Turkey’s ‘fake-coup’? – the truth which demands to be digged and investigated

The botched coup in Turkey last July is wrapped in such mystery that it begs for a constant return for updates and further analysis.

I wrote numerous articles about it, given on avaliable data. The more we have been exposed to, the more suspicious we have become about the motive, the composition, choreography, and the involvement of the actors in the act of mutiny.

The government, its mouthpiece media and even some so-called secular-oppositional pundits in Turkey were heavily engaged in presenting the world the official version that the coup was the sole product of the Gülenists. The harder it was tried, the lack of concrete evidence has become more exposed, and nowadays the frustration is apparent that the ‘world does not believe in our story so we have to do something about it.’

But the efforts does not change the fact that this story has a high number of key questions that remain unanswered. The secular and Kurdish opposition parties keep insisting about a controlled coup, and the current situation even brought forward a term ‘fake coup’.



”Some even call it a “false-coup,” which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan organized in order to justify a crackdown against oppositionists” argues David L Phillips, in an article which justifies outmost attention. (Phillips is Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He worked on Turkish issues as a senior adviser and foreign affairs expert to the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of European Affairs under President Clinton and Bush. His recent book is titled An Uncertain Ally: Turkey Under Erdogan’s Dictatorship.)

Here are the key points in his article:

”Case studies suggest a pattern, which can be used to evaluate the events in Turkey one year ago.

When conducting a coup, the first action involves capturing or killing the head of government, in this instance Erdogan. In parallel to killing or capturing the head of government, loyal military and security units must be immobilized to prevent them from obstructing the coup.

Public information is critical. The putschists typically seize control of media so they can manage the flow of information to the public. Traditional media outlets involve radio and television, both public and private. New media include social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

A head of the putsch presents himself so the public can attach a face to the events and find reassurance. If the public protests the coup, mutinous soldiers use all necessary measures to preserve order.

The following occurred in Turkey.

Erdogan was vacationing in Marmaris on July 15. When mutinous soldiers arrived at his hotel to arrest him, Erdogan had checked out and was on his way to Dalaman aiport.

The first inkling of the coup occurred in the early evening when mechanized units used tanks to block the Bosphorus Bridge and the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, crossing from the Asian side to the European side of Istanbul. Land forces on the bridge were joined by the gendarmerie.

TRT, Turkey’s public television, was taken off the air. Soldiers also seized control of CNN Turk, interrupting a live broadcast. No private television channels were affected.

Erdogan disappeared during the coup.

In the early hours of the morning, he surfaced to address the nation using FaceTime. He called on followers to take to the streets in defense of Turkey’s democracy.

Imams echoed Erdogan’s appeal. The chant “Allahu akbar” – God is great – reverberated from the muezzins of mosques. Many thousands of supporters went to Ataturk Airport and Taksim Square in Istanbul. They also gathered outside the presidential palace in Ankara.

F-16s controlled by the putschists allegedly bombed the army headquarters and the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA).

Though Turkey’s military has a reputation for efficiency, its actions were poorly considered and badly executed. The coup fell far short of best practices for military takeovers.

How could mutinous soldiers have been unaware of Erdogan’s plans to leave the hotel? Failing to find him was a major gaff that undermined the coup from the outset.

Why wasn’t Erdogan apprehended on his way to the airport before his presidential plane took off? The coup plotters possessed F-16 fighter jets. Why didn’t they intercept or shoot down Erdogan’s plane?

Members of the Turkish General Staff representing major branches of the Turkish armed forces were detained. Was their arrest part of the coup design or was it intended to prevent them from joining the ranks of mutineers?

MIT’s Hakan Fidan, was not apprehended. Of all the members of Turkey’s national security establishment, Fidan is closest to Erdogan and best positioned to protect the president. Erdogan once called him his “sır küpü,” which means ‘jar of secrets’.

The putschists never presented themselves to the public, explaining events and offering reassurance.

Why did the coup plotters fail to take over major private networks that most Turks actually watch? Both TRT and CNN Turk have relatively small viewing audiences.

And why did the coup plotters allow social media to function? They could have jammed coverage, but didn’t. It is ironic that Erdogan addressed the nation using FaceTime, a form of social media he vowed to eliminate.

While imams called Erdogan’s supporters to the streets, the putschists issued instructions for people to stay indoors. Allowing Erdogan supporters free reign allowed a groundswell of popular support for the president.

Damage to the TGNA (Turkish Parliament) was minimal. Crater analysis suggested that explosives inside the building were used, rather than high impact ordinance of fighter jets.

According to US Secretary of State John Kerry, “It does not appear to be a very brilliantly planned or executed event.” Kerry has a knack for understatement. It was a botched coup that showed all the hallmarks of incompetence.

Would Erdogan be so reckless to stage an event that endangered Turkish citizens, killing 265 people? Another theory exists about Erdogan’s complicity.

Rather than organize the coup, Erdogan was either tipped off by members of the putsch or by the intelligence agency of a foreign government. Instead of preventing the coup, Erdogan allowed events to progress just far enough so claims of a coup were credible but not so far as to present any real risk.

In his first public remarks during the early morning of July 16, Erdogan issued a chilling threat: “This latest action is an act of treason. This attempt, this move, is a great gift from God for us. Why? Because the move will allow us to clean up the armed forces, which needs to be completely cleaned.” In a rush to judgement, he vowed to purge all state institutions of “the virus” spread by supporters of Fethullah Gulen.

The Turkish government had already prepared lists of oppositionists. The authorities moved immediately to arrest them. To date, about 50,000 security officers and civil servants have been arrested and another 150,000 dismissed from their jobs.

Approximately 150 journalists are in jail. Members of parliament, judges, and educators have also been dismissed or arrested. Instead of reconciliation, Erdogan arrested another 7,000 people on the one-year anniversary. Erdogan vows to approve a bill reinstating the death penalty if parliament proposed it.

Some say Erdogan is paranoid.

But even paranoid people have enemies.

Erdogan was profoundly aware of potential challenges from the TSK. Turkey has a history of military coups in 1960, 1971, 1980, and 1997. Erdogan was directly affected by the coup of 1997, which outlawed the Refah Party to which he belonged.

To pre-empt challenges, Erdogan pushed through constitutional reforms affecting the Kemalist judiciary. Pro-government prosecutors conjured fantastical plots, Ergenekon and Operation Sledgehammer, which were used to crack-down on retired and current military officers. Arrests sent shock waves through Turkey’s security establishment.

Events in Egypt further exacerbated Erdogan’s concerns. Erdogan identified closely with Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi as a kindred spirit and fraternal political ally. Morsi was a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and a known Islamist. When Morsi was overthrown by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in 2013, Erdogan feared something similar. He accused the West of masterminding Morsi’s removal.

Erdogan was pro-active to prevent a similar fate. Erdogan’s purge is called a “civilian coup” or a “controlled coup,” because it pervasively eliminated opposition and generated widespread fear in society and professional ranks. An open-ended state of emergency has been used by Erdogan to eliminate the rule of law and systematize repression.

Secrets are hard to keep. Repression is difficult to maintain. Close to two million people rallied in the Maltepe district of Istanbul on July 8. They demand “adalet” ― justice and the rule of law. They want answers.

When Erdogan eventually leaves power, Turks and the world will learn what really happened.

The truth will come out.

It may, or not. But the facts are clear: 167 generals of the Turkish army are in detention. This is 46 % of the top brass of the second largest army of NATO. We know that only 1.5 % of the army took part of the coup. If these generals were all involved in the coup, how come more soldiers and troops were not on the streets on that night?

Just another question.

Out of hundreds more.

Now, President Erdoğan is approaching another breaking moment of history. In early August next month, he will chair the traditional and critical Supreme Military Council meeting, during which all the key appointments and dismissals are decided. Reports suggests another massive purge which will finalize the restructuring of the Turkish army whose command will be designed as to serve the ruling AKP’s pure political interests; and no longer of Turkey’s.

Questions remain. As long as we can’t find answers, we will not be able to write history as it happens.





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Turkey a year after the failed coup: Hell on paradise, with no prospects of peace

From the outset it was clear that for Turkey it would be a nightmare of a year. My last shred of doubt was dispersed when I was driving that day, all alone, in the sweltering July heat, towards a western Greek port.

It was July 21. The night before, Turkish cabinet had convened, as the turbulence of the patchy military uprising still went on, to decide on the state of emergency. Official Gazette was reprinted as of 2 a.m. of July 21, to make it ‘official’.

This was the patent for the peaking nightmare.


Yet, its news was at that time treated as just one of the ordinary developments. When I found out about it at a gas station, my thoughts were crystal clear: Turkey would roll down into the abyss. Anyone who had a memory, knew what sort of service on a plate ‘decree regime’ provides for a passage to autocratic rule.

I tweeted a few lines, giving a heads up to my nearly hundred thousand followers. Another surprise: Even those academics who were supposed to know the history of world politics tried to downplay it; some responding like ‘oh, it will be short lived’, ‘it is needed, but will pass’, ‘no worries’ or something in that vein.

I remember how disappointed I was by this tone, and felt so helpless, that I did not bother to discuss any further. In frustration, I jumped back into the car, and pressed the gas pedal. I had a ferry to catch, after all. I was glad that I had chosen freedom; ever so the highest priority in my life.

