, calls gulen and everyone close to him jews, and, during the last elections, published anti-semitic cartoons akin to 1930s weimar germany, depicting jews as cockroaches, and, anyone not aligned with them as an israeli puppet or a jew.
the cartoon above has gulen, on a leash, rabid looking, rode by a “jew”, about to be unleashed on turkey.  the caption of the front page story is “siyon-piyon ittifakı”, meaning “zionist-pawn confederacy”.  on gulen, the words “paralel şeyler”, which means “parallel things”, are written.  “parallel” is the term the erdogan regime uses for the gulen movement– for allegedly running a parallel government in turkey.  sadly for reportage and evidentiary purposes, but happily for human decency, most of these cartoons “vanished” after the elections.  though one can still find them if they know where to look.
erdogan has a dream of presidency (currently he is the president of the republic- which is a more symbolic post than say a prime minister in the parliamentary system). he wants a presidential system, which requires a constitutional change. he tried to achieve this through democratic means, but, the last two elections backfired, he couldn’t reach the parliamentary majority needed for the constitutional change.
the first elections, in june 2015, preceded by dubious violence, resulted in a stalemate, and erdogan called for a snap election was called for november 2015.   erdogan, who, as the president of the republic, constitutionally had to take a neutral stance, lobbied intensively for his party, AKP (justice and development party), and a constitutional reform for an executive presidency.  it was reported that erdogan, through the presidential office, had spent 109 million euros for the campaigns, which is a violation of the turkish constitution.  obviously, nothing came of it and the matter was closed.
the violence leading to the election was very interesting: the main threat to AKP and erdogan’s absolute power was the peoples’ democratic party (HDP), which has grassroots kurdish support.  bombs exploded in their events, and there were other senseless acts of violence.   the kurds were blamed.  especially kurdistan workers’ party, PKK, a terrorist organization.  but, they were nothing close to what will happen before the november snap elections.
HDP gained surprising power in the parliament at the june 2015 elections, winning 80 seats, which would have shifted the balance of the parliament, and would have put erdogan’s presidential plans in jeopardy.
needless to say, the parties couldn’t come up with a coalition, all post-election scenarios were rejected, especially by erdogan, and the november’s snap elections were called.
leading up to the november elections, bombings and terrorism escalated and was almost always contributed to the kurdish terrorists.   the election was preceded by the deadliest terrorist attack in turkey’s modern history, after two suicide bombers killed 102 people attending a peace rally in central ankara.
and, with every bomb, with every attack, kurdish terrorists were blamed (even though in most instances they were killing their fellow kurds), and, erdogan and AKP came with the propaganda that HDP = PKK, shifting any sympathy  the voters would have with HDP.
because of the violence, opposition parties suggested postponing the elections to no avail.  and erdogan campaigned furiously for his former party, AKP– again in violation of the constitution.
needless to say, the election, again with rampant documented electoral fraud, resulted in a “shocking” victory for AKP– they nearly reclaimed all the seats they lost five months earlier, winning 49.5% of the votes, and establishing a government without a coalition; but, not reaching the parliamentary majority for securing the constitutional changes required for erdogan’s dream of executive presidency.  and the “evil” HDPs seats fell to 59 from 80, just five months ago.
violence continued after the elections.  a bomb exploded, guns were fired, all at strategic times, when erdogan or AKP was in hot waters.  those coincidences, and the fact that the government had constructive knowledge of the attacks before they happened, fed the conspiracy theory that erdogan and/ or the government is behind the attacks, trying to establish enough fear through terror to secure absolute power and the executive presidency.
the people of turkey, which is the original melting pot, with many different ethnicities, cultures, religions living together, became more and more polarized.
erdogan and AKP continued to implicate HDP as supporters of kurdish terrorism. a very strong innuendo in the public eye was created– HDP=terrorism and turmoil. erdogan likes and uses the old dictatorial maxim “either you’re with us or against us”.
