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Turkey’s Purge

2016 July 19
by Ian Welsh

turkish-flagErdogan was gleeful during the coup, and he has used it to clean house.

The number of people arrested with alleged links to the plot reached 7,543. They included more than 6,000 soldiers, 100 police officers, 755 judges and prosecutors and 650 civilians.

Earlier Monday, a senior security official told the Reuters news agency that 8,000 police officers, including those based in the capital Ankara and the biggest city Istanbul, had been removed from their posts on suspicion of links to last weekend’s abortive government takeover.

It seems very unlikely to me that all these people were linked to the coup. Instead most of them were probably on lists of enemies that Erdogan already wanted to get rid of.

Turkey’s remaining secular culture will now be strangled.  Erdogan wants to bring back capital punishment for those “involved” in the coup, saying his followers demand it.

The world continues to darken.  The great project for a secular Middle East, which was championed by many who lived there, appears dead and the Islam that is replacing it, with a few exceptions, tends not to be particularly humane.

This is far more important than whether Melania Trump plagiarized part of her speech, a sin which most ordinary people (contra the media) consider venial at best.

Update: the resignation of all public university Deans in Turkey has now been demanded.

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24 Responses
  1. V. Arnold permalink
    July 19, 2016

    I’ve followed this closely at and
    Apparently Russia warned Erdogan, hours in advance, of the planned coup.
    The U.S. did not warn Erdogan and he knows U.S.’s complicity by omission.
    The sense is that Turkey will move closer to Russia; and as a NATO member, things could get far messier than the current mess.

  2. July 19, 2016

    The road to a secular Middle East always led through elected, but not necessarily democratically-minded, religious parties. That’s been the case for a long time. The public there must first be able to expect that their choices will be respected, and that elections aren’t the antithesis of an Islamic identity. Only then can history move on, as it were.

  3. July 19, 2016

    The is a poem in that. We knew that Turkey’s ruling party would crack down. What happens after that?

  4. V. Arnold permalink
    July 19, 2016

    Ian, your link to now says more than 20,000 people have been “purged”; sounds like a pretty thorough house cleaning. Me thinks “democracy” will be bandied about in Turkey, just like in the U.S.; meaningless platitudes delivered to an ignorant populace.
    It brings to mind a Frederick Douglass quote;
    Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.
    Frederick Douglass

    A feckless populace pretty much deserves what it gets…

  5. Tom permalink
    July 19, 2016

    As on the last comment section. The Coup Plot was leaked and the Coup was launched prematurely.

    New details now coming out show essential planning documents were captured during the put down of the coup containing the names of almost all of these people who have been arrested, dismissed, and/or suspended. An aide to Erdogan himself was also arrested for being part of the coup and only a last minute tipoff allowed Erdogan to leave his resort before it was stormed.

    It seems though prematurely launched, the coup was well planned and nearly succeeded.

    If launched a decade earlier, it would have, but new social media platforms meant Erdogan could counter their message and his supporters could swiftly organize.

    Bombing Parliament brought the opposition parties to Erdogan’s side and their supporters.

    Social Media saved Turkish Democracy and the anti-democratic forces of Turkey are being swept away in a full house sweep. Such vipers can’t be allowed to hide in wait.

  6. V. Arnold permalink
    July 19, 2016

    @ Tom
    July 19, 2016

    Yours is a mish mash of irrelevances having no meaningful importance.
    Nothing in your post is accurate; if launched a decade earlier? Are you nuts?
    You totally miss the big picture; but then, you’re not about anything relevant, are you?

  7. Ivory Bill Woodpecker permalink
    July 19, 2016

    “As on the last comment section”, I suggest simply assuming that everything posted by Tom-Tom, the human drumbeat and propagandist for Ottoman restoration, is a lie, including “a”, “an”, and “the”.

    IIRC, I owe that quip to the late Dorothy Parker.

  8. Peter* permalink
    July 19, 2016

    It’s always enlightening when western liberal intellectuals show their true colors and return to patronizing Orientalism and Islamophobia to inform their readers of the superiority of western civilization. Claiming, even indirectly, that western civilization is somehow more ‘humane’ than Islamic civilization is a grotesque lie.

