The failed military coup in Turkey that took place on the night of Friday 15 July 2016 came as a shock to the world and constituted the most challenging moment for the democratically elected government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The attempt to take over power in the country bypart of the Turkish military would have been considered a major set-back to democratic rule and freedom in the country if the coup had succeeded. Turkish people have had decades of dark moments that threatened to destabilisethe state, through coupsbought about by the Turkish army, and they tasted the repercussions throughout the generations since before Second World War. That is why they overwhelmingly rose up against the army, defying the tanks in tens of thousands across the country.
During the past decade since the rule of the Justice Party, the Turkish public have tasted true democracy, freedom and rule of law. The country’s economy has developed immensely. The Turkish Lyra gained credibility among international currencies and the country has achieved eye opening prosperity in its infrastructure, transport system, health service, education and defence. No wonder then that the Turkish public have been willing to defend their democracy at any cost.
During the less than ten hours of failed coup, Turkish citizens have taught the rebel elements of the army, and the rest of the world, endless lessons in unity, pride,bravery, and love of nation and democracy. Images being portrayed by international media show various scenes of bravery, from unarmed people challenging the military tanks, to throngs of citizens attempting to subdue army soldiers and even helping the police arrest them.
As of Sunday 17 July, over 6000 arrests had been made- of people thought by the government of being behind the coup. However the fingers mainly point to the Fethullah Gülen group, as previously suspected by the Turkish president. President Erdogan openly accuses Gülen of being responsible for nurturing a parallel underground movement which has infiltrated the military, the police, the media, and the justice systems and other sectors of the Turkish society. This group he argues has become ‘cancerous’ and is directly responsible for destabilising the state. Now he has evidence with which to try them in court.
This historical moment has been symbolic not only to Turkish citizens but also to the neighbouring countries, and many observers across the world. The lessons that can be highlighted from this decisive moment in the history of Turkey are manifold and varied, especially for the Arab Spring countries which have gone through similar experiences.
Firstly, the role of the media was a crucial tool in overturning the attempted coup. While part of the military managed to take control of the main state TV station and broadcast their first announcement, PresidentErdogan managed to address the nation through social media. His call through Face Time to the Turkish people,in the first hour of the attempted coup,to take to the streets remained the most important decision in curbing the will of the plotters.
Erdogan appeared about five times in a span of six hours, in which he recurrently urged the public to invade public spaces including Taksim Square, Istanbul Airport, The Bosphorus Bridge and the Television Station. At about 8:45 GMT, when it became clear that the attempted coup was doomed to fail,Erdogan addressed Turkish people through Twitter to remain alert in public spaces even if everything seemed to be over.
Also while mainstream media were struggling to catch up with the dramatic development of the events and to find images for their news stories, social media were flooded with rolling news, pictures and footage from various parts of Istanbul and Ankara which documented the events.
Secondly, while this event remained for few hours the most horrible nightmare for Turkey in the year 2016,in which there was an attempt to change democratic rule through military might, the response from the Western powers was poor to say the least and came with no immediate condemnation.
The following are a few responses during the few hours before the coup failure: UN chief: ‘appeals for calm in Turkey’;Obama: ‘supports democracy in Turkey’;Germany ‘supports democracy in Turkey’, (albeit pronouncing a clear condemnation after the coup failed).On an American TV stationanAmerican senator openly said that ‘we will support any military government in Turkey’. That is understandable given part of the American media’s hostility against Muslims. But what is pathetic is the continuous support, until the last minute, of afew Arab media outlets for thecoup attempt. For instance a few Egyptian media outlets were openly delighted that the Turkish government might fall down. Some even claimed that Erdogan was reportedly seeking asylum in Germany!
However to the credit of the Qatari government, the Emir of Qatar proclaimed from the outset his unwavering support to the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and announced his condemnation of the attempted coup. This was followed by Morocco and Elnahda Party in Tunisia who openly expressed their shock about this attack on democracy and called for the Turkish army to respect the will of the Turkish people.
Now this failed coup will soonbecome a lesson to be taught in history books, namely in political science. But this significant moment in the history of the region should not be understood as a struggle for power between Islamists and secularists as is the case in many countries in the Muslim world. In fact the secularists in Turkey have strongly voiced their support for the democratically elected government and clearly condemned the attempted coup. This event should instead be regarded as part of an attempt by a few external powers to destabilise the whole region and therefore obliterate any possible success for the Arab Spring. Turkey has been a major supporter to the Arab countries seeking democratic change such as Tunisia, Egypt and Syria. The Erdogan government has been a strong supporter of the Syrian legitimate opposition and a stumbling block preventing the Iranians and Russians from overtaking the region.
International powers have probably realised that Turkey has grown out of their control militarily and economically. Hence it is time to limit its power, strength and influence. In light of the above it was not strange then that the Western response to the attempted coup was hesitant, came very late and mostly with no immediate condemnation. One would wonder if a similar attempted coup had happened in any part of Europe or the Western world. Surely NATO would have immediately deployed its utmost military might to restore a democratically elected government!
This article was first published by thepeninsulaqatar.com.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.