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Investigative journalist Arslan asserts, “Erdogan has transformed the regime into an unaccountable and grim anti-democratic system.”

Adem Yavuz Arslan is a prominent Turkish journalist living in the United States and was the Washington D.C. correspondent of the Bugun Daily and Bugun TV between 2014 and February 2016 when the Ipek Media Group entities were raided and forcefully shuttered by the Erdogan regime in Turkey.

Resolved against silencing attempts, Adem Yavuz Arslan has been an exiled journalist similar to thousands of other journalists and professionals in the wake of the July 15, 2016 so-called coup attempt. Despite tremendous challenges and hardships, he has practiced his profession as a freelance journalist proclaiming the truths with his colleagues.

Throughout these years, he filed watershed news reports on the Halkbank v United States case, Iranian-born Reza Zarrab and his extensive graft and fraud scheme cases involving Erdogan, his family and close allies, and the revelations on the so-called July 15 coup attempt. July 15 in 2023 marks the eighth anniversary of the dastardly coup attempt, and we wished to have an expert view on this bloodstained events and review what changed during these years for better or worse.

In this conversation, Mr. Arslan highlighted how Erdogan changed the regime of Turkey in the aftermath of the so-called coup attempt, purged of thousands of civil servants through relentless witch hunts, instigated a humanitarian crisis, and exploited the weakness and complacency of the opposition parties, reasons why he no longer is relevant to the West in rhetoric and conduct, Fethullah Gulen’s stance against the claims, future of the July 15 coup attempt cases, and more.

Enjoy reading his insightful and informative interview.

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Adem Yavuz Arslan

Mr. Adem Yavuz; first, thank you for consenting to give an interview to Politurco.

You are one of a few journalists who have conducted detailed research on the July 15 so-called coup attempt and revealed significant findings. You even published a book on the matter. As we approach the eighth anniversary of the July 15 coup attempt, several issues related to this infamous event have yet to be clarified. Victimization continues to affect millions of people. Here is the first question I would like to ask:

The Regime Changed After the July 15 Coup Attempt in Turkey

May I have your brief assessment of the junction we have reached on the eighth anniversary of the July 15 coup?

It is difficult to give a short answer to this question. Because as of July 15, 2016, a historical transformation took place in Turkey. Its fallouts are in effect and will remain for several years. Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP government changed the regime in Turkey and established an unaccountable, non-transparent and anti-democratic system. In a way, the new regime emerged on July 15th. What happened that day is still largely a mystery, but we have turned into an entirely different country with the state of emergency regime imposed five days after the ‘coup attempt’. If, even after seven years, things are still unclear albeit tens of thousands of lawsuits and hundreds of thousands of arrests, this alone proves the alleged coup attempt was essentially a conspiracy. Had the coup been real, every detail would have been revealed in the trials and the perpetrators would have been definitely identified. Thousands of people who had been unaware of one another were interrogated and tried. If there had been a real coup, it would certainly have been proven.

Controversial July 15 Coup Attempt

At this point I also would like to ask you this: The failed coup attempt has divided the public opinion. Some do not consider it a coup d’état due to its motives, while others argue it was a blatant military intervention effectively thwarted by the civilian government. Briefly, what do you think about these views?

Despite all the time that has passed, there is still a lot of confusion about the incidents on July 15. There are various reasons for this. The society is divided mostly due to political reasons. While the partisans of the government unconditionally eulogize July the 15th as an epitome of heroism, the opposition languishes in the “There is something fishy for sure but we do not know exactly what that is” mode. Alternatively, the opposition is also divided into different factions. While parties like the CHP and the HDP publicly oppose the AKP, a large section of the opposition, including the IYI Party, uses the same discourse as Erdoğan. Some say “The Gülen Community attempted a coup, but the government had known about it, taken precautions and staged its own counter-coup”, while others claim that the whole furor was a regime plot. Except for a few politicians, however, the bulk of the problem with the opposition is that they simply resort to sloganeering, instead of scrutinizing the coup attempt from the viewpoint of the evidence. Instead of observing the July 15th trials effectively or examining the case dossiers, the opposition reduces the incident to a clash of interests between the Gülen Community and the AKP. One most critical point is the way Erdoğan and his team, who hold sway and are the perpetrators of the events, exerted and continue to exert incredible pressure to conceal the real perpetrators behind the scenes. It is usual the events remain in the dark because all journalists who wrote about this issue and questioned the official coup narrative, were arrested one after another.

