Turkish military coup fails

Submitted by cathy n on 17 July, 2016 - 5:22 Author: Dan Katz

The attempt by a section of the Turkish army to take power has failed. On the night of Friday 15 July troops grabbed bridges, airports and television stations, as well as Military Headquarters. Parliament was bombed.

The plotters declared that they were acting, “to restore the constitutional order, human rights and freedoms, the rule of law, and public order.”

However the coup had insufficient support inside the armed forces and almost all the top leadership sided with the state against the rebellion, calling for troops to return to barracks. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in power since 2002, managed to rally his supporters in the police and intelligence services. Mass opposition to the coup amongst the general public included many who were not supporters of Erdogan. Thousands came to onto the streets.

Erdogan has purged the army, jailed many generals and strengthened the police as a counterweight. It was assumed that the army was no longer an alternative political centre – and indeed this failed coup is a sign of weakness, not strength.

Members of parliament met in the damaged parliament in an act of defiance.

By Saturday footage was emerging of disarmed soldiers being attacked by civilian supporters of the President. Apparently 265 people died during the coup attempt.

It is a good thing the coup has failed. The Turkish military has a long and brutal record of political intervention, including a violent overthrow in 1980 during which many leftists were killed or arrested and working-class organisations were repressed. Four governments have been overthrown by the Turkish military in the past 50 years.

It is unfortunate, however, that the immediate political beneficiary is President Erdogan, the autocratic leader of the Islamist Turkish government.

Erdogan has had 2839 soldiers arrested and sacked 2745 judges. Warrants have been issued for the arrest of 140 Supreme Court members. At least one top officer, General Erdal Ozturk, commander of the Third Army, has been detained.

Erdogan has accused a former political ally, Fethullah Gulen, of being behind the coup. Gulen is currently in exile in the US and Erdogan is loudly demanding his extradition. Gulen condemned the coup.

A Turkish official has also accused the US of involvement. John Kerry has denied the claim and warned Turkey to respect the rule of law when pursuing those involved in the coup.

Under cover of prosecuting the coup plotters no doubt Erdogan will settle scores with others, and tighten his grip on political life.

Turkey is increasingly polarised. The ruling party has been rocked by corruption scandals, the war in Syria and an enormous refugee crisis. Erdogan is now back at war with the PKK, the Kurdish separatist movement who had been on ceasefire for two years. Many of the towns and villages in the Kurdish south east are under military occupation and some have been partly destroyed during fierce fighting.

The Turkish state faces a military threat from the PKK and also bomb attacks by Islamic State.

Many young people in the cities dislike the social conventions of the Islamists in power. And Erdogan has ruthlessly pursued his critics in the media – jailing some journalists, and intimidating many more. The main independent newspapers and television stations have been taken over. Prosecutors have opened 2000 cases against people suspected of insulting the president since 2014.

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