Can’t they understand, or don’t they want to?

By: Beril Dedeoğlu*

It has been two seeks since the failed coup attempt, yet Western media outlets do not seem to understand what is happening in Turkey.

Rather than trying to understand what the coup plotters have done to the country, they seem to be worried about the measures taken against them. This group had infiltrated all official institutions in order to seize power when the time came and their attempt was aimed at destroying the country’s democratic institutions. Had they been successful, they would not have established a more democratic or transparent regime in Turkey. Their regime would probably look like Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s Egypt or Bashar Assad’s Syria while trying to develop a style of governance like that of Iran’s first supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, step by step. Maybe in its early days, the new regime would give the impression that it would not hurt Western interests, but in the long run, it would establish an Islamic regime demonizing the West just like in Iran.

One may say that now, as well, the West is being accused in Turkey of everything, all the time. Nevertheless, the current government has no interest in demonizing the West. On the contrary, it is asking the West to support them and believe in their will to promote democracy in the country. The government knows very well that Western support is essential for Turkey’s value and clout.

Turkey had to do long ago everything it is doing now. In all democratic countries, a coup attempt is something that deserves punishment. Turkey is doing what is necessary against the Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ), and it will do the same for other armed terrorist groups as well. The coup attempt and its aftermath have proven that the main problem is in the system. That is why we are talking about reforming the state. Like in all democratic countries, the military will from now on be under the National Defense Ministry, military high schools will be shut down and the gendarmerie will be attached to the Interior Ministry. The military will now become truly accountable and will be placed further under civilian control.

At the beginning of Turkey’s EU negotiation process, like in 2004 and 2005, European officials vehemently criticized the role the military was playing in political life. Since a couple of years, however, they have stopped criticizing the military. Maybe they have thought that the military will one day stop the government they do not like. Now the government is doing what the EU was asking a decade ago, yet the Europeans seem to be unhappy about it.

Turkey is, in the meantime, at war against the PKK, and we must say that police, soldiers, civil servants and teachers belonging to FETÖ have the main responsibility, by their actions, in distancing Turkey’s Kurds from the government. They have also to be blamed because of the downing of the Russian jet, or the Uludere massacre for that matter. One may find FETÖ’s fingerprints on Hrant Dink’s assassination and the right-wing politician Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu’s helicopter accident.

FETÖ had become a state within the state and it used its power to destabilize Turkey. Thankfully, the majority of society was wise enough to not fall into their traps.

I know it is hard to understand all of this for someone looking at Turkey from another country. It is, however, more reasonable to try to understand this organization’s role in Turkey’s problems rather than to blame the government for everything.

They may, on the other hand, be curious about how this group could become so powerful within the state, and we, as well, question ourselves about it without forgetting that the state’s gates had been opened to them right after the military coup in 1980.

*Beril Dedeoğlu, born in 1961, is a Turkish academic who served as the Minister of European Union Affairs in the interim election government led by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu between 22 September and 17 November 2015.

(Published in Daily Sabah on Tuesday, August 2, 2016)