July 28, 2016
By Saeed Qureshi
The colossal shake-up that is currently underway in Turkey has few parallels in the contemporary history. I shall confine myself to mentioning only two. The purge of the participants after the anti- Erdogan government plot looks like a revengeful onslaught by the incumbent Turkish President Rajab Tayyab Erdogan. Those involved in the last week’s failed coup both civilians and armed forces personnel are being nabbed and facing trials.
In Turkish history such an intense and massive onslaught against the dissidents has never happened. Nevertheless, in1926, a plot to assassinate Mustafa Kemal, the father and founder of Modern Turkey was uncovered in İzmir. The sweeping investigation brought a number of political activists before the tribunal, including Karabekir, the leader of PRP (Progressive Republican Party).
A number of surviving leaders of the Committee of Union and Progress Party were found guilty of treason and hanged. The PRP was dissolved following the outcomes of the trial. The pattern of organized opposition, however, was broken. This action was the only broad political purge during Atatürk's presidency
The unrelenting crackdown mounted by Erdogan government on the anti- government plotters against armed forces, various government departments and media outlet is still apace. According to reports around 16000 people have been detained -- including more than 10,000 soldiers. 50,000 state employees have lost their jobs since July 15, mostly in the education sector.
178 generals have been detained. Out of this number a total of 149 army generals are being dishonorably discharged from the military. These include 87 land army generals, 30 air force generals, and 32 admirals Also 1,099 officers and 436 junior officers have also been dishonorably discharged.
At the same time the onslaught against the media (TV, Press and Publications) is also underway. Thus far three news agencies, 16 television stations, 23 radio stations, 45 newspapers, 15 magazines and 29 publishers have been closed or banned from working. Arrest warrants of 42 journalists have been issued so far. Additionally, 47 former staff members of the once pro-Gulen “Zaman” newspaper have been arrested.
The other parallel or precedent of such a clampdown as against the anti-Erdogan government dissidents or coup plotters and participants can be found in the Cultural Revolution. The Cultural Revolution was carried out in the People's Republic of China from 1966 until 1976 by Mau Zedong the Chairman of the Communist Party of China.
There are varying estimates of the people killed during that period. One estimate about the death toll is 400,000. Another version is that as many as 3 million people died in the violence that erupted during the Cultural Revolution. Most of these died in the rural China.
However, it is important to understand the nature of change in China and the one plotted in present day Turkey. The Cultural Revolution was a socio-political movementpreserving a real Communist ideology in the country by purging remnants of capitalism and traditional elements from Chinese society. It was therefore not merely a change of the government but uprooting a well-entrenched system.
It cannot be predicted how strong the Erdogan’s government will emerge from this challenge or ordeal? It would be premature to assess what could be the situation in the coming days. Erdogan like Mustafa Kemal is a trend setter and the architect of a democratic order and a formidable economic empire in Turkey.
His role and services in reshaping Turkey from an economically weak and social backward country to be modern state are paramount. His style of governance exhibits a semblance of toughness or dictatorial impulse. Yet all said and done he is a democratically elected president of Turkish nation and is mandated to rule during his constitutional term that would end in 2019.
Although his reaction to the army sponsored coup has been very stern and ironfisted, yet the way the civilian population resisted the coup and came out in the streets and walled before tanks and armored cars candidly speaks for his popularity and plausible image among the people.
Erdogan is a hardliner and architect of new Turkey like Mustafa Kamal. He would not like his mission and achievements spawning over 16 years to be watered down by renegade faction of the army. He policies and decisions exhibit an unflinching commitment to a modern, democratic, economically vibrant, and essentially a pluralistic Islamic Turkey Republic.
It should be acknowledged and understood that military coups are not the right recipe for change of the governments, elected through the popular vote. Mustafa Kamal was a father figure and a military general and he was fighting for the integrity and survival of Turkey in most trying times. To a lesser degree Erdogan can be cast in a similar mode.
The post-coup crackdown would continue for quite some time to come. The involvement of pro-Gulen elements both in army and civilian life in this earth-shaking coup have yet to be established. The perception of Erdogan about Islam and that of Gulen are different in the sense that Gulen wants an orthodox Islamic state while Erdogan is a proponent of an Islam that can go along the rest of the world and is shorn of fundamentalism and extremism.
In politics it is a question of survival which can be attained in two ways: by use of brute and unassailable force or through a democratic setup uplifting the country and serving the people in right earnest and with absolute dedication.
Erdogan might be a hard task master and even a kind of modest civilian dictator but such a status he didn’t achieve through bypassing the constitution or subverting the democratic norms or by military means. Had he been aligned with the army he would not have faced the coup that he is trying to counter.
Erdogan’s achievements outshine his propensity to remain in power. He is a grassroots politician who rose from a street vender to the rank of the Mayor of Istanbul for four years followed as the prime minister for 11 years. His tenure as president is limited for five years. He is now president Turkey since August 2014 and would hold this office until 2019.
In Turkish electoral system the incumbent president may seek re-election for a maximum of two terms each term being for five years. If he wins in 2019, he can still be the President until 2124. For now, it is clear that he can be removed from power only through the elections.
The military coup has already failed. As such the Turkish people should wait for the next general and presidential elections due in October 2019 and give their verdict to retain him for the second and final term of five years or remove him through the ballot.
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat. This and other articles by the writer can also be read at his blog www.uprightopinion.com