The Differences and Similarities of the July 15, 2016 Coup Attempt in Turkey and World History (occupation, terror, risk of civil war, etc.)
Until three years ago, it was widely perceived in Europe that the era of military intervention in politics was over. Strongmen like Idi Amin in Uganda and Hafez al-Assad in Syria were long dead, and the world had seen the likes of Hosni Mubarak toppled and Augusto Pinochet voted out of power. The armed forces appeared to have returned to the barracks for good. Although the coups in Egypt and Thailand in 2013 and 2014, respectively, were a reminder that the military can still play a political role, it was the recent, failed coup attempt in Turkey that drove this point home. Since 1950, 473 coups and coup attempts have occurred: 46.9 percent were successful, 53.1 percent ended in failure (Gaub, 2016).
The difference between a revolution and military coup
A coup is an illegitimate replacement or renewal of one governing set of personnel by another, e.g., the replacement of a ruling faction of a political party by another from that party or a military regime (Lane, 2008). Revolution, however, tends to mean different things to different people depending on the disciplinary perspective and orientation of that person. This tendency has made the term largely ambiguous. Even more confusing is the continual application of the word to describe the act of change in a number of fields and areas, for instance, technological revolution, fashion revolution, scientific revolution and religious revolution, among others. The ambiguity surrounding the term has compelled scholars to make significant efforts to draw the lines of contrast between revolution and other forms of political uprisings such as coups, civil wars and revolts (Lewis, 2015).
Revolution can be distinguished from a coup in several respects. Firstly, while those engaged in a coup employ violence to substitute one ruling group for another, revolutionaries use violent means to initiate a new beginning in the distribution and control of political power. Secondly, a coup differs from a revolution in the number of people directly involved, as a coup does not depend on a mass following. Sometimes referred to as a palace revolution, a coup is fundamentally elitist in nature. In most cases, the general public usually knows little about the attempted coup until the struggle has ended and often shows some kind of apathy toward the outcome (Enor & Chime, 2015).
What happened in Turkey on July 15?
What happened on July 15 was an extraordinary incident, even for Turkey, which has experienced several military interventions. It was extraordinary even for a country that has seen more innovative techniques in military interventions, such as its “postmodern coup” or “e-memorandum.” The coup makers engaged in multiple different methods throughout the process. There were conventional coup steps, including an attempt to detain the president and to gain control of the public broadcasting service. The statement broadcasted by the putschists and the phrases and expressions that they used were similar to those used in earlier coups and coup attempts. However, extraordinary events took place as the failure of the coup started to become clear to the coup actors. The Parliament building was bombed for the first time by fighter jets. The Presidential Palace was attacked and the shooting of civilians by some members of the military was particularly horrendous (Kanat, 2016). At around 10 p.m. on Friday, July 15, everything began when a group of officers from the Turkish military associated with the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) launched a coup attempt at the General Staff headquarters. It was suppressed after almost 22 hours. According to information compiled by Anadolu Agency (AA), FETÖ’s attempted putsch was decisively put down at 8:02 p.m. on July 16 (department of corporate communication of the presidency et al., 2016).
Coup case studies: Comparison between global coups and the Turkish coup attempt
Venezuela, 2002: The steadfastness of people
The coup attempt in April 2002, against then Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who had been elected in 2000, failed. Many demanded Chávez’s resignation in the early hours of April 12. With the loss of almost all military forces on hand, Chávez said that in order to resist he would consider moving to another place to avoid a potential bloodbath if there were disturbances involving the crowds outside Miraflores. After that, Chávez was arrested (Al-Jazeera, 2015). As the coup took place, the came a reversal of the situation: the people of Caracas rose up and the forces behind the coup suddenly collapsed. A large majority of the Venezuelan military decided not to back the self-proclaimed provisional government. Chávez was ousted from office for 47 hours before being restored by a combination of military loyalists and support from the Venezuelan poor. He was released and he and his ministers were back in power (Main et al., 2003).
During the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urged the people, over the FaceTime mobile app on a news broadcast to take to the streets to resist the coup attempt and defend democracy. He said those responsible for the coup attempt against the national will would receive “the appropriate response” whether they are a minority within the Turkish Armed Forces or in other state institutions. After this call, Turkish citizens took to the streets to protest the coup attempt amid the calls for unity aired from mosque minarets (department of corporate communication of the presidency et al., 2016). The clashes began with putschists and dozens died, but as happened in Venezuela, the will of the people triumphed.
