Even though it remained ambiguous throughout the few hours on Friday night about the lever of control operating the coup d’ètat that tried to overthrow the democratically elected Turkish government, president Recep Tayyib Erdoğan was quick to blame his once ally Imam Fethullah Gülen who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, US. Anyhow, it still remains unclear the mastermind behind the orchestration of this Turkish coup.
Despite Turkey being a member of NATO, Erdoğan, a leader driven by conservative Islamic beliefs has brazenly turned against the West and its ideals of liberal secularism- may be only to play to the sentiments of the public to stay in power.
Fethullah Gülen, who is opposed to Erdoğan’s ideals and beliefs preaches and promotes a liberal version of Sunni Islam facilitating interfaith dialogue and secularism. In fact, Gülen is worth $25 million and his movement runs schools, charities and businesses across the US, Europe, Asia and Africa. Even though he practices a secluded life in Pennsylvania, his influence has become only stronger in Turkey in the recent years.
His movement named after him as Gülen movement, referred as Hizmet, was designated as a terrorist organization by Erdoğan’s government in May 2016 and its members became victims of persecution. As of April 2016, 2261 of its members have been detained. The supporters of the movement are in every walks of Turkish lives including its military. Erdoğan saw a coup coming earlier and hence he officially ordered a witch hunt against the Hizmet supporters, declaring the movement as a terrorist organization. The split began when Erdoğan accused the Hizmet supporters of demanding a corruption investigation against his government.
The United States had stayed away from the domestic politics of its ally and hence hasn’t extradited Gülen. During the coup, the White House stood its support to the elected government. Also, the United States do not recognize the movement as a terrorist organization and in fact, a news website of Hizmet reports President Obama sending his message to an international cultural festival held at Washington DC in April, an event inspired by the Hizmet movement. This stance of the US puts it’s diplomacy in odds with the political interests of Erdoğan, who has also been fighting the Kurdish rebels against the support of the US.
Erdoğan was also very much responsible for the political instability in Syria by supporting the rebels with cash, weapons and resources through the Turkish border with Syria against Assad’s government. Thus, like a failed marriage, neither Erdoğan nor the West can see a logical pattern or find some sort of sanity in their relationship.
This complexity in their relationship makes it difficult to figure out the perpetrators of the coup. Anyhow, it is not that it cannot be analyzed to know the executioner. Whoever it may, the coup is not a good news for the future of Turkish democracy. The coup gives a reason to Erdoğan to be more dictatorial in his already authoritative regime, suppressing the secular and minority population of the country.
To conventional wisdom, it doesn’t seem to be a Western effort, as it is not a successful one. Moreover, the West, especially the Obama administration’s diplomacy wouldn’t want to have its already fragile relationship with Turkey get more strained. Looking at the recent past events like designating the Hizmet movement as a terrorist organization only in 2016, when the split between the movement and the government had happened in 2013, a coup at this time can only favor Erdoğan than the West or the Hizmet movement.
Moreover, Imam Gülen practices and preaches a pacifist Islam that allows dialogue between faiths as he had already initiated with the Vatican and a few Jewish organizations to put an end to schism. Meanwhile, Erdoğan radicalizes his people for his political gains and power. This fabricated coup is his pass to bring absolute authoritarianism and wreak havoc across the continents while he enjoys his position as the leader of a misguided nation.