We did not see the real faces of the military personnel who attempted the coup
Desislava Pateva interviews Tayfur Hussein, deputy editor of “Zaman – Bulgaria“; Originally appeared at A-specto, translated by Borislav exclusively for SouthFront
Was the attempted military coup in Turkey a surprise or is it more likely that the political players on the international political scene knew about it?
Only the only moment when they tried to carry out this coup was a surprise. Many analysts pointed out that in the near future such a scenario is possible, although the senior military members in Turkey excluded such an option. But such opportunity was on the agenda in the conspiracy circles. We must point out that this coup attempt comes a few weeks before senior appointments in the Turkish army. Every year in the beginning of August new executives are appointed in the Turkish army.
How can one explain the failure of this attempt?
That is the question one has to ask. We still do not know who in the military really tried to carry out this coup. The people we have seen are conscripted soldiers, 18-19-year-old. They learned they are part of a coup when supporters of the government told them after they were captured. In this coup attempt were involved two helicopters, seven tanks, one airplane and 350 soldiers. How can such a coup be carried out against the second largest army in NATO.
Was Erdogan prepared for this turn of events, given the ideological conflict between the army and Islamic authorities, the civil war in Turkish Kurdistan and the deterioration of relations between Turkey and all key players in the region and in the world?
Absolutely. The Turkish military has an experience in carrying out coups. Over the past 50-60 years, Turkey has had three successful military coups, a “postmodern coup” so-called “electronic coup” on April 7 against Abdullah Gul, who later became president. They have a pretty solid experience in this regard, however bitter it may be. It is strange that those who made this coup attempt, acted so amateurish. Furthermore, none of the senior military members backed the plotters.
The way in which Erdogan behaved and his actions arouse suspicion. Any politician against whom a coup is in progress, is quite surprised and his anxiety prevails over what is happening. But he did not seem to be surprised. Upon his triumphant return from Antalya, where he was on vacation, Erdogan was greeted by supporters as a conqueror and as a defender of democracy in Turkey. This is strange, considering what is happening in the country in recent years.
The call, which he made to his excited supporters had come out against the plotters. This call only mean death for many innocent people. We have the military who are trying to carry out a coup, carrying military weapons. It is assumed that they will take all measures to achieve their success, including to kill people.
How do you explain that there was no legitimate figure to lead this coup? We don’t know who really drove this putsch, we have no data that senior representatives of the military were involved. There is information that even the contingent in Iraq had been ordered to return and defend power.
This is a great mystery. The military, which have a fairly extensive experience in this regard, “seized” the Bosphorus Bridge, took over the airport and seized a number of squares and public places. But they never bothered a similar attempt against the government, as should be the goal of every coup. Furthermore, experience in Turkish history shows that the first actions of the military are directed against the Turkish state television, Turkish state radio and newspapers.
In our case there was an attempt to capture the Turkish state TV, where a statement on behalf of the military was read out, which is also very strange. Such a statement has always been read out by the leader of the coup, who has stood with his face and his voice in television and radio. He has always announced that a military coup is carried out and what measures are going to be taken. That did not happen, we did not see the real faces of those who tried to carry out the coup.
What do you think of the part of the statement in which the military say they have taken over power to protect democracy and human rights, to restore the rule of law?
The plotters also must have legitimacy in the world, it should be clear why they committed a coup. In some circles in Turkey that premise sounds plausible in view of what Erdogan has done in recent years. There is pressure on civil society, against the media, against any kind of opposition. It’s intimidating at first glance, and seem plausible to those who hear such an appeal. At first this sounds quite encouraging for people who expect a democratic Turkey.
I must point out that you can not expect anything good from any military coup. No return to democracy. And the worst democracy is preferable to any kind of military dictatorships and coups. This abortive coup led to over 200 deaths, at least according to the latest data. What will be the final figure is unknown.
How plausible is Erdogan’s claim that the failed coup was conceived by Fethullah Gülen?
I personally learned about the attempted coup from social networks. Pro-government media in Turkey initially did not report anything, same for the very few remaining opposition media. The first reaction of the Prime Minister of Turkey, Binali Yildirim was that the coup attempt was carried out by associates of Fethullah Gülen. And this under the condition that we have no information of who the plotters are, where they are, and what exactly is happening. There is a movement of tanks and military on the streets, and them the government immediately announces who is behind the coup. And that was repeated all night by the president and the prime minister and all ministers. It was presented as a reliable information. Gulen himself immediately announced to the world media that he condemns any kind of a coup. He said that the military coup is no solution to the problems not only of Turkey, but also of all democracies around the world.