That feeling was alive, for days. The patchy military uprising, later known as the ‘failed coup’, in the night of July 15, had left many of us journalists sleepless. My biological engine was on for more than 36 hours, trying to catch and absorb the most vital parts of this amazing story.

The decision on how to deal with it on personal and professional level had to be part of that. My strong intuition told me that, no matter who would come out victorious through this chaos, journalists and dissidents would suffer. I had no doubts, and in a matter of hours, legally, I was out of Turkey. Sitting somewhere not far away from Turkish-Greek border, barely keeping my eyes open in that hazy afternoon of July 17, with two refugee kids playing about in the vicinity, it took me various incoming phone calls to realize how right I was.

The first call was the BBC, for a brief chat. The second was from the Swedish TV, a reporter apparently in a lot of uncertainty about ‘what is going on over there’. And the third one was the Süddeutsche Zeitung, which had – I am sure by the memory of history – clearly understood that the gates of hell had opened for our unfortunate, somewhat cursed country. It marked the beginning of the series of Turkish Chronicle, which you have been following for a year. I am proud to be documenting all I could see as a raw material for history writing.

Weeks, even some months before the eruption of chaos, some of us journalists had a powerful gut feeling some calamity was building up. For many of us in the profession life was not made unberable due to the coup, but long before that. We had witnessed with bitterness, that the outlets we worked for were seized one after another, the so-called ‘mainstream’ media which was strictly ruled by its flunkey proprietors had day after another fired all the colleagues who insisted on doing their jobs properly.

Many of found ourselves jobless; working pro-bono. Days before the coup attempt, I had only a tiny source of income for columns in the daily Özgur Dusunce (which was shut down as part of the first mesures by the emergency rule). We suffocated.

I remember meeting my colleague, Kadri Gürsel, at a cafe – named ‘Gezi’ – in Taksim Square, some weeks before the chaos. We had some differences of opinion on the state of things in Turkey, discussed fiercely at times, but trusted each other fully. We agreed that we had no longer any future in the country, unless we changed jobs. ‘We are in a cage’ said Kadri.

I said that there were so few of us with courage displayed publicly, that we would be such easy preys. I remember telling him something like ‘It would be moronic to think that a struggle against an irrational, barbaric structure of power, which employs all the tools so easily’. We agreed on that too, as well as the necessity to leave the country. I did, I know he wanted to, but couldn’t.

He is behind the bars, for almost nine months, accused of ‘acts of terror’.

Like 170 others.

Thoughts on what might happen to Turkey, to all the good people I had known, to those whom I have seen suffering for decades, to all my friends passed through my mind like a mountain stream till I reached the Greek port. When I stepped on the ferry, I realized that all I have been left with was not a sense of worry, but bitterness and anger. An experiment for a decent democratic order had not only failed, but the country was hijacked by forces which would unleash all the evil they can think of over old, and newly invented ‘domestic enemies’ – a well-known tool in Turkish history to maintain brutal, inhuman order in place.

It was the worst defeat for all those who had hoped for a better future, and the lion’s share fell upon us journalists, academics, human rights defenders, civil society strugglers, those few politicians who truly cared for the underdogs… It was a major collective failure, which has would keep me angry for months ahead. I know now for certain that the lost momentum will hardly come back.

It will take generations, at best, to bring back things to normal. I can hardly disperse the thought that, if mistakes haven’t been grasped, we would end up with another Iran at our hands. Parts of its fine human resources chased out; large swaths of its population declared undesired, the remaining ones constantly dismayed, helpless; hostage to a thought that the world is against them.

‘What went wrong, then?’ I can almost hear you ask.

Turkey is so complex that there is not a single response.

But I can tell you that its each and every citizen is a prisoner of her/his fixed notions.

Decades of militarist tutelage empowered by an obsolete educational system, backed by a judiciary obsessed to protect the Turkish state against its citizens; a pumped up denialism of diversity of opinion and identities shaped a stiff national psyche which remains closed to empathy, civilised public discourse and democratic progress. Social groups act still like tribes, suspicious of each other. They are prisoners of their rigid identities, unable to line up together against the oppressors.

They remain hostile to each other; stuck in an eternal blame game. Whenever a social group to which they are hostile is ‘beaten’ they remain silent; or worse, they applaud the injustices. Justice, they all seem to think is a notion limited to their identity; their privilege. Each time a new identity gets to power, the basic instinct becomes to chase out those it sees as the domestic enemy.

This fundamental fact makes Turkey a ground where ‘forced coexistence’ is an established way of life; its vicious circle, which to a great deal explains the defeat.

Some weeks after my chat with Kadri, my sense of suffocation was so deep that I had taken a break to clear my thoughts. I found myself on a placid Greek island in northern Aegean.

It was the first days of July.

One night, at a remote seaside restaurant I met a young couple.

They were from Istanbul and had briefly gotten away from the ‘madness’ as they put it. She was pregnant, quiet but you could see the tension. Soon we began to talk about the way things are happening in Turkey. ‘It is such a restive society’ she said. ‘I am sick of it, they can never find peace; at the throats of each other, seeking pretexts to beat the hell of each other. For centuries they have gone west from Asia to our beautiful Anatolia, but they are so keen on keeping it like hell. Not a moment of peace…’

‘It is ours, this paradise and this hell’ had our great poet Nazım Hikmet. I told her that the paradise is the Anatolian soil, but it is the people who are hell.

She nodded, and smiled bitterly.

Then, perhaps there is also something called the power of the curse. I was reminded the other day of an elderly Ottoman Armenian man from the town of Muş – a survivor of the genocide. Someone asked him somewhere outside Turkey, where he was chased away: ‘What will you say when you meet your oppressors?’

‘I will tell them: You have annihilated us in these lands, but there will come a time for me or my grandchildren, to see you all helplessly wallow in your own dirt that you yourselves have created’ he responded.

Curse or not.

Here we are.

A ruler class living in lies, silencing all those who speak the truth.

Justice buried and gone.

These days, as Turkey’s nightmare doesn’t seem to let go, all I do is to think of my friends in prison; best and brighest of their generations who sacrificed the best portion of their lives for a decent human order in the country they love:

Kadri Gürsel, Ahmet Altan, Şahin Alpay, Murat Sabuncu, Deniz Yücel, Tunca Öğreten, Cihan Acar, Mehmet Altan, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Güray Öz, Murat Aksoy, Enis Berberoğlu, Büşra Erdal, İnan Kızılkaya and all 170 of them.

And the academicians, and human rights defenders.

And thousands of Kurdish politicians and the grassroots of Gulen Movement, so apparently paying the price for some murky coup they had no idea about, the only ‘crime’ of theirs is affiliation with a sect, which is surely legal in any democracy.

365 days that have passed was a breathless horror.

You can only imagine how corrosive it is.

And the worst part is yet to begin.


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Once more: Forget Cyprus!

So, now, post-collapse of the talks about Cyprus, the usual wheel is turning.


Who did what machinery.

At the expense of people’s expectations on living in peaceful coexistence, undivided by the walls.

Cyprus Mail reports:

The Akel leader, Andros Kyprianou, who travelled to Athens to meet Greek government officials to discuss the outcome of the talks in Switzerland and the possible next steps, told CyBC that he feels the Greek Cypriot side went to the talks unprepared; not to reach a settlement solution but to set the ground for a blame game.

“We went totally unprepared. We went with the perception that the root of some issues was not going to be discussed, and we had not prepared our positions on those matters,” Kyprianou said. He added that once at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana, the Greek Cypriot negotiating team were working all night to prepare documents.

“This job should have already been done. We should have been prepared to address any scenario,” Kyprianou said. 

“Our priority was to play the blame game,” Kyprianou said.

It is easy to blame Turkey, he said, adding that he does believe that “the main responsibility for the deadlock falls on the Turkish side”, but he disagreed with the tactic followed by the Greek Cypriot side at the talks, which led to losing time.

Akel, he said, had been telling the president for six months to prepare a package with all the issues concerning internal matters, “to discuss informally to find out Turkey’s intentions, and at the same time, to discuss security and guarantees”.

“Not only we reached no solution, but we have distanced ourselves from a solution, and Turkey threatening it would seek a solution outside the framework of the UN,” Kyprianou said. “If some celebrate this situation, I am sorry to say that they don’t know what national interest means,” he said.

In a statement, deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos said that the government was sad to hear the criticism voiced by Kyprianou, “which has nothing to do with what actually happened during the Conference on Cyprus in Crans-Montana”.

The president, Papadopoulos said, went to the Swiss resort fully prepared and very determined to achieve convergences within the parameters set by the UN Secretary-General, to achieve a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem”.

Papadopoulos also said the president feels that in such critical hours, “we should put expediencies aside and work together to tackle Turkish intransigence, but also for the recommencement of the talks, as soon as possible”.

But Akel did not keep silent. Party spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said Akel “will not censor itself”. Anastasiades and those in power, he said, when they were themselves opposition, “gave a thousand times weapons to third parties to blame the Greek Cypriot side”.

He said that Akel will continue to voice its opinion. The presidential elections, he said, are a great temptation and Disy has a long history in relation to serving pre-election expediencies at the expense of the Cyprus problem.

