15.07.2021 – 10:52
By Simon A.Waldman, Haaretz
July 15-16 marks the 5th anniversary of the dramatic and bloody coup attempt in Turkey, when a faction within the armed forces loyal to Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Turkish cleric, tried to overthrow the elected government in democratically.
Since then, Turkey’s fragile democracy has collapsed, as the country’s international orientation seems to have finally distanced itself from its traditional allies in the West.
After that attempt, Ankara embraced non-Western global powers such as Russia, China, Qatar and Iran.
Turkey’s close ties with Moscow were highlighted by numerous meetings and talks between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during 2017-2020, and the purchase by Turkey of the Russian S-400 missile defense system, despite the fact that he poses a threat to NATO systems.
In recent months, Turkey has sought to repair its relations with its traditional allies. Erdogan expressed his anger at US President Joe Biden’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide when they met together last month at the NATO Summit.
Ankara is aiming to avoid further conflicts with Greece, Cyprus and the EU in the Eastern Mediterranean, and is also seeking reconciliation with Israel and Egypt. But there is no clear sign that this approach will continue.
One of the main implicit reasons for this behavior is what Erdogan claims happened in July 2016. To justify Ankara’s departure from its traditional allies, the Turkish government repeatedly claims that on the night of the coup, Western countries did not stand by Turkey. .
According to her, it took a long time for Western leaders to condemn the act, visit Turkey and show solidarity with it. The narrative – according to which the West abandoned Turkey at the hour when it was most needed – has been used by Erdogan to legitimize Turkey’s foreign policy, which has left the country isolated in the international arena, with few friends and allies in one a time when the country’s crisis-ridden economy needs all the help it can get, and when Erdogan and his ruling AKP are continuing to decline support in opinion polls.
Even some leaders in Europe, Britain and the United States, but also prominent analysts and experts from leading think tanks in both Europe and the US, seem to accept the narrative that the West abandoned Turkey.
In fact, Western countries and organizations sent quick messages in support of Turkey, its people, its government and its democratic institutions, since the coup was still in its infancy. First, a brief recollection of what happened on the fateful night of July 15 and 16 5 years ago.
At around 22:00 local time, word spread in Turkey that a coup attempt had been launched, shortly after shots were heard from inside the army headquarters in Ankara. Rebel troops occupied bridges over the Bosphorus in Istanbul, took control of state-run TRT television and several airports.
In the early hours of July 16, it was unclear whether the coup would succeed. Erdogan appeared on CNNTurk via his mobile phone at 12:25 a.m., while Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called on citizens to take to the streets to resist the coup.
The first group of pro-coup soldiers was arrested at 2:00 p.m. TRT resumed broadcasting at 3:00 p.m. The turning point occurred around 4 a.m. when a defiant Erdogan, after landing at Istanbul airport and avoiding capture by the rebels, appeared before his supporters to order the coup.
Clashes broke out and when the coup was defeated in the morning, over 240 Turkish citizens lost their lives. The initial reaction from the western capitals during the first hours of the coup, was the issuance of statements expressing concern about the ongoing developments, and giving advice to their citizens in Turkey.
But as the hours passed, Western nations and institutions clearly expressed support for Turkey against the coup. At 12:40 a.m. on July 16, Federica Mogherini, then EU foreign policy chief, called for “restraint and respect for Turkey’s democratic institutions.”
Meanwhile Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, wrote on Twitter at 1:18 a.m., when the outcome of the coup was still far from clear, that
“Any attempt to overthrow democratically elected leaders in a Council of Europe member state is unacceptable.”
At 2:07 a.m., when the balance of power was still unknown, the US State Department wrote on Twitter that both Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama agreed that “all parties in Turkey must support the government.” democratically elected, show restraint, and avoid violence. “
Then, less than 30 minutes later, Kerry informed his followers on Twitter that he had called his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu to express “absolute support” for America. At 2:08 a.m., Steffan Seibert, the head of the German government’s press office, wrote on Twitter that “Turkey’s democratic order must be respected.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced at 2:34 a.m. that he had held a conversation with Mr Cavusoglu, calling for “calm and restraint and full respect for Turkey’s democratic institutions and its constitution.” “Turkey is a very valuable NATO ally.”
At 3:10 a.m., through a joint statement by European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, it was stated that: “EU fully supports the democratically elected government, the country’s institutions and the rule of law. “We call for a speedy return to constitutional order in Turkey.”
So, before the fate of the coup was known, the Turkish government and democratic institutions of Turkey had received the overwhelming support of its key allies in the West such as the US, NATO, the EU and the major European nations.
In his narrative, Erdogan complains that Russian President Putin called him on July 17, while Obama only on July 19. But this argument ignores the strong dilemma faced by American and European officials.
How could they describe the coup attempt as an anathema to democracy and the constitutional order, and in turn react to an authoritarian president who was not even hiding his intention to immediately begin a massive purge of his opponents? politics?
It is worth remembering that even before the coup, Erdogan and his government had already put a lot of pressure on Turkish democracy. In 2012, Reporters Without Borders named Turkey one of the world’s largest prisons for journalists.
In 2013, the world saw how peaceful demonstrators were brutally beaten, protesting against the destruction of Gezi Park in Istanbul. Subsequently, a law was passed that severely damaged Internet freedom of navigation. In 2015, the peace process with the Kurds was disrupted, as new clashes caused hundreds of deaths and hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons, and many Kurdish political figures were arrested.
Then, in November 2015, international observers stated that the legitimacy of the parliamentary elections in the country was damaged by “fear” and “injustice”. Meanwhile, in the immediate aftermath of the coup, AKP lawmakers were discussing the possibility of reinstating the death penalty in Turkey.
The next day, 6,000 people were arrested, as that number increased dramatically in the days and weeks that followed. Erdogan declared the coup a “gift from God” in order for him to reshape a “new Turkey”.