Around 3:54pm on FRIDAY( of all days), July 15th, I looked down at my phone half expecting a snapchat notification… Lo and behold I see a NYTimes alert saying, “ Coup Attempt Plunges Turkey into Chaos.” You can imagine a classic “Phil face” going:
“Woah, what the heck is this about?!” I was confused. Honestly, I thought I knew the basics of Turkey, but I had to redo my research.
I stumbled upon an article from American Enterprise Institute titled, What happened in Turkey? And what comes next?, by Michael Rubin. HIGHLY RECOMMEND READING THIS ARTICLE. In the article he states,“ The coup was unlike any other coup Turkey has ever witnessed.” Previous coups occurred in the morning to take sleeping politicians by surprise and coups were announced by the leaders of the coup, not the media. And….Woah, wait. Are coups in Turkey a thing? Indeed.
In the past 6 decades Turkey has had 4 coups, not counting the July 15th, 2016 coup. The Turkish military considers itself the “Guardian of Turkish Democracy” and “Guardian of the secular Turkey.” Therefore, when things go south, the military intervenes to reestablish a Turkey that resembles the modern Turkey founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Quick history lesson: Ataturk, the first President of Turkey, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire (1923-1938), implemented reforms that secularized and westernized the country; hence, Islam had a diminished role in public life, European style codes were adopted, and Turkey embraced more western traditions.
With that in mind, that gives some context into why Turkey’s military continues to attempt coups or at least have the sense of duty to do so: to reestablish “democracy” ( in quotations because democracy is sort of in a limited form), and to keep Islamic influences in check. At what point are their actions truly in support of the people or the military institution and their belief that this honors the legacy of President Ataturk. *insert thinking emoji here* Definitely something to explore another day. To my Turkish experts, hit me up please.
Back to Present Day
Well, this coup didn’t do much but give President Erdogan more of a reason to have a tighter hand on Turkey than he did. So far, the Turkish government has detained 6,000 members of the military, suspended more than 8,000 police officers, and investigated 3,000 judges in connection to the coup. It’s also reported that more than 50,000 people have been arrested or suspended. The purge stretches to anyone that is accused of disloyalty to Erdogan including journalists and educators. Maybe this is the push Erdogan desired in order to form an Islamic Republic/caliphate as Mr. Rubin suggests, if that really is his intentions. Maybe he just wants to consolidate and solidify his hold on the Turkish Presidency. It is this conclusion that make some scholars hypothesize President Erdogan was the secret mastermind of the coup! OH THE DRAMA!
There is another portion of Michael Rubin’s article that made me *audibly gasp*. Rubin poses the question, “ If the coup attempt caught the State Department and intelligence community (IC) by surprise, why?” ISN’T THAT SO TRUE! Now I love the State Department (hire me one day please) and I love the intelligence community (hire me one day please), but what happened here? To be fair, Turkey is our “ally,” so maybe it’s a good thing to know the the IC community isn’t as watchful on us and others as we might think they are (Half kidding half not). I mean, remember back in the day when the Central Intelligence Agency were planning Coups like they were Oprah giving out prizes? Kudos to the coup attempters for evading U.S. suspicion… but you all definitely lost a ton of points when it came to execution. Goes to show you how much can be learned from history.