Political Atmosphere Before the July 15 Coup Attempt

The July 15 coup attempt was preceded by a series of social and political events that profoundly unsettled the fate of the country. Several major social and political events including the December 17/25 corruption probes and operations, the Gezi Park protests, the closure of the opposition media outlets, the police raid and shutdown of Bugün TV, where you worked, took place during that phase. How do you evaluate these events and the overall political environment before July 15, 2016?

If you start July the 15th from July 15, 2016, you will fail to define the event accurately; because the preparations for the faux coup attempt – from the government side – dates back at least to two to three years. Let us remember the circumstances in Turkey before July 15, 2016: Erdoğan was in dire straits due to the Gezi Events and the police operations against massive corruption and graft also involving Erdoğan and his family as center figures. Erdoğan had appropriated almost the entire Turkish media setup after several years of operations. He was in a tight squeeze both at home and abroad. In particular, he kept facing a hefty bill for his misguided Syria policy. Relations with the US and the EU were sour. Exploiting the December 17 anti-corruption and anti-graft operations as a pretext, he carried out massive purges in the Turkish police force. He imposed effective control over the judiciary, especially over the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). The only institution not under Erdoğan’s tutelage before July 15, 2016 was the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), the only obstacle to his much-coveted one-man regime. Erdoğan deliberately pumped up the anticipation for a coup so he could render the sweeping purges in the Turkish Armed Forces and consolidate his totalitarian regime. Especially in the media under his control, news and comments about the coup anticipation were circulated daily and the public was thawed to an impending coup. Today, if you look back at the news output of the regime media back then, you can see these more clearly.

Erdoğan needed a ‘gift of God’ to save him from all his troubles and July the 15th was the blessing he had been waiting for. Feigning ‘victimization’ by the coup attempt, he freed himself from corruption charges, and could temporarily set aside the yoke constricting him in his foreign policy. More importantly, all obstacles before his one-man rule and authoritarianism were removed.

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Adem Yavuz Arslan and Turkish President Erdogan

Turkish Opposition’s Devil-May-Care Attitude towards God’s Gift

While all these events were taking place before July 15, 2016, we observed an opposition that could not interpret the developments and an Erdoğan who always successfully sailed his ship. From late 2013 until the day of the coup, some interpreted the events as a clash between the AKP and the Gülen Community and said, “What do we care?” Starting from that period, what did the opposition fail to calculate or where did they go wrong?

Erdoğan’s biggest chance was the opposition in Turkey. Despite huge doubts and question marks about the events on July 15, 2016 from the first moment, the opposition did not address them. The opposition politicians were not so eager in the parliamentary commission to investigate the July 15 incident. Moreover, they parroted the regime’s official July 15 narrative. As such, Erdoğan effortlessly took an assortment of anti-democratic steps. The opposition has assumed an immensely opportunistic and unprincipled approach to this phase, hinting “Let the government and the Community lock horns and get worn out. Let the government eradicate the Community and then we will overthrow the government at the ballot box”. Instead of investigating the facts, they have acted cunning to take advantage of the circumstances. Therefore, if the AKP government is the main architect of the collapse in Turkey today, the opposition is the accomplice.

A Coup Waiting in the Wings

Before I ask for your valuable insights on the July 15 coup attempt, I would like to ask this: We have learned that almost everyone who was pro-government and in key positions in the state knew of the coup attempt in July 2016. Essentially, several articles in national and international media highlighted the likelihood of a coup around the same time with the staged coup attempt. How could this have happened? Was the July 15 coup attempt staged in plain view?

As a journalist who closely followed the events of July the 15th, the data revealed in the investigations, case files, expert reports and statements made by those in the ruling circle, I would like to draw attention to an abnormality. Everyone in the government and its close circles, who are supposedly the ‘coup victims’, were adeptly prepared for July the 15th. The alleged ‘coup plotters’, alternatively, were not ready for the coup. So much so that there was neither a coup plan nor a roadmap. On July 15, 2016, a group of soldiers who were guaranteed to fail rather than stage a coup was forsaken on the streets and the regime staged its own coup. When you look at the articles in the pro-regime media circulated with the theme, ‘the Community will stage a coup’, we see the Erdoğan regime had familiarized the public opinion with the notion that the Gülen Community would attempt a coup d’état eventually. The articles and the statements from the ruling party had all been aimed at drawing large masses of people to the streets when the ‘operation’ was go on July 15, 2016.

