I was reading all the recent developments in Turkey over the last fortnight but I believe that a more insightful perspective of the events would help more someone to understand what has actually happened. I have come across Özgün on a Facebook group about Europe and he has posted some photos from the last Sunday's rally so I thought he could help and here we are.
Özgün Kaplama is a youth activist from İstanbul, Turkey. He was representative of Turkey in a couple of organisations like Generation Europe Foundation (GEF) and European Students Think Tank. He is also member of some pro-European organisations like European Students' Forum (AEGEE) and Young European Federalists (JEF). He is a strong supporter of Turkey's European Union membership.
-Now follows the interview which will answer your "who, when and how" questions.-
So, Özgün why have you decided to attend the demonstration on Sunday in Taksim square? What was the average age of the demonstration attendees? Was that a rally against Erdogan or against the coup?
This demonstration was different the other ones. From the first day of the coup attempt there have been a lot of protests in many squares across the country. These protests continue today but most of the people attending the demonstrations were supporters of the government. There were no political party flags but there are many photos of Erdogan and other governmental party (Justice and Development Party) symbols. There has been created a wrong impression in peoples’ mind like ''Opposition party supporters support the coup, because they didn't go to the streets''. But this is wrong because at first night there were many people from different political backgrounds.
On Sunday for the first time opposition party (Republican People's Party) sent an open call for a big demonstration in Taksim square against the coup attempt. This was really important because with this call to every party proved to everyone in Turkey that this was not about a problem between political parties but this is a problem of the whole country. So I wanted to be part of this protest in Taksim with some of my friends. Personally i didn't spend much time to conclude to that decision; I saw the call on TV and I felt that ''I must be there''.
The average age of the attendees was about 40 years old. There were a lot of old people and young people. And this rally was against both Erdogan and the coup attempt. Turkey has paid very big bills from military coups and many of the old people know this well, that is why they have joined young people on previous Sunday’s rally.
What are the requests of the people at Taksim square?
The people are against the government but they are also against the coup. If the coup was successful the situation would be worst than today. They remember the last coup back on September 12, 1980. So their requests are democracy, human rights and enforcement of the ideas of the founder of modern Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Furthermore, the organizer of last Sunday’s demonstration –the Republican People's Party (CHP)- launched a manifest named ''Taksim Manifest''. In this manifest democracy, security and human rights strongly mentioned.
How did Erdogan react to this rally?
Actually from the first day after the reinstatement of state of law till today, Erdogan show respect and tolerance for all political wings. He has met opposition party leaders (Except HDP/People's Democratic Party leaders). He is talking nicely. This may be a trick or not but about Sunday's rally, believe or not he supported it. However he has not been so friendly with TV broadcasters, radio stations and newspapers.
How has all this have started? Was there any sign that a military coup could occur in any way?
It began suddenly. On 15 July at about 22:00, a group of soldiers closed the Bosporus Bridge with 2 trucks and on social media people started some rumors about a coup. After that channels tried to learn what was happening. And finally the Prime Minister said on air that there is an attempt. And then soldiers went to Public channel TRT and they forced the spokesperson to read their announcement for the coup. At that moment there was no sign in the country but of course some rumours on.
How did the Turkish broadcasters and newspapers responded to the announcement of the coup when it actually took place?
They did a very good job. Starting from the very first minutes they covered the developments in a very good way. When the announcement was being broadcasted on TRT on other television channels the prime minister and other ministers stressed that ''It is not legal. It is piracy.'' So the other channels have not taken the announcement seriously. In that way people could understand the situation without being panicked. So media played a very strong role for the failure of the coup.
Is there any explanation how Erdogan was so lucky to reach Ataturk International Airport without any threat from the F16 aircrafts of the army?
There are some explanation from Erdogan's side about that. Most realistic explanation for me is that there were a strong escort team flied with him. Also there is a voice record from that night with pilots and air traffic control stuff talking. In this record we understand air traffic reported everything about military planes movements to the pilot of Erdoğan's plane and that's why he managed to reach airport safely. It was risky but he wanted to land there.
How many people have been arrested till now?
The number is still growing but the latest number is 5,613 people arrested. Also 12,443 other people are in custody.
How many people have lost their occupation in the public sector? What are the criteria?
We don't know the criteria. I read today about 66,000 people lost their job in the public sector. Sources say that the number will grow even more.
Is that true that academics are not allowed to leave the country?
If they withdraw from their title, then they can travel abroad.
What’s the big deal with Gülen?
Well, it's a long story.
The Gülen movement is an Islamic transnational religious and social movement. They call themselves a service club. They started their operation in late 70's but in AKP government they are getting stronger with support of the government party. They had schools, media, humanitarian aid in Africa etc. Also they had common projects with other religious groups for a long time. They were like friends but in 2013 this friendship has been terminated after the corruption allegations against Erdogan. Some voice records of AKP officials including Erdogan leaked on the internet about corruption cases. After that AKP called this group ''Parallel state''. AKP claimed that the leaks about the state including military, police department, public sector, municipalities and many more for illegal actions was an attempt to reduce Erdogan’s popularity and an attempt for Gülen to control gradually more and more percent of these sectors.
After the coup attempt it was obvious that they really had a plan with paralled state. And from 15 July every institution related with Gülen is shutting down.
What do the Turkish people think of the suspension of the ECHR and can you describe the 3-month emergency state? What does this mean for the rights of the Turkish people?
Most Turkish people don't know very much thing about ECHR. They also have a very small interest about the European Union process because they are sick and tired with long term - never ending negotiations and also with the visa issues. But interesting that, people celebrated this 3 month state of emergency. I know most of readers surpries for this but i'm not joking. They celebrated it because they think that state will clean from parallel state members. Also prime minister announced that this state of emergency don't affect the normal people this for the villains.
Do you think that this coup attempt was genuine or not? In any case scenario, how could this be beneficial is for Erdogan and in which ways could be positive or negative for Turkey?
Some people think that this coup attempt was genuine. But after people killed from soldiers at bridges and other places (246 people. 179 civil, 62 police, 5 soldier) there was a complex situation. I don't think it was genuine. This is a bad-planned coup that has been attempted. Actually some news about that made me think of it. For example soldiers planned the attempt at 03:00 AM but information leaked fast (By the way they planned the coup from Whatsapp) and that is why they decided to do it earlier.
As I said before if this coup had been successful. It would be a really nightmare, because the Turkish society knows that how dangerous coups can be. And in if the coup had been established we would miss the Erdogan government. Turkish history had a lot of coups that occurred. So, Ι say that the worst democracy is better than the best military coup. Personally Ι don't support Erdoğan and this government. They did very bad things which can not be related with democracy and human rights. On the other hand I can't say coup could save us because it won't. Don't forget soldiers have not handcuffs. They have only one goal: Destroy the enemy. And in that night, every person was the enemy.
I know, sometimes it's hard to understand what’s happening in Turkey and Turkish politics. And now I watch parts of the European society and a part of the European press that say that we should support coup because they may save Turkey from undemocratic government. And I say NO! No it will not have any impact on democracy establishment, maybe the exact opposite. Or some people don't understand the protests in evenings. I can explain them like this, prime minister said that: ''The danger has not pass yet, so don't leave the squares until a second call''. And most of the voters of government went there. They think they celebrated the democracy, because what they know is that democracy means only vote. But it does not. It means state of law, human rights and civil freedoms.