Failed Coup Attempt & Massive Purge: A Civil Society Perspective

Turkey's Attempted Coup D'etat & Fethullah Gulen

Niagara Foundation condemns, in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey and denies any relation to the attempters. Government should be won through process of free and fair elections, not by force. We sincerely hope that the issue gets resolved quickly and in the best interest of Turkey and its citizens.


Fethullah Gulen issued the following statement on July 15th on the attempted coup d’etat:

“I condemn, in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey. Government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force. I pray to God for Turkey, for Turkish citizens, and for all those currently in Turkey that this situation is resolved peacefully and quickly.

As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt. I categorically deny such accusations.”

Fethullah Gulen’s Perspective:

Spectra Media: Who is Fethullah Gulen?

CNN: CNN on Gulen

Full interview with Gulen on the Coup D’etat

Parts of the interview done with Fethullah Gulen:

Gulen calls for an international probe into Turkey coup allegations, says he will accept its findings: Watch here

Q: Do you know why president Erdogan needed to bring your name up in this [coup attempt]?
Watch here

Perspective of Hizmet Participants

What happened?

– On Friday night, a group of middle-ranking Turkish soldiers attempted a coup

– Their focus was on Ankara and Istanbul, taking control of the Istanbul’s bridges, airports, the Turkish parliament, and some police stations

– Their attempted coup was ill-planned and badly executed

– Their efforts were thwarted by the police aided by the huge public support

– 161 people killed, including members of the coup; 1,500 wounded; 3,000 soldiers arrested

– The government has blamed the coup on the Gulen movement. Some govt ministers have also blamed the US as being behind the coup.

Who is behind this coup?

– We really do not know. It is too early to say.

– What we do know is that Erdogan has already started using this incident as a pretext to further purge state and society beyond those involved in the coup.

– For example, while it was reported that 47 military officers were involved in the coup, as of now, almost 3,000 officers, including tens of generals have been arrested. Furthermore, the Higher Board of Judges and Prosecutors sacked 2745 judges and prosecutors including ten of its own members. Already tens of appellate judiciary judges are detained by orders from the Ankara Prosecutor.

– How did the government determine the culpability of 2745 judges overnight in a coup orchestrated by a fraction of the military? Clearly, these are people the government wanted to get rid of anyway and is using this opportunity to do so.

Has Gulen condemned the coup?

– Absolutely and unequivocally

– In the early hours of the coup, the Alliance for Shared Values, an organization that speaks on behalf of Gulen, condemned the coup attempt. This was followed by a personal statement by Gulen, and by leading Gulen inspired organizations condemning the coup without if’s and but’s.

– Gulen’s condemnation was picked up by the world press, including the Financial Times.

So why has Erdogan blamed Gulen for this coup?

– Gulen and Hizmet is Erdogan’s “default scapegoat”. Whenever something happens that he does not approve, he blames it on Gulen.

– Be it a condemnatory letter from 75 US Senators on Turkey; to corruption investigations; to something [else ridiculous]. Gulen becomes a pretext to purge state and society of anyone not entirely loyal.

– It is far easier to blame this on Gulen because that is a narrative the public have already come to accept. Also, by claiming that the Gulen movement is everywhere, blaming this military act on Gulen allows Erdogan to strike elsewhere on pretext that they are one and the same.

So the Turkish people stood with President Erdogan against the military? I thought they hated that guy?

– Erdogan’s support among the Turkish electorate was approximately 40-50 per cent before this coup. So he already had widespread support.

– Even those staunchly critical of Erdogan and the government condemned the coup and stood by the government.

– Crucially, the coup plotters failed to project the sense that their coup was succeeding which coup experts point out as crucial.

– There was no support for a military takeover by the Turkish people

Why have the people opposed Erdogan in the past? What has he done that has made people so unhappy?

– In his 1st and 2nd terms, Erdogan ran a reforming government.

– However, from 2010 onwards, Erdogan became increasingly authoritarian as he began to pursue more populist Islamist policies. The summer 2013 Gezi park protests was in reaction to this authoritarianism which Erdogan labelled as a coup of the “interest rate lobby”, a euphemism for the Jewish lobby.