Anastasiades said on Monday in his address to the people on the outcome of talks, that reports that Turkey had been ready to give up its guarantee was not true and he also made reference to “malicious messages” that blamed the Greek Cypriot side for the failure.

Take it for granted that the blame-game will intensify, postponing any talks, if any at all, to another decade.

As I promised in the former blog, I leave you, my dear readers, with an article of mine, that is dated March 2, this year. You will understand what I mean. It is all about infantilism, and total insincerity.

Here it is, titled ‘Forget Cyprus’:

When the latest round of talks began between the parts in Cyprus, there were many colleagues and friends who were swept along with enthusiasm. ‘This time, this is it!’ was the phrase I had heard more than a year ago. My response was simple: ‘Do not ever get carried away. The issue is about Cyprus, and remember: what we have seen so far, will shed light on what will, or rather, what will not happen. Wait and see till it collapses again.’

These bittersweet conversations took place in late 2015 and early 2016 and here we are.

Because this is Cyprus. Land of ‘negotiation for negotiations’ sake’ land. Island of ethnocentrism; a laboratory of incurable nationalisms. A paradise for cynics.

My optimistic friends were victims of their naivete. They had not taken into account that momentum had changed. Even though Cyprus had two years ago caught a momentum by the choices of Anastasiades and Akıncı – two seemingly rational leaders – they had miscalculated two elements: An increasingly militarist and populist Erdoğan – who forged an alliance with ultra-nationalist MHP for an autocratic rule – and the fierce nationalist forces in Greek Cyprus that stood ready to find a pretext to undermine a rapprochement.

Time worked in their favor.

As Turkey entered its most unstable period ever in its modern history after the failed coup and emergency rule, with referendum in horizon; Anastasiades had to take elections into account as valuable time was wasted in a typical Cypriotic slow-motion mood. And, enter the counter-forces, we are now at a dead-lock.

Following rumours of annexation of North Cyprus into Turkey – an idea surely looks attractive to Erdoğan, who saw Putin succeed with Crimea affair – the Greek Cypriot ‘unionists’ with mainland Greece saw a momentum to rise up and have Enosis (unification) decision decades ago commemorated in schools, and there you had the deja vu of the impasse that we are so familiar in Cyprus conflict.

akinciThe meeting between Nicos Anastasiades (left) and Mustafa Akinci (right) was brokered by the UN.

As Turk Cypriot leader Akıncı seemed ‘surrounded’ by the AKP figures and rhetoric lately, with Turkish troops’ withdrawal not even something to think of, President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, sent a strong message to both Turkey and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci that the majority cannot be equated with the minority.

In an interview with Phileleftheros and The Cyprus Weekly, Anastasiades said: “Their positions to insist that essentially the minority will make the decisions and the majority will simply obey cannot be justified”. He added adding that they need to understand that theirs is an unprecedented phenomenon. The rotating presidency, in Anastasiades’ eyes, has also been shelved stressing that for the present it is not under discussion.

“The issue of a rotating presidency is out of the question right now,” adding that “to be able to accept a discussion one should know concessions that the other side will make so as not to create conditions that increase the concerns of the Greek Cypriots, especially in terms of functionality and sustainability.”

“It’s unimaginable to discuss the four chapters, as well as territorial adjustments, to address their concerns and when the time comes for them to demonstrate political will in seeking a peaceful coexistence they ask for more,” said Anastasiades

Anastasiades believes the break in negotiations has nothing to do with parliament’s passing of the ‘enosis day’ amendment to school curricula but Turkey’s unwillingness to discuss the issues of security and guarantees.

At the same time, he is hopeful that negotiations will commence after April’s constitutional referendum in Turkey where Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has gained the support of the extremist nationalist group, Grey Wolves who may pull support if they feel that Turkey is giving concessions on Cyprus.

To this end, Anastasiades believes that even if negotiations restart before the referendum no significant progress will be made because as he says “Turkey controls Akinci, whether he wants to admit it or not.”

Of course, he would not admit that he is controlled by his concerns that he also is sieged by his nationalists on the southern side of the island. But he is.

‘Maybe it’s a good thing that we have a crisis in the Cyprus talks now and not later’ wrote my colleague Nikos Konstandaras in Kathimerini lately.

‘If the negotiations between President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci can withstand today’s difficulties, then perhaps the Cyprus issue will be on its way toward resolution. If the negotiations cannot overcome the recent decision by the Parliament to have schools commemorate the 1950 plebiscite calling for union with Greece, it’s best we know from now that the process was leading nowhere. The past is history, but it is up to today’s leaders to overcome obstacles and to lead Cyprus toward a better future – or to confirm that the consequences of the Turkish invasion in 1974 are permanent and inviolable.’

‘We often see’ he went on, ‘extremists determining developments in societies with their demands and hyperbole. In most cases, though, the responsible, centrist parties try to resist. So how can we interpret the ease with which so many parties in the Cypriot Parliament sided with the extremist ELAM with its two MPs? Did they not see that in other countries whenever mainstream parties adopt the language and methods of extremists it is the latter who gain, as they gain credibility among more citizens? Or do they think that tension between the island’s two communities serves their interests? In any case, the breakdown in trust between Anastasiades and Akinci is a great loss and it is difficult to imagine how either of their communities will benefit from this.’

Respectfully, I think that we should forget Cyprus as sincerely engaged in finding a solution. This was, if ever, the moment. It was a point both sides could get as close to each other as more than ever. But it was demolished.

There are obvious reasons for this:

  • Both sides’ leaders do not have any idea of rational conflict resolution. Even if they do, they do not properly engage in it. It is a cultural phenomenon that makes Cypriots the strongest enemy of themselves.
  • As a result of disengagement, sides did not overcome mistrust.
  • Even if Akıncı brought in a new spirit and popular will pro-solution, it was damaged along the way by Turkish government which, due to Erdoğan’s slippery manner of chainging domestic alliances, returned to extremely old-fashioned, problem-oriented approach that froze all the issues that should be left open to negotiations.
  • Two elements countered the positive dynamics: Nationalism is not strong in Turkish part, but corruption and mafia structures are. The current status quo serves many dirty interests. In the Greek south, political resistance against unification and ethno-centrism has remained dominant. Together, they once more won.
  • Success in Cyprus talks always assumed that there would be a minimal bilateral confidence between two guarantor powers – Greece and Turkey. It did not happen, on the contrary, tensions grow, because of Turkish nationalism once more hiking.

So, where are we? Nowhere. If Cyprus made cynics out us, it was justified. I had told my friends that the issue was a matter of global consensus, it was far too sensitive to be left to islanders themselves. But the current conjunture leaves no ground for hope.

The only hope, if ever, would be to keep the conflict frozen, no matter for how long.

There is no way current constellation of leaderships will pay enough attention to the island. There are far more serious issues at stake.

Forget Cyprus.

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Collapse of Cyprus talks triggers a fresh blame game: Who was responsible, why?

So, we are where we have been. Things have not moved an inch.

As the Guardian reported, ”What had been billed as the best chance to reunify Cyprus has collapsed spectacularly, fuelling fears that the Mediterranean island is heading towards permanent partition.”

More from the Guardian:

”The Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı, who had staked his political career on a solution, predicted that future efforts to reunite Cyprus under a federal umbrella would be exceptionally difficult.

Addressing reporters hours after the visibly despondent UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, announced the failure, he said: “I wish the next generation good luck on this and that one day maybe Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots will decide together that there is no longer a need for troops on the island.”

The issue of maintaining military intervention rights – insisted upon by Turkey – under a tripartite “guarantor power” security system conceived when Cyprus won independence from Britain, lay at the crux of the collapse.

While the UN special adviser Espen Barth Eide, who had chaired the talks, described the positions of both sides as “close but not close enough”, diplomats said it was sparring over troop presence and guarantor status that ultimately scuppered progress.”

”The collapse of talks was met with unbridled disappointment. Veteran diplomats voiced fears of possible annexation of the north by Turkey. Others expressed concerns that under the ever-unpredictable leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Ankara could also pursue the path of further partition by pushing for international recognition of the rump state currently recognised solely by Turkey.”

Older Cypriots, who still harbour memories of common coexistence, expressed anguish that the island was now heading irrevocably towards partition. “This is the end of the road for Cyprus as we knew it,” said Lakis Zavallas, a National Guard platoon commander during the invasion.

“Thousands of years of history will be forgotten and rewritten and the north of our island turned into a Turkish province. And we shall continue squabbling among ourselves squashed in the part we are left with until we make the next mistake and lose it too.”

What had happened? For many of who have known the political and social DNA of the island, the response to the question would in no way be surprising. Not, either, the blame game that is now rolling.

Independent observers told Cyprus Mail that the collapse of the Crans-Montana talks lies squarely with the Turkish side for refusing to budge on security and guarantees ”is far from accurate”.

”They insist President Nicos Anastasiades missed an historic opportunity” Cyprus Mail reported.

UN sources had told the Cyprus Mail that Turkey would be prepared to accept an end to guarantees and rights of intervention, and had consented to a clause in Guterres’ framework for negotiations for the Crans-Montana talks, which stipulated a fall-back to the 1960 Treaty of Alliance figures for Greek and Turkish troops on the island – 950 and 650 respectively – with final decisions on whether these were to withdraw altogether, and when, to be made “at a higher level”, meaning the three guarantors’ prime ministers. But when Anastasiades was informed of this, the sources said, he started insisting on zero troops.

