Conspiracy theorists jump onto Turkey's failed coup

Many have speculated that the attempted coup in Turkey was staged by the state itself. TRTWorld explains why that makes no sense.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Turkish citizens sit atop an armored vehicle in Ankara, Turkey July 16, 2016.

The attempted military coup in Turkey last week may have failed to topple the government but it certainly succeeded in creating abundant fodder for conspiracy theorists.

Although most conspiracy theories are brushed off as utter nonsense, surprisingly some reputable mainstream media outlets ran conspiracy theories regarding the coup as news stories.

A common theme recurring in a number of portals is the theory that the coup attempt was an inside job to dissolve secularism and civil liberties in Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government are often portrayed in the media as an authoritarian regime that wants to destroy civil liberties, silence critics and resurrect the Ottoman Empire by imposing strict interpretations of Islam both in Turkey and beyond.

Notably, Turkey is the only non-former Soviet state that has more than a 95 percent Muslim population and is officially secular.

It has been secular since the Turkish republic was established in 1923 and has built its nation on this principle in order to create better ties with a largely secular Europe.

This is despite the fact that nine European countries have still yet to officially adopt secularism today, including Turkey's closest European neighbour Greece.

Some, however, have argued that the AK Party, a party Erdogan founded and led until he became president in 2014, is trying to Islamise the country.

The reason why this may appear to be the case is because in the past decade the party has worked to restore civil liberties that were eroded by previous military coups.

While the shackles of former authoritarian governments are being broken all across the board, particularly on the open displays of Kurdish identity, the increasing role of Islam in Turkey stands out more obviously due to the fact that religion was the most suppressed aspect of daily life under past governments.

Keeping in mind that Turkey is a Muslim-majority country, it is no surprise that as democratic rights and freedom of speech continue to be expanded, Islamic values become increasingly mainstream in society, the same way Judaism is held dear in secular Israel.

People of all strata of life took to the streets to support democracy against the military coup attempt in Turkey.

That does not mean the civil liberties of those who prefer alternative lifestyles is being affected.

Pubs, bars and nightclubs are running as normal, women have not been forced to cover up with burkas or hijabs, and there is no crackdown on homosexuality.

Contrary to popular belief, the AK Party is not an Islamist party and has never sought to impose Islamic principles on the nation.

Rather, it is a democratically elected conservative party in a Muslim-majority secular state.

It is similar to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, a secular democratic party based on Christian values, except in a Muslim context.

Immediately following the coup attempt, Erdogan blamed his former aide and current rival Fethullah Gulen of being responsible for the misadventure carried out by a faction of the military.

Gulen is a Turkish cleric living in self-imposed exile in the US who has long been accused of seeking to undermine democracy in Turkey in order to establish a state based on his interpretation of Islam.

All three major opposition parties, including the left-wing Republican People’s Party, the second largest party in parliament, stood with the AK Party in opposing the coup.

It is also important to note that their grounds of opposition against the AK Party are not based on the perceived Islamisation of Turkey, but on unrelated matters such as foreign policy and various domestic issues.

For Erdogan to have planned the coup in order to increase his authority in the country, he would have needed assurances beforehand from the opposition parties that they would stand with him, or else his plan might have collapsed.

There was also no guarantee that the masses, including both Erdogan supporters and critics, would have risked their lives to demonstrate in the streets against soldiers armed with guns, tanks, military helicopters and fighter jets.  

Had the opposition parties viewed the coup attempt as an opportunity to rid themselves of an otherwise immovable foe, or had the people been intimated by the threat of death, Erdogan – a man already on the verge of expanding his powers even further via the drawing up of a new constitution and the establishment of a presidential system – would have lost everything he has worked for since originally being elected as prime minister in 2003.

A screenshot of a Reuters article.

Of course, conspiracy theorists will always find food for thought, such as unconfirmed reports that Erdogan’s plane from Dalaman Airport to Istanbul was in sight of rebel fighter jets but was not shot down, or the fact that in the midst of the attempt Erdogan was able to connect to CNN Turk via FaceTime to call the people to the streets when the first thing the coup plotters should have done is knock out communications across the country.

But a likelier scenario would be that the coup was just poorly planned, improperly executed and simply failed to anticipate the overwhelming power of social media.