July 15 2016: another military coup at the heart of the new Turkish democracy strikes. There have since been many theories about this; that it was plotted by Erdoğan’s enemies, that it was arranged by Erdoğan himself in order to reinforce his already heightened political power, or perhaps it was influenced by international powers. I doubt we will know the extent to which each of these factors affected the coup soon, however they are all feasible causes.
Having visited Turkey only a few days after the attempted coup, I can definitely depict the climate there as tense in a manner indicative of Turkey in the 21st century. Soon after, there was a 1 million strong pro-government demonstration in Instabul, where Turkish flags and water bottles were handed out to the people. For the next few days, all public transport is free from 8pm until 6am. Turkish flags were up everywhere: massive ones on hotel sides, small ones hanging from tens of electricity wires, printed on people’s backs and t-shirts, appearing on their screensavers, carried by people on the streets, framed in shops, flowing outside government buildings. It seemed that everyone was very well informed yet somehow there seemed to be a faith that status quo would return, and so it did.
Turkish people appeared very aware of the government’s action, the great extent of the political power of the army and its resulting ability to shape public life. Although America may not always seem like the ‘land of the free’, Turkey certainly is not and none of the Turkish people I met seemed to doubt it. A surprising number of those criticized the use of religion to gain political power, the rise of extremism and some unexpected foreign policy changes. At the same time, all of them seemed deeply nationalistic and proud of their country, in a way which seemed more constructive and particular than I ever encountered before. They seemed to feel closer to Europe than the Arab world, while still feeling far from it. Turkey is a very thought-provoking country, a true meeting-point between East and West, between Islam and Christianity, between democracy and imperialism.
It is, in my opinion, unacceptable in such a nation any aspect of democracy is weakened. The people seem capable of much, and of great openness yet the deep impact of religion, nationalism and power of the political elite are also equally, if not more important; to the existence of this significant nation and certainly one of the last modern empires.
I dream not that the way in which Turkey is governed will suddenly change or that life as the Turks know it will alter its rhythms drastically . I wish only that different cultures, religions, people may at last co-exist peacefully and not be abused to compete in an exercise of power.