Main stream and social media suddenly went abuzz late last night after news started pouring in from Turkey, about another attempted military coup by a “section of the army”. Pictures emerged from Ankara, the state capital, of bridges being blocked, military air-crafts flying low, parliament building on siege and state media issuing statements confirming an “uprising”.
However, by morning, counter-news confirmed that the coup has been “repelled”. President Tayyip Erdoğan returned from his vacation and resumed office as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. He even addressed a large crowd in Istanbul on Saturday morning reinforcing that his government is in control.
Turkey has had a history of military coups. None ended so unceremoniously like the one from last night. Most often such uprisings ended up changing the shape of politics in the country. And Turkish military never looked this unorganized, haphazard or puny, while trying to topple their political leadership.
And that makes us wonder – was this really a coup or just an effort to consolidate Erdoğan’s position amidst his failing popularity in the country? The reason I raise this doubt also comes from the actions of his government, right after the so called coup was quashed.
As many as 10 members of the Council of State, the country’s top administrative court, have been arrested, and search is now on for 140 other members of the court of cessation. According to the state-run Anadolu agency, 2,745 judges have been dismissed. Prime Minister Yildrim claims that the death toll stands at 161 and 1,440 others have been wounded but some agencies call this figure exaggerated, typical of a government trying to garner public sympathy after an orchestrated military uprising.
Tayyip Erdoğan has long been accusing Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Islamic cleric & his primary opposition at this moment, of building a “parallel structure” in Turkey to challenge his democratically elected government. And as expected, he is being blamed for this coup as well. But LA Times reports that the Gulen group has denied any involvement and disapproved of any military involvement in Turkey’s domestic policies.
About eight military soldiers fled the country in the early hours of Saturday in a helicopter and landed in the Northern Greek city of Alexandroupolis. We are yet to know their names and designations. Greece and Turkey are negotiating their extradition.
So you see, peculiarly, this coup remains “headless” as of now, very unusual considering Turkey’s history of military coups.
But as Franklin Roosevelt once said, “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way”, we’ll have to wait for more details to emerge, before we determine if the coup was a genuine attempt to “restore democracy and the rule of law” and leader(s) of this coup are now in hiding over fears of being tried for treason or there is more to this story.
But one thing is for sure. In its internal identity-conflict between Islamism and secular democracy, the center of the once mighty Ottoman Empire, still doesn’t cease to amuse us of its grandeur and theatrics.
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