– This authoritarian streak gained momentum when a series of corruption investigations implicating Erdogan’s inner circle went public in December 2013 onwards. To suppress the substantial evidence and judicial investigations, Erdogan fought back to control and colonize the judiciary, media and civil society to crush all forms of dissent.

– Many people are unhappy with the resulting authoritarian regime.

What now?

– Erdogan has already won. There won’t be any meaningful opposition to his witch-hunt against opposition groups from now on.

– Till now, the Chief of General Staff resisted Erdogan’s attempts of redesigning the military. The Chief of staff has now given into that.

– Having attained complete loyalty from Turkish state and civil society structures, Erdogan next stop is likely to be the Turkish diaspora overseas.

– We are already seeing coordinated attacks against Hizmet overseas and this is likely to continue.

– For the past 6 years Erdogan has been creating formal and informal structures through which to mobilize the Turkish-speaking and increasingly wider Muslim communities.

Timeline of Turkey’s Coup and Responses of the Gülen Movement

Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen, the man accused by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with behind the mastermind of almost of public unrest and legal procedures that edged Erdoğan and his autocratic rule in Turkey till 2013, including the coup attempt of Friday night, has unequivocally and categorically denied the accusations and denounce the intervention of the military junta. It is true that Mr. Gülen’s public denouncement of the attempted junta came as late as 7:36 AM, on Saturday morning, when the attempt was effectively thwarted. Sceptics claim that this denouncement came too late to prove prove lack of any inclination towards the coup plotters. But Gülen was not the only person that spoke in the name of the Gülen Movement. The following compilation proves that sympathizers of the Gülen Movement were open, direct, and unequivocal in their denouncement of any coup, even at the earlier stages of the coup when there were contradicting information flowing in the internet about what was going on in Istanbul and Ankara.

Timeline of the attempted coup of Turkey according to Hürriyet Daily and the responses of the Gülen Movement and individual who are openly speaking in the name of the Movement. Since most of the people learned the events, first through Tweeter, twits of Turkish officials and Gülen Movement adherents are also presented, with their corresponding times. All times referred to are local times in Turkey (e.g. EET UTC+2h, or GMT+3):

The first public appearance of the junta was at Istanbul’s Bosphorus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge. The time was 15 July 2016, 22:05. Reuters passed the first footage based on Dogan News Agency’s footage 12 minutes later, showing cars and buses being diverted.

Precisely at that moment a Youtube based program called Özgürlük Zamanı [Time for Freedom] was being broadcasted alive from STV Media’s New Jersey studios. The program was originally intended to discuss the ISIS terror attack that hit Nice, France and Presenter Şemsettin Efe was hosting Tuğrul Özşengül, a former police chief and security expert whose sympathy to the Gülen Movement is well known.

Here is the original unedited version of the program in Turkish. The particular sections referred to are timecoded and subtitled.

The presenter cuts Tuğrul Özşengül’s speech to give the last minute information coming from Dogan News Agency. Here is Tuğrul Özşengül’s response:

15 July 2016, 22:24 – Tuğrul Özşengül: “I am sweating cold sweat right now. I’m not at all well right now. My mother is old but healthy. It is as if I have just learnt of my mother’s death. Let me speak plainly. I cannot believe Turkey has come to this point. I can see it [the footage on twitter] right now too. I’m speaking frankly; I can’t accept this, I can’t absorb this, I can’t digest this. I seriously can’t accept that we have come to this situation. They pushed everything. It shouldn’t have been like this. Frankly seeing this, I mean, seeing the soldiers out there hurts me deep inside. I mean I am not well. Like I said, it is as if I have received news of my mother’s death.”

15 July 2016, 22:45 – CHP deputy Eren Erdem tweeted that from trustable sources he has heard that there was intelligence about a possible terrorist attack on certain locations with a civilian plane and the army was taking precautions and that there was nothing to worry about a possible coup.