July the 15th is the golden shot of the AKP government’s smear campaign against the Gülen Community since 2011. The public was accustomed and psychologically prepared for this for years. From the first moment, everyone said ‘the Community is staging a coup’ and everyone fell into the trap set by the government.  

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July the 15th: A Shady Shade of Summer

Now, if we talk about Turkey’s darkest night, on the night of July 15, 2016, a series of extraordinary events disguised as a coup d’état reinforced the impression that the uprising was a mise-en-scène… Essentially, the US Secretary of State, who visited Ankara after the coup attempt, so significantly commented on the events by saying, “Some things happened, but they were like a computer game”. What do you think happened that night that made the American officials and its other Western allies think this way?

None of the democratic countries found the Erdoğan regime’s argument, that the incidents on July the 15th was a coup attempt against the civilian government, convincing. First, these countries have their own intelligence. They have embassies in Turkey. They saw what happened. Second, when you look at what happened on July the 15th, you notice it was not a coup attempt, but a set of fictionalized and mise en scène events. It corresponds to a ‘false flag’ operation as known in the literature. Actually, former US Secretary of State and former CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who recently wrote a book, called July the 15th a ‘so-called’ coup. I could make quite a long list of reasons they do not find it credible. You cannot stage a coup by closing one lane of the Bosporus Bridge at prime time in the evening. Even the whereabouts of the ‘target’, the President, was unknown. Only 1.5 percent of an army like the Turkish Armed Forces, most of whom were military cadets and privates performing compulsory military service, would fail staging a coup with so few. No psychological atmosphere existed for a coup. Soldiers taking to the streets did not have shared objectives. Some were unaware of the events, some set out having received a tip-off about a terrorist attack, some thought it was an exercise under the command. Only a bunch of people were there thinking and knowing it really was a coup. Akıncı Air Force Base is said to have been chosen as the coordination hub of the coup. That violated the military routines because the Akıncı Air Force Base lacks facilities to coordinate a coup. Under usual circumstances, the coordination hub would have been the Armed Forces Command Operations Center. The prominent generals of the Turkish Armed Forces were all at a wedding reception. They remained at the reception even after the broadcast of the coup warning. The Commander of the Turkish Naval Forces hid in a parking lot, his phones were switched off. The Chief of General Staff sat with the coup plotters over tea and snacks. The head of the National Intelligence Organization MIT had soup with the head of the Directorate of Religious Affairs. Imams and muezzins were made ready to recite calls to Prayer and eulogize Prophet Muhammad from the minarets across the country. Municipalities filled sand trucks and parked them in front of the barracks. As widely reported in the revelations of Sedat Peker, the leader of a criminal organization, weapons had been distributed to paramilitary forces. The communication infrastructure was intact, the Internet and TV broadcasts were uninterrupted…The putschists could not even arm the tanks. They could not fuel the fighter aircraft. In a country as large as Turkey, they tried to stage a coup by sending soldiers on the streets in only a few cities and in the early evening. The illusion of a coup had been created not for the coup to succeed, but to create the perception of a coup as a pretext to launch a witch-hunt against the Gülen Community after July 15, 2016.

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Gülen Community: The National Scapegoat

Erdoğan blamed the Gülen Community, as you said, right from the inception of the coup attempt, describing the July 15 ‘uprising’ as “a gift of God”. On a night when he claimed that a coup had been attempted against him, Erdoğan skipped from one live broadcast to another and spoke freely on the screens with no complication, while directly attributing the events to the Gülen Community with no investigation? Why do you think he did so?

