The Turkish reverse-coup

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While members of the military initiated a coup against their head of state, president Erdogan turned to guerrilla media tactics using FaceTime on his cellphone to encourage his people to oppose the plotters.
16 Jul 2016 – New York Times

Mr. Erdogan has been no friend to free expression, ruthlessly asserting control over the media and restricting human rights and free speech. Yet thousands responded to his appeal, turning back the rebels and demonstrating that they still value democracy even if Mr. Erdogan has eroded its meaning.

That erosion now seems likely to accelerate, exacting a terrible price from Turkey’s citizens and posing new challenges to international efforts to confront the Islamic State and halt the killing in Turkey’s neighbor, Syria.

Given the chaotic and bloody events of the last two days, there is little doubt that Mr. Erdogan will become more vengeful and obsessed with control than ever, exploiting the crisis not just to punish mutinous soldiers but to further quash whatever dissent is left in Turkey. “They will pay a heavy price for this,” he said, chillingly. “This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army.”

Since coming to power as prime minister in 2003, Mr. Erdogan has become an increasingly authoritarian leader who has steered his country far from the vision of a model Muslim democracy that many, in Turkey and around the world, had longed for. The volatile Middle East cannot afford to have another state unravel, especially one that is also the essential bulwark of NATO’s eastern flank and has the largest army in the region. In a statement late Friday, the United States emphasized its “absolute support for Turkey’s democratically-elected, civilian government and democratic institutions.”

Turkey’s military has a history of mounting coups to defend secularism, although the army has not seized power directly since 1980. There have long been tensions between Mr. Erdogan, whose AKP party has its roots in Islamism, and the military, and he has worked methodically to weaken the army as an institution. More recently, however, the army was seen as regaining some of its clout because it was steering clear of politics and managing a brutal war against Kurdish separatists.

Mr. Erdogan moved rapidly on Saturday to round up his adversaries, real or imagined. Authorities reportedly had detained nearly 3,000 members of the armed forces, including a brigadier general, and purged the judiciary of 2,745 judges. Mr. Erdogan blamed the coup attempt on the followers of Fethullah Gullen, a Muslim cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania, who was his ally until a bitter falling out three years ago. Mr. Gulen’s followers were known to have a strong presence in Turkey’s police and judiciary, but less so in the military. Moreover, Mr. Gulen condemned the coup on the website of his group, Alliance for Shared Values.

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