    I don’t think Kemal adopted the western model because it was superior but because it offered some protection from the vicious western Imperialists such as Churchill who loved to gas and terrorize Muslims. His plan worked and even kept the Russians from invading after WW2. Turkey and much of the MENA is rejecting much of this degenerate western influence today and that return to their own civilization has western Imperialists and self described anti-Imperialists and their quislings either calling for cleansing coups or more humanitarian bombs.

    Erdogan may be many things but he’s not a fool and only a fool would leave these cult followers in any positions of power or influence after they plotted against and murdered the people of Turkey.

  9. Ivory Bill Woodpecker permalink
    July 19, 2016

    Asterisk is correct that Western civilization is predatory.

    However, so is Islamic civilization. When they were able to plunder, enslave, and kill our people, they did exactly those things, so I can’t muster much sympathy for them.

    I think I will save my sympathy for the more truly innocent victims of the West, such as the Native Americans.

    I am pleased that the Ottoman Empire preceded Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union to the Good Riddance Cemetery of History, and I don’t want that glorified mob boss Erdogan to revive it.

    One of the reasons that the militant minority in the once-mighty Islamic world nurses a tremendous butthurt now is because at least since 1683, we’ve been more efficient predators than they. (Granted, they have more legitimate grievances as well.)

    They could have remained the more efficient predators, but the Ottoman Empire was too successful, in a way–its authorities were able to impose an orthodoxy of thought which stifled the scientific thinking that had sprung up in medieval Islamic philosophy, and so Islamic civilization lost the scientific and technological edge it once enjoyed over our civilization through much of the Medieval, and even Early Modern, periods.

    A similar unfortunate triumph of conformity befell China, which had blast furnaces, gunpowder, and a magnificent fleet of ocean-going ships before the West managed those things. Conformity of thought stifled scientific progress, and the blast furnaces were shut down, and the mighty fleet laid up to rot, at about the same time Europeans started venturing out on the high seas in force.

    Either of those two civilizations could have beaten us to the punch and dominated the globe, so we should study their mistakes, to avoid repeating them. China has learned from its mistakes, as has once-isolationist Japan. They, and the other states of the Sinosphere, have done an often admirable job of catching up, and they are even pulling ahead in some areas.

  10. Tom permalink
    July 19, 2016

    @ V. Arnold

    You are an irrelevant enemy of Democracy. Whatever you personally think of Erdogan is irrelevant. He is the elected President of Turkey who has worked within the system to get what he wants. Only the people, not the Military can decide if he goes or stays in power. This is what Democracy means. Nor is Erdogan massacring his people in the streets.

    The purge is a necessary act espoused by no less than the author of this blog as necessary to securing reforms. It is made even more necessary by the fact the military opened fire on unarmed civilians and ran them over with tanks, and bombed the very institutions of the state.

    Even HDP joined sides with Erdogan despite half of them being outright agents of PKK whose trials are soon to get underway.

    It should also be pointed out Erdogan resisted all calls to ban HDP, preferring only to try those who were caught helping PKK and let the voters decide in the next election if they want the remainder to stay in Government.

    In many ways Erdogan is Turkey’s Lincoln, and 20 years from now, the full breath of his reforms and strengthening of Democracy will be fully realized.

  11. Ivory Bill Woodpecker permalink
    July 19, 2016

    Tom-Tom, is Mob Boss Erdogan paying you enough to buy back your soul?

    Meanwhile, from Counterpunch:

    Robert Fisk weighs in.

    So does Patrick Cockburn.

  12. Ivory Bill Woodpecker permalink
    July 19, 2016

    The purge is a necessary act espoused by no less than the author of this blog as necessary to securing reforms.

    –Tom-Tom, the shill for the Sultan-wannabe, this thread.

    Will increase Erdogan’s power significantly. Not good.

    –Ian Welsh, a few posts ago.

    Tommy Boy, it doesn’t sound to me like our host approves of your boss, as he said an increase of your boss’s power is “Not good”.

    Why, Tommy Boy, should we believe anything you post?

