The failed coup attempt on 15 July has seriously damaged Turkey and increased its vulnerability to multiple security threats.
These are extra-ordinary times and it is not surprising a state of emergency has been declared.
After a long meeting of the National Security Council and the cabinet, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the state of emergency was declared in order to protect democracy.
Whilst recognizing the need to take urgent measures to pull the country away from the cliff edge, let us not kid ourselves that it is possible for democracy and emergency rule to exist side by side.
Article 121 of the Turkish Constitution, which regulates the state of emergency, allows the country to be ruled with decrees, to bypass parliament, severely restrict freedoms and rights and impose travel restrictions.
The extent of the infiltration of very senior and key posts, the secretive and highly organized structure of the accused pro-coup forces and the violence they used against their own people, make it unrealistic and unreasonable to expect ordinary measures to be used for speedily restoring order.
Yet, we can and should demand from the Turkish government to maintain the rule of law and respect human rights. Suspending the European Convention on Human Rights, even if temporarily, justifies the doubts about Turkey’s intentions to uphold democracy.
The government blames the followers of exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen for the attempted coup. Based on my journalistic experience and investigations over 25 years, as well as much closer scrutiny by several trusted fellow journalists and other open sources, I see plenty of evidence emerging from recent developments to make this claim credible. It seems highly likely that some other disgruntled and opportunistic elements within the military have also joined them.
In addition to the military, the Fethullah Gulen movement has a wide-network of influential followers in the judiciary, police, state bureaucracy and the media.
Many of them, including the middle and high ranking officers involved in the coup attempt by the military, were placed and promoted to those posts during the AKP rule.
The extraordinary speed and scope of this week’s purges can partly be explained by this insider knowledge and the complicity by the government.
However, the scale of the crackdown, with more than 58 thousand people being removed from their jobs in the public sector, the dismissal of hundreds of journalists, restrictions on academic freedoms and arrests of thousands of people, go well beyond precautionary measures. The sheer numbers and extraordinary legal means resorted to, point to a witch hunt.
Conditions for this mind-boggling coup-attempt, infiltrations and security threats have ripened under their watch, during their 14-year long, increasingly authoritarian regime. They had the full oversight of the intelligence services. The AKP government’s failure to uphold the rule of law, their disrespect for the balances of power have eroded the country’s institutions. The repression of a free and investigative media resulted in an unaccountable state and government. In a truly free, democratic and secular country, a shadowy Islamist cult could not have spread in all arteries of the state.
President Erdogan and his AKP governments have a lot to answer for.
For the time being, no other legitimate power other than the elected government has the authority and power to deal with this emergency. The opposition parties are well aware of the danger facing the country and they are behaving responsibly.
The coup attempt would not have failed if it were not for the firm support of their opponents in political parties and the media, alongside the AKP supporters.
The AKP government and the President have to learn from their past mistakes and refrain from further polarization of the society. They have to stop pushing their political Islamist ideology and be cautious in their mobilization of the masses.
Turkey’s rulers are only as strong as the country they lead and today’s Turkey is more than just bruised.
Fighting the serious crimes of those who took part in the failed coup and the mastermind behind them with more lawlessness will only rub salt in the wound.
This post is also available in: Turkish