Erdogan supporters occupy the squares. Image
What about democracy and the rule of law – and what would a civil war mean for the EU??
The sigh of relief lasted only briefly over the weekend when it became clear that the coup attempt in Turkey had failed and the danger of a military dictatorship had been averted. But now the country seems to be on the edge of the abyss. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is conducting an unprecedented purge, eliminating critics and opponents at all levels of government. How did it come to this? What is the current situation? Is Turkey threatened by a civil war??
For three years, all demonstrations in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, which borders Gezi Park, were banned. Every attempt was brutally suppressed by the police. Taksim – that was a symbol of the young, educated, sacular Turkey.
Since Saturday, supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have been gathering there. The police leave them alone. An oversized Turkish flag flies in the middle of the square. The AKP has conquered Taksim. The demonstrators see themselves and their president as defenders of democracy.
Erdogan thanked them: they had played an important role in putting down the attempted coup. On the night of the coup, they had taken to the streets en masse, standing in the way of the tanks. Erdogan now knows that it is not hollow slogans when they chant: "We die for you, we die for you!"
Tanks rolled through the streets of Istanbul and Ankara after dark on Friday evening. Soldiers closed two of the four Bosporus bridges; fighter jets thundered low over the cities; Ataturk Airport in Istanbul was sealed off and airspace closed; in Ankara, military helicopters fired on the parliament, the police headquarters, the headquarters of the domestic intelligence service MIT, the presidential palace.
Soldiers stormed the offices of the ruling AKP party and temporarily occupied the state broadcaster TRT. There they forced a moderator to make a declaration of a "Council for Peace in the Homeland" to be read out. It was said that the military had taken power in the country and wanted to restore democracy and human rights within the framework of the interception. People should not leave their houses, martial law has been declared.
Immediately, Prime Minister Yildirim (AKP) denied that it was a coup attempt, but that the elected government was in power and the president was in a safe place. Erdogan had been in the resort of Marmaris on Friday. Shortly after his departure, the hotel where he was staying was bombed, he said the following morning. The soldiers responsible for the attack said they had been ordered to hunt down a top wanted terrorist in Marmaris and allegedly did not know that their target was Erdogan.
Around two o’clock local time on Saturday night, cell phones were buzzing all over Turkey. SMS were sent via the state-owned telephone company Turk Telekom in which Recep Tayyip Erdogan personally called the coup president "honorable Turkish people" called on the people to go out on the streets and to support "Democracy and peace" to protect. At the same time, the call of the muezzins rang out from mosques all over the country – but it was not the usual call to prayer. But a prayer for the dead, which is usually read when someone has died. If it is read out without such an occasion, it can be interpreted as a call for struggle and resistance. Shortly thereafter, Erdogan spoke via cell phone in a live broadcast from CNN Turk and reiterated his call to his supporters to take to the streets. And they did.
Until midday on Saturday, there were still isolated fights, especially in Ankara, but already during the night it became clear: The coup attempt has failed. Although there were isolated groups that cheered and applauded the soldiers, there was no significant support anywhere in the country. During the night, the three main opposition parties in the Turkish parliament – the Kemalist Social Democratic CHP, the nationalist MHP and the pro-Kurdish HDP – announced that they firmly reject a military coup and that the democratic order must be preserved.
Kurds in eastern Turkey also protested against the coup, which may have surprised some, since Erdogan bombed their cities in the spring, causing hundreds of deaths. But the Kurds are fundamentally opposed to the army and had to fear that their situation would worsen under a military junta.
However, the nationwide rejection of the coup across all political and social camps was often misinterpreted as support for Erdogan and the AKP. This is far from being the case. One must understand it rather in such a way that democratically oriented actors cannot approve of a military coup per se – but that also all others saw the danger that Turkey could slip into Egyptian or even Syrian conditions. There have been three successful military coups in Turkey in the past, most recently in 1980. Whereby the military had each time restored the sacred order in the sense of the Kemalist principles – but each time also with enormous bloodshed.