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Category 5

The Rolesof Mosques, Media and Digital Platforms Played in the Suppression of the July 15 2016 Coup Attempt.

The Role Mosques, Media And Digital Platforms Played In The Suppression Of The July 15 Coup Attempt

Yussif MOHAMMED ALHASSAN

Key words: July 15, mosques, media, digital platforms, Turkish coup

According to academics, the success of coups is not dependent on only the military strength of the coup plotters, it is largely dependent on the ability of the coup plotters to shape the perception of the success of the coup among the public. Singh and Zack (2016) argue that the failure of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt in Turkey was due to the inability of the coup plotters to effectively manipulate the perception of the success of the coup among the Turkish population.1 One key tool that has always been utilized in this regard is the media. Even though in the Turkish case, there were attempts to use this method, other factors worked against the success of the coup plotters. The following factors cannot be left out when discussing the key factors that played together to suppress the coup in Turkey.

In Islamic history, mosques are an important place for Muslims. Generally, it symbolically represents a divine, pure presence on earth, primarily serving as a place of worship for Muslims. Mosques also serve other functions such as being a social and educational center for Muslims. Recently, in some parts of the world, mosques are only considered to be a place of worshipping Allah and nothing else. Any attempt to use mosques for other purposes, especially politically, is out rightly condemned by some Islamic scholars, even to an extent that Muslims who participate in politics are sometimes considered not pious or observant of their religion. These Islamic scholars argue that mosques are a divine place of purity that should be devoid of any worldly or political manipulation. With this ideology in mind, I was very shocked when I heard the imam of the mosque behind my window calling and encouraging the citizens of Turkey to go out and march on the streets in protest of the plotters of the July 15 coup attempt. The imam did this after reciting the call to prayer. My further checks found that similar things happened in all the mosques across the nation.

In fact, the role of the Presidency of Religious Affairs led by Mehmet Görmez, and its 85,000 mosques across the country, in suppressing the surprise coup attempt by a few colonels in the Turkish Armed Forces cannot be over emphasized. Actually, it was the first time after the Ottoman era and the establishment of the secular state of Turkey that the call to prayer was recited simultaneously at mosques in times of grief and difficulty in the country. Upon hearing the call to prayer, secular Turks as well as Muslims were encouraged to take to the streets to show solidarity with democracy and the country by standing against the coup plotters. It was not surprising that the people were chanting: “Ya Allah, bismillah, Allahu Akbar” while marching through city streets. In fact, mosques provided most people the spirit of courage and bravery to stand in front of and chase down tanks. The process was perceived as a call to duty to defend their Islamic values.

Furthermore, the July 15 coup plotters took possession of some broadcast media outlets and conveyed their message to the public of their seizure of power from the democratic government. This led to the seizure of public broadcasting outlets like the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT). Unfortunately, the large number of conventional media – especially private media – in present-day Turkey made it an arduous task for them. This subsequently led to their failure, as several TV stations live-broadcasted the happenings in Istanbul and Ankara to the public. Also, the failure of the coup attempt was as a result of the changed perspectives of Turkey’s conventional media to go along with the thoughts of the West, which supports civilian rule against military rule.2 This made them react differently toward the coup attempt, counter to the roles they played in the previous coups in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997. Thus, most of them encouraged the public to go out on the streets to protest against the coup attempt and show solidarity with the democratic government. It is in the light of this that CNN Türk made a FaceTime video call from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on its “SON DAKIKA” program, which he used to plead with Turks to take to the streets to defend the future and the democracy of their country.3

Aside from that, social media – technically called digital platforms – played an outstanding role in preventing the coup attempt from succeeding. As was the case in 2011 and 2013 in Egypt, social media has become a very important tool used by the public to actively participate or influence how they will be governed. Digital platforms played a leading role in empowering the citizenry to determine the way they want to be governed. Even though the Electronic Frontier Foundation considers Turkey “the bastion of internet censorship” (Wong, 2016), the night of July 15, 2016 projected the importance of social media in Turkish society.4 For example, Erdoğan and his followers heavily utilized social media to foil the attempted coup. Thus, he was able to relay his message of appeal to the Turkish population through FaceTime broadcasted live on CNN Turk, and later Twitter and Facebook. In fact, from the words of Maeve Shearlaw, “the platforms provided opportunities for organization and protest that traditional methods couldn’t.”5 Thus, Erdoğan’s message and the happenings on the streets were further relayed on similar platforms through citizen journalism that mobilized and raised high awareness among the population. It also enabled ordinary Turks to share their opinions and encourage others to join them on the streets to foil the coup attempt.

In conclusion, several factors played significant roles in suppressing the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey. Mosques, media and digital platforms worked together to mobilize and offer spiritual motivation for the Turkish population to rise against the coup arrempt. The result of the events of July 15 also emphasize the importance of religion, media and digital platforms in shaping the present and future of today’s society. 

Footnotes:
1. Zack, B (2016). Why Turkey’s coup failed, according to an expert. VOX Media. Retrieved from: http://www.vox.com/2016/7/16/12205352/turkey-coup-failed-why.
2. Karagöz, S. And Kandemir, P (2016). The role that media played in the failure of the July 15 coup attempt. Insight Turkey, Vol. 18/No.3/2016, pp.19-29.
3. Abutaleb, Y (2016). Turkey Coup: How social media played a crucial role in crushing coup. News Europe. Retrieved from:http://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/turkey-coup-how-social-media-played-a-crucial-role-in-crushing-coup-34888827.html.
4. Wong, J. C (2016). Social media may have been blocked during Turkey coup attempt. The guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/15/turkey-blocking-social-facebook-twitter-youtube.
5. Shearlaw, M. (2016). Egypt five years on: was it ever a ‘social media revolution? The Guardian. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/25/egypt-5-years-on-was-it-ever-a-social-media-revolution.

Category 5

The Rolesof Mosques, Media and Digital Platforms Played in the Suppression of the July 15 2016 Coup Attempt.

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