To answer this question, we need to analyze the internal politics and sociology of Turkey. Erdoğan wanted to establish a one-man regime based on obedience, but there was the Gülen Community who did not obey and surrender to him. The Gülen Movement evidently differs from other social groups. It has a well-educated, financially-strong and dynamic human resource. Indeed, in the early years of his rule, Erdoğan took care to intertwine the Gülen Community with his own party base and to portray them as one with his socio-political structure. His own efforts and the efforts of the media under his control to curry favor with and extol the Gülen Community was essentially a temporary tactical stance. However, Erdoğan did not receive the allegiance he expected from the Gülen Community. Quite the reverse, when the police operations revealed the massive corruption and graft extending to his own family, Erdoğan turned his anger against the Gülen Community. He first called the Community a ‘parallel state’ and then declared it a terrorist organization. However, he could not provide any substantial evidence to support these claims, both legally and in the public conscience. Thanks to an appalling event like July the 15th, he could easily carry out massive purges and arrests, and take over the judiciary and security bureaucracy in particular. This was why, while preparing for the coup by profiling people, making the fictitious coup plans and arranging the cadres to replace the purged, he also prepared the public opinion with the narrative that ‘the Gülen Community is going to stage a coup’. Albeit no concrete evidence (except for the suspects allegedly found at the coup base and claimed to be in allegiance with the Gülen Community), Erdoğan immediately blamed the Community. He could spread this narrative thanks to the fallouts of the coup atmosphere and the shock effect. Otherwise, notwithstanding the long time that has passed, no solid evidence and documents could be uncovered to prove the Gülen Community had been behind the coup. All accusations against the Gülen Community were debunked during the trials. For example, the allegation ‘military officers affiliated with the Community held a meeting for the coup d’état’ has been discredited. The anonymous witnesses Kuzgun (Raven) and Şapka (Hat) who claimed to have attended that meeting and later became anonymous witnesses could not identify the officers whom they had claimed to have attended the coup meeting. Here is another aspect of this incident: For years, the United States has been stating, “Provide a solid connection between the coup and Gülen, and we will take the required legal action,” but Turkey could not provide any solid evidence to the US in the past seven years. All the intelligence, police and judiciary in Turkey are under Erdoğan’s tutelage, but they have not produced a single piece of evidence in all these years. That is, “The Gülen Community staged a coup” is simply a story invented by Erdoğan for his political motives.

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Relentless Witch-Hunt

The day after the attempt, we saw thousands of prosecutors, judges, military officers, police officers and senior bureaucrats purged and arrested. How the so-called coup plotters could be identified so quickly has been the subject of rich debate. Have you found a convincing answer to this question?

A prominent piece of evidence hinting that the coup was staged is that, on the evening of July 15, when nothing was clear (it was not even clear where the Chief of General Staff had been, it was not even known who did what and where), the list of dissidents to be arrested was put to circulation. Prosecutor Serdar Coşkun had even written down the events that had not yet happened in the minutes he signed and issued in the early evening. It was as if the events to happen had been known. In addition, detention and arrest warrants were issued on over 4000 judges and prosecutors, including members of the Constitutional Court and the Court of Cassation. Imagine there is an allegation of a coup; instead of preventing the coup, judges and prosecutors are arrested first. It was not even clear who had participated in the ‘coup’. Yet, everyone with an opposing view had been profiled and listed, and when the ‘operation’ was go, they all were immediately detained and arrested. If one is not prepared beforehand, they cannot make such a move that evening. So much so even people who had died before July 15, 2016 were on the dismissal and detention lists. Essentially, it was revealed that the dismissal and arrest lists published after July 15, 2016 had been prepared according to the dismissed officials’ ranks and duties two years earlier. This shows the list of those to be arrested on the evening of July 15, 2016 was the outcome of a two-year effort. The Erdoğan regime has never given a satisfactory answer to anything about the coup attempt. There has been no explanation on this issue either.

Ace Riddle of the Faux Coup

To our best knowledge, there is still no evidence into the person alleged to be the No.1 of the putschist group or the members of this group. What do your findings say about this?