Can it be said, that this attack against the Turkish president comes from the United States? Because we see that Erdogan’s relationship with the US is not particularly good. We also remember the color revolution attempt at Gezi park?
I can not say whether that is so. Of course, conspiracy theories began to circulate, especially on social networks. Not only in Turkey but also in the Western media, there began to appear articles about who was behind the coup. There will be such conspiracy theories until we see the real faces,. I do not think we’ll ever learn who they are. I say this in view of what happened last year.
After June 7, 2015, after the regular elections in Turkey, 17 terrorist bombings were carried out with more than 300 victims. The theme is a little different, but it is indicative of how the Turkish authorities act, as well as the Turkish military and the Turkish police. On the other hand, there are military operations in southeast Turkey, but without knowing who really is behind them, how they are executed. Everything was hushed up. The bombings and terrorist attacks are used for domestic purposes in the country. Realistically, we see that the government is winning from all this.
Those who tried to make this coup greatly harmed Turkey. They threw a saving straw to Erdogan and his authoritarian, dictatorial regime. There were signs that the regime was crumbling. Literally a few weeks ago the Turkish regime was demonizing Russia and Israel in international politics, and were at odds with Syria and Bashar Assad, as well as with Egypt. At the same time they did not have warm relations with the West, with the US and EU. Suddenly they became friends with Russia, and Israel in a very short time. This is very difficult to explain that supporters of the ruling party, because it generated demonization votes for Turkey’s ruling party and strong support for Erdogan. It is very difficult subsequently to explain why he did this. How is it that suddenly these enemies became best friends?
Moreover, Erdogan has a serious problem with the legitimacy of his university diploma, and this is one of the requirements for him to be president. This is stated in the Constitution. Initially it was reported that he has a degree from the University of Marmara. Later it turned out that from Istanbul University. It is still not clear what diploma he has. This is a serious problem because it does not meet the legitimacy of the presidential institution. Other important problems are those with the Kurds and with terror. All that is still in the background.
One of the most important topics was the change from a parliamentary to a presidential republic, which is one of the main objectives of President Erdogan. He wants to establish a “presidential republic – Turkish type”, where there is no authority controlling the president. That way he has all the power. Currently, he has absolute legitimacy to carry out a purge in the police and the judiciary. Anyone who confronts Erdogan, currently critiques the “defender of democracy in Turkey.”
There is no death penalty in Turkey, but the Constitutional Council in the country will have to decide whether this will return. Is this likely to happen, especially after comments by the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim that the military members involved in the attempted coup, “will pay the highest price?”
It is difficult to say whether it will come to this decision because it does not depend entirely on Erdogan and the ruling party in Turkey. But this is a message to Erdogan’s voters that: We were able to put the plotters on their knees. Currently the Turkish regime is in a strong position and should have a strong message to the electorate, because that’s what it wants to hear. For this reason, one of the messages is exactly for the return of the death penalty.
I want to go back a little to Erdogan’s return. After being greeted at the airport, outside his home appeared people dressed in costumes of the Ottoman military. It lures Turkish voters, especially those who are conservative.
It is quite complicated to say who was behind the coup, at least at this stage. We must point out that despite the many terrorist attacks that were carried out in Turkey, none of the cases has been resolved. We don’t know who is behind the attacks. On the other hand, there is a coup attempt, which was extinguished in a few hours.
Erdogan contacted Turkish media through social networks, and said that he managed to overcome the coup, calling on the Turkish people to come forward and stand against the plotters. The whole process seems well organized. Another fact which casts doubt – when other coups were carried out, military operations took place not only in the megalopolis Istanbul and the capital Ankara, but in almost all cities. In this case this is not so.
The Turkish Prime Minister said that the conspirators who attempted to commit a coup in Turkey, are no longer soldiers, they are now defined as terrorists. Do you think that the rise in terrorist acts in our southern neighbor, is part of a strategy to overthrow Erdogan and that this coup can be incorporated in this scheme as well?
