2016 Failed Coup Attempt in Turkey: Who is behind this? Who are the actors? Why this time? Why and how was Unsuccessful?

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Late on Friday afternoon June 15, military vehicles and troops gathered the Turkish capital of Ankara and its most populous city, Istanbul. The country’s Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, has gone on television to announce that this is a coup attempt by “at least some portion of the military” against the current government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Soon followed a statement read out by a newscaster claiming to represent the Turkish armed forces: “Turkish Armed Forces have completely taken over the administration of the country to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedom.” However, several hours later, a government spokesperson said the coup had been defeated.

A coup attempt in Turkey has precedent. Its powerful military has historically regarded itself as the guardian of the modern Turkish state and the vision of its founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk of nationalistic and secularist. Since the creation of the modern Turkish state, there have been four successful military coups:

In 1960, a group of military ousted democratically elected ruling party (Democrat Party) from power after allegedly breaking away from the strict secularism rules imposed by its founder of the modern turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, began to allow religious practices, including the opening of hundreds of mosques and permitting prayers in Arabic.

In 1971, Military coup known as the “coup by memorandum” rather than a straight-out military intervention, after tensions within different sides of Turkey’s political spectrum and economic stagnation. In this scenario, the military didn’t directly seize power, overseeing instead a series of transitional governments that lasted till 1973.

In 1980, the social and political situation in Turkey didn’t quite settle after 1973 due to armed conflict between right-wing and left-wing groups in the 1970s, and once again the military took the matters into its hands. The constitution was revoked and substituted with another that was put to a referendum in 1982 and approved by 92% of the voters.

In 1997, the military took control of the country again with what was famously labeled a “postmodern coup,” concerned about an increasing presence of political Islam in the country. A group of generals presented a new government with another series of recommendations including closing many religious schools, and banning the wearing of headscarves at universities. That same year, the current president of Turkey, Recep Erdogan, who was then mayor of Istanbul, was sentenced to jail and banned from politics for five years after publicly reading an Islamist poem in public speech (HDN 1999).

Who lead this coup?

President Erdogan and his political allies blamed Friday’s failed coupe on a self-exposed exile Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen in United States. According to many Turkey’s internal sources, Fethullah Gulen has close ties with certain senior military officials, suggests that former ally of Mr. Erdogan of trying to seize power from his American home in Pennsylvania, by using his secretive “Hizmet” movement to infiltrate state institutions, including security forces, intelligence agencies and the judiciary. But Mr. Gulen sharply denied any involvement to the event in a statement: “As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt. I categorically deny such accusations.”

In the 1980s, Turkish generals who at the time were in control of the government following a military coup accused Gulen of plotting a takeover to install an “Islamic dictatorship” in order undermine Turkish secularism, a core feature of the state since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded the Turkish Republic in 1923. Erdogan has long accused Gulen, a former ally, of trying to overthrow the government. Gulen is understood to maintain significant support among some members of the military and mid-level bureaucrats.

Five Israeli-trained Saudi specialists were brought into Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey last year, ostensibly in order to oversee Saudi air missions in Turkey, but there is not clear whether that mission took place. Former Turkey’s Air Force general Akin Ozturk and twenty-six other colonels and generals were detained and named of instigators of the failed takeover event on Friday. Many experts on Turkish domestic and foreign policy experts noted that the coup led by internal power struggle between the president and top military officials.

Surprisingly, the amateurishness of the attempted coup, many observers of military coups and coup attempts in Turkey, never seen any with this magnitude of such inexplicable sloppiness. The failed attempt left more questions behind rather than plausible answers as to who perpetrated it and why it was executed so sloppily and poorly. Mass arrests of generals and judges in less than twenty-four hours after failed the coup also aroused conspiracy theories. As such, reasonable numbers of coup experts think that the most likely possibility is that Erdogan and his circle presumably with the blessing of Western forces worked with some of his own people in the military staged a coup in regards to boost power and public trust.

 Why the Friday’s coup has failed?

Friday’s coup attempt was by far Turkey’s least effective. Historically, Turkey’s army has often abused its powers and has a history of repression and human rights abuses. In 2002 when president Erdogan came to power as a prime minster, one of his immediate priorities was to counter the military’s power. His ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is a reformist group credited with defanging a prickly military that mounted four coups between 1960 and 1997, delivering to the country a vibrant democracy.

In 2008, the military was severely weakened by Erdogan in what became known as the “Ergenekon affair,” a series of trials in which military officers, journalists and politicians were charged of forming a clandestine organization that plotted against the civilian government. Since then, senior military members’ military capacity weakened to conduct coups as it had done in the past. Beyond the obvious incompetence of the Friday’s plotters, who failed to arrest the president and the prime minister or/and establish control over the media caused by insufficient support from both within its ranks and on the streets. There were no apparent leader (s), and no one came forward to make statements to the public or to try to garner support; quite clearly, even during a coup.

How Western actors see about Erdogan?

Turkey, under the Erdogan’s political party (AKP) was touted by many in the West as a model for the Middle East and Islamic world. Turkey’s western allies have private concerns on Erdogan’s power increase in his domestic politics and regional influence; even some accuse him of supports terror organizations. He is also labeled as a “human right Abuser.” President Obama said he was concerned by pictures showing the rough treatment of some of the arrested Friday’s coup plotters. Western leaders warned Mr. Erdogan that the coup attempt did not give him a “blank cheque” to disregard the rule of law. These are a common language of western leaders toward Muslims leaders. Despite, President Erdogan is the man who brought the country economic growth and has paid off Turkey’s debt to the International Monetary (IMPF) under his leadership.


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