The state officials allege Air Chief Marshal Akın Öztürk as the No.1 of the coup attempt. This alone proves the coup was staged because ACM Akın Öztürk was simply a member of the Supreme Military Council. There was not a single soldier under his command. Moreover, he was on vacation in Izmir on July 15, 2016. He arrived in Ankara from Izmir around noon. He was with his daughter in the lodging near the Akıncı Air Force Base. He was at home in his pajamas when the so-called coup began. While he was at home, he was phoned by the Commander of the Air Force, ACM Abidin Ünal, and was told “Your guys are up to something, go to Akıncı and take control of the situation”. So, Öztürk went to the Base in civilian clothes. He remained at the Base Together with Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar and other commanders in the base commander’s office until the morning. Meanwhile, they brought another officer’s uniform for him to wear. Öztürk, as told by Ünal, shuttled between the ‘coup plotters’ and the command staff. So much so the official statement of the General Staff after the coup stated Akın Öztürk had been requested to go to the air force base and take control of the situation. That is, Öztürk was not a coup plotter but someone working against the coup. However, two days later, this official statement of the General Staff was removed from the website. Sadık Üstün from National Intelligence Organization MIT’s Special Operations Branch, also the sidekick of Hakan Fidan, the current Foreign Minister, made the statement “Akın Öztürk is the leader of the coup” while Akın Öztürk was at home, in his pajamas. A full general had been needed for the coup plot and Akın Öztürk was chosen at that moment. While they tortured ACM Akın Öztürk severely, no evidence or testimony could ever be found against him. During the trials, ACM Akın Öztürk wanted to stand face to face with Gen. Hulusi Akar and ACM Abidin Ünal, who had assigned duties to him, but neither of them appeared in the courts. No contact between the alleged coup plotters and ACM Akın Öztürk has been found.

Post-July 15 Humanitarian Crisis

While innocent people in Turkey kept suffering hard times after the so-called coup attempt, the opposition gave strong support to all the unwarranted investigations and prosecutions planned by Erdoğan, paving the way for him to carry out the most comprehensive witch-hunt of the country’s last century. People got tortured to death in police stations and prisons, while hundreds perished in the Maritza River or the Aegean Sea, trying to flee Turkey, hoping for an auspicious future. How do you assess this post-July 15 humanitarian crisis? Who do you think is accountable for this situation?

Some events are discreet by nature. You cannot know them unless someone who was there tells you. However, you can look into those events later by analysis. Even if you do not know what happened on July the 15th, when you look at what happened in hindsight, you can see that the coup was bogus. Because if the coup was real, who would be put on trial? Those who were obviously involved in the coup, those who committed offenses against the law. Whereas in Turkey, anyone who opposed the incumbent regime was declared a terrorist and arrested. The social condemnation of the Gülen Community continues unabated. To date, two million people have been subjected to criminal investigations. More than a hundred thousand people were arrested. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs. Nearly five million people, including their families, have fallen victim to the witch-hunt. Even newborn babies were arrested. Therefore, we can easily say that the government exploits the July 15 incident to eradicate a social group. The opposition and intellectuals are as accountable for this process as the ruling AKP government, because they supported by their silence the persecution of people known to be innocent. While women, the elderly and the newborn were imprisoned, no one except a bunch of conscientious intellectuals and politicians spoke out. Imagine; even people on official duty at a far corner of the world on July 15, 2016 have been sentenced to life imprisonment. Even a general, who was publicly treated in his sick bed, was sentenced. There are countless examples like these.

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Significant Events Debunk Jult 15 Myths

In your YouTube broadcasts and articles, you constantly mention the unbecoming aspects of this coup attempt. If I ask you to list these points under main headings, which ones would you itemize?

