Turkey’s leaders said they have largely quelled an attempted military coup,
With army officers claiming to have seized power, clashes persisted in major cities as tanks blockaded roads.
Soldiers have been fighting with police.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a speech from Instanbul’s international airport, blamed the coup attempt on a small group in the Turkish army
“This is a movement of treason and an insurgency. Let me tell you that they will pay a heavy price for this treason,” Erdogan told TV networks during a live broadcast from Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport.
He also warned soldiers participating in the overthrow.
”You are our soldiers. It is impossible for us to accept you pointing your gun at the people, your parents, your brothers and sisters. These weapons have been given to you by the people. If you point these to the people, you will pay a hefty price.”
To understand what’s going on in Turkey, we have to understand several points.
First, the Turkish military does not answer to its president as in other countries. It is there to maintain the vision of the country’s founder Kemal Ataturk who created a secular state.
Secondly, there have been four coups in Turkey since the country signed up with NATO in 1952.
In 1960, the army took power when the ruling party broke away from the strict rules imposed by Atatürk and began to allow religious practices, including the opening of hundreds of mosques and permitting prayers in Arabic. In 1971, after lots of political instability, the military didn’t directly seize power but instead helped bring in a series of transitional governments that lasted till 1973. In 1980, the military took matters into its own hands when the social and political situation was unsettled. It announcemed that martial law would be imposed on the country, the constitution was revoked and substituted with another. That was put to a referendum in 1982. Approved by 92 per cent of the voters, Turkey got a new constitution in place and elections took place. In 1997, a group of generals concerned about an increasing presence of political Islam in the country, presented the government, led by Necmettin Erbakan, with recommendations—including closing many religious schools, and banning the wearing of headscarves at universities. The generals then forced the prime minister to resign.
Finally, the police in Turkey work for the government. This is why there were clashes with the military.
Erdogan has been accused by domestic opponents and human rights groups of becoming increasingly authoritarian and attempting to silence critics.
Under Erdogan, Turkey has also been drawn deeper into some of the region’s most intractable conflicts, especially in neighbouring Syria. Islamic State militants based there have attacked Turkish cities and border posts, killing scores of people. A decades-old conflict with separatist Kurdish rebels in the southeast of the country has also been reignited after a three-year lull.
The Turkish economy has also been stretched by the arrival of nearly 3 million refugees fleeing violence in Iraq and Syria.
Given the conflict in neighbouring states, particularly Syria and Iraq, the coup and split in the Turkish army can only create further destabilisation and insecurity right across the region.
One thing for sure is that Turkey’s agenda now is likely to be governed by revenge and narrow power seeking.
In the battle for the fate of Turkish democracy things are likely to get a lot worse.