Turks are preparing for worse

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Two days after the attempted coup, life in Istanbul is back to its usual rhythm. Yesterday morning, the city was quiet. Equipped with ladders and lifts, working men were setting up Turkish flags of various sizes. 

Just a couple of days ago, the red was about to splash the pavements. Now, the lamp posts got the colour. By the evening, the flags were in their thousands. Despite the mourning proclaimed, none are at half mast.

For the people, the Friday events are the main topic for talk. While they are discussing the coup and the confusion that ensued, speculations keep piling up.

Asking for anonymity for fear of repression, a resident of Ankara told Postimees of how, while sitting on his balcony, he was startled by the fighters flying low. Thereafter, shots and blasts were heard.

Among other targets, the practically vacant Turkish parliament building was hit. For the Turks, the attempted coup was a surprise indeed, though it is far from the first time the army intervenes in politics.

Meanwhile, few still believed that there would still be soldiers left who would in earnest plan to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. «Here, we saw many newspapers closed with notices of the military. After the 1980ies, there have been no bona fide military coup in Turkey and I would never have believed it was still possible. AKP has just accumulated power so strongly,» he told Postimees.

The Friday night events in Istanbul and Ankara claimed at least 265 lives, of whom nearly a half were pro-government demonstrators and policemen, the rest being military.  

Now, social media is spreading videos of lynching and kangaroo courts, and tanks rolling over people. Some soldiers, already captured, were killed by angry mobs. Suddenly the bloody clashes started, just as suddenly they ceased.

Analysing the Friday events, military experts are pointing to the amateur character of the coup. «Very strange that the large roads were closed during a military coup, like the usual highway robbers do,» Mahmud Abdelal wrote in his survey in Arabic.

Others are equally amazed. On pages of Foreign Policy, Edward Luttvak notes that the first step in every successful coup would be capturing the head of state. In Turkey, nothing serious was attempted to capture neither Binali Yıldırım nor Mr Erdoğan, and the latter was able via social media to mobilise his supporters and invite tens of thousands to the streets in major cities.

That is confirmed by stories in Turkish media where young conscripts on the side of the coup and standing on the Bosporus Bridge say they knew nothing of the plans to topple the power. The soldiers say they were under orders within training exercises. Perhaps for that reason, the young combatants in various places were swift to surrender as confronted by angry protesters demanding that the army step back.

Likewise, confusion continues around top military leaders allegedly held hostage by those behind the coup. For instance, as by a miracle, right after the stalemate was solved General Hulusi Akar appeared in Turkish TV channels announcing that they have been set free and that the larger part of the military was not linked to the coup at all.

In the end, the blame fell on a helicopter full of officers, allegedly the leaders of the coup. Who afterwards fled to Greece.

In light of the above, increasingly the Turks are speculating about the coup having been staged by Mr Erdoğan himself. The critics say that by this Mr Erdoğan is trying to uproot his opponents, especially his former close ally and partner, the religious leader Fetullah Gülen who, despite his lengthy stay in the USA still carries much weight in Turkey.

Meanwhile, Mr Erdoğan is again able to portray himself as a steadfast leader backed by tens of thousands of people willing, if necessary, to also fight for him.

There has been little media coverage of the fact that in the eve of the coup and during the night, the mosques were calling people into the streets and thus mostly the aggressive groupings poured out. In several locations, the gangs of Erdoğan’s supporters were blocking roads yelling «Allahu akbar». For observers, the events in the night carried a superb timing. Satirical remarks say this was like a screenplay for a bad Turkish action movie.

Even more shocking was the day that followed the coup. While over 265 people were brutally killed, Mr Yildirim victoriously declared at a press conference that the failed coup will be turned into a national holiday to commemorate the rebirth of Turkish democracy.  

But called out by state agencies and as directly demanded by the president, forwarded to millions of mobile phones all over Turkey, tens of thousands went to the streets to show support to the government and to celebrate the triumph of democracy.

At that, the anonymous Turk talking to Postimees sees that from now on, there will be even less democracy in Turkey. «The state obtained a third enemy. It used to be the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Gülenists were the hostile group according to Erdoğan. But now a new group was added and these are all people who do not agree to his policies, such as separation of powers,» he said.

«Many indeed love him and support the AK party,» he continued. «But who came out were those who thought it not too much to be sprayed by bullets and be between helicopters and tanks, which makes one to speculate that they had information which others did not have. These celebrations carry no smell of celebrations of democracy. Rather, we are in for much worse times.»