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Turkey Real Winner! Turkey's Stability, Strength, Prosperity And Progress Viable And Critical

26 July 2016

By Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

WHAT a night! However, unlike long Turkish sop operas, it was resolved in hours, rather than months. The night of July 15, 2016 became a part of world's memorable events, and one of Turkey's historic vantage points. It was an extensive melodrama playing out, with one and only star— the man in the street.

It must have been a real surprise, even to Turks, to see how much they are committed to their newly-found democracy and freedom, and how far they may go to protect their new republic. All it needed was one FaceTime call, for millions to come out unarmed, but united and strong, in the face of tanks and machine guns.

Pictures summarize all — a man lying down in front of a tank. A woman standing in the face of a fully-loaded gun, an old man charging toward an armed-to-the-teeth soldier and young boys and girls pelting stones at armored vehicles.

Then came the politicians. Opposition parties, opponents, competitors, Muslims, Christians, Sunnis, Alawites, Kurds, leftists, conservatives, liberals — all came out to condemn the military coup in the clearest and strongest terms.

TV and media channels of all political strands were united, too. Even the army, from which came the conspirators, refused to condone the coup.

The world community was less forthcoming. United States, Russia, the European Union, China, India, and the rest of the super-club members, plus the UN and NATO, were hesitant to even call it a coup.

Then, suddenly, all changed. The Turkish prime minister, then the president came on TV, calling on people to get out to the street and protect their rights. Hours later President Recep Tayyip Erdogan adventured against all odds and flew to Istanbul airport, attended a press conference, went to the streets and spoke to his people. And so did colleagues, former and present, in his government and party as well as others parties. It was a live festival for democracy and free choice; for courage and unity; for patriotism and civility; for Turkey and Turks at their finest moment. The conspirators had to give up. They had to run and hide. They had to pay the price.

The world had to respect that! The world had to respond to all that — and it did. Statements from the same hesitant parties came now clear and strong in support of the democratically elected government. World organizations, allies, competitors and observers found their tongues. Those who were too quick to celebrate Erdogan being overthrown lost theirs. The US went on the defensive denying accusations of organizing, supporting, condoning or even knowing about the coup in advance.

Turks have had enough of military coups. In 1960, the army toppled the popular and successful elected government of Adnan Menderes, just because it showed respect to Turkey's Islamic heritage. A second coup, in 1971, brought down the failing government of Suleiman Demirel. Another intervention came in 1980, as Islamists were rising. Coup leader, Gen. Efrain Kanaan, army chief of staff, assumed presidency to guarantee military presence in the new regime.

The army hit again, in 1997, against the Islamic government of Prime Minister, Necmettin Erbakan. They imprisoned him, his associates, including new star Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and dissolved their party (Alrafah). Two more attempted coups were foiled in the new millennium.

Each time the military ruled, it got worse for Turkey. Soldiers belong to barracks. Their only mission is to protect the country's borders and interests. They are not qualified to manage civilians. They have no mandate to run people's life. And they are the last to understand how democracy works.

Turks learnt this the hard way. After decades of political turmoil and military interventions, they finally reaped the fruits of real democracy. They finally found their voice and will. They finally elected the government of their choice.

In the last 14 years, Turkey has changed beyond recognition. It moved from being a backward, thoroughly corrupt Third World country, dangerously in debt, down in prosperity grades, to one of the world top 20 economies and the best managed.

Democracy works, and pays. With that in mind, the Turkish people went out to say in one voice — ''no more military rule, no more dictatorship. Turkey belongs to us, and we will defend our rights to the last drop of our blood.''

Turkey is our powerful neighbor. It also happened to be a friendly, sincere and generous. It hosted millions of Syrian and Iraqi refuges. It supported our case with Israel. It helped our Palestinians brethren. And it helpfully participated in our Islamic alliance against terrorism. Its relations with Saudi Arabia, the GCC countries, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, went from normal to strategic. Turkey took the right stand in Syria, Yemen and Iraq and recently showed its interest in solving issues with Egypt and UAE.

Turkey's stability, strength, prosperity and progress are viable and critical to us. It needs us too. So let's work on more strategic partnership to help stabilize, develop and improve our neighborhood.

— Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi

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