Editor in Chief of Turkish Review and a columnist with Yeni Hayat Daily Mr. Kerim Balci, an activist in Gülen Movement and a public speaker in the name of the Movement joined the live broadcast. Here is what he said:

15 July 2016, 23:02 – Kerim Balcı: “Me personally, if, if, and I say this completely speculatively, if there is a coup in my Turkey, when the coup possibilities were being spoken of during the Ergenekon trials I promised my readership; “If something like this happens, that day you will not see me as a person who is criticising them from afar but as someone who will stand against the tanks.” If something like this is happening, I say may Allah as he knows best against those who prevent me from undertaking such a show of force by keeping me away from my country.”

15 July 2016, 23:10 – Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says attempted coup under way, calls for calm. He says a group within Turkey’s military has attempted to overthrow the government and security forces have been called in to “do what is necessary”.

Informed about the declaration of the Prime Minister confirming that this was indeed a coup attempt and that the Prime Minister hinted that the “Parallel Structure” was behind this attempt Balci said these:

15 July 2016, 23:16 – Kerim Balcı: “It cannot be possible for people who have an emotional bond or a moral resemblance with Hizmet [Gülen Movement] to ever undertake a coup, want to administer the country or depose the administration. We do not accept this, as when we say that a Muslim, I mean a person who is born a Muslim commits an act of terror, we say “Islam cannot have anything to do with terror, that who does this cannot be a Muslim.” And we never and ever accept the antithesis to this, if there is such a coup attempt, whether successful or not. Those who do this cannot be my friends, a lover of Hizmet, or a person from Hizmet who has been raised with patriotic values or human rights values and a sense of justice. These people may have eaten at our table for any reason. But it means they will not have been painted with our colours. We would choose a thousand years of being oppressed rather than be oppressors. Instead of being oppressors for one minute we prefer to live innocently as the oppressed for a thousand years and prefer to die in such a state rather then be oppressors. Whoever has resorted to this oppression [coup] is as far from us as the day of judgement.”

15 July 2016, 23:25 – Statement purportedly from Turkish military says it has taken power to protect democratic order. The message, sent by email and reported on Turkish TV channels, says all of Turkey’s existing foreign relations will be maintained.

The earliest social media appearance of a condemnation from a Gülen group linked Twitter account came at 23:29, from @SonVesayet. With its 260K followers @SonVesayet is one of the largest Twitter accounts run by people close to Gülen Movement, with a particular intention to fight “civilian tutelage” that replaced the “military tutelage” of the Turkey of the past. @SonVesayet said this:

15 July 2016, 23:29 – @SonVesayet: “Whatever happens we have to stand with the civilian tutelage. Whoever comes with elections, goes with elections! May Allah help our country.

Within a short period of time this twit received 1.8K RTs and 744 likes, rather high numbers for an account that usually received around 4 to 5 hundred RTs. A second large social media account that is largely believed to be the main communication channel of the Gülen Movement, @SosyalPencere [SocialPort] retweeted @SonVesayet’s call for standing with the government against the coup, almost instantaneously.

15 July 2016, 23:38 – Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan is safe, reports CNN Turk.

15 July 2016, 23:47 – Turkish chief of military staff among hostages taken at military headquarters in Ankara, says state-run Anadolu agency.

16 July 2016, 00:05 – Turkish state broadcaster says reading statement on the orders of the military – that new constitution will be prepared, accuses government of eroding democratic and secular rule of law, that the country is being run by a “peace council”, that martial law and curfew imposed across the country.

16 July 2016, 00:18 – Presidential source says president and government are still in power.

16 July 2016, 00:22 – Turkish PM says on Twitter everything will be done to put down coup attempt, even if it means fatalities. Says sieges are under way at some important buildings, urges people to remain calm.

16 July 2016, 00:50 – Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan urges people to take to the streets to protest against what he describes as a coup attempt by a minority faction within the military. Speaking to a CNN Turk reporter via a cellphone video link he says it will meet a “necessary response”. He says he is returning to the capital Ankara.

16 July 2016, 00:51 – A military helicopter opens fire over the Turkish capital Ankara, witnesses report an explosion in the capital.

Academic and journalist Dr. Mahmut Akpınar joined the Özgürlük Zamanı program at around 01:15 after midnight. And here is what he said.

