Is ‘Gülenist coup’ a hoax?.. ‘Turkey has become a country that’s devouring itself’

‘Six months after the failed coup of July 15, 2016, many questions still remain unanswered. Disturbingly, most can no longer be asked. Amid the purges, imprisonments and oppression, Turkey has become a country that is devouring itself…’

These words come from Gareth Jenkins,  a Western analyst known for his meticulous work on the indictments of Ergenekon and Sledgehammer trials – both about alleged military coup plots against the elected AKP government between 2003 and 2007.

In a new analysis, Jenkins this this time scrutinizes the evidence about the failed coup in July 15, 2016, and issues an extremely worrisome conclusion.

His findings overlap to  a great deal with ones that are posted by me in this blog previously, and the ones by Turkish journalists, Ahmet Şık – suspected of being jailed most recently, due to his publications – and Ümit Kıvanç – as well as two military analysts Prof Ümit Cizre and Aaron Stein.

German weekly Der Spiegel and ARD TV reported today that about 40 high rank Turkish officers had defected to Germany. One officer interviewed told that he was at home during the coup but had been fired days after without being given a reason.

Officers accused the AKP Gov’t of cleansing the pro-western and secular officers systematically from the army.

wsj

Most recently, Greece’s Supreme Court rejected an extradition request for eight Turkish military officers who fled to Greece after a failed coup.

The court ruled that the servicemen wouldn’t get a fair trial in Turkey and that their extradition could put their lives at risk while exposing them to torture or degrading treatment. The decision is final and cannot be appealed, reported Wall Street Journal.

As the developments are sure to sour Turkey’s relations with Greece and Germany, new data emerging show that within NATO and EU, there is growing disbelief over the Turkish official narrative that the last year’s coup attempt was initiated and staged by officers linked to Gülen Movement.

‘The dominant assessment in NATO is clear: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan staged the coup against himself’ wrote Kjetil Stormark, a blogger, who had spoken to Norwegian military sources:

Senior NATO sources tell aldrimer.no that they believe Erdoğan staged the coup himself. However, they stress that there is no written NATO documentation for that claim, because it is simply too sensitive. That’s because all member nation’s have the right to access to all intelligence information gathered by the alliance.

But the dominant NATO assessment is quite clear.

The senior officers, three- and four-star generals, and those who worked with Turkey for 30-40 years and who mentored Turkish officers for four or five years, say they do not believe that there was a coup. If the Turkish Armed Forces wanted to carry out a coup, they would have succeeded. That’s a tradition in Turkey, said a NATO source, without a hint of irony.

They had a list of 1,600 names the very next day of people they wanted gone, he added.

Some 80-90 per cent of Turkish officers who served in NATO were relieved of their posts, aldrimer.no has learned from reliable sources.

Many of those who dared to return home were jailed and a significant number were killed, according to NATO sources.

‘Turkish officers who still have contact with NATO said that Erdogan had been planning the so-called coup for a year and had a list of people he wanted out’ said a NATO source. ‘I have so far not met anyone who believes there was a real coup attempt,’ said the source.

A think tank that NATO regularly uses has issued a classified assessment of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a  narcissist.

The commercial intelligence report is available to NATO officers and NATO member states through NATO Intelligence Fusion Center (NIFCA).

One of the first things Erdogan did after the alleged coup was to split the military and the paramilitary gendarmerie. Those two units were previously organized under the same umbrella and wore the same uniform, although they were different organizations with different objectives.

The gendarmerie, in particular, was loyal to Erdogan and actively participated in the purges after the events in Turkey in mid-July. However,  many Turkish Armed Forces officers also enjoyed promotions after displaying loyalty to the president.

NATO noted that a Turkish officer at NATO’s military headquarters SHAPE in Mons, Belgium, was abruptly promoted from major to colonel.

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declined to comment to aldrimer.no.

The NATO press office responded with a written statement it asked to be attributed to a ‘NATO official’. In the statement the press office stated that «the NATO Secretary General has commented publicly on the failed coup and its aftermath, and has discussed these issues with the Turkish political leadership’.

The NATO press office, however, did not respond to aldrimer.nos specific questions about NATO assessments of who was really behind the attempted coup in Turkey in July 2016.

