When people of all persuasions stood against it, they turned a dark night into a bright morning for Turkish democracy.
Turkey knows this enterprise very well. It recognises these scenes. The country remembers well the consequences and pains of each past coup; in 1960, 1971-1973, 1980 and 1997. The wounds are still fresh in people’s minds.
One thing they all know is that no one, except for a small group of putchists and their collaborators, emerged victorious from those coups. Even those segments of society that had supported military takeovers of power prior to them ended up bearing the brunt of each one. They caused pain, squandered lives and blackened the future.
That was why when a faction of the military, believed to be affiliated with the Gulen movement, led by the US-based scholar Fethullah Gulen – which is designated a terrorist group by Turkey – attempted to stage a coup against a democratically-elected government, all parties in the parliament and people from all walks of life and persuasions came forward to reject it.
From a dark night, a bright morning
It was a dark night but it brought a bright new morning for democracy in Turkey.
It was dark because even in today’s highly-connected and transparent world, a small group of putchists driven by a narrow agenda were able to plant bombs in the national parliament, briefly take over TV channels and news agencies and kill civilians as well as officials.
|Now Turkey has an opportunity to use this plot as a means for national reconciliation. There has been a societal and political consensus in rejecting the attempted coup and the government should take comfort from this.|
Though we use the word coup to describe what took place yesterday, this is for the sake of convenience. It was, in fact, more than a coup. Most of what happened yesterday has no parallel in Turkey’s previous ignominous coup d’etats.
It was more like a terrorist campaign conducted by a small group of people aiming to maximise the levels of horror by hitting their targets indiscriminately. So many people have lost beloved ones as a result.
But this night has led Turkey into a bright day. The people of Turkey proved courageous. They came out on to the streets and demanded that political disputes be settled through political means and democratic procedures.
The vast majority of people of all political persuasions rejected this violent campaign, and all of the political parties represented in parliament opposed it.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called upon people to remain defiant and steadfast in the face of these “invaders“. People positively responded. As a result, the coup attempt hasn’t survived even for a day.
Rejecting the coup has now become Turkey’s new common denominator. Given the political polarisation of recent years, yesterday became a rare symbol of national unity for Turkey.
The threat of the Gulen movement
In addition, yesterday’s failed coup has revealed the danger posed by the Gulenists. Now the world knows what Turkey means when it describes this group as a state within a state that poses a threat to Turkey’s democracy, its politics and its people.
Those involved didn’t only defy the demands and aspirations of the people, but the decisions of their superiors. The vast majority of the military was not with them.
One of the factors that probably motivated those involved to undertake this act now is the upcoming Supreme Military Council meeting on August 1, 2016, which was expected to lead to a major reshuffling in the military’s higher echelons. A long-awaited purge of the Gulenists was anticipated.
In addition to this, there were reports that the judiciary would launch an investigation into the military wing of the Gulenists. This may have unnerved them, leading them to make hasty decisions about the timing and nature of this ill-prepared and ill-conceived coup attempt.
It now seems highly likely that the government will engage in a full purge of their network. In fact, a wide segment of society and the political class is demanding it.
An opportunity for national reconciliation
Now Turkey has an opportunity to use this plot as a means for national reconciliation. There has been a societal and political consensus in rejecting the attempted coup and the government should take comfort from this.
While remaining committed to deconstructing the Gulenist network, it should also take steps to initiate a nationwide process of reconciliation. What started as a menace can turn into an opportunity.
This act will also consolidate the rank and file of the Justice and Development Party’s (AK party) base as all of the current and previous elites of the party have shelved their differences and adopted a united stance against it. The AK party is likely to emerge stronger and more unified.
More than two and half years ago, I argued in one of my pieces for Al Jazeera that “democracy cannot flourish in Turkey if the Gulen movement’s parallel structure is not dismantled”. Yesterday’s events have confirmed this.
Now that the people have defeated this coup attempt, the politicians should remain vigilant and hold these perpetrators and their wider networks to account. Anyone supporting democracy in Turkey should support them as they ensure that such coups have no place in the country’s future.
Galip Dalay is a senior associate fellow on Turkey and Kurdish Affairs at the Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, and research director at Al Sharq Forum.