A dear friend, hours into the Turkish coup d’état, asked “how many articles are being
written right now on Turkey entitled the ‘Egyptian Model’?” My friend needn’t have worried. Invoking a comparison between the “Egyptian Model” and what happened in Turkey recently doesn’t add up since the similarities do not exist.
I usually don’t meddle in other countries’ affairs, but since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself made the comparison on, what else, the TV channel Al-Jazeera, I have the green light to meddle too.
Erdoğan referred to the Egyptian president as a “coup plotter,” just like those who attempted the coup in Turkey. “He overthrew the president elected by the people with the use of weapons while he was still the minister of defence. Can we respect this behaviour,” Erdoğan asked. All this cuts short the Turkish president’s lame efforts of the previous few weeks to improve relations with Egypt and confirms beyond a shadow of a doubt his blind, irrevocable bias.
Comparisons set aside, it is necessary to look at the picture in Turkey today. Some questions remain unanswered, such as whether the coup was staged, or simulated, or if the Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen, living in the US since 1999 and a former ally of Erdoğan, had a hand in it.
Other queries may be easier to resolve. How far will Erdoğan go to purge the country of all opposing factions to secure his grip on power? More importantly, who will lose and who will gain from what happens in Turkey today? And what kind of effect will the coup ultimately have on Turkey and the Middle East?
A few hours after the coup, Erdoğan regained power and the purges began. According to Erdoğan, again on Al-jazeera, some 9,000 people are being kept in pre-trial detention, and 1,033 have been arrested. So hastily did the retaliatory measures take place, that it as if the list of opposition figures was prepared prior to the coup.
Hours into the coup, the police literally cornered army officers and conscripts, humiliating some and killing others. Army and police generals were arrested. All in all, some 8,000 police officers were fired and 6,000 soldiers were arrested.
The retribution seemed indiscriminate, though there must have been a systematic pattern to the madness. Not only did the widespread clampdown hit the security apparatus, but also civil servants and professionals, the cream of Turkish society. Erdoğan suspended 6,000 judges, revoked the licences of 21,000 teachers, and discharged 492 personnel from the religious affairs sector in Turkey, including imams and muftis.
Hundreds of employees in public broadcasting were, and still are, being investigated. And as the world gasped in bewilderment, every university dean in the country was asked to resign. All in all, 59,000 and counting professionals were given their pink slips.
A three-month state of emergency went into effect. Calls for the restoration of the death penalty echoed on the streets of Ankara and Istanbul. Turkey today is looking into allowing its citizens, the loyal ones, to carry weapons to protect themselves.
In the short term, the winner in all this is definitely Erdoğan himself. Even if he may not have staged the coup, he will exploit it to the full. In an unprecedented show of unity, Turks went out onto the streets to support Erdoğan against the attempted coup, leaving him basking in glory for having suppressed it and free to initiate change.
The presidential system that Erdoğan has been calling for in Turkey for some time to replace the country’s current parliamentary system will now likely pass without a hint of disgruntlement.
The coup first and the support second will also allow Erdoğan to crush all opposing factions in the country, such as the Gulen Movement, secularists, intellectuals and liberals. Turkey has become Erdoğan’s oyster.
The losers are many, however. The most troubling loser is the Turkish security apparatus and its remaining generals. The Turkish army and army intelligence were struck a harsh blow and humiliated to an unprecedented degree, leaving its top overseers humbled. Taking this mortification sitting down may not be at all to the taste of the army officers. It remains to be seen how the army and the police will react.
The second loser is secularism. Erdogan’s Islamist predisposition regained much power as the coup failed. Those thrashing the victimised conscripts and army officers on the streets of Ankara and Istanbul were unquestionably Islamists, and those calling for the resurrection of the death penalty were also Islamists. They have now been given carte blanche to intensify their raids on liberal thinkers. Secularists and liberals will now be closely monitored if not pursued.
Academics will also lose as a result of the coup. In tactics designed to purge Turkish academia of Gulen’s followers, all academics in Turkey have been banned from travelling abroad either for work or pleasure. University-affiliated students studying abroad have been asked to return home. Though academics are used to restrictions, these go beyond any previous oppressive measures that the country has seen. How they will react remains to be seen.
Tourism in Turkey will lose as well. A coup is a coup even if it is a failed one. Ask Egyptians about the consequences following similar disruptions in their country. As tourists will not visit Turkey for the time being, the country’s economy will definitely suffer.
The Kurds and Syrians will lose. Erdoğan will now have a free hand to attack southeast Turkey and the Kurds and to pry further into Syrian affairs. The recent peace petition signed by many Turkish academics had asked the government to stop its attacks on the southeast of the country since there were worries that the conflict could extend into the whole of Turkey. Academics now will have no say in what happens, and the conflict will continue.
Turkey at large will lose, as Erdoğan chooses a retaliatory path and continues his relentless purges, splitting the country into his supporters and adversaries. A climate of fear and indignation will envelope not only the many institutions that were already being hit hard in Turkey, but also the country in general.
The Middle East will suffer even further than it has already. Conflicts tend to spill over into neighbouring countries, and the Middle East is not in need of any more tension.
The writer is a political analyst