16 July 2016, 01:17 – Mahmut Akpınar: “Now I speak as a person oppressed by the AK Party. In this struggle, I was thrown out of my university, I had to go abroad, my newspaper was shutdown, I was unable to do journalism but despite all the personal, societal, family problems I have endured, I never condone any coups, never approve any coups.”

16 July 2016, 01:21 – Turkish justice minister says members of a movement loyal to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen in the army are behind the attempted coup.

16 July 2016, 01:37 – Commander of Turkey’s First Army, part of land forces responsible for Istanbul and other western areas, said those attempting a coup were a small faction and “nothing to worry about”.

At around 01:50 AM Prof. İbrahim Öztürk, a columnist with Özgür Düşünce Daily joined the Özgürlük Zamanı program, and here is what he had to say about a coup:

16 July 2016, 01:53 – İbrahim Öztürk: “Now first let me say this. I think in these time there is need for such phrases: As you can remember during the 27 April e-memorandum, I was an independent scientist working at a university who had immediately taken to television and said that Yaşar Büyükanıt is a civil servant of the state and that he is subordinated to the prime minister and that the president is the head of the state and that the actions of the chief of general staff constituted a crime and that he had to be removed from office immediately. Now, in a very clear way, if there is or isn’t a coup attempt, whatever it is, I am condemning this on principle. I am against it. As you know, as an economist I have been criticising AK Party’s economy policies; I have been criticizing the fact that it has deviated from laws; I have been criticizing its oppressive methods and its mistakes in foreign policy. But at the end, a political government can change its mistake on the face of public pressure and realities. For this reason, I want to say this openly today. Today, I am with the AK Party. I mean, shortly, I am supporting the government.”

16 July 2016, 01:59 – Turkish fighter jet shoots down military helicopter used by coup-plotters over Ankara, broadcaster NTV says.

16 July 2016, 02:04 – State-run Anadolu Agency says 17 police killed at Ankara special forces HQ.

16 July 2016, 02:09 – Alliance for Shared Values issued a statement on developments in Turkey where it said accusations Gülen Movement was involved in coup attempt are “highly irresponsible”. AfSV condemned military intervention in Turkish politics and added that it was concerned about safety of citizens in Turkey.

16 July 2016, 02:50 – The Turkish Parliament was hit by F-16 fighter jets and military helicopters.

At around 03:20 the Journalists and Writers Foundation put this declaration into its website and five minutes later broadcasted its content in Twitter as a series of twits. The content of the declaration was briefly as follows:

16 July 2016, 03:26 – Journalists and Writers Foundation: We are against any military intervention against democracy. In democracies, governments come and go with elections. The opposite is unthinkable. This “strange” coup attempt will give an unobtainable opportunity to those who wanted to bring in a new angle to the witch hunt we have been passing through. As the Journalists and Writers Foundation, we denounce this coup attempt with a plain and direct language and declare that we are against any attempts that will harm democracy.

16 July 2016, 03:52 – Turkish PM says situation under control, declares no-fly zone over Ankara.

16 July 2016, 04:20 – Turkish official says Erdoğan’s plane lands in Istanbul.

16 July 2016, 04:45 – Turkish private broadcaster CNN Turk halts live news broadcast, presenter says soldiers entered studio control room.

16 July 2016, 05:19 – The attempted coup was an act of treason and is a “Grace of God for us” because it will let us “clean up” the armed forces, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan says.

16 July 2016, 05:50 – Maritime authorities shut Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait to transiting tankers “for security and safety” reasons, shipping agent GAC says.

The lawyers of Fethullah Gülen made their own declaration at around 6:37 AM from their own twitter account, @fGülenav. Their declaration read:

16 July 2016, 06:37 – @fGülenav: “We denounce this treacherous junta attempt with no ifs and buts.”

16 July 2016, 06:39 – Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan addresses thousands waving flags at Istanbul’s main airport, urges supporters to stay on streets until the situation normalizes.

16 July 2016, 06:42 – Soldiers involved in the attempted coup surrender on one of the bridges across the Bosphorus in Istanbul, abandoning their tanks with their hands raised in the air, live footage on CNN Turk shows.

16 July 2016, 07:18 – An email from the Turkish military General Staff’s press office address says the faction of officers behind the coup attempt is still fighting. Calling itself the Peace at Home Movement, the faction tells people to stay indoors for their own safety.

