Three years have passed since the July 15 coup attempt – yet instead of holding on to democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights and freedoms, Turkey has spent this time period moving further away from these concepts.
Translation: Melissa Clissold / Subtitles: Egemen Gök
Hello, good day and good week. Today is the third-year anniversary of the July 15 coup attempt. A lot of things have happened in the last three years, we’ve gone through some difficult times. It’s softening a little now, but the memories of July 15 are still very fresh. It has made its mark on this third year, and it looks like it will continue to do so for some time. When we want to create a statement, there are several dimensions to this incident. It would take a huge amount of time to discuss all these elements, but I want to quickly evaluate a few aspects.
By taking into account important issues – and I have made certain evaluations in the past three years – if we want to summarise, in the last three years we see this: This is one of the worst misdeeds that has ever happened to the Republic of Turkey throughout its history. Is it the worst? That’s another topic of debate, because Turkey is a country that has experienced the coups of September 12, March 12 and May 27. July 15 has gone down in history as one of the most unsuccessful coups attempts in history – there have been other unsuccessful attempts, but this is the worst. At the same time, it led to Turkey experiencing a lot of terrible things.
Good things can come out of the bad, but after this horrible event, Turkey mostly lost its chance to become a better country in this backdrop that was created – this is the harsh truth. Meaning, the misdeed that Fethullahists, Fethullah Gülen and those acting on his order carried out, impacted Turkey massively. What could have happened instead is this: those in power could have used the July 15 coup attempt to bring about a much-needed unity in Turkey. The best response they could have given to this coup would have been to construct a pluralist democracy, to reconstruct division of power.
Through this, Turkey could have become a more democratic, freer country; but the exact opposite happened. Through this coup, Turkey became a more authoritarian, oppressive country – it distanced itself from rule of law, it distanced itself from democracy and it became a country where fundamental rights and freedoms are infringed upon. There are a lot of levels to this, but from the first day onwards a lot of people have stressed this – and one of those people is me. The problem is this: Is Turkey seriously going to be a better country as a result of this, or will it decline to the worst conditions? Yes, July 15 in Turkey was used as an excuse to step away from law, democracy, fundamental rights and freedoms. The State of Emergency was extended, some rough practices were put in place, and in this atmosphere, Turkey’s system was changed. It was changed to the presidential system, but we can see that the system has come to a deadlock.
Why has this happened? We must look at what happened before: before the July 15 coup attempt, Turkey went through an important election process. On the July 7 elections the AKP lost its sole power and this became representative of the fact that Turkey would no longer be run solely by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Erdoğan. Yet Erdoğan did not accept these results and repeated the elections on November 1, 2015, and we witnessed AKP winning and becoming the sole power once again.
It is out in the open what Turkey went through during that time – the chaos, the tension that Turkey experienced in that period. Yet the July 7 elections showed us that the AKP and Erdoğan were in a very serious ideological and political crisis – and in this respect, the July 15 coup attempt became a lifeguard for the AKP and Erdoğan. That huge ideological and political void was attempted to be filled in an anti-Fethullahist (or “anti-FETÖ” in their own jargon) manner, and they truly managed to advance in this respect. But in the end, in the passing three years, we have seen that this was not enough on its own. The crisis was so deep that July 15 and anti-Fethullahism only managed to carry on for a short amount of time.
I think it is possible to summarise everything in the following manner: This coup attempt, this openly Fethullahist coup attempt ordered by Fethullah Gülen, stole many years off Turkey. On the other hand, it extended AKP’s and Erdoğan’s life, for around three years – maybe a little less- and now, as Turkey is reckoning with Fethullahism and July 15, on the other hand the situation it faced on June 7 – and the somewhat repetition of this picture on June 23 – it is trying to reconstruct itself again. If we are to look at the Fethullahist dimension of this all, the organisation received a serious blow, and its existence in Turkey has been mostly neutralised. Yet there are still on-going operations: in the army, police force, with regards to autocracy, in non-governmental organisations. This shows us that it has not truly disappeared, but it has almost been neutralised.
Thousands of people have been thrown in jail – women, men, especially women together with their children – most of them have been convicted, some trials are ongoing and a lot of people were fired from their jobs as a result of being “in conjunction” – and this is a phrase that July 15 in Turkey gifted us. Even if their freedoms weren’t taken from them, they were marked as ‘plagued’ and they were alienated, they lost their economic and psychological powers. Of course, because they were “in conjunction” – let’s say their uncle or brother-in-law is being put on trial for being a part of FETÖ etc. – he/she can also lose their job etc. We also know that certain people who are “in conjunction” cannot be touched – certain siblings of high-level names in the coup can be appointed as ambassadors. What’s wrong here is not the fact that their brother is being appointed ambassador – I’m talking about Şaban Dişli – what is wrong is that other people are being victimised just because they are relatives. Another example can be given with Minister Pakdemirli.
One of his siblings is in jail because of FETÖ – he may be out now, but at least we know he went to jail, I’m not sure if he’s left now – but whilst one of his brothers is in jail, another one of his brothers can maybe become a minister. I don’t think there is a problem with him becoming a minister, but a lot of people – especially in Anatolia – have been dismissed from their jobs solely for being relatives or having had telephone conversations with these people. On the other hand, Fethullahists drove away a serious amount of their staff – either before the coup, during the coup or perhaps shortly afterwards.
And these people are living in different places in Europe, US or elsewhere. Their situation is not that problematic. But on the other hand, those who do not have opportunities, those who cannot escape or who cannot leave the organisation here, have been put in a very hard situation. Some tried to run away with their own possibilities, some managed to escape, but some, as we know, lost their lives drowning in the Aegean or the river Meriç – families, women, children lost their lives, we witnessed such painful incidents… A loss as such should be credited to the organisation.
