Update On Coup Attempt In Turkey

Posted in Features.

Dear Friends,

As we have informed you previously, we are deeply saddened by the coup attempt in Turkey. Thankfully, it was thwarted by the strong will of the Turkish people.

Unfortunately, this came with a severe toll on the lives of civilians and security forces. The ongoing situation after the coups is, however, equally frustrating. The following is an update we prepared for you on the recent developments.

Update on Turkey Coup:

As you know, on the night of July 15th, 2016, a faction of the Turkish military began a coup against the current ruling administration in Istanbul and Ankara. The coup quickly unraveled and failed, leaving 265 dead, 161 of which were civilians and police officers, and over 1,500 wounded.

What was Our Stance During the Coup?

As Istanbul Cultural Center, we publicly denounced the coup attempt as early as Friday July 15 when the coup was still in progress in full force.

Who is behind the coup?

We aren’t really sure, the coup was poorly planned, and executed by only a small faction of mid-ranking military personnel. What we do know, is that after the coup, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan alleged that the coup was orchestrated by the Muslim Scholar Fethullah Gulen and his supporters. In a show of power, Turkish officials have begun a “purge” at state and educational institutions of those they fear to sympathize with the Gulen movement.

  • 6000 military personnel, included dozens of generals have been arrested
  • 9000 police officers and other civil servants have been sacked
  • About 3000 judges have been suspended
  • Just recently teaching licenses of more than 21,000 teachers working in the Ministry of Education have also been suspended
  • Higher Education Council of Turkey asked the resignation of 1577 University deans

There have even been talks of reinstating the death penalty as a result of the coup. 

Who is Gulen and how is he involved in the military coup?

As many of you already know, Gulen is a Turkish Muslim scholar living in a self-imposed exile in the United States. There is no evidence of his involvement in the military coup against the Turkish Government. Gulen has quickly condemned the coup, calling for an international investigation into the matter.

Turkey has formally requested Gulen’s extradition from the United States, however, Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed that the US would comply only if there was compelling "evidence" to suggest wrongdoing or crime committed by Gulen.

Why did the coup happen in the first place?

Since we have no absolute answer as to who was behind the coup, so motive remains to be determined, however, the Turkish military has staged four coups since 1960. 

The response outside of Turkey overwhelmingly agrees that Turkey’s democratic institutions need to be respected and that change should occur within the framework of democracy and free and fair elections.

Why do Erdogan and his Supporters blame Gulen?

Gulen has become the default scapegoat for the current Turkish government because Gulen and his supporters are critical of what they feel is a shift towards authoritarianism by the ruling party in Turkey. This criticism alone appears to be the basis for scrutiny against Gulen and his supporters. Yet with the coup and state of emergency it turned into a full-fledged war against the opposition from all backgrounds, not just Gulen-inspired.

Why should any of this matter?

It should be noted, that though the coup is over, the consequences and reaction to the coup is far from resolution. As the state of emergency is declared in the country, we are afraid that it has officially become "a crackdown of exceptional proportions." We are sincerely concerned that the crushing dissent in Turkey is turning into a witch hunt, will have an irreparable impact on political and social fabric.

Destabilization in Turkey will also have enormous consequences for the rest of the region. Right now, Turkey is a key NATO ally, vital to containing the conflict south of its borders in Syria and Iraq as well. Additionally, Many Turks prided themselves with their country as a Muslim majority country for its successful democracy and the flourishing economy as a role model in a volatile region. We want it to remain like that.

  • Fethullah Gulen issued the following statement on recent developments in Turkey-July 15, 2016

"I condemn, in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey. The government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force. I pray to God for Turkey, for Turkish citizens, and for all those currently in Turkey that this situation is resolved peacefully and quickly.

As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt. I categorically deny such accusations."

  • Fethullah Gülen-Source: New York Times, July 25, 2016 

SAYLORSBURG, Pa. — During the attempted military coup in Turkey this month, I condemned it in the strongest terms. “Government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force,” I said. “I pray to God for Turkey, for Turkish citizens, and for all those currently in Turkey that this situation is resolved peacefully and quickly.”

