Turkish society is very politically conscious. They believe in the institution of elected representatives, and have a well-entrenched respect for democracy. The nation has paid a high price to reach this maturity.
Turkish society, which first participated in elections in the waning years of the Ottoman era, entered a new age after the founding of the Republic. The electorate has enjoyed having their say since the beginning of multi-party democracy in 1945, and has also experienced many instances where their voice was silenced.
Turkey has seen more than its fair share of military coups over the years and it now has an intrinsic belief and loyalty in the culture of democracy, which it has enjoyed since the early years of the last decade. It has succeeded in minimizing the clout of the military over politics. While the military’s power to influence governments has ebbed over the years, the nation’s democratic awareness has increased, in light of past coups and the experience of the torturous process of rebuilding democracy.
The national narrative over the past 15 years has changed so much that the once often-cited “coup option” could no longer be mentioned in polite company. During this era of strengthened democracy and a growing economy, the Gülen Movement, a cult disguised as a religious sect, has infiltrated state institutions, particularly the judiciary. It built strength while secretly waiting for their time. No one thought the plots that this group hatched within the military had advanced so far.
Today we know that Gülenist recruits had secretly climbed the steps of the military hierarchy over the past decades, with some even reaching the level of general. These people, who knew that they had been unmasked and would be sacked in the approaching Supreme Military Board (YAŞ) meetings scheduled for early next month, performed the self-mutilation witnessed by the world on Friday night, which resembled a suicide attack. Gülenist generals led some mid-level officers in what can only be described as the least successful military coup in history.
One of the key problems for the Gülen Movement and their generals was their failure to garner any mass public support. As a cult, it did not understand Turkish society, nor did it want to. It could not see that the society that it wanted to lead was, first and foremost, loyal to and willing to die for democracy.
Turks in their thousands flooded the public squares across the nation to teach these amateur coup plotters what it means to be a member of a democratic society. What transpired on the streets of Turkey will be written in the annals of democratic world history. Turks climbed atop tanks and put an end to all this nonsense. Gülenist pilots shot at crowds and showed that they can be as vile as the most violent terrorist organization.
As their failure became apparent, they could not disguise their hatred toward the idea of democracy, freedom and modern society, and bombed a building that epitomized these: Parliament. It was no surprise that the strongest retort to what the Gülenist pilots were trying to achieve came from inside the same building. All the political parties represented in Parliament continued their legislative work. Opposition parties shielded the ruling party against Gülenist pilots in defense of democracy. They were bombed, but never retreated from their primary obligation to defend democracy.
There is a lesson here that everyone should take heed of. No power that has not asked for and received the blessing of the Turkish electorate may control politics. When President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called for the nation to flood the squares across the country, people from all walks of life and ideology answered the call. Gülenist-commandeered tanks faced a group of people with varied ideological backgrounds. Those on the streets included secularists, atheists, liberals, nationalists, conservatives and socialists. Gülenists confronted crowds full of straight and gay people, the elderly and the young, headscarved women and girls with miniskirts.
Turks, Kurds and others joined hands, and the nation as one defended their democracy. The Gülenists lost, and now the entire democratic world needs to join this fight against Gülenism, whose followers believe that no matter who is hurt, their desire to control Turkey justify all sorts of nefarious actions.
Just like those DAESH members who follow instructions to put on suicide bombing vests, Gülenists are used to following orders without question, no matter how foolish. This is no simple coup attempt. It was a kamikaze attack, and by taking the lives of dozens of civilians, they wrecked their cult once and for all.
* The writer is collumnist in Daily Sabah, Turkish media. This article published in Daily Sabah www.dailysabah.com.