16 July 2016, 07:33 – Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan attack a group of soldiers who had surrendered on an Istanbul bridge before police intervene to rescue them.

16 July 2016, 07:36 – Fethullah Gülen issues statement denouncing the coup attempt and denying any involvement with the junta.

16 July 2016, 08:10 – Turkey’s military headquarters are now held by pro-government forces but small groups of rebel soldiers are still resisting and control some military helicopters, a senior Turkish official says. Says 29 colonels and five generals had been removed from their posts.

16 July 2016, 08:29 – The head of Turkey’s armed forces, Hulusi Akar, has been rescued after being held hostage, a senior Turkish official says.

16 July 2016, 08:54 – Turkey’s intelligence agency headquarters was attacked by military helicopters and heavy machinegun fire, wounding at least three people overnight, an intelligence source tells Reuters. The head of the agency, Hakan Fidan, was at a secure location and in constant contact with President Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, the source adds.

16 July 2016, 11:00 – Acting Chief of Staff of the armed forces, Ümit Dündar, says coup attempt was mainly by troops from air force, gendarmerie, some “armoured elements”.

16 July 2016, 12:02 – Turkey’s EU Minister, Ömer Çelik, says coup situation “90 percent under control”, but some commanders are still being held hostage.

16 July 2016, 14:45 – Turkish authorities remove 2,745 judges from duty, broadcaster NTV reports, citing a decision by the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). Five members of HSYK, Turkey’s high judiciary board, are also removed, state-run Anadolu Agency reports.

16 July 2016, 14:51 – Police detain about 100 military officers at air base in Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey, security sources say.

16 July 2016, 15:01 – In a live broadcasted interview with several international journalists, Fethullah Gülen denied accusations he played a role in the attempted coup and condemned “in the strongest terms” the attempt to topple the government. Gülen also suggested that an international investigation should be made into the coup attempt and that he would accept the results of such an investigation readily.

The Aftermath of the Coup: The Government Purge

“CNN’s Fareed Zakaria: Interview with Fethullah Gulen on the Coup attempt”: Full interview

“Editorial: Turkey turns gulag”:

“‘Young, old, conservative, liberal’: Turkey in shock over journalists’ arrest”: The Guardian

“Don’t Make A Mystic into a Martyr: Fethullah Gülen as Peacebuilder”:UC Press

“Erdogan cancels 50,000 passports in latest post-coup crackdown in Turkey as he tells Western leaders who criticise him: ‘Mind your own business!”: Daily Mail

“Freedom of expression: UN and OSCE experts deplore crackdown on journalists and media outlets in Turkey”:United Nations: Human Rights

“The Gulen Movement is not a cult; it is the most encouraging face of Islam today”: Huffington Post Opinion

Was Gulen Movement behind the coup attempt in Turkey?

“Chicago organization welcomes new scrutiny amid fallout of failed Turkish military coup”: Chicago Tribune

“Turkey’s Coup That Wasn’t”: The New York Times

“Muslim cleric Gulen denies any link to failed Turkish coup attempt”: Haaretz

“Coup d’etat attempt: Turkey’s Reichstag fire?”: OpenDemocracy

“Turkey may no longer be a viable partner in fight against ISIS-French Minister”:Independent

“Erdogan Demand that US extradite cleric could strain ties”:CNN Politics

“Erdogan is using this failed coup to get rid of the last vestiges of secular Turkey”: Independent

“Aftermath of Turkey coup attempt will be bloody and repressive”: The Guardian

“Mr. Gulen calls for an international investigation of coup attempt in Turkey”:Statement on the Investigation of the Coup Attempt

“Turkey was already undergoing a slow-motion coup-by Erdogan, not the army”: The Guardian

“Was the Turkish Coup an Erdogan Hoax?”: Daily Stormer

“Turkey’s Erdogan uses military coup buzz to expand powers, curb dissent”: The Washington Times

“Turkish Pres. BLames Coup Attempt on Cleric Gulen”: CNN Politics

The views and opinions expressed on The Falls are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Niagara Foundation, its staff, other authors, members, partners, or sponsors.