Turkey, Opposing the Coup, Surviving Erdogan


*** To oppose the military coup in Turkey was an absolute necessity

*** Some Erdogan supporters lynched soldiers, attacked innocents

*** Close to 50,000 soldiers, police, judges and civil servants have been detained

On the night of Friday to Saturday, July 15-16, a fraction of the Turkish army attempted a military coup against the AKP government. It was a complete failure. The death toll is more than 290, including over 100 plotters, and 1,400 people were injured.

The plotters claim to defend ‘democracy and human rights’ was actually far from the truth. Gunfire and explosions rocked both Istanbul and Ankara through Friday night, as some sections of the army strafed the headquarters of Turkish intelligence and parliament in the capital. At one point it ordered state television to read out a statement declaring a nationwide curfew. They also tried to attack Erdogan in the resort town of Marmaris and had bombed places he had been at shortly after he left. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim was also directly targeted in Istanbul during the coup bid and narrowly escaped. Yet the coup plotters overestimated the support they would find within the military ranks. They were outside the chain of command, which the highest hierarchy has been domesticated by the regime for the past few years. That was the biggest handicap for the coup plotters. They were also grossly under-equipped to achieve their strategic objectives. Most probably that coup plotters appeared to have launched their attempt prematurely because they realized they were under surveillance. Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek said there had been periodic intelligence about a grouping within the military that could attempt “some sort of an uprising” and that the plan had been to remove them at an August meeting of the High Military Council (YAS), the top body overseeing the armed forces.

They also underestimated Erdogan’s ability to rally his supporters to take to the streets and bringing them out in Istanbul, Ankara and elsewhere even as tanks took to the streets and jets screamed overhead. In addition, the plotters had no popular support of any kind among the population and the society and all parliamentarian parties opposed the coup, including the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) despite the severe and violent repression it suffered from the AKP government. It was also opposed by the leading business groups such as the representative of the leading factions of Turkish finance capital, the TÜSIAD.

There are however still some obscure zones in this coup, including the level of participation the followers of the cleric Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, and has denied any involvement in the coup bid. The preacher Fethullah Gülen, had supported in the past the bloodiest junta in Turkish history (September 1980 – 1983) and had also welcomed the civilian government created by another military intervention (February 1997). There are more reasons to be suspicious of Gülen: it is believed that his followers have infiltrated major official institutions. Moreover, after Erdo?an emptied the military of Kemalist soldiers as far as he could, the regime played into Gülen’s hands by staffing it further with his followers.

To oppose the military coup in Turkey was an absolute necessity. The army in Turkey is not and has never been a friend of the popular classes and Kurdish population in the country. Historically, every military coup has been followed by vast repressions and restrictions of democracy. And let’s be very clear, to oppose the coup, is not to defend the authoritarian government of the AKP. Quite the opposite, to overthrow the AKP or any other conservative and authoritarian party, only a massive popular movement from below can guarantee democratic and social rights and Kurdish self determination in the country. No illusion should be given in thinking that a military coup from above can liberate the popular classes.

Responsibility of the AKP government in the crisis

However, it must also be clear that the AKP government and President Erdogan bear a heavy responsibility in the current crisis. The AKP government and President Erdogan have actually been guilty for several years now of authoritarian rule and practices, of restricting democratic and social rights, and of reviving a deadly war against the Kurds.

The AKP government has attacked all democratic and progressive sectors of society: journalists, activists, feminists, LGBT communities, trade unionists, academics, human rights, etc… This is without forgetting its agreement with the European Union in November 2015, in order “to channel the influx of refugees into the Schengen area”, aimed in fact to the return to Turkey of all migrant landing in Greece. This is a particularly outrageous form of modern human trafficking. Since then, numerous Syrians trying to travel to Turkey from Syria, where they were trying to flee the bombing of Assad and Putin regimes’ warplanes, have been killed by Turkish border guards.

Nature of the movement

Erdo?an’s urged people to flood into the streets, and face down the military plotters. There were also calls from mosques and state religious institutions controlled by the government across the country urging citizens to thwart the coup, The mobilisations in the streets that answered the calls were in their far majority composed of AKP members and supporters. While I believe it was right to support the people, regardless if the far majority were supporters or members of the AKP, we should however not accept the demonstrations that turned into the lynching of soldiers in some places. Pictures on social media also showed detained soldiers stripped from the waist up, some wearing only their underpants, handcuffed and lying packed together on the floor of a sports hall where they were being held in Ankara. They should face trial for their actions but not be threatened and humiliated by AKP supporters.

Another aspect in these mobilizations that should be clear is that the far majority of the AKP supporters and members that came in the streets came to defend the AKP regime and its politics and not democracy.

