Are we about to see a face-off between army and government in Turkey?

July 1, 2008

Ataturk    Turkish police detained dozens of people on Tuesday,
including at least two retired army generals, and prominent
ultra-nationalist figures who have been sharply critical of the
governing AK Party. The so-called “Operation Ergenekon” is a
year-long investigation into a shadowy group called Ergenekon
that the authorities believe sought to sow chaos in Turkey in
order to trigger a military coup.
    The detentions, including a reported rare move by police
going into a military compound to detain a retired general, came
only a few hours before a chief prosecutor appeared before the
country’s top court in a hearing that seeks the closure of the
governing party on charges of seeking to establish an Islamic
    What is going on? To many it is quite confusing, and the
latest detentions have even puzzled veteran Turkish political
commentators like Mehmet Ali Birand and Semih Idiz — both
having seen coups in the past and the rise and fall of
religious-oriented governments. “It’s a dangerous situation,”
Idiz said.

    The current political crisis seems to have as much to doAygun
with a face-off between the secularist elite of army generals
who see themselves as guardians of modern Turkey and the AK
Party, mainly represented by a more religious-oriented society.
With Turks sharply divided about what kind of country they want
to live in – whether with a more prominent role for religion or
for the military — tensions are likely to remain.
    For the secularists, what is at stake is the legacy of
Turkey’s revered founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded the
modern republic in 1923. “I am being accused of loving Ataturk,”
Ankara Chamber of Commerce Chairman Sinan Aygun told reporters
as he was detained in the capital Ankara.
    So far the fight is being played out in Ankara and may
remain focused here while society at large is more preoccupied
with summer holidays or earning a living amid rising inflation
and slowing economic growth. If tensions escalate and Turks go
onto the streets the miliary might decide to act, like they have
in the past.


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The “ultra-nationalist” denotation for the detainees is a result of ignorance if not a distortion on purpose.
Sinan Aygun – Chairman of the Ankara Chamber of Commerce – conservative
Turhan Comez – former AKP MP – conservative
Dogu Perincek – Chairman of the Workers Party – socialist
Ilhan Selcuk – journalist Cumhuriyet newspaper – social democrat
Mustafa Balbay – journalist Cumhuriyet newspaper – social democrat
Ufuk Buyukcelebi – chief editor Tercuman newspaper – conservative
Erol Mutercimler – writer/journalist
Ergun Poyraz – writer/journalist
… the list goes on. Some are prominent figures who have fought for democracy all their lives. Some are detained for more than one year without an official indictment. Their sole common denominator is opposition to the AKP policies. The allegations are as absurd as assuming that Daniel Cohn-Bendit has been a nazi all his life.

The western media’s hypocricy and covert support to the pro-islamic regime which is overtly transforming itself into a totalitarian police state is a disgrace and will be long remembered by all democrats in Turkey.

Posted by Mehmet Inhan | Report as abusive

Seeing how a vast majority of the Turkish people support the ruling party, no matter what its credentials, it should be allowed to govern. Isn’t that what democracy is about?

Posted by waqasmirza | Report as abusive

A point on the above comment: The AKP is the democratically elected government of Turkey, with a fresh mandate of a few months. Why can’t hard struggling “democrats” accept the will of the people and offer room to the democratically elected government to apply its policies. If you don’t like majority rule, that don’t make you a democrat, sir. Honestly, the Turkish state was founded by the military and it remains military-run, with civilian stooges who pose for democrats. Put your uniforms on so we know who you are and stop hiding behind “democracy”. You dont’ have a clue what it is!

Posted by Costas | Report as abusive

I am tired of writing messages to illiterate but ever-knowing europeans through every medium possible. The democracy problems we are facing is a legacy of the cold war era. When European governments and US supported the islamists against the soviets. I can not understand how having to cover my wife with a shroud can be called democracy. Turkey is not Iran and will not be so in the future either but again with the support of European governments these guys are trying to become partners in the Greater middle east project and that goes through dividing and destabilizing turkey. Now I as gandhi said prefer my flawed government to any other better working government of an outsider. If democracy is something dangerous to me going to beach with my widfe than the hell with european democracy. It is that simple. Got that

Posted by mujdat | Report as abusive

I think everyone is missing the point. You have a government party (no matter how they came to power) trying to change the constitution (or just ignore it) by bringing Islam into government policies. I admire Turkey for having such a constitution in the first place. BUT the military needs to say out of it unless the AKP tries to subvert future elections or step way outside the bounds of the constitution. Some of the writers here are right. The people voted the AKP in, I am not sure what promises they made to get elected. We see that here in the US where politicians promise things that are WAY outside of their power to do (fix the economy for example) but they promise it anyways, they get elected try to step outside their bounds as dictated by our constitution and then the courts handle it. THAT’S what is happening in Turkey now, it’s in court.

The one thing that is missing or I can’t understand is if the Military is against the APK who arrested the opposition members, police? What judge wrote the arrest warrant or don’t you have those there? And on that note, if Turkey IS a democratic government they SHOULD have due process for those arrested. 1 year in jail without being charged? That doesn’t sound like due process and therefore may not be a real democratic government. So… if that is happening who can judge the Military for “Protecting the constitution against all enemies foreign OR domestic”?

Posted by Dodger | Report as abusive

I agree with Mujdat…though I’m from the West I have very close relationships with a lot of Turks, the anti-AKP type. Freedom of speech and “democracy” as we know it don’t work everywhere. Secularists in Turkey fear to lose the good things that Ataturk established just a few decades ago. His accomplishments are still fairly fresh and there are a lot of people who want to protect them. I traveled through Turkey in 2006 and 2007 and the country is changing and shifting fast, and not in a good way from a western woman’s perspective.
Sharing borders with Iran and Iraq, you can’t blame the secularists for their panic. There are several political parties that objected to AKP, which couldn’t collaborate to take them in office. I believe it was 53% of the voters who didn’t opt for AKP, many of whom prefer to keep religion and state separate. When the headscarves were back on it was the first bite for AKP…the secularists fear they’ll take the whole damn cookie now. With all of the upheaval and Islamic fundamentalism sweeping across the Middle East, Turks needs to be given the space to do what’s necessary to protect what they have.

Posted by Ms. Yank | Report as abusive