Here are the details:

”The Cypriot government’s version of the events that transpired during the dinner suggests that, while repeatedly professing flexibility, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu instead insisted on publicly stated positions for maintaining guarantees, intervention rights and troops, accepting only a review of the security arrangement in 15 years’ time.

“The positions they submitted on security and guarantees, as well as the rest of the chapters, not only deviated from the UN secretary-general’s framework, but were such that under no circumstances could they have been accepted by our side,” Anastasiades said in a speech on Saturday, read out by Defence Minister Christoforos Fokaides.

“Due to the intransigence and insistence of the Turkish side on maintaining the Treaty of Guarantee and Turkey’s rights of intervention, as well as the demand to keep Turkish troops, there was no result.”

That may not be the full story. According to a UN source that spoke to the Mail on condition of anonymity, Cavusoglu had “conceded in private to us” that Turkey would be prepared to accept an end to guarantees and rights of intervention.

Reportedly, Turkey had also consented to a clause in Guterres’ framework for negotiations for the Crans-Montana talks, which stipulated a fall-back to the 1960 Treaty of Alliance figures for Greek and Turkish troops on the island – 950 and 650 respectively – with final decisions on whether these were to withdraw altogether, and when, to be made “at a higher level”, meaning the three guarantors’ prime ministers.

“When we signalled this to Anastasiades, he started insisting on zero troops,” the source said.

“He simply didn’t want it.”

Another diplomatic source shared a similar account in which Cavusoglu went out on a limb but soon reverted to Turkey’s publicly stated positions after Anastasiades demanded that he commit to the offered concessions formally.

“It was so close – it could have happened if Anastasiades had been willing to engage,” the well-informed source said.

“Turkey was willing to give hugely on intervention rights, and there was a possibility on the guarantees, maybe [after] a couple of years, with even the possibility of getting rid of it from Day One. There would also have been less troops. [But] Anastasiades wanted it in writing.”

Christodoulides could not be reached for comment, but media reports citing Cypriot government sources corroborate Anastasiades’ demand for the Turkish overtures to be submitted in writing, which may have been the dinner’s coup-de-grace as Cavusoglu refused to commit to any concessions before a comprehensive deal was struck.

“There were errors by everyone,” the same source said.

“There was a lot of pressure put on Turkey by the UN and by Britain over the fact that this was the 21st century, and the Turks ‘got it’.”

If they did ‘get it’, why would Anastasiades have balked at such an opening, instead of pursuing it furiously?

“There were probably all sorts of reasons for why he didn’t accept,” the source said.

“There were a lot of hardliners around him. He was tired. There was a lot of pressure and he couldn’t think clearly. He was on the verge of an historic deal.”

Pressure and cold feet might be perfectly valid explanations, but they ignore the 800-pound gorilla of the island’s domestic politics – next year’s presidential elections some six months away, in which Anastasiades is hoping to clinch a second term.

“I think he somehow thinks that the talks will just reconvene, but it doesn’t work that way,” the Mail’s source said.”

”Regardless of how close a solution appeared during the dinner, and whose fault it really was, the fact remains that it didn’t happen. On paper nothing has changed, and yet this breakdown could usher in a new phase of tension, not least because drilling for gas in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone, much to Ankara’s dismay, is scheduled to resume next week.

“The way things stand now without a deal, Turkey still has intervention rights in Cyprus,” our source said. “The troop numbers would have been small and tucked away, and Morphou residents would be going home. Anastasiades blew it, the hardliners are backslapping, and now we’ve got a gas issue. He could have solved it, it was such a good deal.”

So, as we have seen so many times before, the only ‘day after’ effect is who will be the ones to precede the others in a blame game. It has already started. Political parties in the south have all seemed to agree, that it is Turkey to blame. And the disappointment of grand scale has taken a grip on all the Turk Cypriots who – fearing a gobble up by an Islamo-Nationalist rule in Turkey – had laid their last hopes on a settlement. This trauma will not let them go, and they have very strong points if they blame back the Greek side for lacking a strategy for the benefit of the whole island.

Some observers rightfully demand that, in order to stop the infantile blame game, the UN should come out and tell what really happened to cause the collapse.

”The UN and its secretary-general, who was actively involved personally this time, need to speak openly and if necessary apportion the responsibility for the pathetic failure of this effort. And if their conclusion is that the Cyprus problem cannot be solved they should say so directly and stop dealing with us. After 50 years of failures it seems ridiculous for them to talk about new, future initiatives” wrote Lucas Charalambous.

”…because people need to know who is lying and who is telling the truth, the UN need to speak clearly about what happened. Failing to do so would leave the briefing of people on both sides of the dividing line to the demagogue politicians and naïve journalists that feed us only myths.”


”In democratic terms, ‘the outcome was predictable because the hearts of the people are not yet ripe enough for an agreement to come naturally” wrote Alper Ali Rıza – Queen’s Councel in the UK.

‘This is not sour grapes, but the truth is that any agreement would have been rejected anyway in one of the simultaneous referendums. So why all the fuss? The talks were misconceived in that guarantees should have been discussed and resolved two years ago when the talks began if resolution of the issue of guarantees were a condition precedent to a solution. The two communities have diametrically opposite views on guarantees and security, and this should have been identified as a problem much earlier.

The position on the Greek Cypriot side is very clear. Thirteen years ago 75 per cent of Greek Cypriots voted no to a solution that included guarantees. Even though Mr Anastasiades himself led the ‘yes’ campaign in 2004, now he had to make a judgement as president and it had to be in tune with the majority of Greek Cypriot thinking on guarantees.

In his political judgement he would not have been able to get the Greek Cypriots to vote yes to a solution containing guarantees by Turkey. That is a judgement that I respect since the Greek Cypriots would have been seriously undermined in the EU if he agreed a solution that was voted down in a referendum a second time.”

”The position on the Turkish Cypriot side is the symmetrical opposite. The majority of Turkish Cypriots would not have voted for a solution without Turkish guarantees. Security is a real concern for many Turkish Cypriots. In some circles it is the only concern. The majority would have voted no to a solution that had no Turkish guarantees. In their view Turkish guarantees are necessary to protect them in case the agreements do not work out and to act as a deterrent. It is borne of realism and bitter experience both in Cyprus and more recently in Bosnia.”

Ali Rıza concludes:

”I have a feeling that a kind of stalemate was played out at Crans-Montana, and when the acrimony clears, those of us who wish Cyprus well hope against hope that not all was lost now that each side has some idea of the concessions the other is prepared to make.”


Well, ‘hope against hope’ is as pale as a wish can get, although it is a right way to put it.

Yet this has become the refrain devoid of any meaning now. Perhaps it is time to call it a day; because the divides between the two populations have over four decades turned into fixed positions. And obstinacy and maximalism is a well-known element of the DNA of Cyprus. That unless Greece and Turkey can come to terms with each other to a new pact that binds these two countries in a treaty based on a resolve over all the disputes, no solution will visit the island.

Perhaps it is time to forget Cyprus altogether, as my next blog will remind you.

Posted in AKP, Cyprus, EU, Turkey | Leave a comment

Turkey’s venomous entrenchment

”We are not meeting anymore over dinners” said a friend of mine lately, over telephone line:

‘There is no more any will to do so. Many of us realized that after a glass of Raki or so, we start dragging each other down on the state of things in Turkey. The air of depression, bad mood takes over. So, more and more live in a coccoon format.”

The meyhane (taverna) life in Istanbul, İzmir, Ankara and along the coastline cities of Turkey has always been informal, colourful political forums of sorts, as many foreign visitors also have noticed.

Friends and concerned folks, intellectuals or not, regularly (used to) assemble over long dinners to find an answer to the eternal question, ”whatever will happen to this country of ours?” which reflected the dynamic of a country in pursuit of better conditions.

But what he told me, as many others also do, is clear: Exchange of ideas, animated discussions are no longer fun. The fear has become far too dominant, alienation so apparent, sense of finding oneself in the midst of a fierce Kulturkampf so striking, the mode of injustice so intense that, as he mentioned, more and more have been hit by depression.

We understand that the gloom has become a collective phenomenon. A parliamentary deputy of the main opposition party, CHP, had discovered that there was something wrong with the psychological state of the nation in post-coup that she had directed a question to the Ministry of Health about what its data base says on the number of people visiting clinics with complaints of mental health disorders.

The official response was worrisome. Usage of anti-depressants had gone up by more than 25 percentage points in the past four years. Nearly nine million Turks had as of the end of 2016 gone through mental disorder examinations. Only between January this year and now, the number of those who visited clinics are more than 3 million 240 thousand, the ministry confirmed.

”According to this data one of eight adults in this country visited hospitals on mental disorder issues” commented the deputy, Aylin Nazlıaka:

”This number is surely much higher because there are many other who because of social pressures and prejudices have not done so. The solution lies in the restoration of justice; that democractic order will have to be put back in action, that suppression of people who oppose the power must stop, that the land must quickly normalize. Otherwise we will all together sing a song called ‘I am going bananas’.”