The popular basis of the AKP led by Erdogan has in its far majority supported, or not opposed to say the least, the authoritarian path of the party in power. AKP’s government and Erdogan have not hesitated to resort to chaos and civil war atmosphere in order to maintain their hegemony since the elections on 7th June 2015, notably by reviving the war against Kurdish population and repressing all sectors of society criticizing or opposing its rule. In June of 2015 the AKP lost its electoral majority of more than 50%, notably because of a historic score of 13.1% of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP). According to data released by the Association of Human Rights and the Foundation of Human Rights in Turkey, 173 civilians were victims of arbitrary executions and 226 others injured by the police or the army in Turkey during the year 2015. In addition to these civilian massacres, the Turkish authorities are trying to stifle the political will of the Kurdish people by arresting activists and political representatives. A recent report from the Association of Human Rights in Turkey stated that this political repression resulted in over 6,000 arrests of Kurdish activists in 2015, of which nearly 1,300 were imprisoned. From these 1,300, 17 included mayors and many other local elected officials. More than 10,000 political prisoners, including more than 9,000 Kurds, exist in Turkish jails,

The AKP has also changed recently the constitution in order to lift temporary the immunity of deputies in order to target the HDP. Their MPs are currently being prosecuted. Democratic rights have indeed been continuously violated for the past few years and with an acceleration in the year 2015. As mentioned above, nearly all sectors of the society were targeted by the AKP government.

This was seen also by the attacks targeting the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) offices on Saturday 16thJuly in three cities following the failed coup attempt in Turkey. The offices of the HDP, which also condemned the attempted military coup against the AKP government, were attacked in Malatya, Osmaniye and Iskenderun during demonstrations by AKP mobs. The offices in Malatya and Osmaniye were stoned and then broken into, with the attackers breaking tables and chairs. In Iskenderun attackers fired live rounds at the office, breaking windows. In addition to this, they were attacks against Syrian populations, and alcohol consumers were harassed, while several clashes broken out in Alevi neighbourhoods such as Gazi in Istanbul and towns.

Reaction of Erdogan, increasing its power

As the military coup, the AKP led by Erdogan’s was already actually starting to use this coup to strengthen its authoritarian rule. Erdogan actually promised, even before the coup attempt was completely over, a purge of the armed forces. He declared “They will pay a heavy price for this,” and added “This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army.”

This is partially not a surprise. No illusions should be actually put in AKP or Erdogan’s call for democracy. They are no friends of democracy as they have shown in the past and continue to do so. The call by the AKP for the current mobilisations is only to strengthen its authoritarian power.

Authorities have suspended or detained close to 50,000 soldiers, police, judges and civil servants since the Friday night’s coup. Annual leave was suspended for more than 3 million civil servants, while close to 3,000 judges and prosecutors have been suspended. 5 Internet sites (now 7, plus 2 TV channels), including Ru?en Çak?r’s Medyascope, Kar?? Gazete, Rota Haber, Gazete Port and ABC have been shut down. In addition to this, On Tuesday July 19, 15,000 people have also been fired from the education ministry, 492 from the Religious Affairs Directorate, 257 from the prime minister’s office, 100 intelligence officials and 300 at the energy ministry. Turkey’s Higher Education Board (YÖK) has also demanded the resignation of 1,557 deans on duty at all private and state universities throughout the country.

We can see a will of the AKP’s government to dominate all sectors of the state and dominate society by threatening all opposition through various ways. In no way whatsoever is their any will to protect democracy, quite on the opposite. This is a very dangerous process to be opposed fully of eliminating all forms of dissent.

One last example, when supporters of Tayyip Erdogan gathered on Saturday 17th of July in front of his Istanbul home to call for the plotters to face the death penalty, which Turkey outlawed in 2004 as part of its efforts to join the European Union, Erdogan answered the crowd by these words: “We cannot ignore this demand,” and adding “In democracies, whatever the people say has to happen.”

Things are not easy and the various struggles for democracy, social justice, peace and self-determination of Kurdish people have got harder than previous to the coup.

Authorities also shut down media outlets deemed to be supportive of the cleric Fethullah Gulen accused of orchestrating the failed military takeover.

“I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will” Gramsci

There are some who see in any crisis or popular movement an opportunity for the radical left without analysis of these movements, these crises and its dynamic and forces. And those who oppose this view are mocked as pessimists, but this is not pessimism. It is to make a material analysis of the concrete situation and not to create illusions. Does this mean that we should not intervene in the struggles to try and change things positively and continue the struggle for a democratic and progressive society? This is far from the truth, it just means that we adapt our tactics and strategies to better intervene in struggles and always totally and passionately.

Now we need new struggles, to work for new democratic and progressive popular movements and strengthen existing one. Defend Kurds, democrats, and religious minorities against attacks. All our solidarity and support to comrades and activists in Turkey working in this direction.

Again there is the need to build a united independent democratic, socialist and secular alternative that supports the self-determination of the Kurdish people, which is independent both of the army and the AKP. These two entities are part of the reaction in Turkey and need to be fought. For those who choose to support one of these two reactionary forces presenting it as the choice of the “least worst”, they actually choose the road of defeat and the maintenance of an unjust system in which the popular classes of the country live and with no prospect for the liberation of the Kurdish people. Our role is to oppose the different reactionary forces and build an independent and united front against these two forms of reactions and basing it on democratic and social basis and opposing all forms of discrimination and working for the radical change of society in a dynamic from below in which the working classes the agent of change.

No to the army!

No to AKP!

Yes to a democratic, socialist and secular alternative!

Yes to the self determination of the Kurdish people and peace!

Joseph Daher

19 July 2016

This article was first published on Peace news: http://peacenews.org/2016/07/19/turkey-opposing-coup-surviving-erdogan/

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