‘Lose-Lose’? Turkey’s Coup Explained

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Ataturk – the man who modernised Turkey to such a degree that you will find his face plastered across the insides of many Turkish classrooms today. He is glorified by Turkish people, and I can understand why. For years, Ottoman rule of Turkey and other nations meant that democracy was tarnished, brutality was frequent and Islamic practice was forced upon the shoulders of many individuals. But instead, Ataturk gave people greater freedom, women greater rights, allowed people more choice over their religion and arguably, shaped Turkey into a more democratic society. Ataturk died nearly 90 years ago; which explains why people are angered that so many decades later, we seem to be witnessing the reversal of these reforms – reforms that are still as necessary in society now as they were back then.

Yesterday, on the 15th of July, a military coup began under Fethullah Gülen. Again, the religious significance of these tensions and conflict is present in a man who was a former preacher and Imam. Then it sank in: a coup that seemed to be a glimmer of hope that Turkey may be liberated from a reactionary leader, may in fact be replaced by somebody worse. It is not the tradition of Islam which is worrying for Turkey (Islam has been the predominant religion there for centuries) however, but the prospect that a leader such as Gulen would continue to force Islam upon Turkish society. A form of Islamism would emerge where the teachings of Islam would pervade into administrative and political life, as opposed to simply the social sphere – similar to that which existed in the Ottoman Empire.

Troops took to the streets and low-flying military jets were seen over the capital of Turkey. The statement released by the “peace council” – actually a faction of the army – expressed their motives to restore “constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms”. Whilst these motives are definitely questionable, they are equally as questionable under the current government.

Of course, it was hardly surprising to see the US and other nations flock to defend Erdogan as if he has something in common with them. A backwards ideology and ideas which we would denounce in this country will be allowed to endure by many Western leaders simply so that they can cling on to an ally here and an ally there. We are bombarded with reminders of the War on Terror, but the real “Terror” is the hypocrisy of diplomatic leaders that will defend a man like Erdogan, who has more than rubbed shoulders with Islamic State themselves. Democracy, you would think, would be the binding factor between these nations. Just because Erdogan is not particularly liberal, why should we try to get rid of him, he’s been elected? The possibility however, that Turkish elections are undemocratic is prevalent.

As an avid feminist from Turkish descent, Erdogan and I have little in common when it comes to good ol’ social equality. Some titles from articles on his rampant speeches include, “Turkish president says childless women are deficient, incomplete” and “President Erdogan urges Turkish women to have at least three children”. Whilst some may speculate that he is simply traditional, he is position in sharp contrast to Ataturk’s fight for women’s rights – pressing for reforms of inheritance and suffrage. It is beyond saddening that friends of mine who are led by this man are subjected in this way; women who I admire for their wit, initiative and for having clearly more sense than their leader. It is evident that what is important to Erdogan is himself.

More so, I am upset that many people may look at the conflict and view Turkey as a primitive, Philistinian country with little culture and rampant civilians. Seeing a president flustered on Facetime as if he’s gotten a call from a shady ex, I’ll admit, is funny. Turkey on the other hand has been an epicentre of culture for centuries and its people are clearly passionate about the political direction of their country.

Today, Erdogan returns back to his office – I’m sure that he’s more than a little shaken up and hasn’t had a great night’s sleep; I am sure that he will continue with his oppressive ideas, and most of all, I am sure that he will win the next election.

Words by Lydia Ibrahim

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