Despite my unequivocal protest, similar to statements issued by all three of the major opposition parties, Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, immediately accused me of orchestrating the putsch. He demanded that the United States extradite me from my home in Pennsylvania, where I have lived in voluntary exile since 1999.

Not only does Mr. Erdogan’s suggestion run afoul of everything I believe in, it is also irresponsible and wrong.

My philosophy — inclusive and pluralist Islam, dedicated to service to human beings from every faith — is antithetical to armed rebellion. For more than 40 years, the participants in the movement that I am associated with — called Hizmet, the Turkish word for “service” — have advocated for, and demonstrated their commitment to, a form of government that derives its legitimacy from the will of the people and that respects the rights of all citizens regardless of their religious views, political affiliations or ethnic origins. Entrepreneurs and volunteers inspired by Hizmet’s values have invested in modern education and community service in more than 150 countries.At a time when Western democracies are searching for moderate Muslim voices, I and my friends in the Hizmet movement have taken a clear stance against extremist violence, from the Sept. 11 attacks by Al Qaeda to brutal executions by the Islamic State to the kidnappings by Boko Haram.

In addition to condemning mindless violence, including during the coup attempt, we have emphasized our commitment to preventing terrorists’ recruitment from among Muslim youth and nurturing a peaceful, pluralist mind-set.

Throughout my life, I have publicly and privately denounced military interventions in domestic politics. In fact, I have been advocating for democracy for decades. Having suffered through four military coups in four decades in Turkey — and having been subjected by those military regimes to harassment and wrongful imprisonment — I would never want my fellow citizens to endure such an ordeal again. If somebody who appears to be a Hizmet sympathizer has been involved in an attempted coup, he betrays my ideals.

Nevertheless, Mr. Erdogan’s accusation is no surprise, not for what it says about me but rather for what it reveals about his systematic and dangerous drive toward one-man rule.

Like many Turkish citizens, the Hizmet movement’s participants supported Mr. Erdogan’s early efforts to democratize Turkey and fulfill the requirements for membership in the European Union. But we were not silent as he turned from democracy to despotism. Even before these new purges, Mr. Erdogan in recent years has arbitrarily closed newspapers; removed thousands of judges, prosecutors, police officers and civil servants from their positions; and taken especially harsh measures against Kurdish communities. He has declared his detractors enemies of the state.

Hizmet, in particular, has been the target of the president’s wrath. In 2013, Mr. Erdogan blamed Hizmet sympathizers within the Turkish bureaucracy for initiating a corruption investigation that implicated members of his cabinet and other close associates. As a result, scores of members of the judiciary and the police forces were purged or arrested for simply doing their jobs.

Since 2014, when Mr. Erdogan was elected president after 11 years as prime minister, he has sought to transform Turkey from a parliamentary democracy into an “executive presidency,” essentially without checks on his power. In that context, Mr. Erdogan’s recent statement that the failed coup was a “gift from God” is ominous. As he seeks to purge still more dissenters from government agencies — nearly 70,000 people have been fired so far — and to crack down further on Hizmet and other civil society organizations, he is removing many of the remaining impediments to absolute power. Amnesty International has revealed “credible” reports of torture, including rape, at detention centers. No wonder Mr. Erdogan’s government suspended the European Convention on Human Rights and declared a state of emergency.

Turkey’s president is blackmailing the United States by threatening to curb his country’s support for the international coalition against the Islamic State. His goal: to ensure my extradition, despite a lack of credible evidence and virtually no prospect for a fair trial. The temptation to give Mr. Erdogan whatever he wants is understandable. But the United States must resist it.

Violent extremism feeds on the frustrations of those forced to live under dictators who cannot be challenged by peaceful protests and democratic politics. In Turkey, the Erdogan government’s shift toward a dictatorship is polarizing the population along sectarian, political, religious and ethnic lines, fueling the fanatics.

For the sake of worldwide efforts to restore peace in turbulent times, as well as to safeguard the future of democracy in the Middle East, the United States must not accommodate an autocrat who is turning a failed putsch into a slow-motion coup of his own against constitutional government.

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