Article about the coup attempt in Turkey for Kyiv Post, Y. Can Tezel Turkey’s ambassador to Ukraine1 Ağustos 2016
I watched the events in Turkey from my home in Kyiv with disbelief and anger. I was in disbelief because who in their right mind could think they could put an end to the democratic process in today’s Turkey. I felt anger because they dared to use parts of NATO’s second largest army against its own people in an attempt to halt the democratic way of life I, like many millions of Turks, so value for ourselves and our children. Coming as no surprise to anyone with a proper understanding of Turkish society, the coup attempt failed within hours, but unfortunately with human losses.
Despite very different circumstances, in one sense there is a similarity between the Maidan events and the anti-coup outpourings of the Turkish people. They are both reactions by the masses against something they know is very wrong. When normal functioning of state is hampered or abused, the masses show that they have the first and the last say.
Ukrainians are in a better position than most our friends in the West to empathize with the Turkish masses. Around a hundred people were killed by illegal/illegitimate use of weapons, mostly by snipers, during the Maidan events. With reminiscent notoriety, around 250 people, most of them civilians including children and women, were killed in Turkey on 15-16 July by snipers, fighter jets and tanks. An assault team was sent to capture or kill the President. The Parliament was bombed while in special emergency session. Why those people who died resisting the coup were instantaneously called “martyrs for democracy” was so understandable; we watched it all live on TV.
Many foreign politicians, observers and friends of Turkey stood on the right side of history and, without undue ifs and buts, expressed outrage and supported the people’s resistance which reflected an exceptional consensus across Turkish civil society, media, political parties in addition to the Government and President. President Poroshenko conveyed his principled support on the side of Turkish democracy in the early hours of the coup attempt. It is highly appreciated. As a Turkish saying goes: the true friend is the one who is by you in the darkest of days.
The challenge for Turkey now is to address the aftermath in good democratic fashion, within the rule of law. One of the pillars of the evident national consensus is this very idea. Yet, extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary measures. The resultant state of emergency, also introduced in France, Belgium and Germany for obvious reasons, is not an ideal situation and the Turkish Government stated its willingness to lift it earlier than three months, if no need for it is left. The Government also made it clear the measures will be implemented exclusively against the group behind the coup attempt. The opposition, while sharing the national mood, is watchful. As Ukrainians will easily understand, the Turkish society demands that those responsible for killing the “martyrs for democracy” are brought to justice without delay, whomever they may be.
The secretive and subversive structure that, given all the strong evidence, is believed to be behind the coup attempt has much to answer for. FETÖ, the Turkish acronym used for this self-styled religious cult with now-apparent violent methods, attempted to introduce an alternative, non-secular authority in place of the one which the democratic process produces. They even set up systems of cheating so that their infiltrators could override the merit-based entry exams into public service such as the military schools and police academy and even the Foreign Ministry. The attempted coup emerged, rather hastily it seems, when investigations of the last two years were approaching their logical end result. These pointed at an illegal but rather sophisticated effort aimed at creating a parallel state apparatus with allegiance to a cleric living abroad. Testimonies and material evidence, corroborated by earlier investigations, suggest that their cells in key state institutions were activated as part of the coup attempt. My only explanation as to how they could even hope to be successful is their obvious detachment from societal realities in Turkey. Today’s broader reality is that Turkey will overcome this and we have many reasons to believe it will be a stronger Turkey, democratically and otherwise.
Still, there is no place for complacency. The network’s organizational capacity and vast resources, including the supposedly benevolent activities in 150 countries (Ukraine included) they often boast about, may partly explain the international media campaign launched against Turkey since the coup attempt. Those who are uncritically dismissive of the serious accusations against this group, as many of us were admittedly in Turkey, are well advised to have another look at the facts.
Certainly, the proper judicial process will reveal the truth, not the popular mood. One hopes that not all those who are now detained or arrested will be found guilty. But first of all that process needs to be allowed to take its course in Turkey, preferably without outsiders rushing to statements assuming a failure of due process before it is even given a chance. It will be legitimate to criticize any and all shortcomings should they emerge. Yet, it is very unfair to Turkish society with all its political diversity to think that this cultish group formed the opposition in Turkey and that they are being crushed simply because of that.
Perhaps we, Turks, need to do a better job of informing foreign audiences more effectively. But there is also much room for improvement in the way some in the West have analyzed the situation and how some officials tried to manage the turn of events in terms of relations with Turkey.
Unfortunately like much of the rest of the world, Europe too has not been at its best in recent years; and I do not just mean the economic/financial problems or Brexit. Europe’s societal problems, be it re-emergent xenophobia, islamophobia, racism or the rise of extremism on the right, are not conducive to the normal dialogue we have normally had with the EU. Obviously both sides should self-critically appraise the situation with a view to normalizing their interaction which promises to be mutually rewarding.
To be sure, Turkey is not asking for preferential treatment. Some more solidarity and empathy, more constructive statements would suffice at this critical juncture. That would mean giving support to the whole Turkish nation and the democratic process which the EU has helped to develop. Meanwhile, in the sense of demonstrating sensible empathy, Ukrainians are already ahead of many in Europe.
Yönet C. Tezel is Turkey’s ambassador to Ukraine.