Argentina, 1976-1989: The role of media and women
Historically, few countries around the globe have experienced levels of military intervention in politics that can match those of Argentina. Starting with the military coup of 1930, officers have played a dominant role in the country’s politics, pulling the country into domestic and foreign wars (Ohl & Finkel, 2013), and between 15,000 and 25,000 Argentine citizens ended up in clandestine concentration camps and detention centers before they were killed or disappeared (Swehat, 2015). Argentine women initiated protests in 1976 to inquire about their missing children. The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo convened in downtown Buenos Aires in front of the Casa Rosada, the government palace, on the square near the May Pyramid, the political, financial, and symbolic center of power in Buenos Aires. Soon after, other mothers and grandmothers joined, and the circle of marchers quickly grew in size (Mooney, 2007). The 1978 FIFA World Cup was held in Argentina from June 1 to June 25, during which time the protesting women exploited the presence of the international press and described their suffering under the coup regime, which, ultimately, exposed the regime’s practices to the world (Al-Jazeera, 2015). Thusly, the Argentine women were the only ones that resisted the coup in its most dangerous periods, and this played the largest role in toppling the coup regime (Mooney, 2007).
During the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey, Turkish women and the media had a prominent role in resisting the coup attempt. For example senior female journalist Hande Fırat of the most-watched private TV channel, CNN Türk, held her iPhone in front of the cameras to broadcast the video call on FaceTime with Erdoğan. This was a critical moment in the fight against the coup attempt, if not actually the moment that shifted the balances. Women also took to the streets. Among the 249 killed and more than 2000 wounded, there were several women, including six female officers. One of them, Zeynep Sağır, was a mother of two who had just returned to Turkey after an international mission in Kuwait (Ertan, 2016). Ayşe Aykaç, 44, a prominent model, who came with her husband toward the Bosporus Bridge, which was then under the control of the putschists. After that she was shot dead. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said that one of the most tangible photos he had seen was that of a covered woman driving a truck to fight the putschists, and on her left was an uncovered woman. “This is a photo of solidarity to protect the democracy,” he said. As had happened in Argentina, Turkish women and the media big played a leading role in the suppression of the coup.
Egypt, 2013: Public awareness and national unity
In February 2011, Hosni Mubarak resigned after 18 days of mass demonstrations that ended his 29-year rule of Egypt, In June 2012, Mohammed Morsi won the presidential election, being the first democratically elected president of Egypt. On July 3, General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the head of the Egyptian Armed Forces, announced a coup (Al-Jazeera, 2013). In July and August 2013, many of Egypt’s public squares and streets were awash in blood. On July 3, 2013, the military deposed Morsi, a high-ranking member of the Muslim Brotherhood, on the heels of massive popular protests against Morsi calling for early presidential elections. Over the course of the following two months, Muslim Brotherhood supporters organized two large sit-ins in Cairo in Rab’a and al-Nahda and smaller protests across the country to denounce the military takeover and demand the reinstatement of Morsi. In response, police and military forces repeatedly opened fire on demonstrators, killing thousands (Human Rights Watch, 2014).
The difference between the Egyptian coup and the attempted coup in Turkey is that on the evening of July 3, when Sissi announced the coup, the general was surrounded by the two highest religious figures in the country, the grand imam of Al-Azhar Mosque and the patriarch of the Coptic Church; a number of senior military officers and most of the political actors (Al-Jazeera, 2013). In contrast, when the coup attempt was announced in Turkey by FETÖ generals, it was undoubtedly unnaccepted by all elements of the Turkish society, which includes religious institutions, political parties, nationalist military officers, and nongovernmental organizations (Miş et al., 2016). The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu expressed his support for democracy in a phone conversation with Parliament speaker İsmail Kahraman and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım. At the same time, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) emphasized the importance of supporting democracy against the coup attempt (Siyasilerden darbe, 2016). Then Interior Minister Efkan Ala declared “all the plotters against democracy are a gang’’ (15 Temmuz, 2016).
Generally, all over the world, coups fail by virtue of the people and the government’s ability to distinguish between the positive image the armed forces have as an institution and the negative image when governing plays an important role in a military’s decision to strike. After all, it is well documented that military forces fare worse than their civilian counterparts when it comes to governance. For the same reasons, the coup attempt in Turkey failed due to the awareness of the Turkish leadership, the sacrifices of the citizens and national unity.
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The Differences and Similarities of the July 15, 2016 Coup Attempt in Turkey and World History (occupation, terror, risk of civil war, etc.)