Did Erdogan foresee a coup? The opposition says ‘yes’
Who was behind last July’s coup attempt in Turkey? Who pushed the button? Was it possible to stop the coup before it spilt onto the streets?
A month before the first anniversary of the coup, these questions remain as puzzling as ever for Turks as well as for the rest of the world. Now, Turkey, a member of NATO, is facing vast repercussions, with a state apparatus in turmoil due to purges and an army with almost half of its top brass in prison and its combat capabilities crippled.
A parliamentary commission set up by four political parties to look into the coup was abruptly disbanded early this year shortly after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly called for its members to “end the activity,” although he had no official authority to intervene. The writing of its report was, the opposition said, done in secrecy without consultation. When the draft report was made public, it was widely regarded as stillborn. The questions asked since the day after the uprising remain the same.
Some would say, there are more questions than before. It became clear recently when the opposition parties, which had objected to the report, published bulky dissenting opinions. Theirs is a chilling read, raising strong suspicion of a massive cover-up.
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the smallest opposition party, for example, stated that it had asked that two key officials — Armed Forces Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar and Director of the Secret Service Hakan Fidan — be called to testify. “The chairman (of the commission) assured us that our demand would be met but we learned via his TV statement after the publication of the report that he had not even bothered to write to them,” the MHP said. “Thus, the night of the coup is left entirely in the dark.”
The minority report of the secular main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), was far more dramatic. More than 300 pages long, it argues point after point that Turkey was subjected to what it calls a “controlled coup”; that top Turkish authorities knew about the coup plans.
“The treacherous and bloody coup attempt was an unexpected, shocking and appalling development for the innocent citizens of the country,” the CHP report said. “However, there were some who knew that (it) would take place and those who waited for it.”
Akar and Fidan met alone for more than six hours on the afternoon of July 14 — the day before the coup attempt. It became known at 2.20pm that there was a serious threat, the report stated, adding: “The chief of staff sent orders to all the wings at 6.29pm that reached them 7.26pm. Yet many commanders attended weddings, to be arrested then. This remains inexplicable.”
The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), the third largest party, calling the coup attempt “a pretext for a counter-coup,” questioned why Akar and Fidan failed to inform Erdogan, the prime minister or relevant ministers.
While the three minority reports unite in claims that what happened last July amounted to a “hijack” of the system, by way of a hastily declared state of emergency, there was more to add to the questions.
Speaking to Vocal Europe, a Brussels website operating as a public newsletter service to EU circles, five senior Turkish officers who defected to NATO countries, gave details on what may have taken place that night.
“Frankly, the coup was shocking for all of us, as we never expected it,” said one officer. ”Most of those arrested we know would have never thought of organising a coup against the country’s political authority.
“It should be said as well that there was a massive resentment among the public and the armed forces against President Erdogan due to the failing of the Kurdish peace process and particularly due to the developments that happened afterward. Those purged generals and officers had liberal visions to solve the long-awaited Kurdish issue, they believed in democratic ways for solving this issue rather than using military might.”
“Two weeks before the coup, some social media accounts that are now gone were referring to a coup in the making. It is very clear that the coup was not known to us but it was certainly known to President Erdogan’s close circles,” said another officer.
Officers asked if the coup trials were so important, why they were not broadcast to the nation. ”President Erdogan does not want the realities of July 15 to come up to the surface and to be acknowledged by public opinion,” said a third officer.
They said they were concerned by what they see as the dismantling of a key institution which could be infiltrated by Islamists and warned that “if the current setting continues, we think that NATO will have, in two or four years, a member army full of extremists and Salafists.”
Such additional data, published by the opposition and fugitive officers are certainly useful in the broader context. Yet, what we know is scarce. All the input strengthens the views that it was an uprising that involved Gulenists as well as pro-NATO flanks, that the forces who pushed the button remain in the dark and, evidence is deeper that the coup attempt was foreseen, with countermeasures ready.