A few hours after the failed coup, Erdogan had a list of tens of thousands of alleged coup plotters and associates of Imam Fethullah Gülen, a preacher and Turkish political scientist, “like Bin Laden”, according to Erdogan’s description. The latter considers him the mastermind behind the coup attempt. Not only the military leaders who carried out the raid in the country and some nomenklatura supporters – as one should have logically expected -, but also a number of soldiers and civilians were identified and arrested over a few hours. Things happened as if there were ready-made black lists of ‘enemies’ and infiltrators, not to mention the vague accusation of supporting Gulen. “When you arbitrarily arrest thousands of people, it is called repression – the Italian president of the Chamber, Laura Boldrini, said -. And a country that says it wants to join the European Union cannot tolerate it. What is happening in Turkey should worry all of us. It is unacceptable.”
What worries the US and the European Union are the extent and speed of this action. The Turkish President’s reaction against the judiciary, police, and army has been too quick. Not to mention the fact that the purges struck also education and information. To put it simply, in the eye of an external observer, it looks like Erdogan did not suffer the coup, but organized it; as if he already had a plan to change the entire establishment in the country. “We will continue to expel the virus from all state institution, because this virus has spread like cancer, engulfing the state,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Istanbul, during the funeral of some of the victims of the coup.
Let us recap a few numbers: over 6000 soldiers, 103 generals and admirals of the Armed Forces have been arrested. Moreover, 2,745 judges have been lifted from office, nearly 8,000 police officers have been suspended in Ankara and Istanbul, and 8,777 employees of the Interior Ministry have been lifted from office too. The Ministry of Finance has suspended about 1,500 employees. 30 governors and 50 local administrators have been suspended. 15,200 civil servants have been suspended, 21 thousand teachers from private institutions have been deprived of their teaching license, 1,577 deans and rectors have been asked to resign. As if it were not enough, 24 radio stations and television channels have been closed, 370 employees and journalists of the public television TRT are currently under investigation. Five members of the HSYK itself, the highest judicial body in Turkey, have been lifted from office, according to the press agency Anadolu. The Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), the highest Islamic authority, which depends on the State, announced that it had dismissed 492 employees – including imams and religion teachers –, for the same reason.
The most problematic thing is the “blatant violation of human rights”, as denounced by Amnesty International: “Piled up on the ground, half naked, with their arms and legs tied up, probably in the gymnasium of a military building. These shocking images have gone viral on social networks in the last few hours, showing the detention conditions of dozens of Turkish soldiers, who were arrested after the failed coup. There are also other photos of arrested plotting soldiers with clear signs of beatings.” The United Nations declared that it fears and condemns “the reintroduction of the death penalty, which would be a violation of Turkey’s obligations under international human rights law, a huge step in the wrong direction,” the High Commissioner of Nations United for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said. Turkey is running to join the EU and this situation might become yet another example of ambiguity shown by a regime that may obtain a ticket for the EU avoiding executions while maintaining a totalitarian regime inside the country.
On the other hand, Erdogan’s ambiguity is ancient. Suffice it to look at a picture of him kneeling in front of Hektmatiar, Taliban lord of war and Al Qaeda’s ally, a picture that dates back to the nineties (published by a Turkish newspaper when Erdogan became prime minister in 2003: the newspaper was seized and its director was arrested). But it would be enough also to consider his support offered to ISIS in recent times, or the bombing of the Kurdish allies of the Western countries against ISIS. It seems obvious that everything was ready in advance, the proscription lists were compiled and ready to use. But the West still sees the mess it provoked by eliminating the appointed leaders at the time when the Arab Spring broke out, an operation that was far from exporting democracy, creating chaos in the Mediterranean and paving the way to Daesh’s fundamentalism.
Not everyone remembers that, but on March 20 the European Union and Turkey have signed an agreement for the management of migration flows towards Europe. The number of migrants who try to cross illegally the border between Turkey and Greece has drastically decreased (it has gone from an average of 1,700 a week to 47). Yet, as the European Commission explained a few months ago, there is still much work to do and the success of the agreement will depend on the political will of all parties involved. A situation that resembles Gaddafi’s situation in August 2008, when he signed a cooperation agreement which, despite not being written, implied a block of the migrant flow. “The agreement with Libya is fine, because Libya will stop illegal immigrants instead of sending them here – former Minister Bossi said – because that is where all the immigrants come from.” Then Gaddafi was swept away…