Another heavy loss is that the government, through the Maarif Foundation, tried to take over the organisations’ schools abroad. They managed to convince some countries, but not others. But we know that there is a serious amount of activity going on in Turkey against the Fethullahist structures abroad. In some places, we know that there have been collaborations with local intelligence organisations to bring certain Fethullahists back to Turkey – this would not be possible without collaboration. A final note, especially in Ankara, in the latest period we know that a lot of ‘lost’ claims have been talked about in relation to Fethullahists. And most recently, families of the disappeared discussed their losses at the Saturday Mothers meeting. This is an aspect regarding Fethullahism, but another factor of course is that we are witnessing a government using Fethullahism as an excuse to turn the country into an open-air prison.
A lot of people have been dismissed from their jobs, their efforts have been taken from them, a lot of publishing institutions have been shut down. Some of these were Fethullahists, but a significant portion of them had nothing to do with Fethullahism – especially Kurdish media publishing organs and leftists, those names close to the Kurdish movement were fired, freedoms were taken away from some of them and a huge amount of pressure was placed upon them, existing oppressive behaviour increased and the justification for this was “the struggle against Fethullahism”.
But we have seen that under the guise of fighting against Fethullahism, the government implemented very harsh policies to any opposition in the backdrop presented by the July 15 coup attempt. And the painful part of all of this is that the Fethullahists living abroad highlighted in their propaganda the injustices done to those who weren’t one of them, instead of the practices that their own followers faced. In this respect, the most striking incident is the ‘Academics for Peace’. The Academics for Peace, again within the authoritarian atmosphere that came about after July 15, were exposed to the fury of the government, and were instrumentalised in a very big feud, a “revenge operation” against those who were in favour of peace, and in opposition to the government.
When we look at it, time was really stolen from Turkey’s life, a huge opportunity was missed, of course it was a bad incident but if Turkey had truly learnt from these situations, it could have been a better country. But this didn’t happen – the exact opposite happened. New problems were added on to the current situation, a step back was taken. Of course, if the coup was successful, we would have been facing a much worse country – yet it is out of question to use this assumption in order to justify violations of rights and deviations from democracy. And when we come to where we are three years later, the political powers in place and President Erdoğan’s capacity to be able to make crowds of people take action has come to an end. Today we will see, big ceremonies will take place, there will be a meeting at Atatürk Airport etc. Televisions, media outlets will be discussing this topic, but it is clear that this is not generating the same excitement that it had once generated. You can see this at the Yenikapı Rally.
For the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to not be invited to that rally was a complete mistake. It became obvious -through HDP’s exclusion- that the main goal in that rally wasn’t to unite Turkey against putschists and side with democracy. Still though, it was a rally attended by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. But, a short while afterwards, we saw Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu being demonised by the government and later we saw Kılıçdaroğlu approaching the July 15 situation in a more critical manner.
Instead of July 15 being a force for unity in the country, the political power used it as a way to protect itself, it was a fundamental strategy it used for its survival, increase polarisation and for this reason instead of July 15 being used as an instrument for democracy, it was used as an argument to increase oppression. And this brought about an apathy, and questioning against other fractions of society. Due to everything that has happened in the last three years, it can be observed that the hatred and anger against July 15 has decreased. This is a painful truth, but this is the case, because July 15 and the FETÖ situation were used recklessly against everyone that was disliked.
That is to say, people who have been proven to be Fethullahists several times, by leaning on the government, they managed to define people they didn’t like as Fethullahists, or by giving instructions to the jurisdiction regarding politicians that the government dislikes. Investigations and enquiries were able to be started – in the meantime, no serious steps were taken regarding the Fethullahist political front. Motions brought to the parliament were continuously rejected by the government and its partners.
If the criteria applied with regards to the decree-laws applied in civil society had been applied – meaning, aspects such as being “in conjunction”, or a subscriber of the Zaman newspaper, having an account in Bank Asya -and plenty more – for example, factors such as going to Pennsylvania to take photos with Fethullah Gülen or taking photos in other places with Fethullah Gülen or others close to him, or paying compliments to him – could have been reason enough for people to be neutralised and for opportunities to be taken from them.
In the case of this happening, a large portion of ministers and party heads, the ruling powers in Turkey foremost, should have been discharged. I have a formula, I have seen this being relevant to a lot of incidents: whoever is attacking Fethullahism as a bull attacks a red cape, they most probably have close relations with Fethullahism and even with Fethullah Gülen. There are countless examples of this and this is still a relevant formula. We see that those attacking Fethullahism based on July 15 have erased family photos, forgotten or deleted yet registered tweets etc. There are plenty of examples regarding this, I only want to give one: When the private teaching institutions (dershane) crisis began, I was writing for Vatan at the time and I had declared this as the beginning of the Gülen-Erdoğan fight – in fact I had said “battle” – and was carrying out analyses in this respect.
Both sides were being blamed with incitement, with having created a discord. I can recall the names, dignified politicians etc. but then again some of these same people attacked me, saying I wasn’t fighting against Fethullahism enough – in fact there were same that blamed me as being a part of FETÖ. These are funny aspects, but unfortunately, these people, under the allegation of fighting against Fethullahism in Turkey, or “fighting against FETÖ” in their words, can still take their place in the government.
Therefore, the reckoning has still not been completed and in order for this to truly happen, Turkey needs to be a democratic country. But I predict and hope that Turkey will strengthen democratically and in relation to this, I think the necessary reckoning will take place with Fethullahism, Fethullah Gülen himself and anyone who supports him.
Yes, that’s all I have to say, have a good day.