Downtown Athens the other day, I was having some pints with some friends. One of them was Alperen from Ankara. Knowledgeable guy and good interlocutor as he was, we soon engaged in a very interesting conversation on the imminent referendum and other current Turkish matters. The whole thing got intriguing for good when he acquainted me the fact of his home being in great vicinity to the presidential palace in Ankara (one of the putschists’ main targets), and his being present there when the events took place, upon which new information, I asked him to recount to me his experiences of that night at issue and its aftermath…
How were the events of the night unfolded?
“Fighting jets appearing suddenly and flying very low over the city was the first thing that happened to notify us of something weird going on. At first, there was confusion. We all thought that there must be a terrorist attack taking place, and the airforce was there to take action against it. Absolutely no suspicion occurred to me of a coup d’état being in progress. I believe very few people were quick to understand what’s happening. The real cause of the tumult, finally, became clear to me when I noted helicopters having surrounded the presidential palace and firing against it. The fighting grew fierce in the city and was concentrated around the Presidential Palace, Parliament, Central Police Station, Secret Service Headquarters, and other government buildings, and persisted throughout the entire night.
The media soon started to cover the crisis. One of the first things reported, after the dealing with a coup had become clear, was that the president was absent from his seized palace, and was safe in Marmaris city in southwest Turkey where he was on holidays. A bit after midnight, Erdoğan himself appeared on television and stated that his government is still in control of the country and urged the people to take to the streets in support of democracy. By dawn, stillness was reinstated in the city and Erdoğan’s government to have restored complete control over the country was reported.”
What was the people’s reaction? Was there panic, fear?
“Very little. The main feeling the coup resulted in the people’s minds was one of anger against the perpetrators of the coup and solidarity among each other. People started to take to the streets to oppose that attempt of violent transition of power voluntarily, even before Erdoğan’s calling them to do so. They did that unanimously, regardless of whether they were Erdoğan’s supporters or not. They amassed around the besieged buildings resolved to prevent them from being taken over. That was effective. The majority of the coup’s militants were not eager to fight against innocent, unarmed people. Some of them did shoot against the crowd, however. Around 250 civilians are said to have lost their lives during the events. They wanted to show that even the worst democratically elected government is preferable to any violently imposed one. That night brought the Turkish people closer. People were hugging each other in the streets.”
Who do you think was behind the coup?
“There is no need to think of it. It’s obvious. Fethullah Gülen did. Sure, he denies having taken any part, but it is patently clear he was the one who orchestrated the whole thing. All the military officers who participated in the operation were manifested members of his movement. Erdoğan’s administration was about to proceed in cleansing the military from Gülen’s supporters, and they knew that. It was their last stand. They were compelled to take action quickly, not only for the sake of the movement itself but for securing their positions and their free lives as well. They would have ended up locked in prison anyhow, whether attempting a coup or not.
I know, many people in the West claim that Erdoğan might have playacted the whole thing, but that sounds quite far-fetched if not impossible altogether. Such a thing would require deceiving Gülen’s entire military backing into launching a huge operation which was trapped from the very beginning. How could that happen? Personally, I support Erdoğan in no way, but I can see there is no way he could have deceived the entire country by faking a coup against him for his favor. Everyone in Turkey knows that Gülen was behind the coup. His popularity in Turkey shrank dramatically after the incident. Almost all of his followers have deserted him. He is finished.”
If we accept Gülen as the mastermind of the coup, do you believe he was also backed by US intelligence?
“I definitely do believe that. CIA has a long history in plotting coups around the world. I cannot see why they would not encourage and assist a favored child of them in taking the power over a so problematic for American interests regime in a so important geopolitically part of the world, if not by more drastic means, at least by handing out information.”