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Erdogan’s Staged Coup

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey President 2017

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey President

In July 2016 a rebellion took place in Turkey in response to the harsh policies of dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The coup d’etat was an attempt to rescue Turkey from it’s elected leader, and the Turkish military has a long-standing tradition of stepping in. The Turkish military played a key role in the formation of the state. The voters wish neither the military nor Erdogan to take control and thus the country is in much disarray at present.

Erdogan served as prime minister from 2003 to 2014 and as Mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1998. Erdogan had governed in increasingly authoritarian fashion after winning the Turkish election in 2014 for President. The press was censored, political opponents were arrested, protests were stamped out and he continually attempted to exert greater control than what was traditionally indicated by the office of Turkish President.

He also increased Islamic rhetoric to a great extent and took a hand in the education system, sign typically associated with a dictator wishing to indoctrinate followers as early as possible. The Turkish military has traditionally seen religion as the enemies of the state and progress, and religious bodies were initially brought under the hand of the government by the army in its formation. The term coup d’etat is used to denote a blow against the state carried out by the military or other elite organizations, as opposed to a typical rebellion carried out by the civilians of the State.

Background to Turkish politics

Turkey Deep State

It is important to note that Turkish politics are deep, dark and highly conspiratorial. There is deep distrust and fear of politics in particular, as well as an atmosphere of fear and distrust in general. Ordinary Turkish civilians are held to be more likely to believe in conspiracies than anywhere else in the world. The “Deep State” is said to operate heavily in Turkey, a term used to denote the “hidden hand” used by Adam Smith and numerous other intellectuals to describe the guiding forces behind all politics and all the world’s main treaties and large events. It describes an anti-democratic cabal of vested interests who have a hand internationally in all intelligence agencies, banks, politicians, political parties, judiciary, police and paramilitary forces. The reason that they appear to have a deeper, or at least more obvious, presence in Turkey is the history of Turkey for brutality, dictatorship and proof of activities once believed to be a mere conspiracy. On example of such would be “Operation Gladio”, a European program to provide a contingency force in the event of an invasion by the Soviets, which heavily involved the Turkish military. “Operation Gladio” had links to heroin smuggling and other organized crime and it was held to have been backed by CIA funds.

While there may be some truth to the deep state conspiracy, unfortunately, the exact truth will elude everyone – To religious fanatics it aims to crush religion, for voters it is intended to crush democracy, for nationalists, it’s a representative of the U.S, for the Anti-Semites the Jews are trying

Turkey, Coup in 1980s

Turkey, Coup in the 1980s

to take over the world. The issue would be that the “Deep State” serves to supply an entity behind whatever fears the individual may have, backed up loosely by the idea of a “Deep State” which has similarities with folklore and fairytale. That said by the 2000’s the Turkish public was fed up of being lied to and demanded to known the links between the media, security forces, government, organized crime and Deep State. The prevailing view is that the Deep State have a hand in all and the lines between all these organizations are very blurred. By 2011 a national survey revealed that the military was perceived as being as corrupt an institution as the political institution, a shape change from being viewed as the most trusted organization less than a decade before. Erdogan rose to power primarily on the basis that he overthrew the Deep State, but since his election, he has been worse than the Deep State and some contend is no more than a mere extension.

The Turkey failed coup conspiracy attempt

Turkey may have had a traditionally powerful military in times past. However this has since changed in the modern era. The coup was a complete failure and served to consolidate Erdogan’s power. The coup d’etat was attempted by a faction of the Turkish armed forces known as the Peace at Home Council. Several key locations were to be captured however all efforts failed after being defeated by State forces. The reasons cited by the council for the rebellion was the disregard for human rights, the rise of the Deep State and the reduction of democracy as well as Turkey’s loss of international standing due to Erdogan’s foreign policy. The government responded to the coup by indicating that the group had links to a known terrorist organization. More than 300 people were killed during the coup and 1200 injured, and there was damage to many government buildings. After the coup, Erdogan consolidated his power and used it as an effort to indict all his enemies. Over 40,000 people were detained, including 10,000 soldiers and almost 3000 judges, for reasons that are not yet clear. 15,000 education staff were suspended. This indicates that Erdogan wants to indoctrinate children with select values and a personal version of history. The licenses of over 20,000 teachers at private institutions have been revoked. The response from Erdogan has all the signs of a classical dictator consolidating power. The response by International bodies was surprising. NATO and other bodies all issued statements to the extent that the democratic institutions of Turkey should be respected. Since 2014 nearly 2000 journalists have been charged with insulting the President, an indictable offense.

Conspiracy #1

The coup attempt was carried out so poorly and left Erdogan in such a strong political position that many believe that he either engineered it or at the very least took advantage and allowed it to play out. One questioned raised is; why the coup plotters did not execute the primary steps traditionally used when seizing power. They did not target Erdogan and other high-ranking officials, nor any of his party members. No media outlet was taken over and no support was gathered.