What happened on July 15, 2016 can be described as ‘how not to carry out a coup and how to guarantee its failure’. A coup cannot be carried out by deploying a group of soldiers on the Bosporus Bridge, the busiest conduit in Istanbul, at the busiest time of the evening. There was no point in deploying troops there. Quite the reverse, it was thought up to offer the world a ‘coup in Turkey’ snapshot. As almost all American movies show the Brooklyn Bridge, this was exactly the same. A coup had been reported, but the head of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) was having soup with the President of the Directorate of Religious Affairs. The Chief of General Staff was sitting in his office as if nothing had happened. The Commander of the Air Force and 23 generals were at a wedding in Istanbul. They received the news, but waited for the coup plotters to arrive and pick them as if nothing had happened. The Commander of the Navy hid in a parking lot. He made 149 phone calls but neither called the Chief of General Staff nor tried to prevent the coup. Quite the opposite, he lured his own officers into a trap. Erdoğan had not known about the coup (!) but he had four aircraft ready at four separate airfields that night. Supposedly, the putschists were to pick up Erdoğan, but they were ordered to stand by in Izmir until Erdoğan left Marmaris where he had been vacationing. Even before they left, another team carried out a mock attack on Erdoğan’s hotel in Marmaris and martyred two police officers. All for the image to fake Erdoğan had survived an assassination attempt. Meanwhile, the so-called coup plotters had been on stand-by in Izmir. The head of the National Intelligence Organization never talked to Erdoğan. Prime Minister Yıldırım phoned the head of MIT but could not reach him. Meanwhile, journalists or some politicians talked to the head of MIT on the phone. Commanders who would prevent the coup appear on TV and called the people to the streets. Meanwhile, unidentified fighter aircraft bombed the Parliament. Police Special Operations HQ was bombed. These should never happen in an actual coup. These lack logic, because such actions cause the coup plotters to lose the public support. Against the motive, it boosts hostility. Civilians who took to the streets that night to resist the coup had been shot with bullets unavailable in the Turkish Armed Forces inventory. Autopsy reports were not prepared properly. There was no ballistic examination. Camera recordings were manipulated. The trials are full of scandals. Imagine, Erol Olçok, Erdoğan’s spin doctor and the closest aide until then, had been led by a mysterious phone call to the Bosporus Bridge, where he and his son were killed by sniper fire. Not even a ballistic examination was conducted. Seven years have passed without a single investigation into the snipers. That night, undisclosed assailants slashed the throats of military cadets on the Bosporus Bridge. However, instead of investigating the perpetrators, a decree law was issued to not investigate the crimes committed that night. A kind of amnesty was issued. Neither the Chief of General Staff, nor the Head of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), nor Erdoğan, nor any critical figure appeared at the Parliamentary Investigation Commission, the court or the prosecutor’s office. All radar and flight records of the three-helicopter elite force who replaced the team that supposedly had gone to Marmaris for the assassination were deleted.  Such an action can only be endorsed by the Chief of General Staff. Unaware of the ‘coup’ (!), Erdoğan passed critical legal regulations before July 15, 2016. For example, the Brussels clause, which had been pending for 60 years to be ratified by the Parliament, was passed by the Parliament on July 14, 2016. This article regulates the extradition of those who assassinated the head of state and fled abroad. What a coincidence, isn’t it? The EMASYA protocols, once abolished by Erdoğan as a ‘great step in democratization’ for allegedly justifying coups, were quietly reintroduced two days before the coup. The attack on the Parliament building and the fighter pilots missing the target to hit Erdoğan’s palace… Imagine the coup plotters could not locate Erdoğan’s aircraft. I can list hundreds of examples like these. There is countless evidence that the coup was theatrical.

Erdoğan’s International Crime Syndicate

Turkish National Intelligence MIT carried out abduction operations not only in Turkey but also abroad against members of the opposition and the participants of the Gülen Community. You too were a target in this respect. What do you think is the reason for Erdoğan to engage in such massive lawlessness leading to these violations of international law? How accurate is it to associate this only with the alleged post-coup operations?

This is another proof that the coup is faux and bogus. Specifically, if the coup is real, if the Gülen Movement is behind the coup attempt as you claim, you put forward your evidence and ask the relevant countries for the extradition of the perpetrators. Those countries examine your evidence, and if the evidences are solid, they hand you the wanted people within the framework of the bilateral treaties. This is how the rule of law operates. What does the Erdoğan regime do, instead? It abducts teachers and businesspeople by bribing the local gangs and through illegal methods in the countries where the rule of law does not apply. If criminal allegations were there against these people, you would prepare files and send them with evidence to respective countries. Besides, these people are teachers at the educational institutions in their host countries and they have been abroad for many years. What could they have to do with the coup? The abductions of innocent people from abroad, the hundreds of cases of torture and enforced disappearances in Turkey are proof that July the 15th, which has been highlighted as a coup attempt, was indeed a huge set-up designed to destroy the Gülen Community. Not only teachers but also journalists like me are targeted. I have been a journalist in Washington D.C. since 2014. What could I have to do with the coup? Yet, they issued a red notice and an arrest warrant even on me. If someone is blamed for a crime, you prepare a case with evidences and follow the legal procedure. However, the Erdoğan regime abducts people, tortures them and carries out new operations based on the forced testimonies of the tortured. This was clearly stated in the US State Department reports. All reputable international human rights organizations have also concluded these findings.

