Analysts have long watched the growing divisions in Turkey with suspicion. President Erdogan has for a substantial period of time implemented swathes of conservative policies; from enforcing breeding in woman, to strongly encouraging wearing of the headscarf and the veil. The military coup that occurred last night should have come as no surprise to these analysts, which have seen Turkey sleepwalking into authoritarianism.
Turkey is bitterly polarised between a growing Islamic sect which has been gradually emboldened under Erdogan’s authoritative rule, and a secular sect that were in control up until 2002. The tensions that have resulted are reflected in a bitterly divided population that are supportive of Erdogan and those that look west and wish to maintain a liberal secular democracy.
The purge of the secularist military had been occurring for some time as well. In 2011 the Ataturkist caste, a liberal and secular sect of the military, were flung from their positions and arrested. There’s been tension between the pro Islamist AKP government and a military that is sworn by oath to uphold secularist values, to defend the people, and stop the march of Islamism. That’s why second and third lieutenants and generals took their troops to the streets of Ankara and Istanbul, convinced of their ambitions to uphold their sworn oath.
What resulted was a quick succession of errors that led to the General’s failure. Erdogan, ironically a suppressor of social media and the Internet, took to his Skype account to motivate his supporters to the streets which was broadcasted live form an independent news agency. They heard the call of their leader and alongside the police, which were still loyal to the government, overwhelmed the military that believed they were on the streets to protect the people from an Islamist tyrant. For most Turks they struggle to recall a time where free speech did not result in danger. You could be forgiven to see the people of Istanbul and Ankara’s counter-coup as being an act of defiance in defence of democracy.
But, as the world awakes to the night of chaos, smoke still bubbling to the sky, and pockets of remaining resistance continuing these same people will face something more ugly than a successful coup. Perhaps a failed coup is worse than no coup at all, because its defeat will permit a succession of events the military were trying to stop.
Previously the hard-line Islamists in Turkey were happy to see the rebellious Generals arrested, but Erdogan this morning announced the death penalty is to be used as punishment for the forces that launched the coup. This is but a glimpse of the terror Erdogan will feel legitimised to implement.
As such, the worst option for Turkey is now reality and we will see it unfold in rapid and brutal fashion. It’s divisions will deepen and the Islamist agenda harden, meaning those citizens that braved the streets in support of democracy, will see their liberty and democracy waned and weakened by winter.
The failed coup is bad for democracy and bad for secularism in Turkey and both gasped their final breath last night.