  13. Hugh permalink
    July 19, 2016

    I am reminded of something Hannah Arendt wrote in Origins of Totalitarianism:

    “The superfluousness of secret services is nothing new; they have always been haunted by the need to prove their usefulness and keep their jobs after their original task had been completed. The methods used for this purpose have made the study of the history of revolutions a rather difficult enterprise. It appears, for example, that there was not a single antigovernment action under the reign of Louis Napoleon which had not been inspired by the police itself. Similarly, the role of secret agents in all revolutionary parties in Czarist Russia strongly suggests that without their “inspiring” provocative actions the course of the Russian revolutionary movement would have been far less successful.”

    What we now call intelligence services have, historically, been up to their eyelids in provocations which they could then exploit. It is pollyannish to think that the Turkish intelligence services had not infiltrated the coup movement, knew of its activities, and were there to set it off at a time when they (and Erdogan) could best exploit it and its aftermath.

  14. Hugh permalink
    July 19, 2016

    Re Erdogan being the elected president of Turkey, Saddam Hussein was the elected president of Iraq. And as Emma Goldman said, “If voting changed anything, they would make it illegal.”

  15. Peter* permalink
    July 19, 2016


    If you are interested there is an very good analysis of Erdogan, Turkey and the ME by Omar Kassem at Counterpunch that leaves the straw men comparisons and propaganda behind. He seems to actually know what he writes about and it is very informative.

  16. Some Guy permalink
    July 20, 2016

    Largely agree here Ian, but one thing you don’t mention is that it was the neglect of the people under secularism that created AKP and allowed them to thrive in the first place. You’ve commented in other contexts about how groups that the West condemns actually get the local support that sustains them by taking care of the people that those groups the West likes ignore and leave to rot – here we have another case.

    So in some very real sense, the Islam that is replacing secularism can be more humane, not less, and is a reaction to the inhumanity of the secularism that it is replacing. Of course, it is not all sweetness and light, by any means, but I couldn’t let the ‘western secularism good, middle eastern religiosity bad’ frame pass unchallenged.

  17. Ché Pasa permalink
    July 20, 2016

    It’s been… fascinating… watching the so-called progressive reaction to the Turkish coup attempt and its aftermath.

    “Regime change” — induced internally or externally by non-democratic methods — has become so normalized apparently that it’s almost an article of faith now that a coup or an invasion or a civil war or some such will result in a preferable outcome to whatever current democratically elected government exists. Thus the celebratory hosannas when the Turkish coup against Erdogan’s government was announced, and the frantic garment rending when its failure became apparent.

    The Turkish coup had to be a good thing because Erdogan was so horrible — not quite the New Hitler, but mighty close. Just as several years ago, there were “progressive” celebrations when Morsi was overthrown in Egypt, never mind that both Morsi an Erdogan were elected by the people, and their governments were installed by legitimate democratic means.

    We can’t say as much about the Bush II presidency in this country. But no one apparently thought to change that regime by coup or any other anti-democratic means. Or maybe no one thought they could get away with it…

    Of course any government subject to a coup and successfully repelling it is going to seek out and remove golpistas from the government. This is axiomatic, but when the Erdogan regime repelled the coup against it, immediate warnings were issued against engaging in a purge of golpistas and their allies or reinstating the death penalty as punishment.

    Interestingly, in the case of Egypt, where al-Sisi’s soldiers and police shot down thousands of Egyptians who’d taken to the streets to protest the coup (far more than were shot down by Mubarak’s forces in the previous revolt), there was near-silence from the progressive moralists, and when tens of thousands, indeed perhaps hundreds of thousands of Egyptians were subsequently rounded up, many to disappear, the silence was deafening. 

    Basically, the message is that when the people make the wrong choice of government, internal or external interests have the right to precipitate regime change by whatever means they choose. The government facing regime change has no right of self-defense. The people and their interests are irrelevant. Should they protest against the regime change imposed upon them, they can be and often will be subject to any amount of force the new overlords deem necessary — torture, death, and destruction are merely the tools needed to enforce the necessary change of government.

    The hypocrisy is not surprising — it’s long been a feature of imperialist ideology. Nor should anyone be surprised at the blowback. What is surprising is that anyone thinks this is a sustainable or appropriate policy, or that coups and invasions and various means of destabilization of governments make for a better world.

  18. hvd permalink
    July 20, 2016

    Thank you Peter* for the Omar Kassem at Counterpunch link: It forced me to actually reconsider what I thought I know. That is always a good thing. And that article was a far more forceful argument than the unsupported rantings of Tom who does no good whatsoever for the side for which he shills.