I was in a flash reminded of a movie I had seen long time ago. The great Serbian director Goran Paskaljevic’s picture, ‘Bure Baruta’ (Powder Keg, 1998). He paints masterfully in it the rage, frustration and intolerance which takes Serbia into its grip, due to extraordinary cirumstances.

This unforgettable satire applies to large urban parts of Turkey: The State of Emergency in political order which evolves into a collective state of mind, merging with it.

The ‘March for Justice’ – initiated by CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu – which has entered into its most delicate phase is at the core just about that. If it is ‘allowed’ to reach its final destination before Maltepe Prison, where a CHP deputy Enis Berberoğlu with a background as journalist sits behind bars, will it be able to have any impact at all on the lifting of the State of Emergency? Although many people agree that the genie of now also out of the ‘CHP’s bottle’, nobody has any idea whether or not the ray of hope on the horizon will brighten up.


Yet the march has given a boost to the realization of secular, politically cautious Turks that once they lose their part as stakeholders for the future of their country; they will be condemned to a slow-motion implosion of their identity. They have started to see that there is no stopping of a resolve, by the AKP, to bring its ‘cultural revolution’ to a resolution, which will end up creating a Nationalist-Sunni supremacy over the other identities.


Thus the shock or depression, that the educational system not only abolished the teachings of evolution, but also makes it de-facto obligatory to teach pupils, Islamic Law – which is Sharia – and force them to pray in the mosques. They grasp more cleary what some CHP or pro-Kurdish HDP figures say when they talk aout Turkey as ‘open-air prison’.

Some went even further, having inserted the term, ‘gigantic concentration camp’.

These descriptions will be persistent and more widely used, to decribe Turkey as long as the State of Emergency lasts.


It has finally dawned on the ‘tame middle classes’, who feel with a great deal of justification that their ‘no’ vote in the referendum has been hijacked, that the the streets, the ‘domain outside parliament’ has to be a ground to take the struggle. Every day that passes, more and more feel emboldened to join; they are perhaps learning what the director Michael Moore had said:

”Democracy is not a spectator sport, it’s a participatory event. If we don’t participate in it, it ceases to be a democracy.”

On many fronts, they are facing a monster a ruling machinery which sees a political survival only by gobbling up more and more of freedom, as it becomes less than minimally rational. Despite growing calls, there is absolutely no sign of the AKP to abolish the State of Emergency.

On the contrary, the statements are, that there will have to be another three-month extension.

And another.

And another.

In this mood Turkey is approaching the first anniversary of the coup attempt – a collective act of suicide, which gave Erdoğan and his circle all the power tools to switch off dreams of democracy. In many ways, a cycle of twelve months is nearing a closure: dissenters of all sorts loudly refusing to be criminalized, main opposition decided about a long march and a self-confident, oppressive AKP preparing a week-long ‘vigil for democracy’ across the country. No anti-depressant will be strong enough to make one ignore this massive entrenchment.


Posted in AKP, CHP, Erdogan, Politics, Turkey | Leave a comment

The ‘Grand Regress’: Turkey’s unbending resistance starts worrying its president

His name is Alparslan Ege.

For some days, he has joined the March for Justice, mixed in a crowd, whose number is growing day after day.


”What do we want?” asks a cheerleader.


”They won’t give us!’

”We will take it!”

Alparslan is 12 years old. A reporter saw him walking with his uncle, wearing a t-shirt with ”I Missed Mom and Dad” written on it. He is also carrying a placate, on which, a demand: ”I only want justice for my my mom and dad”.

His parents, reporter lets us know, has been kept in prison for 10 months, accused of belonging to FETÖ – an acronym found so useful by Erdoğan’s government that it applies to anyone who disagrees with his rule – and with no indictment in sight. We learn that his father, Ali Erdoğan, served as the mayor of the western Anatolian city of Uşak for two election periods. He had been a candidate for the main opposition party, CHP, in the parliamentary elections, in late 2015. His mom was an urban planner, having her own private office. Now, his both parents are in the prison of Bandırma, near Istanbul. ”I just want an indictment, and justice, that’s all” he told the reporter.

As the boy is walking by the Ankara – Istanbul Highway, people of Turkey wake up to an uglier reality every day. The justice system of Turkey – backbone of ny democratic order – is torn to shreds.

The vortex of torment has become a threat for whatever is left of the inner social stability of the country.

”Corridors of the courthouses are like a nightmare” wrote my senior colleague, 74-year old Hasan Cemal, recently. He had spent four days in the giant ‘palace of justice’ in Istanbul, covering a spectacular trial of prominent journalists. He was appalled by what he saw.

”Nightmare, because the justice fell off the map” he continued.

”Whoever you lend your ear, your conscience – if you have one – aches. To whoever you turn your head, be them with or without headscarf, be them Kurdish, Alevi or Sunni, it becomes more than apparent, stark naked indeed, how this great land is passing through a period without any rights or any law at all. The stories that you hear from the relatives or defence lawyers of the accused show in all nakedness what a gut-wrenching time we all live in. The pulse of those corridors is such that this country can’t go on like this; the day will come when it explodes. As you breathe this air of nightmare, it becomes so clear how far away from freedom and rule of law Turkey has been thrown. Let me tell you: Where Turkey with zero law and zero freedom will end up is the pit of hell. This is the summary of my four days spent in the corridors of Çağlayan (palace of justice).”


After months – not say years – of systemic regress, this is where many of Turkey’s concerned, disgruntled citizens resorted to: Notion of justice, to be demanded, as the highest priority. The more shackles the judiciary produced, the more obvious it has become that democracy rises and falls with that word. Given the nearly complete governmental control over the judiciary, Turkey’s case is of a free fall, where bottom does not seem to be (yet) in sight.

Yet, Turkey’s approach to the territory of lawlessness has shown, as many of us observers had guessed, how resilient its social segments have remained. Erdoğan may go on, and he will go on, to construct a Central Asian type of a rule; but those who disagree with his project will never let it slip away quietly.

The resistance to Turkey’s deplorable ‘grand regress’ takes, though, different forms; all sending its own alarm signals about old and new problems which have kept the country in its tentacles, and pushed it to the abyss.


The march column, led by the main opposition, CHP, keeps on, by increasing number of people, of all political colors, joining, in peace and quiet.

So far, no incidents, although the risk of a violent confrontation under the severely oppressive circumstances, seem almost inevitable. We will see how Erdoğan and his party will react if – or when – the crowd is counted by tens of thousands at the gates of Istanbul, the final destination. Pro-Kurdish HDP so far stayed away from joining, out of concerns for provocations, but now we know that there will be an encounter of two opposition parties, at the junction of Kandıra, where one of the leaders of HDP, Figen Yüksekdağ, is jailed, for months. From then on, it will be easier to see if the March of Justice has any potential to turn into a ‘democracy front’ to challenge Erdoğan’s rapidly brewing autocracy. How may he react at that moment? Will he use the state of emergency as a pretext to block the march, even attempt to crash it? Nobody knows.


Then, you have others who demand justice by a hunger strike. Nuriye Gülmen and Serdar Özakça, two teachers purged by the government, and sacked for good, have passed the critical 110 days, having lost some bodily functions. Their case shows, no matter how morally justified such form of resistance is, how sturdy its tradition within the ‘left of the left’ remains in the country; and how strong its memory. There is no sign – and there will not be – of mercy of the authorities for giving their jobs back, and concerns for their lives are now so high that in the 111th day of the strike 111 intellectuals issued a petition, calling them to end it. One of those who later sent a message was Selahattin Demirtaş, co-leader of HDP in jail, who ‘begged’ them to do so.

March for Justice was triggered by the sentencing of 25 years of Enis Berberoğlu. He was the first deputy from the CHP to be jailed, and it worked as a wake up call for the party. Berberoğlu, who is also one of the two journalists with an earlier chief editor position (of daily Hürriyet) sitting behind bars, sent his support and thanks to the marchers.


There are other forms of resistance. Ahmet Altan, the second former chief editor – of daily Taraf – declared in a spectacular trial last weekend that he doesn’t demand justice. Because, he argued, you don’t demand one in a place where there is absolutely none. Altan is accused, along with his brother, Prof Mehmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak, a 73-year old ‘grand lady’ of the Turkish Right, of inciting a coup by sending ‘sublminal messages’ in a TV show the night before the coup attempt.

”Your prison matters not a whit to me. I will keep telling the truth” he told at the end of a 70-pages long defence statement, which was labelled as a cracking manifesto by the foreign observers of the trial. He concluded:

”I am not the kind of man you can frighten. I am not the kind of man who will act in cowardice and squander the many decades behind me for the sake of the few years ahead…. Over 160 journalists of all stripes – leftists, Kurds, liberals, Kemalists, nationalists, conservatives – are in prison today. What is the common feature of all these people with such different viewpoints? That they all oppose the AKP. This simple fact by itself demonstrates what kind of state freedom of expression and the rule of law are in this country today. The whole world sees this fact.”

”I don’t trust the present day justice system – a system that arrests people without reason and tries them with untruthful indictments. Therefore I don’t have any requests either. Your ruling will not have anything to do with me… In one of his novels, John Fowles says that all the judges in the world are judged by their own decisions. So true. All judges are judged by their own decisions. You, too, will be judged by your own decisions…”

His detention will continue, indefinitely.


