“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.
0j5bfsyjuntitled1
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…
Advertisements