Turkey’s Absurd Coup
By Burak Bekdin
Hurriyet Daily News
July 20, 2016
It is amazing that the Crescent
and Star never ceases to shock with the most unexpected insanity. The capacity
to shock is a feature most observed at times of war. And Turkey is at war – a
schizophrenic civil war.
The May 1960 coup was a
conventional coup d'état but, like July 15, was outside the chain of command.
So it was simply called a coup d'état.
March 1971 was called a "soft
coup." September 1980 was a conventional coup – this time inside the
chain of command. Some called it the "people's coup" after more than
90 percent of Turks approved its constitution and generals as their leaders.
Turkey had a "post-modern
coup" in February 1997 and an "e-coup" (in reference to the
anti-government, pro-secularist memorandum posted on the military's website) in
If history will have to name the
failed coup of July 15 the best way to recall it would be as the "absurd
coup." The events of July 15 looked less like a coup and more like a
Turkish opera buffa, a tragic one though, with the curtain closing with more
than 200 people getting killed.
Fortunately, even an absurd coup
can give an unruly nation a temporary sigh of unity. Pro- and anti-president
Turks seem to have united - which is great - probably until they start firing at
each other again, which is not so great.
With or without unity against any
military intervention in the democratic system, absurd or not, the great Turkish
divide is there and will probably deepen, exposing Turkey's hybrid democracy to
further risks of "road accidents" of this or that kind.
that stood against the soldiers mostly chanted not pro-democracy slogans,
but the words 'Allahu Akbar.'
Turkey's "war of
religion" will not disappear just because the pro- and anti-president
forces of the country have united against a coup attempt. It is a war of
religion between the adherents of the same sect of the same religion.
It was not without a reason why
the anti-coup crowds that bravely stood against the troops and their commanders
did not mostly chant pro-democracy slogans when they took to the streets but
rather passionately chanted "Allah-u Akbar" (God is the greatest).
They were there not to defend
democracy in the word's liberal meaning. They were there to defend the man whom
they view as the guardian of their faith, hence their readiness to kill or die,
or to lynch the pro-coup troops, and a journalist who was just photographing the
scene. Willing lynchers who defend democracy chanting Islamist slogans? Nice
Whether the perpetrators belong to
the clandestine Gülenist terror organization or were a bizarre coalition of
secularist and Gülenist officers, they were simply moronic thugs in military
uniforms. Speaking to a "pro-democracy" crowd of fans who interrupted
his speech with the slogan "we want the death penalty [back],"
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that the Gülenists had been secretly
– and illegally - trying to capture the state over the past 40 years. And now
they finally staged a coup.
The president was probably right.
But he did not explain why he allied with them during the 37.5 years of the Gülenist
campaign to capture the state – until he and the Gülenists broke up in
December 2013. Remember his famous complaint: "Whatever they [Gülenists]
wanted, we gave them."
This is the last act in the
hundreds-of-years-long opera buffa of in-house fighting between various Islamist
factions, not just Turkish. Despite the bloodshed and tragic scenes, like in any
other Turkish opera buffa, it often can be amusing, too.
Newswires dispatched a story that
said Saudi King Salman congratulated President Erdoğan for the return to
"normality" – normality here must mean the defeat of undemocratic
forces and return to the democratic regime. Hybrid or not, Turkey at least
features a ballot-box (head-count) democracy. Let's hope one day King Salman's
Kingdom too returns to normality.