It’s been a whole year since the night of July 15, 2016, when the coup attempt was staged in Turkey.
Two things should be enough to prevent the regret for the lack of success: the principle of confidence in the democratic processes and the historical memory of the other coups, which never solved the country’s problems.
Those who have regrets, and there are many, do not retain the principle nor the historical memory.
That said, in the early hours of that evening, when gunfire and explosions echoed and the word coup was on everyone’s lips, there was only one certainty: no matter the outcome, the country would come out with broken bones. A year after, the sad prophecy is confirmed.
A country that survived such a dramatic event should be able to boast the robustness of its institutions and its democracy, it should be able to speak of the united people and their happiness and rejoicing, it should be able to see a bright future.
But today’s picture has nothing in common with any of this: a country on the verge of a nervous breakdown, where the headlines speak of terrorism, repression, arrests, torture, economic crisis and even some whispers of civil war.
Talking politics here has always been complicated. Today, it’s dangerous. The heavy suspicion has spread everywhere and there’s anger, not only among those who suffer the post-coup repression, of course, but also among the victorious ones, because they finally vent decades of political and cultural subordination. It’s not just a victory, it’s revenge.
To the deep divisions in the country, daughters of unresolved issues such as the Kurdish situation or secularism, another is added: the polarization dictated by the leader.
Erdogan is a figure that is either loved or hated, there is hardly a middle ground. There are two main reasons behind this heavy climate in the country.
The first is the rhetoric of “us” against “them.” The “we” are the martyrs who defended democracy that fateful July 15th, took to the streets in front of tanks and guns to save the president-elect Erdogan from Menderes’ fate, the Islamist prime minister elected over 50 years ago who was hanged, and everybody remembers it very well.
“Them”, instead are … everyone else. In the beginning, they were the fetocu, Gulen’s coup followers, a former ally of Erdogan who is now enemy number one. Then, the militants Kurds, who have been back in the sights of repression since 2015. Then the left parties, the unions, the Alevis, the suspicious Islamic movements, even hostile to the big boss, and the secular, in short, everyone.
Or, better summarized in the words of Prime Minister Yildirim on the occasion of this anniversary: “those who do not feel the spirit of July 15th.” These are the Nation, all the others are the enemy that infected it and, therefore, must be purged in any way from this holy body.
This narrative has been pounded for months through every media channel, from radio to billboards along highways. “And at the end, everything becomes true,” says a friend, with a bitter smile as he talks about his own relatives.
The combination of lack of pluralism in information and incessant propaganda has come to build an official truth which, however, half of the country or probably more, doesn’t believe. And mistrusts.
The second reason behind the continuing climate of suspicion is the fact that the state has not been able to guarantee a transparent investigation. Too many unanswered questions, especially for a country historically prone to conspiracy and conspiracy theories like Turkey.
The parliamentary committee appointed to the investigation completed its work last January and delivered a report that did not meet anyone’s expectations except the government’s.
The two main parties, the Republican Chp and the leftist HDP have repeatedly accused the government of covering up the coup makers.
Key figures like Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar or the intelligence chief Hakan Fidan were not questioned, the government allowed them to present only written testimonies. And these are just some of the missing pieces.
How long before was the government aware of what was happening?
It starts from the premise that this conservative Islamic government was preparing for a possible coup since coming to power in 2003.
Based on what is known so far, the secret services knew of the planning of the July 15th coup since at least the same afternoon, and it is believed that for this reason, the coup leaders, knowing they had been discovered, decided to execute in the evening an operation that was scheduled for 3 am.
Erdogan has commented that he was informed about what was happening that evening by his brother in law. Why the services did not inform the big boss for many hours still remains a mystery today. What is also a mystery is the small number of coup leaders and their poor strategies, like forgetting to cut mobile communications in the country. With this omission, Erdogan was able to appeal to the masses in the streets. It doesn’t happen often to watch a coup live on Twitter.
The most popular theory is that, in the excitement of the events that were going on, there were defections. Many defections.
Military officials were waiting to see who would be the winner before giving orders to their wards. That’s why the army has undergone continuous purges for a year, dismissing thousands of men. The last one took place two days ago: more than 7,000 military men were dismissed.
The combined reasons behind the heavy repression that took place immediately after the coup, defined by Erdogan as a “gift of God,” are manifold: the opportunism of the Gulenist network, consolidated in the decades thanks to the AKP’s support; the difficulty for the president and his entourage in identifying enemies and friends in the army ranks and institutions; the unique opportunity to be able to make their political opponents pay dearly; the historic opportunity to force a cultural and political transformation of the country beyond the constitutional limits, such as the referendum last April to transform the country into a presidential republic.
A few days after the government imposed a state of emergency. It was initially set for three months and then extended again and again, even though the situation has returned to a normal legal regime.
This tool that suspends countless individual and collective rights, strengthens the government, deprives the parliament and immunizes the police is too good to let go.
The worst of the consequences is the atmosphere of total arbitrariness in which the country lives: the laws and their application are now at the mercy of small and large social climbers, eager to please the upper floors.
The 249 dead and hundreds injured the night of July 15th, idolized as martyrs of the homeland, are opposed, on the other side, by hundreds of thousands of arrests and dismissals in every sector of society.
Erdogan, in this never ending situation, has gained the discontent of new people in addition to the old enemies. And the chief feels besieged, ready to play all out.
He does it by bringing people to the streets in a show of popularity in response to Kilicdaroglu’s march in support of political prisoners. Erdogan keeps hitting hard on his opponents.
And he extends the state of emergency, because “it will remain in place as long as necessary,” the government reiterated. Until Turkey is completely changed according to Erdogan’s dream.