Category 1

Turkey’s Democracy Journey and Anti-Coup Development from the Proclamation of the Republic of Turkey on Oct. 29, 1923, until the Occupying Terrorist FETÖ July 15, 2016 Coup Attempt.

Resisting A Coup: Lessons From Turkey's July 15 Coup Attempt

Fatma Nur HÜKÜM

Key words: Military coup attempt, FETÖ, July 15, democracy, public resistance

It is possible to assert that military coups and coup attempts are one of the primary political problems for countries like Turkey, which are relatively immature in terms of a democratic political system. Military groups that take an ideology as their base1 tends to intervene in a system and its running and supervise, or more specifically, create a system of tutelage over political actors. It is also interesting that in the calculation of such a risk, nearly all such groups, which use less researched and insufficiently understood filtering mechanisms, explain such attempts with the intention to constitute a system that overcomes or replaces the existing one, which, according to them, fails to adequately solve social, political and economic problems.2

This study will firstly introduce the different interventions, coup attempts and memorandums carried out and issued by different military groups in Turkey3 and then discuss the rationales, tools and strategies regarding the counteraction from Turkish citizens against the FETÖ’s members on July 15, 2016 coup attempt.

The test of Turkish democracy with coups and memorandums

It is possible to say that after the transition to a multi-party system, the history of Turkish democracy was formed by coup and intervention attempts approximately every 10 years. It can be proposed that while the perpetrators of interventions carried out in the 1980s and before refer mostly to a supposedly statist reflex or tradition, after the 1980s, it was the newly emerging secular tendencies that mostly motivated these actions.

The elected government was suspended in a military coup carried out on May 27, 1960. This coup, which brought death sentences to the elected prime minister and some ministers, also inflicted a heavy blow to democracy. The declaration of the soldiers who carried out this coup cited “fratricidal quarreling, existing state of crisis and political disagreements” as their leading motives. The soldiers who instituted the March 12, 1971 memorandum based it on situations such as “anarchy and fratricidal quarreling, social and economic unrest and the serious threats to the Republic’s future.” When looking at the main motives of the September 12, 1980 coup, “political, economic and social problems; anarchy and terror; the public and the prospect of the endurance of state being left unprotected” were given as the reasons behind the coup. The results of this coup were quite traumatic because of the death sentences that were issued, even though these were not the same as those after the 1960 coup.

The April 27, 2007 memorandum is completely different from all of these due to its characteristics. It is understood that the soldiers who declared the memorandum proposed some rationales such as “protecting secularism and the other values of the Republic; challenges against the state and opposition against the Republic.” Therefore, this memorandum was totally different and milder than the heavy actions with the same features and objectives carried out before, and the reactions shown to these.

Finally, looking at the July 15, 2016 FETÖ coup attempt, elected and legitimate political actors were accused by using completely subjective, unjust and speculative political arguments. However, it should be asserted that the soldiers who were involved in this coup attempt emphasized the “continuity of the state” as those who preceded them.

National resistance to July 15, 2016: Rationales, tools and strategies

The coup attempt carried out by Gülenist military officers and other related actors on the evening of July 15, 2016 was different from past coups in terms of rationales, characteristics, targets, implementation and results. This is because the leading motives behind previous coups, memorandums and coup attempts had been declared as upheaval in the country, political quarreling and the anarchy/chaos generated by this, and finally, social, economic and political turbulence. However, when looking at the time leading up to July 15 coup attempt, one can say this attempt was carried out in a period with peace and prosperity across the country, economic indicators were positive and tended to continue positively and there was no political turmoil or crises.

It should be explained that the junta soldiers behind previous coups, memorandum and other military interventions were not members of any structure or organization that specifically manipulated religion. This time Turkey confronted a new type of coup attempt from a group that used religion as a cover.

The coup attempt directly targeted the president, who is constitutionally the head of the Republic and commander-in-chief of the Turkish Armed Forces, as well as Parliament and legislative and executive figures. Additionally, the most important difference between this coup attempt and previous ones was that this time, community was also directly targeted. To put it more explicitly, the coup perpetrators used heavy weapons such as fighter jets, attack helicopters and automatic weapons for the first time with clear destructive and harmful intent. As a result of these subversive and destructive actions, 249 public officials and citizens were killed and other thousands were wounded.

After approximately three hours from its onset, it was understood that the coup attempt would not be successful. The following day, almost all of those involved, save for some groups, were taken into custody and the coup attempt was finally put to rest. The mass public action also continued afterward as democracy watches.

Within the common public resistance, people took action for various reasons such as protecting popular sovereignty, being against anti-democratic military exercises such as a military intervention, preserving the democratic system and actors, resisting foreign state intervention in the country and protecting the continuity of the state.

The people used some tools and methods during the resistance processes such as directly resisting with their bodies and any kind of materials they could find such as wood, trucks and motorbikes; organizing marches and demonstrations; trying to convince coup soldiers to give up and collectively blocking them from exiting their facilities by blockading with heavy construction equipment and other vehicles.

Some actors in the resistance used relatively softer ways and methods such as creating awareness via social media; using religious and national values such as the flag, call to prayer and other prayers and preparing texts in foreign languages and announcing them on international platforms, videos, TV programs and other visual materials like posters and banners. Even if these tools and methods are considered simple in opposition to complicated war machines, they should also be seen as creators, augmenters and maintainers of a heroic attitude.

In the end, the story of the FETÖ coup attempt shows that a democratic community can resist at the cost of the lives of its own against any kind of threat to breaking its authority or abolishing its own freedom.

1. e.g., laicism or the Gülenist Terror Group (from now on FETÖ).
2. It is my contention that such commonalities would be found upon close analysis of the declaration of the May 27, 1960 coup; March 12, 1971 memorandum; April 27, 2007 memorandum and the declaration of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt.
3. In selecting these, some criteria were taken into consideration such as whether coups and/or memorandums are finalized; and the extent, violence and effects of their results.

Category 1

Turkey’s Democracy Journey and Anti-Coup Development from the Proclamation of the Republic of Turkey on Oct. 29, 1923, until the Occupying Terrorist FETÖ July 15, 2016 Coup Attempt.

1. Fatma Nur HÜKÜM

Resisting A Coup: Lessons From Turkey's July 15 Coup Attempt

2. Mehmet TURGUT

Journey For Democracy In Turkey And Oppositon To Military Coups

3. Musab Talha AKPINAR

Turkish Democracy And Challenges To It