Aldrimer.no has contacted the office of the president of Turkey and offered the president a chance to comment. The office has not responded.

In his analysis, Jenkins brings us first up to date on the rapdily escalating rift between Ankara and the EU over the claims that a ‘Gülenist coup’ is an official Turkish lie:

On January 21, 2017, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) issued a statement describing as “erroneous, unfounded, biased and ignorant” a leaked report by INTCEN, the EU’s intelligence-sharing unit, questioning the Turkish government’s claims that the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016, was masterminded by the exiled Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. In fact, the INTCEN report said that some of Gülen’s followers probably participated in the coup, adding that it was unlikely that Gülen himself had masterminded it.

The MFA would have been justified in asking how INTCEN could be so certain, particularly as the report does not cite any concrete evidence. But the same question could also be directed at the Turkish authorities. As soon as the news of the attempted putsch broke – long before the identities of the participating officers had become clear – President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) immediately blamed the Gülen Movement.

It was an assumption, not a deduction.

Jenkins then goes on to line up important points why believes it is so:

  • There is no doubt that members of the Gülen Movement have been responsible for a catalogue of crimes in Turkey, particularly in the period 2007-2013, when the movement was allied with the AKP. Gülenists in the police and judiciary launched a barrage of prosecutions, most notoriously the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer investigations, in which hundreds of people were imprisoned on patently fabricated charges. Others were subjected to blackmail and intimidation. Lives were also lost, whether as the result of being denied proper medical treatment in prison or being driven to suicide in despair at Gülenist defamation campaigns.
  • The Gülen Movement’s past record is not, in itself, proof that it was responsible for the attempted coup. Yet, over the last six months, Turkish officials have locked themselves into an unquestionable narrative. The putsch and the reaction to it have been airbrushed into a myth – a fusion of people and leader, in which Erdoğan is portrayed as the embodiment of the national will, heroically defending the country against an Orwellian ‘forever enemy’ in the form of the Gülen Movement and the scheming West that is allegedly controlling it.
  • However, not only are there problems with the claim that the coup was a purely Gülenist affair, but the Turkish authorities have yet to produce convincing evidence to support their narrative. Much still remains unclear. Perhaps even more disturbing than the absence of answers is that questions are not even being asked.
  • The government’s claim that the coup was masterminded by Gülen rests almost entirely on a statement made by Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar. On the evening of July 15, 2016, Akar was taken hostage in military headquarters by a group of putschists allegedly led by Air Force Brigadier General Hakan Evrim. In a statement he later gave to the public prosecutor, Akar claimed that, in an attempt to persuade him to support the putsch, Evrim had said: “I can put you in contact with our opinion leader Fethullah Gülen.”
  • This was later denied by Evrim himself. In a statement to prosecutors, Evrim quoted Akar as acknowledging that there was considerable discontent in the country, but insisting that a coup was not the answer. Evrim said that Akar had suggested talking with the leaders of the different segments in Turkish society in the hope of reaching a consensus that would defuse the tensions. Evrim denied ever offering to put Akar in contact with Gülen, maintaining that he had said: “If there are any political parties, opposition figures, NGOs or opinion leaders that you would like to talk to, I can call them.”
  • This is not to say Akar was lying. He may have simply misheard or misunderstood. It is also possible that Evrim is being untruthful, although his explanation appears more logical than Akar’s.
  • The only context in which it would have made any sense would have been if Akar himself had been a Gülen sympathizer and needed convincing that the putsch had Gülen’s approval. But there is no evidence that Akar is a Gülenist.
  • Without Akar’s claim, there is no evidence to suggest that Gülen himself was even aware of the coup. In the weeks following the putsch, officers accused of participating were routinely denied access to lawyers and frequently physically abused. During this time, a handful of statements were leaked to the Turkish media in which alleged participants apparently confessed to being Gülenists. Several of these statements have since been disowned by those who were reported to have made them. Even if the remainders are taken at face value, no one has yet confessed to participating in the organization of the putsch, merely to joining it when it was already underway. Not only is the number of these alleged confessed Gülenists very small but, in terms of the alleged statements leaked to the media, they are considerably outnumbered by those who have denied – often vehemently – ever having any connection with the Gülen Movement.
  • Remarkably, despite months of vigorous interrogation, no convincing evidence has yet been made public about how the coup was planned or coordinated. There can be no doubt that, if such evidence had emerged, the Turkish authorities would have ensured it was in the public domain.
  • The only “evidence” that has emerged so far about the planning of the putsch comes from an anonymous “secret witness”, codenamed “Şapka” or “Hat”. “Şapka” is reportedly a former officer who was detained in Izmir on August 8, 2016, a week after he had been dismissed from the military for suspected Gülenist sympathies. His statement to the public prosecutor appears to date from October or November 2016, although the full text was not leaked to the media until December 2016. “Şapka” claims that he received a text message on July 5, 2016, summoning him from Izmir to a villa in Ankara. “Şapka” says that he then spent three days in the villa, where he participated in the preparation of plans for a coup by around ten high-ranking officers under the leadership of Adil Öksüz, a civilian who was briefly detained after being found in the company of alleged putschist officers on July 16, 2016 and has since disappeared.
  • Şapka’s testimony is suspiciously sparse in content. For example, the military officers he cites as being present in the villa had all already been named as alleged putschists by the pro-government media. He quotes Öksüz as saying that the coup would prioritize freeing imprisoned Gülenists and that he would shortly be flying to the United States. Information had already been published in the media showing that Öksüz flew to the U.S on July 11, 2016.
  • But “Şapka” does not quote Öksüz as saying anything else. For example, there is nothing in “Şapka”’s testimony about what the putschists expected to happen if the coup had been successful. They must have had some plan or expectation – and it is inconceivable that it would not have been mentioned during the three days he claims he was in the villa. But he says nothing about it in his statement.
  • Regardless of Şapka’s reliability, the question of what the putschists thought would happen if the coup was successful is important. Did they plan to govern by themselves? If not, who did they think would take power after Erdoğan had been overthrown? If they were Gülenists, did they plan to bring Gülen himself back from the United States? If so, what impact would admitting responsibility for a coup have on the worldwide operations of a movement that has ostensibly espoused non-violence? All that is known is that, on the night of the coup, the putschists presented themselves as hard-line Kemalists. This may have been a false flag by Gülenists. But it still needs to be explained.
  • None of this means that, as some of his detractors have alleged, Erdoğan either plotted the putsch or learned of about it and allowed it to proceed in the hope that he could exploit to tighten his grip on power. In fact, Erdoğan and the AKP leadership seem to have been as much taken by surprise as the rest of the country. When Erdoğan first appeared on national television to call his supporters onto the streets to confront the putschists, he looked genuinely anxious.
  • Rather than pre-planned, the government’s response was as shambolic as the coup itself. Indeed, one of the most alarming consequences of the putsch was how quickly the center of the state collapsed. 

