Thursday, July 21, 2016

The coup in Turkey

All the world's major powers have condemned the coup attempt in Turkey and nearly everyone I know thinks they were right to do so.

You cannot build a modern democracy through the unlawful overthrow of an elected government.

However, almost all of the major powers have also called on Turkey's President Erdogan to act within the law in his response, and they were right to make that call too.

It is seriously suggested that the purge which Erdogan has been undertaking since the failed coup has seen more than eight thousands people arrested and fifty thousand sacked or suspended. Those arrested, sacked or suspended include judges, prosecutors, academics, teachers and civil servants as well as soldiers and policemen although there is little if any evidence that they had anything to do with the coup attempt.

According to the Guardian, the Turkish government has fired more than 15,000 employees at the education ministry, sacked 257 officials at the prime minister’s office and 492 clerics at the directorate for religious affairs. Additionally, more than 1,500 university deans were asked to resign. This followed the dismissals of nearly 8,800 policemen, and the arrest, dismissal or suspension of 6,000 soldiers, 2,700 judges and prosecutors, dozens of governors, and more than 100 generals.

Although it is entirely understandable that many members of the armed forces were initially detained while the government restored order in the immediate aftermath of the coup attempt, if the government has the least interest in responding with justice to the coup attempt they should proceed with caution and due process in recognition that some of those arrested may well be innocent.

I do not believe it is credible that, if all the governors, generals and members of the armed forces and security services who have been arrested, sacked or suspended had actually been involved in the coup attempt, it could have got as far as being launched but still failed.

An incompetently-run coup attempt involving that number of people would almost certainly have been betrayed and squashed before it even got off the ground. A competently run coup which had the support of that number of troops, governors and generals would undoubtedly have succeeded.

As The Economist has commented,

"The purge is so deep and so wide—affecting at least 60,000 people—that some compare it to America’s disastrous de-Baathification of Iraq. It goes far beyond the need to preserve the security of the state. Mr Erdogan conflates dissent with treachery; he is staging his own coup against Turkish pluralism. Unrestrained, he will lead his country to more conflict and chaos. And that, in turn, poses a serious danger to Turkey’s neighbours, to Europe and to the West."

"Handled more wisely, the failure of the coup might have been the dying kick of Turkey’s militarists. Mr Erdogan could have become the magnanimous unifier of a divided nation, unmuzzling the press, restarting peace talks with Kurds and building lasting, independent institutions. Instead he is falling into paranoid intolerance: more like the Arab despots he claims to despise than the democratic statesman he might have become."

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