Category 5

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

Publicly Supported, Morality-based And Social Media-oriented People’s Resistance To The Gulenist Coup Attempt On July 15

Sertaç Timur DEMİR

Key words: July 15 coup attempt, social media, sala prayers, public, resistance

Turkey once again faced a coup attempt on Friday, July 15, 2016, the Islamic holy day. The history of the Republic of Turkey has a tradition of military coups. The last attempt on July 15, organized by Fetullah Gülen, who had been accepted for years as an aggrieved cleric and depicted by his movement as the agent of peace-loving and moderate Islam, was comparatively different than the coup on May 27, 1960, memorandum on March 12, 1971, coup on Sept. 12, 1980, military ultimatum on Feb. 28, 1997 and e-memorandum on April 27, 2007 and the “civilian coup” of the violence during the 2013 Gezi Park protests. The Gülenist coup attempt was carried out not by the Turkish military through the chain of command, but rather by some military officers deeply attached to Gülen. In addition, the internationally supported terrorist event gathered all distinctive characteristics of previous anti-democratic, destructive coups, especially in terms of perception management and propaganda techniques. The only difference in the July 15 coup attempt was that the use of social media played a determinant role to abort the attempt. Therefore, this paper focuses on digital sharing platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, WhatsApp and on the sala prayers during the resistance.        

Around 250 people died as martyrs and more than 2,000 were injured by members of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) in the July 15 coup attempt in which Parliament, which represents the national will, was bombed, in which media organizations were raided and in which communications systems were shut down at gunpoint and missile strikes were conducted. Despite this, the bloody coup attempt was stopped thanks to those who gathered around shared beliefs and common motivations that were distributed via accessible social networks that are flexible, common, influential and swift. Even the institutional media services were nourished from those that uploaded images and videos as promptly as possible. In other words, all these visuals captured the devoted spirit of the Turkish nation and their monumental struggle against illegal armed forces and tanks driven by Gülenist terrorists. Especially when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appeared on CNN Türk through FaceTime and encouraged all citizens to protect the public’s will, people took to the streets, bridges, squares and airports closed by the Gülenist military forces. Footage of the video connection was spread to all Turkish society instantly on multiple connected networks.

Social media also served pro-Gülenists in organizing the coup attempt, reproducing clichés calling Erdoğan a dictator, disseminating propaganda that tried to show the attempt both as a Kemalist-based military coup and as the fall of a dictator and in circulating misinformation such as the fake news of beheaded soldiers. But all these strategies were invalidated by the people and their spirit of democracy with their smartphones that recorded and instantly shared the real and uncensored scenes from the chaotic streets, so much so that in this process, each person turned into an amateur embedded reporter who naturally revealed the betrayal of the Gülenist coup attempt. More crucially, this visual proof shared mainly via Periscope, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram guided those who were still indecisive, hesitant or confused in their homes. Hence, millions of people displayed a joint will and common attitude.

When looking at the statistics on the use of social media in Turkey, it can easily be realized that social media networks have a strong potential to affect the cause and result of mass events as well as political preferences. According to research conducted by We Are Social, there are more than 46 million active internet users, 42 million social media users and 36 million mobile social media users in Turkey. All these figures have increased dramatically over time. Moreover, around 60 percent of mobile phones are smartphones that can produce text, image and video and use sharing apps. Users spend four hours and 14 minutes on average per day on computers, tablets or smartphones, with two hours and 32 minutes consumed by social media. Each social media network has characteristic features in promoting trends and manipulating users. For instance, although Facebook has the highest number of users among social media networks, it is behind Twitter in terms of challenging social breaking points.

On the evening and night of July 15, Twitter was unsurprisingly used more actively than Facebook. Periscope and Instagram also became remarkable meeting grounds in the digital struggle against the coup attempt. Their instant photo and video sharing in particular played a leading role to mobilize the dedicated society by highlighting scenes that then left permanent impressions on the collective memory of Turkish society. In this respect, despite its liquid notion, social media took the place of social testimony, chronicling the traumatic and forgotten moments captured by high-definition smartphone cameras. All these public images generated a shared wisdom, common front and in-group solidarity against the factious pro-coup mindset. Even after the failure of the inhuman coup attempt, the broadcasted visual contents have not evaporated, and instead have been archived and reproduced digitally mainly on YouTube, which functions as an open-access visual library. Each uploaded amateur or professional video could be watched time and again from all corners of the world on and after July 15. Thus, global public conscience better comprehended the true color of Gülenist terrorism and the spectacular resistance of the Turkish nation.   

Another significant social media network used both in support of and opposition to the coup attempt was WhatsApp, which drew many different and dispersed groups together within a frame of common reference. Through these WhatsApp groups, just as the thought of hitting the streets pervaded, punctual and reflective directions concerning probable provocations were shared. In other words, virtual collaboration overcame the difficulties of time and space of face-to-face communication and properly achieved crisis management. Meanwhile, the Gülenist plotters also created a WhatsApp group called “Yurtta Sulh” (Peace at Home) to communicate with each other to put the coup plan into action. Then, the group chat became legal and conclusive evidence that marked Gülen and his deceptively Muslim-looking, intoxicated disciples. However, Islam established a common spiritual ground through the sala prayers recited from more than 8,000 mosques on the night of July 15.

The sacred invitation that gave society power and courage against destructive weapons represented perhaps for the first time the return of Islamically regulated public practices that had been excluded from formal relations throughout the history of the Republic. Sala prayers transformed the resistance into a matter of faith as well as national responsibility and supported the hope-inspiring victory that became a model to oppressed global communities and the ummah. A Turkey that has faced serious political hardships for three decades started to rise after the failure of the sinister coup attempt thanks to martyrs, the wounded and self-sacrificing citizens. The paradoxical togetherness of trouble, challenge and solution verified the Quran verse: “So, verily, with every difficulty there is relief. Verily, with every difficulty there is relief” (Surah al-Inshirah, 5-6). That is why after the tragic but honorable experience of July 15, to expect tomorrow’s Turkey to be more powerful and brighter is not a utopian dream.

Category 5

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

1. Sertaç Timur DEMİR

Publicly Supported, Morality-based And Social Media-oriented People’s Resistance To The Gulenist Coup Attempt On July 15


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


Spiritual Connection Between Two Presidents And Nations