Well, meanwhile, Erdoğan continues to wage a political and cultural revolution. Not only evolution was dropped from the education, but also the pupils are now forced to study the basics of sharia, as each and every school will have a praying annex (Mescid). The entire property of the Assyrian community in Mardin is handed over to the Sunni tutelary structure of the AKP; Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), which also refused in a new directive to summer schools the Alevi identity. Torture is back to become a systematic practice. After Sur, the historic Kurdish settlements in Silopi is also to be demolished. A new decree will make it possible to send all the purged who didn’t do the military service will be forced to be conscripts.

Meanwhile, if any, Turkish civilian resistance will gather around the demand for justice, in pursuit of rights and freedoms.

A very tough battle await all.




Posted in Turkey | Leave a comment

Two former chief editors in prison, while Turkish justice is mocked by a manifesto

What the leader of the Turkey’s main opposition said on Monday would be enough to lead to an investigation in any ‘minimally democratic’ country. It would lead to the resignation of any minister of justice; even the entire government.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader currently on March for Justice – on its 13th day, at the time of writing this blog – was saying, in a nutshell, that Turkey now is country ruled by total lawlessness.

In a brief interview, he said he was given information from some reliable sources that three prison cells were prepared in İstanbul’s Maltepe Prison for the CHP deputy Enis Berberoğlu days before a court convicted and sentenced to 25 years on June 14, the tr724 news website has reported.

According to Kılıçdaroğlu this shows how deeply the government wields control over the Turkish judiciary.

“Just imagine,’ he said an went on:

”A person is being tried in court and no ruling has been issued, but three special prison cells are prepared for him in Maltepe Prison. Final preparations are made because it is known beforehand that the person will be convicted. It is known how long a prison sentence he will be given, and a place is readied for him.”

Berberoğlu, a friend and a colleague of mine, was first sentenced to lifetime impsronment by an İstanbul court on June 14 for ”leaking information on National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks transporting weapons to jihadists in Syria.” The sentence, based on Berberoğlu’s public statement that he was the source who handed over the files to daily Cumhuriyet, was reduced to 25 years in prison by the judge. He was rapidly placed in a prison in Istanbul.

It also meant that the AKP government has imprisoned for the first time a deputy from the main opposition, CHP. There are 13 deputies from the pro-Kurdish HDP party jailed earlier. Berberoğlu case caused a fury and an otherwise utterly cautious CHP launched the March for Justice immediately after the ruling. Kılıçdaroğlu’s claims added yet another shock that Turkish justice system had collapsed.

“This situation is one of the most concrete examples showing the link between the government and the judiciary. This is one of the basic things that legitimizes our march. A decision which was expected to be made by a court was made by the executive body. The court just read it” added Kılıçdaroğlu.

On another perspective, it should be noted that these were the days two former chief editors were on the frontline, accused of all sorts of high crime acts – such as spying and incitement to coup etc – which once more showed that Turkey’s downward spiral to lawlessness gives priority to journalism as the prime victims.

Berberoğlu had served between 2009-2014 as the chief editor of nationalist-center newspaper, Hürriyet and the other journalist was Ahmet Altan, who was a founder in 2007 of liberal daily, Taraf, was its editor-in-chief until the end of 2012.

Days after Berberoğlu was placed in jail, Altan appeared for the first time in court since he was arrested in September 10, 2016, accused of ‘incitement of coup d’etat’ by way of ‘subliminal messages’ that, the prosecutor claimed, ‘he delivered during a TV show a night before the coup’ last July.

In his defence, Altan, known for his boldness and sharp language, delivered a devastating statement of the indictment – which also accused his brother, Prof Mehmet Altan, a senior female journalist, Nazlı Ilıcak, of the same ‘crime’ (!), asking for lifetime imprisonment.

Let us now return to the lawlessness and have a look at the ‘reasoning’ of the court ruling about Berberoğlu.

The issue at the core of his trial was Cumhuriyet’s publication of Turkish ‘intel lorries’ carrying weapons to jihadist groups in Syria.


But, it was not Cumhuriyet, contrary to widespread belief, which broke the story.

It was daily Aydınlık, a mouthpiece of ultra-nationalist Vatan Party, which had published the scoop two days after that the lorries were stopped for a search by Turkish gendarmerie – in January 21, 2015.

This story was followed up by a report, which included new details and pictures of what was found in the lorries, by Radikal daily (the reporter was soon after the publication, fired).

The irony is, of course, that, no matter how visibly the journalism is tried in the case of Cumhuriyet daily editors and Berberoğlu, the newspaper Aydinlik was not charged at all. (The newspaper has since the coup been a staunch supporter of Erdoğan and the massive purge and arrests, applauding the oppressive measures against the Kurds and Gülenists.)

I had questioned why Aydinlik, in the logic of what the charges were, was exempted from prosecution. My tweets found a great following, people joining to ask the same questions en masse.

The ‘reasoning’ of the court is so ridicolous that it is doomed to land on law school curriculums to teach how Turkish judiciary takes the lead, to stretch all the boundaries, to ‘reason ad absurdum’. It says, in a nutshell, that what Aydınlık had published was based on ‘guessing’ and ‘presumptions’, while Cumhuriyet had reported the story in a way ‘to shatter the world agenda’. It concluded that the core of the story was a ‘state secret’ that had to with national security, thus constituted a high crime.

Lawlessness has reached such levels and the judiciary has been hijacked by such a fierce Stalinst mindset that most of the indictments in Turkey these days are full of teachings in how ‘Turkish journalists should work and what is news and what is not’.

And the rulings are, without a shred of doubt, aimed at finishing all independent journalism that one can think of.

Let me finish this blog with some excerpts on Ahmet Altan’s defence statement on June 23, which amounts to a historic manifesto in the name of freedom against the tyranny:

”We are being judged and can be sentenced to life in a trial based on “sentiment”. What provoked the prosecutor’s “sentiment” are the things I said on Can-Erzincan TV during a talk show hosted by Nazlı Ilıcak and Mehmet Altan. As you know, the prosecutor, twisting and turning to throw us in jail, first sent the police to arrest us because we had given “subliminal messages” on that show.

When the claim of “subliminal messaging” was ridiculed not only in Turkey but also around the world this word “subliminal” disappeared as suddenly as an illusionist’s ball. In its place there emerges a new claim: “You knew about the coup.” This claim becomes the latest actor in the absurdist play written by the prosecutor.

Can a prosecutor write an indictment based on his opinion and sentiment? Can people languish in jail because a prosecutor sensed something? Can “aggravated life sentence” be sought for people because of a prosecutor’s sentiment?

According to the law, the answer to all these questions is “No.” According to the law, there cannot be a court case that is without any criminal evidence and solely based on a prosecutor’s “sentiment.”

But this happens here. And we end up having to respond to this nonsense.”


”I am in jail not because I am a criminal. I am in jail because the criminals’ rule of law is in power. Such things happen. You get thrown in jail because you defend the law and because you are right. And the culprit can disguise himself as a prosecutor.

But no one should be afraid or alarmed. This will not last very long. The law will wake up one day.

Only those holding political power in their hands and their prosecutors don’t want the truth to be told. That is why they throw people like us in jail.

Let them, then, throw us in jail. They cannot alter the truth or change the future.”

Your prison matters not a whit to me. I will keep telling the truth. You should refrain from doing the sort of things that you are afraid that people will tell others about. Don’t kill innocent people, don’t be corrupt, don’t steal, and stop your injustice.

I have told the truth all my life. I am not going to give up on it now. If there is anyone out there who expects me to be afraid of imprisonment or that the idea of spending the few remaining years of my life in jail would terrify me, here is my answer to them:

Not in a million years. I am not the kind of man you can frighten.

I am not the kind of man who will act in cowardice and squander the many decades behind me for the sake of the few years ahead.”


Over 160 journalists of all stripes – leftists, Kurds, liberals, Kemalists, nationalists, conservatives – are in prison today.

What is the common feature of all these people with such different viewpoints?

That they all oppose the AKP.

This simple fact by itself demonstrates what kind of state freedom of expression and the rule of law are in this country today. The whole world sees this fact.

The prosecutor who claims that there is freedom of thought in Turkey has also included three of my columns in the indictment in order to accuse me with putschism. There is freedom of thought, but newspaper columns are deemed tantamount to putschism.

Don’t you just love this version of freedom of thought!

It is the shame of this country and its judiciary that we have been thrown in jail and put on trial merely for our thoughts and criticism.

I don’t trust the present day justice system – a system that arrests people without reason and tries them with untruthful indictments.

Therefore I don’t have any requests either. Your ruling will not have anything to do with me.

In one of his novels, John Fowles says that all the judges in the world are judged by their own decisions. So true.

All judges are judged by their own decisions.

You, too, will be judged by your own decisions.

However you want to be judged, whatever kind of verdict you would like for yourself, however you would like to be remembered, judge accordingly. Because you are the one who (at the end) will be judged.”





