Originally appeared at A-specto, translated by Borislav exclusively for SouthFront
The return of the death penalty in Turkey will erase any remaining hopes for membership of the country in the European Union. It seems that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, attaches less and less importance to this fact. During the most massive rally in the recent history of Turkey, he strengthened his position by saying he would support the return of this ultimate punishment, if it is backed by parliament and society. Sunday’s demonstration on the “Yenikapi” square in Istanbul, which was titled “Democracy and martyrs” garnered at least 1 million people. Government sources even claim that the rally in support of the Turkish President consisted of 5 million people. The event was broadcast live to another 81 populated places during smaller demonstrations there.
“This is something beyond politics, it’s about our freedom or our death,” said 46-year-old civil servant Hadji Mehmet Haliloglu, who arrived from the Black Sea city of Ordu to support Turkish head of state.
According to many analysts the demonstration was orchestrated, especially evident due to the fact that the participants in the rally were transported from all areas of Istanbul with free buses and ships. Furthermore, the slogans of the demonstrators in a sea of red Turkish flags, sounded too pathetic: “You are a gift from God, Erdogan” and “Order us to die and we will do it.” For the first time in decades almost all opposition forces also joined this rally in support of the status quo, which the Turkish head of state, understood as an expression of national unity. But what is the reason for Erdogan to need such a dumb manifestation of apparent stability?
There’s criticism from all over Europe against the Turkish President, because of his militant response to the attempted coup. The Turkish President’s anger was kindled by the reluctance of the US to hand over the man who he accused of leading a conspiracy to overthrow the state – Fethullah Gülen. According to Erdogan, the Islamic preacher has supporters among the security forces and the judiciary. It is this argument that led the Turkish authorities to detain and start an investigation against tens of thousands of people, including soldiers, police, judges, journalists, doctors and civil servants.
The penal system in Turkey was struggling even before the tumult – the prisons were bursting at the seams, and the courts were overwhelmed with work. While the authorities claim that everything is under control, the number of people incarcerated has jumped threefold since 2002. Among them are about 3,000 prosecutors and judges, which further hampers finding magistrates who can take up the cases. As of March there were 188 000 prisoners in Turkey, which is 8,000 more than the available capacity. So far 12,000 people have been jailed and are pending trial after the failed coup, and thousands more were detained for questioning. Photos of alleged conspirators in handcuffs in their underwear, being held in hot rooms, provoked the wrath of human rights organizations. According to activists, the prisons are so overcrowded that prisoners are forced to sleep in shifts.
This demonstration of force, especially since Gülen denied any connection with the attempted coup, sparked concern among allies of Erdogan. According to many of them he just takes advantage of events to further tighten his grip, and to hold more power firmly in his hands.
“On the night, during which our enemies rubbed their hands in anticipation of Turkey’s fall, they woke up the next morning with pain and found that from now on things will be much more difficult,” stated Erdogan of the abortive putsch at the rally. Erdogan stressed that there will be a strict control over who is admitted into the army and the judicial system. According to him, the failed coup will be the basis for building a stronger Turkey, despite Western criticism of the mass purges and promises to destroy those who stand behind this coup.
In turn, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim personally swore to the president that he would put the organizers of the mutiny on their knees and act within the law, “The Turkish Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen living in the United States, will be brought to Turkey and will pay the price for the failed coup attempt in the country last month.” The Chief of General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces, General. Hulusi Akar added that the traitors behind the attempted coup will be punished most severely.
“Turkey has changed after July the 15th,” said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, chairman of the main opposition force in the country – the Republican People’s Party. According to him, the first condition for the future of the country is the categorical removal of politics from mosques, military and the judiciary.
The events of July the 15th shocked the entire nation, which last witnessed a military coup in 1980. But even Erdogan’s opponents consider that his leadership is preferable to a coup that would have renewed the cycle of military intervention in the second half of 20th century.
According to some analysts, such solidarity could not last long. There are already fears in the opposition that the restructuring of the military lacks the control of parliament. Some Turkish MPs even believe that Erdogan has gone too far with the dismissal of thousands of military personnel, 40 percent of which are generals.