Fethullah Gülen’s Stance Against Claims

At this point, I would like to ask you about Fethullah Gülen and the allegations made against him. It has been reported in the media that the Erdoğan government has embarked on attempts and plans to have Fethullah Gülen deported from the United States or even abduct him, based on the official narrative he is the planner of the coup. What do you think about the demand for Gülen’s deportation and the allegations that Gülen may have planned the coup? As a journalist following the issue since day one, have you encountered any evidence to support the government’s claims?

Fethullah Gülen has been on self-exile for several years. He has been living in the United States in full view of the public. The compound where he resided and resides was frequented by Erdoğan and the AKP members for a long time. We cannot imagine that the US security authorities did not keep a close eye on this. It is rather significant that to date the Erdoğan regime could not establish a link between Gülen and the July 15 coup attempt. The Erdoğan regime has every means at its disposal. Hundreds of thousands of people were detained and arrested, thousands were tortured. Thousands of institutions and private residences were raided and ransacked, but not a single item constituting criminal evidence by the courts as per international norms could be found. Moreover, the United States has the most powerful intelligence agency in the world. Is it possible they do not have evidence? Former CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s book refers to July 15 as “so-called” and the word “coup” is in quotation marks. If Gülen was somehow involved in July the 15th, Trump would have deported him to another country. It should also not be forgotten that in John Bolton’s book and in several media outlets, including the NYT, Trump said “Look, if you can find something, let’s do what is required” after Erdoğan’s requests in this direction, but despite this, he could provide no evidence to the US security authorities. After all this time, Turkey could not provide a single piece of evidence – even indirectly – linking Gülen to the coup. Instead, they compiled a dossier of fake news produced by the media under their tutelage and dispatched it to the United States. The US authorities clearly stated, “This is not how you should prepare a dossier; let us come and show you how to prepare one” and sent a team to Turkey. The files that arrived after their briefing in Ankara contained only newspaper clippings. So, there is not a single piece of evidence to support the Turkish government’s claim that Gülen was behind the coup. The top brass of the Turkish Armed Forces is known to be pro-Western, embracing the ideology of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic. There has been no credible claim that the senior commanders of the armed forces included the Gülen sympathizers. None of the senior commanders, including the Chief of General Staff, force chiefs, army commanders or corps commanders, have ever been accused of being Gülen sympathizers. In actual fact, any coup attempt by mid-ranked officers without the knowledge and approval of their senior commanders would have required a stronger reaction from within the military itself. However, on the night of the coup, there was slight reaction from the army ranks. More importantly, none of the soldiers claimed to have received orders from any civilian or from any authority other than their commanders and the General Headquarters. The few statements extracted from the soldiers who “confessed” their ties to the Hizmet Movement were taken under severe torture and therefore cannot be accepted as valid evidence in any democratic state of law. It is interesting to note that the pro-government media outlets themselves published photographs of the soldiers subjected to severe torture. The eclipse of conscience in the AKP-tutored media is exemplary.

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The West No Longer Buys Erdoğan

Is it only for these reasons the West has largely not believed in Erdoğan?

Democratic countries did not buy Erdoğan’s July 15 rhetoric. This is because they know Erdoğan and they trust their own intelligence agencies. Moreover, it is Erdoğan who has to prove his claim and he has so far provided no credible evidence of an actual coup. Several experts and intellectuals in the Western world, studying the events after July the 15th and the policies of the Erdoğan regime, point out similarities with the Reichstag Fire in Hitler’s Nazi Germany. For example, several purged officers had been serving in the NATO headquarters. They were accused of coup involvement while they were there abroad. Didn’t their counterparts notice the course of events? Don’t they have their own intelligence flux? Western observers believe it is incomprehensible an event of that magnitude, requiring weeks – perhaps months – of preparation, could have been orchestrated remotely from another continent and not discovered by the Turkish intelligence units, including miscellaneous intelligence agencies. Erdoğan claimed he had learned about the unfolding coup from his brother-in-law rather than from his own intelligence officials and gave four contradictory statements about the time of the phone call he had received. Erdoğan convince no one if he states four different times about the time he learned about a watershed and vital incident.

