The news broke between 9 – 10 last night that soldiers had occupied the two bridges linking Europe and Asia in Istanbul. By 9:55 I saw something about a coup and quickly rushed downstairs to watch the 10 o’clock news. I then stayed up till near midnight chatting to Jafer via Facebook messenger about the developing situation. I was doubtful that people would come out onto the streets in protest at coup attempt and there were rumours the President was attempting to fly to Germany to claim asylum. By the morning it was all over, the coup attempt had failed with 160 dead and 2,500 arrested.
For those unfamiliar with Turkish politics there is a lot to take in if you’re trying to make sense of it. This is what I understand;
- that the Turkish army sees itself as the soul of the nation, ready to intervene when any government is drifting away from the principles of secular democracy that the founder of the Turkish Republic, Ataturk, tried to embed when it was founded in 1923. The army has taken control from politicians in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997. As such it has been common for the army to imprison politicians. The current government, in power since 2002 has turned history on its head, and now it is the politicians imprisoning generals.
- Turkey is hugely polarised. On one side you have secular Muslim’s who look westwards for inspiration about the desired direction a society should progress towards. On the other you have more pious and traditional Muslim’s who reject this approach. The ruling party represents this second group and they have been shifting Turkey in what some would call not so much an eastwards direction but a backwards direction. Restrictions on wearing headscarves have been lifted. It is stupid of governments to try and legislate what people can and can’t wear and the ban for many years created resentment and caused many young females to miss out on a university education. Other changes have been restrictions on alcohol sales and mosque building on a prolific scale. Culturally there has been an increase in the popularity of historical dramas set in Ottoman period and it is generally considered by his opponents that President Erdogan will lead Turkey as a Sultan in all but name.
There are many unknowns about what happened last night such as who was behind it? Erdogan has blamed followers of a guy who used to be his ally, Fethullah Gulen, who is now exiled in USA. Gulen denies involvement. What is certain is that Erdogan will use last nights events to strengthen his push for Turkey to have a Presidential system of government instead of the parliamentary system that currently exists. Opponents are so suspicious of him that they are suggesting he instigated this for his own political advantage. Erdogan sees enemies everywhere, even journalists are considered terrorists in his mind, if not in law (that may be coming soon). Another enemy is the HPD (People’s Democratic Party) who claimed 11% of the vote and 57 seats in Turkey’s 550 seat parliament. How long before this party is declared illegal?
“The only solution is democratic politics. In these challenging and critical days which Turkey goes through, whatever its reason might be, no one should put himself in the place of the people’s will,” said Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, the co-chairs of the HDP. “The HDP is opposed to any kind of coup under any circumstances and as a principle,” said the leaders.
Things I recommend; resolving conflicts through dialogue
Things I don’t recommend; military solutions to political problems