I do not know whether this is the case. But what is widely discussed in the Turkish media is that the aim of the coup was not the overthrow of the government but a civil war in Turkey. Of course this is one conspiracy theory. Even a few months ago when the government took over the offices of the newspaper “Zaman” and turned it into a pro-government media, one of the leading professors of constitutional law, Myumtazer Tyurkyone pointed out that in Turkey there is an outright fascism. Every fascist dictator is willing to sacrifice his country, just to remain in government. To save his skin, he is ready to sacrifice everything.
How do we read the US authorities delayed reaction in relation to what is happening in Turkey? Subsequently, we saw that President Barack Obama and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg were supportive of the “democratically” elected government.
This is not for the first time there is a late reaction. This is a servile response. World leaders are waiting to see how things will go, then they decide what their reaction will be. A military coup is not a solution for Turkey. Only democratic methods should be sought as a solution. A military coup further complicates the situation and human casualties are many times more.
Can we say that the powerful support from the US is just pro forma, given the deteriorating relations between Turkey and the US and the fact that Erdogan is trying to warm relations with Russia?
I tend to believe that this is so. We should not forget that there are US presidential election ahead. So this treatment is not toward Erdogan specifically, but toward Turkey in general. It declares that they stand behind democratic values and support the democratically elected president. Personally, I’m not surprised by this reaction. And it’s good to have such a reaction, rather than leading to escalations in the country. The calls for the Turkish population to oppose the plotters, arouses doubts. Personally, this worries me because military and police were pitted against each other, and yet their job is to ensure security in the country.
There was information that the Turkish lira has lost 4.6% of its value, which is the largest single drop since 2008. Moreover, there is a serious breakdown in the flow of tourists because of frequent terrorist attacks. Is it possible for Turkey to get out of this situation and to stabilize economically if the trend of warm relations with Russia, Israel and other possible allies continues?
Turkey should seek allies, but it’s hard to say what the reaction will be. Who would want to go on a trip to a country where there was a coup attempt, where there are terrorist attacks every month. In such a situation you remain hostage and have no idea what will happen. It is expected that the damage to tourism is many times more. The indicators were very poor and is expected to become even worse.
If we talk about the internal politics of Erdogan, this will not damage his reputation. With his actions and his rhetoric he has repeatedly stated that he is the president of those who elected him. In recent years the opposition in Turkish society has become very visible. The polarization is very big and society is divided between Kurds, alawites, religious and secular. Erdogan however, is in no way trying to attract those who did not vote for him. He cares only for the 52% of Turkish voters, who gave their approval, and that they continue to support him. The rest are foreign to him. Legally he is not the head of the ruling party, but stated that his party has repeatedly won elections. So he’s saying that he is president of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Henceforth he is the democratically elected president, and the president who is for a democratic Turkey.
But even Erdogan’s opponents supported him after this coup attempt. How do you explain this?
That was a subsequent reaction. The Nationalist Movement of Devlet Bahceli is the backyard of the ruling party. There was severe criticism of the leader, and within the party an opposition was even created. Bahceli has led for almost 20 years, and failed to win a single election to date. But nevertheless, he’s still at the forefront, mainly thanks to the ruling party, because they serve each other.
On the other hand, the party of Kemal Kilicdaroglu is composed of different factions. There is a solid fraction, that is “for” the ruling party, or at least indirectly supports it. The pro-Kurdish party does not know how to act. Their support for democracy was principled, despite becoming clear that they support Erdogan. But given that the attempted coup failed, politically it was more profitable to get behind the democratically elected institutions.
The purge of the judiciary is a symptom of what? Some time ago you said that serious lawsuits are expected against Erdogan. Is this his attempt to escape from criminal responsibility?
What I said was not only related to domestic things, but also international ones. I meant that he would be tried for crimes against humanity, for example because of allegations of arms trade. I am referring mostly to the Hague tribunal, but that is conditionally speaking, because you never know what will happen next. Winners do not go to trial. In domestic politics his support began to seriously decline, but it is possible that it will stabilize. That is to say, the part of Turkish voters who stand behind him have no doubts, and will stand by the ruling party.
The purge was very serious. How they act is revealing. Immediately after the attempted coup 2,700 judges were fired. This shows that they were ready to fire these judges, waiting for the convenient moment. It seems there was a list of judges to be fired. On the other hand, over 3000 military personnel was detained, and this is provided that we do not know the faces of the real people who tried to carry out this coup in Turkey. This shows that there was a ready list for military personnel to be removed. It is likely that there will be more pressure against the little opposition media that remains. The only winner from all this is Erdogan, which is very suspicious.