Turkey: Erdogan’s Islamist government Emboldened by “Coup”

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July 15, 2016, 4:39pm EST

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says military action is being taken without chain of command. A group of Turkish military officers said late Thursday it was taking over the country in order to restore secular democracy.

Gunfire heard in Ankara; jets, helicopters seen flying over. Multiple reports of a large military operation, soldiers deployed to Hatay Province. Bridges in Istanbul closed.

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President Erdogan, has been gradually transforming Turkey from a secular country into an Islamic Republic. The military sees itself as the guardian of Turkey’s secular constitution. Many officers regard Erdogan’s Islamization as a direct threat to the republic created by Kemal Ataturk in 1923.

Although this move by the military might have came as a suprise to some, many Turks wondered why it took the military so long to rise up against President Erdogan and the government he appointed. Every time the nation’s government has threatened to abandon its secular tradition, the military has stepped in and taken control until secular democracy returns. Erdogan’s Islamic-oriented Justice and Development Party won three elections in 2002, 2007 and 2011, but the party failed to win an absolute majority, which would have allowed Erdogan to amend the constitution in certain ways.

The Erdogan government has encouraged Turkish muslims to more openly practice their Islamic faith, but it is a liberty not everyone in Turkey appreciates. A large part of the country favours secularism prescribed by the republic’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Since Erdogan does not have the authority to change the Turkish constitution, he is constantly meddling with citizens lifestyles. In the attempt to push Turkey from a secular republic towards an Islamic state, Erdogan encourages women to have at least three children, not to have abortions, tells people not to drink, not to smoke, not to hold hands in public, and to be obedient and religious.

Some fear that Erdogan and his mullas will use this incident as an efficient way to exterminate detractors, crack down on secular institutions, further push for Turkey to become an Islamic state and replace the constitution with Sharia as the law.

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Update: July 15, 9:32pm EST

  • Turkish President Erdogan is taken to a safe place in Marmaris by his guards.
  • Turkish army announces it has taken over the authority, Gov’t denies, says the coup attempt is failed. Military says Erdogan will face trial.
  • Sources in-country saying Erdogan calling muslims to the streets to fight against military.
  • Muslim clerics getting involved, mosques using their loudspeakers to call on Muslims to take to the streets.

Update: July 16, 2016, 7:26am EST

Fighting continued into the early morning, sounds of huge blasts echoed across Istanbul and the capital, Ankara, including at least one bomb that hit the parliament complex.

  • Angry mobs attack troops, battles break out in Ankara and Istanbul
  • Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim says 161 killed, 1400 injured, 2839 members of Turkey’s military detained, says situation is “fully under control”.
  • Turkish Helicopter has landed in Greece where eight people have requested asylum according to Greek Police.
  • Erdogan vows revenge, said coup supporters “will pay a heavy price”
  • Islamist government supporters beheading soldiers and secularists in the streets screaming the takbir (allahu akbar)
A Turkish flag is seen next to the dome of Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, July 16, 2016.

Update: July 16, 2016, 4:26pm EST

The United Nations Security Council failed to condemn the military actions in Turkey after Egypt objected to a statement that called on all parties to “respect the democratically elected government of Turkey”

Erdogan has begun a purge of soldiers and judiciary officials. Over 2,839 military personnel have been detained, including, General Erdal Ozturk, commander of the Third Army. Some say Ozturk was one of the “masterminds of the coup”, while Erdogan has blamed the coup attempt on US-based religious leader Fethullah Gulen. At least. 2,745 judges have been dismissed, including two judges from Turkey’s consitutional court and 10 judges from the HSYK, according to Turkey’s Anadolu news agency.

According to Hurriyet newspaper, some of the soldiers who were detained told interrogators they were not aware that they were part of a coup attempt. They had been told by commanders they were taking part in military exercises.

Dr. Gonul Tol, the director of Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies; “Turkey’s military has a long history of intervening in Turkish politics — there have been at least four coup attempts in Turkey since 1960. In the past, the military acted on calls from the people and staged a coup against an unpopular government. That is not case today. The AKP and Erdogan might be very polarizing and might have alienated an important segment of society, but they still have the backing of almost 50% of the population.”

Turkey has a secular constitution, with no official state religion. Separation between mosque and state was established in Turkey soon after its founding in 1923, with an amendment to the Turkish constitution that mandated that Turkey had no official state religion and that the government and the state were to be free of religious influence.

The Turkish state “openly and publicly controls Islam through its State Directorate of Religious Affairs”. The constitution recognizes the freedom of religion for individuals, whereas the religious communities are placed under the protection and jurisdiction of the state and cannot become involved in the political process or establish faith-based schools.

In the early 2000s, Islamic groups started to aggressively challenged the concept of a secular state after Erdogan’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) came into power in 2002.

As of today, Turkey is the only secular muslim country in the world with 96.4% of the population identifying as muslim. Most being Sunnis muslim forming about 72% (wiki)

Various military and intelligence officials were on CNN Friday to give their thoughts on the attempted “coup” in Turkey…

I have been involved in coups before,” he said. “They should have taken CNN Turk and closed it down the first minutes, the radio station, social media, the internet. Even if they didn’t arrest [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, they should have taken care of all of that right at the beginning.” – Bob Baer (CIA)

“You have to be flexible enough to change your tactics as you’re going through. And it doesn’t sound like these coup plotters had that kind of flexibility.” – James Woolsey (CIA)

history shows that if you are going to execute these coups, you have to really mean it,”   -Gen. Wesley Clark

Turkey has had coups before, but this one was different.  The attempt was so poorly organized and executed, it was doomed to fail from the start. Some have speculated that the coup was meant to fail. A not so elaborate hoax to make President Erdogan look like a hero, giving excuse to round up his detractors and finally being able to change the Turkish constitution, Erdogan and his islamists have long wanted to do.

Although this incident will not change the relationship NATO currently holds with Turkey, it will be interesting to see the direction the country heads from here.

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