Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Culture, Social Contestation and Turkey's Failed Coup: The Rivalry of Social Imaginaries

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Culture, Social Contestation and Turkey's Failed Coup: The Rivalry of Social Imaginaries

Article excerpt

Introduction

On July 15, 2016, Turkey was abruptly thrown into gory disarray, initiated by a treacherous faction within the Turkish military, whose members unwisely, but certainly not thoughtlessly, attempted a bloodthirsty coup d'etat. Essentially, the apparent poor planning, or theatrics, of the coup-plotters is an entirely disingenuous allegation. In fact, the usurping conspirators, with meticulous planning, orchestrated "a number of coordinated attacks in both Ankara and Istanbul in an illegitimate attempt to seize key government institutions, including the Presidential Compound and the National Intelligence Agency (MIT)." (1) Tanks, combat aircraft, attack helicopters and thousands of troops were simultaneously dispatched all over the country. In addition, menacing, low-flying F-16's began circling Turkey's largest urban centers. Meanwhile, military units were instructed to block the Bosporus and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridges, close Istanbul Ataturk International Airport, bomb the Golbasi Special Forces Headquarters and Ankara Police Department, suppress independent news, and apprehend President Erdogan, dead or alive. To that end, elite military commandoes flew to the western coastal city of Marmaris, where President Erdogan was known to be on holiday, and opened fire, causing panic and pandemonium in their failed bid to capture him. (2) Thereabouts, the national Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) station was assaulted and an anchorwoman, at gunpoint, broadcast the bravado of the coup-plotters, declaring the Turkish military in total control. (3) The propaganda war had begun, and it continued with the unfolding brutality of the coup. Nevertheless, what was quite extraordinary, and ultimately proved fatal to the coup attempt, was the decisive tenacity of the Turkish people. Even as treasonous military personnel bombed the Turkish Grand National Assembly again and again, the recoiling people's representatives, from both the ruling party and the opposition, valiantly denounced the coup. (4) Our critical query, to which we will return, is: where did this indomitable resolve come from?

This is not all, the coup-plotters carefully calculated and executed the swift kidnapping of key senior military personnel, including General Hulusi Akar, Commander Salih Colak, and General ihsan Ayar, forcibly taking them to Akinci air base. (5) While there, these senior military officers were battered and threatened with fatal consequences if they refused to comply with the directives issued by the murky recluse Fetullah Gulen. (6) Trickery, ruse and perfidy characterize the deep-rootedness of the Gulen Movement, emblematized by the appearance of Ramazan Gozel, General Hulusi's Executive Assistant, on CCTV assisting the coup-plotters. (7) However, irrespective of the plotters' planning, embeddedness, or depth of intrigue, the hostages flatly refused to relent to their demands. The coup plotters had played all their cards, banking on quick surrender, which was not forthcoming. And, against every act of sabotage, terror and death that they inflicted, everyday men and women resisted courageously. After all, rights once acquiesced are not so easily withdrawn.

Chaotic scenes of professional military infantry raiding CNN Turk, only to be countered by unruly mobs and, soon thereafter, arrested by their own police force are surreal. Imagine heavily armed and well-trained military soldiers being scolded and manhandled by the citizenry, with the intervening police officers struggling to prevent a lynching. (8) In actuality, at that point, popular mobilization was already rapidly under way. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly condemned the coup as an illegal act and ordered the police to restore order. Specifically, he used the FaceTime app on his iPhone to connect to CNN Turk and broadcast a galvanizing message: "people, everywhere, should come out on the streets and defend their democracy." (9) Responding by the millions, the Turkish people flooded the streets throughout the entire country, attesting to the legion of enthusiasts ready to sacrifice for their shared social imaginary. …

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