Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan joins the leaders of countries like Hungary, Belarus, Russia and the Philippines as an emerging autocrat who gains more and more power after being “elected” to rule. These leaders share common tactics that constitute an “autocrat’s manual”.
The manual includes blueprints for extending the executive branch at the expense of government institutions and parliaments; suppress democratic dissent; appeal to populism and nationalism; control the press and the flow of information; manipulate elections; abusing the state of emergency and undermining the independence of the judiciary.
Erdogan used all of these tactics and added a new tool to justify sweeping constitutional changes: a “controlled” or “organized” coup.
Five years ago, on July 15, 2016, a terrible event took place in Turkey, when a group of military personnel was mobilized in what appeared to be a coup attempt to overthrow the government. Over 250 people have been killed and over 2,100 have been injured.
To this day, many details remain shrouded in secrecy and censorship. No independent investigation has ever been authorized and the Turkish Parliament’s own investigation has never been made public. Many investigative journalists who could shed light on the event were subsequently arrested.
Erdogan filled that void with propaganda, falsely accusing supporters of Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen – who has been in voluntary exile in the United States since 1999. Gülen condemned the coup and its perpetrators while he was still in course, has repeatedly denied any involvement, summoned an independent international tribunal and pledged to carry out its decision. Erdogan never answered this call.
Instead, Erdogan – who called the coup attempt a “gift from God” – used this episode as an excuse to pursue hundreds of thousands of innocent Turkish civilians, shooting, imprisoning, imprisoning, kidnapping and torturing. people simply in association with the peaceful Hizmet movement. , which promotes equal access to quality education, interreligious dialogue, mutual respect and humanitarian aid.
In the years leading up to July 15, 2016, Erdogan took control of media organizations, enriched loyal businessmen, and cornered, fired and even arrested prosecutors and judges. By passing abusive and exaggerated anti-terrorism laws, it has undermined the independence of the judiciary and turned it into an instrument of political punishment.
The events of July 15 allowed Erdogan to make sweeping constitutional changes to become a president with enormous powers and without accountability. He also succeeded in subduing the Turkish armed forces, which had until then resisted his politicization efforts.
Appearing on television that evening, Erdogan claimed he had no prior knowledge of the incident and immediately blamed Gülen’s supporters in the armed forces. However, Western governments and observers were not convinced. Experts have noted the implausibility that a civilian living on another continent will stage a military coup and go undetected by the United States, Turkey or other intelligence agencies.
In fact, the US government, despite its request, received no evidence from Turkey implicating Gülen and refused to extradite him. The few servicemen believed to have had ties to Gülen showed signs of torture and, in court, said they were forced to make false confessions while in detention.
A British Parliament committee of inquiry noted that there was no publicly available evidence implicating Gülen. U.S. and German intelligence chiefs said Erdogan’s allegations against Gülen were not supported by evidence.
Erdogan government’s propaganda, such as Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu’s editorial in these pages, often cites – and illustrates through photos and videos – certain July 15 sub-events as indicators of a violent attack on the democracy. This includes the bombing of Parliament and police headquarters, civilian targets and an alleged attack on Erdogan’s life. What they won’t say is that while these are horrific events that attract global attention, they serve no purpose in a real military coup and are even counterproductive.
In previous military coups in Turkey, military action began in the middle of the night to avoid civilian casualties as the military saw itself as the people’s champions against corrupt politicians. For the 700,000 men of the Turkish army, NATO’s second after the United States, civil resistance has never been a concern, unlike fictionalized photos of citizens riding in tanks.
Likewise, the police never resisted a military coup, and there was no need to agitate the police force by bombing their headquarters. Bombing Parliament did not make sense either because the opposition parties were represented there. Finally, the military conspirators would be interested in arresting Erdogan and bringing him to justice for exposing his involvement in corruption, rather than killing him and making him a martyr.
All the officers mobilized on July 15 cite military sources for their mobilization. The most likely explanation for the night’s events is that some high-ranking military commanders, in collusion with Erdogan, ordered their subordinates to mobilize, to abandon them to be accused of being part of an attempted coup. ‘State. These commanders were never investigated. Now that the Turkish courts have lost their independence and the defendants and witnesses fear for their safety and that of their loved ones, we may never be able to find out the truth.
From 2014 to 2020, Turkey went from “partially free” to “not free” and became the worst perpetrator of transnational repression, according to Freedom House.
United Nations task forces have issued a number of decisions against transnational kidnappings in Turkey, declaring them in violation of international law and basic human rights. The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has noted that such systematic kidnappings can constitute crimes against humanity.
Turkey’s ranking in the International Judicial Independence Indices has declined since 2014, the first time Erdogan launched political purges in the justice system. In Turkey under Erdogan, the “fight against terrorism” has simply become a front for tactics which terrorize peaceful citizens.
July 15 was not a victory for democracy for Turkey; rather, it marked the acceleration of President Erdogan’s massive seizure of power and his contribution to the autocrat’s manual.
For a true victory for democracy, the tens of thousands of civilians imprisoned for guilt by association must be released, along with several journalists. The perpetrators of acts of torture after July 15 must be identified and investigated. More than 150,000 officials dismissed without valid reason must be reinstated. The freedom to leave the country for fearful citizens must be restored.