Posted in AKP, Erdogan, Media, Politics, Turkey | 2 Comments

‘Erdoğan knew of the coup beforehand, he even knew the date, and took a risk’

”A coup whose plotting was known beforehand, a coup not prevented, a coup whose consequences are abused for power is called a ‘controlled coup’. We demanded that all the measures against the putschists would be discussed in Parliament, but they did not… I do know, that there are many dark dimensions behind this coup attempt…”

These were the latest remarks by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition, CHP, in a TV interview. Now busy marching ‘for justice’, his inquisitive tone raises as the first anniversary of the coup attempt that turned Turkey upside down, approaches.

”Just until recently, I had thought that they didn’t know about the date set for the putsch. But there is a fresh finding I have, which I have had confirmed…”

This sensational statement came from Prof Ümit Özdağ, a prominent figure of the ultra-nationalist opposition, known to have ‘deep contacts’ within the Turkish state. In a most recent interview with the nationalist daily Sözcü – whose top editors were arrested lately –  he went on to explain that in hie new book he comes out with revelations about the puzzling coup attempt in Turkley last summer and clarified what he meant:

”I wrote that Erdoğan knew beforehand about the coup preparations and knew who were involved in it. Until most recently I had though that they didn’t know about the date. But there a data that I reached and had confirmed. This tells that they akso knew the date and took measures. To me it looks like he took a great risk…”

So, after nearly a year, we have a coup whose plot is as thick as ever.

Özdağ, who is a maverick in the ultra-nationalist MHP party, injects new allegations and if his finding are true, we have new data that brings us closer to the presumption that this was a coup that could be prevented without a bloodshed.

People react near a military vehicle during an attempted coup in Ankara

People react near a military vehicle during an attempted coup in Ankara, Turkey, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Tumay Berkin TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

But we are still facing all those major questions.

Who were behind the coup attempt in Turkey? Who ‘pushed the button’? Was the uprising possible to stop before it spilled onto the streets?

These three key questions remain as puzzling as ever, for the Turks as well as across the world. Meanwhile Turkey, a powerful NATO ally, is left with its vast repercussions, with a state apparatus in turmoil due to the purges; and an army with almost half of its top brass in jail, crippled in its combat capabilities.

A parliamentary commission set up by four parties was abruptly disbanded early this year shortly after President Erdoğan publicly called its members to ‘end the activity’, although he had no official authority to intervene. The writing of its report was, according to the opposition, done in secrecy; without any consultations. And when the draft report was made public some weeks ago, it was regarded widely as stillborn. Questions, asked since the day after the uprising, remain the same.

Some would even say, they are more then before. It became clear when recently the opposition parties, which had objected to the report, each published their bulky dissenting opinion. Theirs makes an chilling read, raising strong suspicion of a massive cover up.

The MHP, smallest opposition party, for example, stated that it had asked two key figures – prime witnesses – of the coup attempt, namely the Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar and Director the Secret Service, Hakan Fidan, to be called to testify. ‘The chairman (of the commission) assured that our demand be met. But we have learned via his TV statetement after the publication of the report hat he had not even bothered to write to them. Thus, the night of the coup is left entirely in the dark’ it said.

The minority report of the secular main-opposition party, CHP, was far more dramatic. 307 page-long, it argues point after point that Turkey was subjected to what it calls a ‘controlled coup’; that there were some among top Turkish authorities who knew about the coup plans. ”“The treacherous and bloody coup attempt was an unexpected, shocking and appalling development for the innocent citizens of the country. However, there were some who knew that (it) would take place and those who waited for it,” said the report.

Akar and Fidan had that day had met alone for 6.5 hours in the afternoon of July 14, when it became known in 2.20 p.m. that ‘there was a serous threat’, the report underlined, and asked: ”Chief of Staff had sent orders to all the wings in 6.29 p.m. which reacjhed them 7.26 p.m. Yet many commanders attended weddings, to be arrested then. This remains inexplicable.”

The third largest party, pro-Kurdish HDP, calling the coup attempt ‘a pretext for a counter-coup’, questions further why these two top figures failed to inform the president, prime minister and the relevant ministers in due time.W

While the three minority reports unite in claims that what happened in July 15 las year amounted to a ‘hijack’ of the system, by way of a hastily declared state of emergency, there was more to add to the questions.

Speaking to Vocal Europe, a Brussels website operating as a public newsletter service to EU circles, five senior Turkish officers who all defected to NATO countries, gave new details on what may have taken place. that night.

”Frankly, the coup was shocking for all of us, as we never expected it” said one officer:

”…most of those arrested we know would have never thought of organizing a coup against the country’s political authority. It should be said as well that there was a massive resentment among the public and the armed forces against President Erdogan due to the failing of the Kurdish peace process and particularly due to the developments that happened afterwards. Those purged generals and offices had liberal visions to solve long-awaited Kurdish issue, they believed in democratic ways for solving this issue rather than using military might.”

”Two weeks before the coup, some social media accounts that are now gone were referring to a coup in making. It is very clear that the coup was not known to us but it was certainly known to President Erdogan’s close circles” said the other.

Officers asked if the coup trials were so important, why they were not broadcast to the nation. ”President Erdogan does not want the realities of the 15 July to come up to the surface, and to be acknowledged by the public opinion’ said the third officer.

Overall, they were concerned of what they see as dismantling of a key institution, to be infiltrated by Islamists, and warned that ”…if the current setting will continue, we think that NATO will have, in two or four years, a member Army full of extremists and Salafists.”

Such additional data, published by the opposition and fugitive officers are certainly useful in the broader context. Yet, what we know at the time being is scarce; all the input strengthens the views that it was an uprising which involved Gülenists as well as pro-NATO flanks: That the forces who pushed the button remain yet in the dark and, evidence is deeper that the coup attempt was foreseen, with counter-measures ready at hand.

Özdağ was the last man in line to add to the debate.

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Turkey’s opposition marches for justice, as its media shakes hands with Erdoğan

”Knife’s hit the bone…”

With these words, Turkish opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu started more than a week ago from Ankara his long ‘March for Justice’. 432 km and 20 days later, he hopes to conclude it in front of a jailhouse in Istanbul. His deepest wish is, naturally, as many discontented voters as possible to follow him all the way.

It is a major event if Turkey’s Secular-Kemalist main opposition had come to the point of ‘enough is enough’. During the rule of the AKP it has remained tame, timid, reluctant, no matter how much out of of power cake Erdoğan has gobbled up.

Till the very last, CHP insisted on a ‘legalism’ which was lef devoid of its meaning in a country where the rule of law entirely had collapsed.


But there is apparently a ‘last drop’ in Turkish reality which pushes even the CHP to the street. Kılıçdaroğlu had refused the calls from the grassroots and the younger flanks of his party earlier, to withdraw from Parliament or, – as it was established by international monitors that the referendum result was highly questionable due to irregularities, – CHP would take to streets.

Now that he had finally decided, there is little surprise that people hesitate whether or not they will be let down – once more.

The ‘last drop’ was the 25-year long prison sentence delivered to my friend and former colleague, Enis Berberoğlu, who is a deputy with the very CHP. More than a year ago, Enis made it public that it was him who had handed some files on secret delivery of arms, allegedly to jihadist groups in Syria, to the editors of daily Cumhuriyet, which led to a spectacular trial of more than 13 top figures of the newspaper.


Enis Berberoğlu

Enis was found ‘guilty’ of ‘obtaining state secrets with the aim of spying’, and, ‘aiding and abetting the so-called ‘Gülenist Terror Organisation – FETO’ without being a member’.

The judge had first ruled a lifetime imprisonment, which he lowered afterwards. The absurdity of the cases related to Cumhuriyet is that it was not the newspaper which broke the story; it was the ultra-nationalist daily Aydinlik – mouthpiece of the tiny Vatan Party (VP) – that had done it – as early as January 21, 2014. No charges were filed to the publication. Aydinlik daily and VP had become staunch supporters of Erdoğan’s ‘scorched earth’ policies against Kurds and massive purges; propogating a break-down of relations with NATO and the West. So, you may say that none of these charges makes sense and you are probably right.

Enis’s case sent huge shockwaves, nevertheless. He was put in jail because he had no longer parliamentary immunity: It was lifted May last year, and the blame CHP leadership was to blame. Because when Erdoğan angrily called for taking down the shield of immunity, citing the pro-Kurdish deputies to be sent to prison, Kılıçdaroğlu had supported his proposal.

‘You are digging your own grave’ shouted CHP’s left flank and outside critics, only in vain.

Well, what’s past is past, and now he marches on Ankara-Istanbul Highway with a placate that says, ‘Justice’, followed by thousands of people. No matter what, it’s a new phase in ‘Turkish nightmare’ reaching new depths every day as we approach the anniversary of a murky coup attempt. It shows that oppositional dynamic of Turkey will not fade quietly; the resistance will go on somehow, somewhere.

Yet the march is a fragile one, because it has shaken, stirred and angered Erdoğan, who first mocked the CHP by saying that ‘justice is not sought on the street’, and then delivered a threat: ‘Do not be surprised if the judiciary invites you somewhere one of these days.’


So, no wonder if there is a growing fear of provocations to block the walk.

Each and every tragic or absurd case in Turkish nightmare turns into a litmus test to expose people in key positions and intellectuals where they stand; their existential choices.

