Witch-hunt or Justified Backlash from Erdogan!
21 August 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
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 movement that aimed at preserving 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
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
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
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.