Fears for Turkey's Democracy Build as Post-Coup Crackdown Continues
"The attempted coup d'état of July 15 is like the last nail in the coffin."
The fallout from the failed military coup in Turkey extended through the weekend, as the number of people arrested rose to about 6,000 and world leaders continued urging restraint from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has said the plotters would pay a "heavy price."
Erdoğan on Sunday vowed to "clean all state institutions of the virus" of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish president blamed for the uprising. He said members of the "Gülen group" have "ruined" the country's military and are being taken into custody throughout all ranks.
"This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army," Erdoğan said.
Gülen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, has denied involvement in the revolt, which began late Friday night and was quashed by citizens responding to Erdoğan's call to action.
Some of the detained soldiers reportedly told interrogators that they did not know they were taking part in a coup attempt, and had been told by commanders they were conducting a military exercise. Some also said they only realized what was happening when they saw civilians climb on top of their tanks.
Images and video footage from Saturday morning showed a mass surrender as soldiers abandoned their tank on Istanbul's Bosphorus Bridge with hands raised.
Among those taken into custody were senior military officials and top Turkish judges. In addition to the crackdown in the streets on Friday, the Judges and Prosecutors High Council dismissed at least 2,745 judges across the country.
The BBC reports:
Those arrested on Saturday were reported to include Gen Erdal Ozturk, commander of the Third Army; Gen Adem Huduti, commander of the Second Army; and Akin Ozturk, the former Chief of Air Staff.
One of Turkey's most senior judges, Alparslan Altan, has also been taken into custody.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed concern over the Turkish government's response, telling "This Week" on ABC News Sunday that "We're all concerned, and we've expressed that concern that there's not...a reach well beyond those who engaged in the coup, but that [Erdogan's government] strengthen democracy."
The State Department also issued a statement in response to Erdoğan's accusations against Gülen which read, "Public insinuations or claims about any role by the United States in the failed coup attempt are utterly false and harmful to our bilateral relations."
Kerry was the latest Western diplomat expressing concern about Erdoğan's historically iron-fisted rule, which has stirred condemnation from human rights groups.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told France 3 television that Erdoğan must not use the uprising as a "blank check" to silence opponents.
"We want the rule of law to work properly in Turkey," Ayrault said.
However, as Simon Waldman writes for Haaretz, those hoping for a democratic resolution to the coup may be "bitterly disappointed."
Erdogan and the government will use this time to stamp their authority on all aspect of politics and society in a manner which will be swift and severe. Already over 2,700 judges have been removed. Further purges within the judiciary are likely to continue.
The coup attempt was highly undemocratic. In any real democracy the military should be firmly confined to the barracks and not interfere in the political process. The irony is that after this failed coup attempt, Turkey is yet again another step further from being a true democracy and will see a witch hunt against opponents of Erdogan and the AKP. The future is bleak for Turkey.
Sabancı University professor Ayşe Kadıoğlu, who lives in Istanbul, explains, "I realized in fear and agony that whether the coup was successful or not, one thing was certain: there would no longer be room in Turkey for people who can listen, read, analyze, and think critically. With the siren-like echoes of calls to prayer and military jets, Turkey was becoming a land only for true believers."
"This did not happen suddenly," Kadıoğlu says. "With the crackdown on media, academic freedoms, random arrests, and the increasing violence in the southeast provinces, citizens in Turkey have been facing major limitations on their basic freedoms for the past few years. The attempted coup d'état of July 15 is like the last nail in the coffin."