In recent days, the world was caught off guard by a military-led coup in Turkey, a NATO ally with the second-largest armed forces in the alliance. Hundreds of millions around the world turned to televisions and social media to get the latest information as reporters inside the country scrambled to learn details about what was happening and, most importantly, why.
At least one published report had a shocking reply to the question on everyone’s mind — was Turkey’s recent ‘coup’ little more than a false flag event staged by the country’s leader?
The answer is no. The coup wasn’t real.
The UK’s Daily Mail reported the day after the “coup” that it was staged by the country’s president, Racep Erdogan (pronounced ER-doh-yuan), so he could use it as an excuse to crack down on political dissent and usher in an Islamic state.
For his part, Erdogan – who was out of the country at the time on holiday – claims that the coup was real and that a U.S.-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, was behind it. Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, says that Erdogan staged the rebellion himself as a way to launch a major clampdown on political opponents.
At one time, the paper said, Gulen was an important ally of Erdogan, but the Turkish leader has said that his onetime friend used contacts in Turkey to build a “parallel structure” to overthrow the government. Now, Erdogan is calling on President Obama to extradite Gulen.
While the Daily Mail report sounds like the sort of stuff movies are made of, Gulen’s story cannot be dismissed out of hand.
For one, during the early stages of the coup, this reporter was watching various cable news programs in an effort to learn about what was happening and to get some insight into the issues surrounding it. One theme that was repeated often by veteran Turkey watchers and geopolitical experts was this: If the coup did not succeed, Erdogan would use it as a reason to purge the military and his government of political dissenters.
Now, just days after the event, Erdogan has begun to do that:
— Turkish police and security forces rounded up more than 6,000 suspects in 48 hours after the coup, Agence France Presse reported. Many of those who were arrested are top generals within the Turkish military.
— Top-ranking officers were already systematically being purged from the military in the months before the coup.
— Despite calls for restraint by world leaders including President Barack Obama, Erdogan has pledged to continue cleaning the “virus” from government institutions. Reuters noted:
Speaking at a funeral of people killed in Friday’s violence, Erdogan said the coup attempt by the “terror group”, led by Gulen, was put down by national will. He said members of the Gulen group, which he said have “ruined” the armed forces, are being arrested in all ranks within the army.
— A separate Reuters report quoted Erdogan as saying that the uprising was “a gift from God” – and that it “will be a reason to cleanse our army” of political dissenters. The Turkish president is also well aware of the history of military-led coups in Turkey.
— Erdogan has begun to substantially clamp down on liberal civil rights.
In addition to purging the military, Erdogan’s government has also been busy purging the country’s judiciary; the Daily Mail noted that more than 2,740 judges and prosecutors whose loyalty was in question have been detained.
For his part Gulen condemned the use of force in to try to change the government, but he also said that Erdogan may have been behind it all.
“There is a slight chance, there is a possibility that it could be a staged coup. It could be meant for court accusations and associations,” he told the UK daily. “’It appears that they have no tolerance for any movement, any group, any organization that is not under their total control.”
In a follow-up report, the Daily Mail noted further that Erdogan vowed to purge his government of any and all dissent.
Finally, there is this: In recent years Erdogan – first as Prime Minister and now as president, which has been a largely ceremonial post – has been steadily moving Turkey away from its founding roots of secularist Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and towards an Islamist-based government.
Erdogan’s government is “purposefully trying to erode the place of Ataturk in the Turkish collective memory,” Svante E. Cornell, research director at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program in Stockholm, told Bloomberg News. “Turkey is becoming a model, but not the one we in the West believe. It’s a model for how Islamist parties can accede to power and stay in power.”
(Image credit: WikiCommons)