Fettullah Gulen, US Cleric

Fettullah Gulen, US Cleric from Turkey

Given that Turkey has a history of such coup attempts and the military is quite good at their execution it is surprising that this one was carried out without any of the necessary steps to a coup. Within hours of its commencement, ministers were able to issue statements on radio and television which appealed to loyalists to prevent the coup from progressing. No airports or other central transportation hubs were secured by the coup planners. Erdogan’s $700,000,000 palace was neither occupied nor harmed in any way, and they failed to intercept his plane. Everything that would have been evident and beneficial to the success of the coup d’etat was not carried out. The man that Erdogan accused to be the head of the movement swiftly responded that it was most likely a staged coup. US cleric Fetullah Gulen told reporters:

“There is a possibility that it could be a staged coup”

Erdogan denied all such claims and indicated that two of his bodyguards were killed when he escaped from his Villa while on holiday in the Mediterranean.

Another strand of this theory is that it Erdogan did not plan the coup but took advantage when he became aware of it. There is evidence indicating that Turkish intelligence was aware of the coup six hours in advance. In any case whether directly orchestrated by Erdogan or not there can be no doubt that he took full advantage in its aftermath to secure his political power. And Erdogan was more popular among voters after the coup than he was before it. Erdogan’s claim about the cleric based in Pennsylvania are not without evidence. In 2013 Gulen’s followers in the police opened an investigation into business associates of Erdogan.

It is alleged that Erdogan is a mastermind and expert at manipulating the public. Despite his actions, 50% of the population are alleged to be loyally devoted to him, with the other 50% opposing his rule. It is important to mention that he has raised living standards. Setting the public against each other is a tactic cited as being beneficial to political elites who gain from the discord.

Conspiracy #2

The second conspiracy in relation to the 2016 Turkish Coup d’etat is that it was orchestrated by the CIA. One Turkish paper reported that the coup was financed with CIA funds. Former NATO commander and retired U.S. Army General John F. Campbell is said to have started the coup from a cell in Afghanistan. The financing of the coup is said to have been done through Nigeria’s United Bank for Africa, who have since denied any involvement. The vast majority of Turks believe Gulen was behind the plot, as indicated by Erdogan. Less than 4% of Turks are reported to believe that the U.S had a hand in it. More seasoned Turks with military experience recollect possible U.S involvement in a coup in 1980, where the CIA are reported to have stated “our boys did it”. Many draw parallels between NATO’s endorsement and the alleged coup leadership of former NATO commander and US officer John F. Campbell. And a Turkish coup in 1960 was led by a U.S trained officer. The reasons given for U.S backing is unclear. It either gave funds to the coup in the hope that it would go as badly as it did, consolidating Erdogan’s power. Or it started the coup in a genuine hope that Erdogan would be overthrown. However, this is unlikely, as most CIA-backed foreign operations are traditionally quite successful.

Conclusion: Was the Coup in Turkey Staged?

Turkey Protest Police Clash

The coup was most likely a masterstroke by Erdogan. The most interesting part of the whole coup was that while Erdogan was despised, civilians answered his call to defend the homeland against the coup plotters. While he is not popular the military are not a favorite of the Turkish people either, who do not wish to see a return to military rule. A popular political quote in Turkey is that “ the worse democracy is better than no democracy”. This sentence neatly embodies the backing of Erdogan against the coup by Turkish citizens. It is contended by many that the only reason the civilians were able to attack the coup was that the coup was not hostile towards the civilians – meaning they were freedom fighters for the people.

Turkey is a place where protest and dissent is not recognized, and thus they flocked to Erdogan’s defense. The key point to mention about Turkey is that it is Democratic, and not Liberal. Meaning it has freely elected leaders but protests are frowned upon. Erdogan had even clamped down harshly on peaceful protests.

The staged coup was a huge blow to the traditionally popular military, Erdogan’s greatest enemy. He had been reducing their powers for over a decade but the 2016 coup d’etat was the most crushing blow yet. Shifting blame towards the CIA, the U.S.A and the U.S cleric is always going to work on a certain segment of the population, which adds to the misinformation.

Anti Erdogan Poster Protestors

Erdogan can mention the CIA along with the Deep State and the public will endorse him against this common enemy. There does seem to be a chance that the CIA are involved in every coup or conspiracy and it is easy to shift the focus on the U.S. In the meantime Erdogan enjoys immense and almost unchecked powers. Judges, Journalists and teachers were all replaced in the aftermath of the coup with those more sympathetic to his policies. The rule of law, the free press and an objective education system are now gone from Turkey. But the bottom line for many Turkish citizens is that they still have democracy.

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