Enis’s case has proven to be no exception: As his party leader on his behalf took to the streets, his former boss in media was busy attenting the ‘iftar’ hosted by Erdoğan at his ‘Istanbul Palace’.

Enis and I had been working for daily Cumhuriyet in the dark years following the military coup in 1980. Then we parted to our own ways. Enis was appointed by Aydın Doğan, head of Doğan Media Group, as the Chief Editor of daily Hürriyet in late 2009 and served as such until August 2014, and resigned, citing political pressures.

It was his time of ‘knife’s hit the bone’.

So, it was a chilling moment to see his boss sitting right next to Erdoğan at the huge iftar table, where all the ‘tame and obedient’ media proprietors, editors and columnists – more than a hundred of them – were present. The ‘iftar’, only days after Enis’s jailing, was obviously meant to deliver a new lecture to media on how to ‘behave themselves’.


As Doğan and several other media moguls kowtowed, Erdoğan took the floor.

Everybody was all ears.

‘Some western institutions come to us with these chants about journalists in jail” he said. ”They are telling us (me) that there are so and so many journalists in prisons. Look my friends, I am giving you the numbers handed to me by our ministry: Of those 177 who say they are in jail because of journalism, that’s what they say, only two of them are press card holders. One of them is accused of murder; all the rest are in jail because of their relations with terrorist organisations. We say: Are you going to believe the documents and data of our ministries or the lies?”

 ”To run after news stories and being a tool for treason are two different things. There is no difference between those who make their newspaper pages to the command of terrorist organisations and those who take weapons and climb up to mountains. There will be a price to be paid for taking part in actions against the national security… Do not forget: justice is sought in houses of justice, not on the streets…’

He then went on describing the justice march as a form of terror.

And when he ended his address, nobody dared ask questions.

Instead, they applauded, intensely.

Some media bosses were keen on handing over congratulations, expressing loyalty, as Erdoğan discreetly called for censorship of the March for Justice.

CHP’s leader kept marching.

Enis and 177 colleagues were in jail; and their employers and many in the iftar hall who knew the prisoners well did not raise the issue at all.

To the attendees, no issue of Turkey was interesting enough for them to ask Erdoğan.

Then, at the end of iftar dinner, there was the routine they had all been waiting for:

Handshakes and photo ops with the President.

All smiles and soft looks in snapshots posted, and immortalised in the website of the Office of Presidency of Turkey.

One of the strongest smiling moments were when Doğan holds Erdoğan’s hand with his both hands, apparently very content.

Enis the journalist was a distant memory at that moment, maybe forgotten.


But there was more we learned.

One columnist wrote his impressions from the iftar dinner, unable to hide his surprise, that the number of journalists who prayed had dramatically risen.

‘I was very emotional when I saw that so many from our media world were praying. It gives me joy that some colleagues whom I had never had imagined had also begun to pray’ wrote Kemal Öztürk, a former editor of Anatolian Agency. The crowd that night had lined up to pray behind the chief advisor of the president, Ibrahim Kalın,’ he added.

Another columnist revealed that there was also a dramatic rise among them who grew moustache and beard. He was told that

”His excellency is criticising all those who are without them, that is the reason why we do it..”

But the marching CHP was far more serious than the attending journalists. Party’s deputy chairman, Aykut Erdoğdu, had read the presidential speech and interpreted it as Erdoğan had called Doğan and other media proprietors to ‘give orders’ not to cover the ‘March for Justice’ at all. His tweets made a big splash.

And when a columnist of Doğan the day after called him a ‘slanderer’ because ‘he had talked to his boss and he had said that this was a slander to me and our president.’

Erdoğdu was quick to snap back.

‘When I was on the march for justice, I was told by many journalists that the iftar and speech means just that’ he wrote. ‘To Aydın Doğan: If the president calls you and editors and you all go running, then this is a problem. And if he equates the march to terror this means: do not write anything about it!’

A senior journalist, Nazım Alpman, was watching CNNTürk TV – a Doğan group outlet – the day after the iftar.

And he noted:

”I watched the 7 pm main news from beginning to end. According to this channel, leader of the main opposition party does not march for justice on the roads. And (jailed journalists) Nazlı Ilıcak, Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan did not appear at court at all!’




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‘Qatar effect’ on Turkey seems inevitable: ‘Twin brothers in arms’ are in trouble

Soon after the Qatar crisis erupted, worries started mounting in Ankara. Given the message sent by Gulf Arab countries leading efforts to isolate Qatar, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) were concerned that Turkey would be the next target.

What was behind such a percep­tion? Fundamentally, it is ideologi­cal closeness. ”In recent years, the two countries have developed an ideological affinity that has, in turn, spurred military and commercial ties between Ankara and Doha,” Middle East analyst Steven Cook at the Council on Foreign Relations wrote for Salon.


At first sight, pundits were busy examining three areas: Turkey’s na­tional political interests, economic relations and ideological dimen­sions.

There is not much to consider about the first. There is a widely shared consensus among interna­tional experts as well as well-in­formed domestic opposition circles that Turkey’s foreign policy contin­ues to follow its course on a down­ward spiral because of Ankara’s per­sistent erratic decisions. Turkey’s once-famous “zero problems with neighbourhoods” foreign policy doctrine has long been buried. On the contrary, Turkey under the AKP faces even deeper conflict with its entire neighbourhood.

Qatar is likely to be the exception. Turkey and Qa­tar’s good relations rest on two foundations: Military cooperation and financial investment.

On the first dimension, two accords were fast-tracked through parlia­ment. As pointed out by Turkish reporter Fehim Tastekin, the first accord, which will be valid for ten years and can be extended for 5-year periods, out­lines a Qatar-Turkey Tacti­cal Division Headquarters to be commanded by a Qatari major-general, assisted by a Turkish brigadier-general. Some 500-600 soldiers will be based at the headquarters. There are now 95 Turkish troops in Qatar. An explosives demolition team with 25-30 members will also be going. The second accord will enable Turkey to train about 4,000 Qatari gendarmerie personnel.

The military cooperation ap­pears not to be crucial to Qatar’s present foes, the United States or Iran. Observers shrug, hinting that it will add to Turkey’s troubles rath­er than have a role of deterrence.

Many argued that Turkey’s na­tional interests have been redefined and replaced by personal (Erdogan and his close circle) and institu­tional (the AKP and its emerging oligarchic structures) interests.

It is clear Erdogan has tied much of his hope for political survival to Qatari capital. Qatar is Turkey’s seventh biggest direct investor, Deutsche Welle said.

The amount of trade — $710 mil­lion — is not impressive but Qatar is the second largest investor after Russia in Turkey’s newly estab­lished sovereign wealth fund, which has assets worth $40 billion.

Erdogan is doing his best to gain as big a stake in Qatar’s investment portfolios, which amount to more than $335 billion worldwide, as possible. Qatar owns 49% of BMC, a Turkish military vehicle producer. It has two Turkish banks, one of which ranks as eighth biggest in Turkey. More than one-third of the foreign currency inflow to Tur­key over the past year ($11 billion) originated in Qatar. For Turkish construction firms, Qatar is an oasis: They have so far taken over projects valued at nearly $14 billion.

So, the economic dimension is not insignificant but it is certainly not what is driving the AKP’s paranoia.

Erdogan and his team read the crisis as an attempt to redefine alliances and what they see as murky scenar­ios. The looming threat to Ankara, therefore, is that its dual alliance forged by an ideology, based on relations with the Muslim Brother­hood and staunch logistical support for jihadist groups in Libya and in Syria, will be targeted. Such is Erdogan’s reading of the two items in the Riyadh declaration, which talks about a) solidarity, b) a military alliance against terrorism — a Sunni Islam Front against the so-called Shia Belt.


It is a kerfuffle, no doubt. Among the known knowns though, is the fact that, after the eruption of the Arab uprising, Erdogan and the AKP saw an opportunity to emerge as a leading force in uniting and steer­ing the Islamic world. It did this by endorsing Muslim Brotherhood movements across the region and beyond — all the way to Myanmar.

Merged with a neo-Ottoman dream, driven by Turkey’s urge for regime change in Syria, this discreet pro-jihadist stance continued, many pundits argue, until it faded after Russia’s intervention in the Syr­ian conflict. By that time, Ankara’s active interventionism had become visible to the whole world.

Therefore, argues Bereket Kar, an expert on Turkey-Middle East relations in Turkey, a breakdown of the dual alliance would cause huge losses for Ankara.

“Because,” he said in an interview with the news site Duvar, the “two countries have acted like twins while the AKP is in power. Qatar was acting like a bank for the forces that made the backbone of jihadists. This meant not only support for those but also those placed in Turkey.

“It seems unlikely that Turkey will let Qatar down but, if it stands against Saudi Arabia, it will then face the entire Gulf as a foe. It will mean a collapse of their invest­ments. So Turkey cannot afford to choose a side. We have a hugely pro­found problem here and Turkey has neither a perspective nor a regime character to act as an intermediary,” he said.

In the broader context, beyond the combat against jihadism, the Qatari crisis will inevitably target whatever is left politically of the Muslim Brotherhood across the region, with far-reaching conse­quences. Erdogan knows that if the AKP is perceived as part of the Mus­lim Brotherhood, it is the only one holding power, thus the paranoia and panic.

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