And here is the conclusion of Jenkins:

Six months after Turkey’s failed coup, questions about what actually happened have been submerged by a bludgeoning myth. The government’s central thesis – that the putsch was instigated by Gülenists – may be true. But it has yet to be proved.

No one in Turkey is asking whether Erdoğan needed to call his supporters onto the streets instead of waiting for the loyal majority of the security forces to restore order – a process that may have been slower but would have resulted in considerably less civilian casualties.

Nor is anyone asking why, if his supporters were defending democracy, they chanted only religious slogans, also attacked Alevis and Syrian refugees and, over the last six months, have remained silent while his opponents been persecuted and denied even the most basic of human rights.

Nor is anyone calling for justice for the young conscripts and cadets, who were tricked by putschist officers into thinking they were participating in an exercise, and were then lynched by Erdoğan’s supporters.

Most worryingly, nor is anyone asking what the resultant sense of empowerment amongst his hardcore supporters means for the rule of law.

Perhaps the most pernicious aspect of the official narrative – and one that is believed even by a large proportion of Erdoğan’s opponents – is that the coup was masterminded by the West.

Not only is it untrue but it has ensured that Turkish society has become permeated with fear: whether of Erdoğan, ever-elusive foreign conspiracies or both.

One thing that be said with certainty about the failed putsch is that it was instigated by Turks.

And now – amid the purges, imprisonments and oppression – the country is devouring itself.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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