in the meantime, erdogan continued to lose credibility globally.  his actions, often almost surreal, made turkey not only an international security concern, but a laughing stock.  he sued a physician for stating that his facial expressions look like gollum of the lord of rings,  sued and asked for the extradition of a german comedian for a song mocking him,  along with over 2,000 other people he sued for insulting him, since he took the presidency in 2014.
over 2,000 people sued for insulting the president, including tons of journalist, who were merely expressing their opinions and the freedom of press.
erdogan’s credibility suffered more when he tried to pick up a fight with putin by shooting down a russian air force plane (blaming russia, the russians releasing documents tying him and his son to smuggling ISIS oil through turkey, and then back-peddling and apologizing), blaming israel for everything under the sun (and then back-peddling once more), supporting ISIS in his fight against the kurds (and putting the journalist who publish the documents of the support in prison), etc.  such loss of credibility and behavior resulted in him receiving the cold shoulder from the obama administration in his last “official” visit to the US.
the opposition parties tried to oust him through legal means.  a president in a parliamentary system is not legally culpable, accountable, or prosecutable for their private or public actions.  turkish constitution only allows for prosecution and impeachment for treason.  treason is not defined in the turkish constitution–  but the turkish penal code traditionally declares alliance with the enemy, acting against the national benefit, damaging the country’s unity, etc. as treason.  which the opposition claimed, albeit unsuccessfully, for erdogan.   achieving this would be impossible at the current parliament without the support of AKP, erdogan’s party and the majority.
which brings us to the “attempted coup”.  such attacks, terrorism, polarization, the loss of credibility, and now the “attempted coup”, actually, as the social media denizens believe (at the expense of sounding like a conspiracy theorist), paves the road to erdogan’s presidency/ sultanship.
you see, the current constitution of turkey gives immense powers to the president of the republic, erdogan, when marshall law or a state of emergency is declared. and that’s what just might happen. and, this could, possibly, enable him to call for early elections, dissolve the government and the parliament, etc.  that was the guess of the washington times, cited above, back in april.  
this chaos actually may help him obtain the presidential system he pines for and get gulen in his hands– two birds with one stone, and, hence the conspiracy theories.
erdogan was vacationing in marmaris, at a “businessman’s” mansion, when this happened. the little cove where the house is has been shut down to the public for a while according to sailor and vacationing friends.
the first few hours he was nowhere to be found. then, he spoke to the people through facetime– a very strange address– he basically called the people, his supporters, to the streets, even though the government has issued a curfew.
his words were strong and provocative– it was almost akin to a call for civil war. and, very very reckless.
immediately afterwards, we started receiving anecdotal reports of “people” gathering in plazas and around the istanbul ataturk airport where erdogan was supposed to land at.
then, there were reports from the NBC and the daily beast that erdogan was trying to flee the country, broadcasting from a plane, and his request to land at the istanbul airport and then in germany was denied. both NBC and daily beast based their reports on sources in the US. veracity of it is not established and people all over the social media were tracking his plane through flight tracker.
and all this culminated in an attempted coup that failed spectacularly.  it was half-baked.  there were no apparent leaders (which coup d’etats almost always have), no real or obvious plans, nothing.
it feels as if this coup was designed to fail.
no matter what, turkey is in ruins as i type this.  fear is immense.  confusion is rampant.  security is a nostalgia.  people with any democratic and/ or humanist tendencies have lost all hope with their confidence in the government.  and this is where we are.
so, again, my honest and simple answer is i don’t know what’s happening (and i doubt that we will know what really happened anytime soon). what i know is there is too much propaganda (black, grey, and white) and disinformation, so beware of what you hear and read (even what i wrote, which is just a summary of what i know and what i think and what i suspect and what i presume and what i speculate).  stay tuned, will post whenever there is something verified to be posted.
and let’s hope that the days i will post happy and proud things about my beloved turkey will come soon…
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