    I would really like to hear from either MFI or Ian on this article.

  19. hvd permalink
    July 20, 2016

    I would also not mind a Hugh response to the article.

  20. Peter* permalink
    July 20, 2016

    The visceral hatred of Erdogan and the people of Turkey who support him, displayed by people who claim to be of the Left and anti-imperialists seems to be more about their support for the bloody dictator Assad and Erdogan’s support of some of the Syrian rebels who according to them are all foreign terrorists under US, Saudi or Turkish control.

    The altered reality they have to project to justify their worship of an actual secular minority dictator or Iran’s theocratic Shia Islamist state is a strange and warped perversion of reality but they don’t seem to care about the details just the outcome.

  21. hvd permalink
    July 20, 2016


    You ought to quit while you’re ahead. I don’t think that this most recent comment/diatribe of yours is helpful. I found Kassem’s article to be of great interest and not in the least bit incompatible with support for Assad or Iran. In fact that article suggests that it is less Erdogan’s policy to be anti-Assad and Iran than it is his having taken temporary leave of his position as expositor of a third more Islamic inclusive way to avoid conflict with the the West’s infiltration of the Turkish shadow government – a far more interesting argument than your diatribes against those of us struggling to understand a very complex situation.

    Cogent argument does much better than name calling. This is why I would really like to hear MFI, Ian and Hugh’s take on this article.

  22. Hugh permalink
    July 20, 2016

    Kassem’s piece is propaganda and not even very good propaganda. Apparently, Erdogan is the Great Man, only when anything goes wrong, there is always some convenient scapegoat handy, like the Kurds, or Gulen, or an amorphous deep state.

    In Kassem’s up-is-down, black-is-white world, the notoriously anti-Kurdish Erdogan becomes some kind of defender of them. The brutal war he is waging against them is for their own good. Erdogan is constantly threatened. Yet at the same time, he has “total power right now”. So the constitutional “reforms” must be OK, i.e. he is already a dictator. And somewhere in there he is also a democrat but also “effectively Sultan”. He just wants to institutionalize his total control so as to limit his total control which would still be total. To say this is twaddle does not remotely go far enough. It’s more in the range of Goebbels would be so proud.

    At the same time, there was not word one about Erdogan’s corruption. Kassem beats up some on the Saudis in his article, but it was the Saudis who gave Erdogan’s son fake documents so he could flee Italy where he was being investigated for moneylaundering. The family was also involved in the ISIS smuggling of oil out of Iraq and Syria. Even though there are only about three conduits for such smuggling, so important to ISIS’ financing, the 300,000-400,000 man Turkish army and 170,000 strong gendarmerie, were unable to control them. And besides the hundreds of empty oil tankers going south and returning full, well really, how was Erdogan supposed to know?

    Kassem reads like Tom on steroids.

  23. Peter* permalink
    July 20, 2016


    You’re a tough nut to crack and even though I may not be as sanguine as Kassem about Erdogan his information explains much about the actual situation in Turkey, little of which you have refuted with facts. Erdogan did try to start direct talks with the PKK and the Gulanists tried to arrest the APK officials who were involved.

    You did rely on and parrot the widespread propaganda and rumors that even Putin with all his intelligence couldn’t produce actual evidence to back up after boldly stating he could. This doesn’t mean Erdogan or his son are clean just that rumors and accusations remain rumors and accusations until proven and there is a huge political component in these accusations.

  24. Peter* permalink
    July 20, 2016


    I don’t think I did any name calling except in reference to Assad and I know that description upsets some people probably because it’s true. I doubt that Kassem supports the dictator Assad any more than he supports the dictator al Sisi in Egypt. I haven’t read any of his writing about Iran but the cosmopolitan Islam he seems to desire might conflict with their theocratic authoritarian version of Islam.

    The Syrian war is very difficult to sort out because of the too numerous players involved but at its core it is a local uprising against a minority dictator. It’s a shame that the rebels have to depend on the US and Saudis for arms and supplies but that was unavoidable and it has tainted their cause allowing them to be branded as proxies and subjected to rumor and nonsense propaganda all in the service of confronting the hegemon.

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