Crimes Committed Against Humanity

Considering the points you have mentioned about the so-called coup attempt, which has so weak foundations, and considering millions of families and victims held in prisons for years, both in overcrowded wards and in isolation cells, can it be concluded that the Erdoğan regime has committed a flagrant crime against humanity through inhumanity and practices bordering on genocide?

In 1996, Gregory Stanton, head of Genocide Watch, presented a report titled, “The Eight Stages of Genocide”. He said genocides take place in eight steps that are “predictable but not inevitable”. These were Classification, Symbolization, Anti-Humanism, Organization, Polarization, Preparation, Extermination and Denial. In this itemization, the participants of the Gülen Movement have experienced all stages except extermination. Mass arrests and detentions continue daily. Every stage has been experienced except massacre. Based on this data, it is possible to say the Erdoğan regime has abandoned the participants of the Gülen Movement to social death and committed crimes against humanity. Several cases of torture have been registered by reputable international organizations. The crime of torture makes Erdoğan an accused in this context.

Erdoğan: Master Triumphalist

Then I would like to ask, despite all these injustices, bad governance and committing crimes against humanity, what makes Erdoğan strong and what makes him win every time?

There are several reasons Erdoğan has emerged victorious from every election. Turkey has a sterile political system in which the opposition cannot formulate policies and thus follows Erdoğan’s footsteps on almost every issue. More importantly, the smartest strategy Erdoğan has implemented in over 20 years is his monopolization of the media sector. Erdoğan’s personality is that of a politician unbound by any principles when he is in a pinch. A figure without rules and principles, he can somehow compromise with the international system and sail his ship. Thanks to the media power and the state authority, he can further his own interests as the interests of the society and the country and sound convincing. As in all one-man regimes, he is unprincipled. This makes him unrivaled. Turkey has always been indispensable because of her position in the NATO and her regional influence. Erdoğan can use this position effectively to consolidate his power.

The Future of July 15 Cases

Do you believe July the 15th can be brought to light or, considering all elements of the state, can that ever be allowed in an environment where Erdoğan has won all the elections?

Actually, July the 15th has come to light to a great extent. It is clear what happened and what had not happened. However, the conjuncture does not allow the voices of the victims to be heard. In a system where the rule of law prevails, the coup allegation would be easily tested and revealed by all its dimensions. Had independent judiciary been in charge, the truth would have been manifested fast. However, this is a grim prospect in the current conjuncture, because the AKP government and its associates, who obfuscate the facts and prevent the truth from coming out, control all the institutions of the state. The judiciary is entirely under their control. The media too. The opposition has no interest in investigating the truth. Brave journalists find themselves in jail if they ever attempt to investigate. Erdoğan has manipulated the public so notoriously that if he were to come out today and say “O my fellow citizens, I organized the coup! I set a trap, some people died, but it was good. Look! I purged everyone in the opposition!”, a mass of voters would exclaim “Well done!” and applaud him. In short, under these circumstances, letting daylight into the July 15, 2016 coup attempt can only happen in the event of a terminal split between the regime elites.

Exiled and Imprisoned Journalists

Last, I would like to ask you about your imprisoned journalist colleagues and all imprisoned journalists. Journalists have paid a huge price in this phase. They lost their jobs; their institutions were seized and some have been in prison for years.  What would you like to say about this?

Erdoğan seized the media first. He bought the ones he could buy and shut down the ones he could not, by using public power. Independent journalists are in prison or in exile. He had the passports of those who could go into exile revoked. He had arrest warrants issued on them. He even had their social media accounts banned from view in Turkey. He tried to discredit those he imprisoned by saying “They are not journalists; they are terrorists”. Today, there is no free media in Turkey. Of course, the Turkish media has never been free by Western standards, but it has never been so pro-government and this much controlled. The Western world has indirectly supported Erdoğan’s totalitarian regime. Erdoğan exploited Turkey’s strategic position, using refugees as leverage. The US and EU leaders also caved in to Erdoğan’s bluffs. Dozens of journalists languish in Turkish prisons nowadays. Western leaders continue to see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. This burden of shame will be written on their tab. As a bunch of exiled Turkish journalists abroad, we will continue to be the voice of truth and the victimized.

Mr. Adem, thank you for your answers and your time…

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Engin Yigit is a Politurco columnist, activist, and author. Follow him at @enginyigtt.

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