What does a coup plotter do? This question is not difficult for Turkish people to answer. As citizens of this country, we have experienced the following incidents: Two military coups in 1960 and 1980, two coup attempts in 1962 and 1963, a memorandum issued by the army in 1971 that resulted in a constitutional amendment, the meeting of the National Security Council in 1997 which resulted in the resignation of the government, the electronic press release of the General Staff in 2007, and a military coup attempt in 2016 which was followed by a state of emergency and a regime change.
The circumstances surrounding each were different and the consequences were different. To understand how a coup works, each one of them presented a model. Coups aim to suspend the existing constitutional order and/or shape it via antidemocratic means. They use force or they threaten to use force. We know from our history what instruments they use to achieve this.
Now let’s talk about what happens to a political community during a coup:
1- Constitutional order is suspended. Rather, the political establishment is left without a constitution. That means the executive body is established by the coup plotters, and what it says and does are of constitutional value. Constitutional norms are no longer effective or valid.
2- Democratic platforms of politics are abolished. For example, parliament is dissolved or rendered dysfunctional under the guidance of the military-created executive body. Political parties are closed or left at the mercy of the executive power. Members of political parties may be subject to screening, their nominees may need to be approved, and politicians may have long-term political bans imposed upon them.
3- Social and political criticism is not accepted. People who generate critical thinking are removed from institutions. Universities are rectified. The press is controlled.
4- Crimes such as torture and forced disappearances become ordinary incidents. While these crimes are committed, constitutional guarantees for citizens are removed.
5- Citizens are blacklisted, contrary to the presumption of innocence. They leak the names and addresses of those listed by the military intelligence or other official institutions to the press under their control and discredit them by fabricating crimes.
6- The objectives may have differences in conjectural aspects, but coups aim to implement a new order and new practices that cannot be established through democratic means.
7- Therefore, it is not possible to think of coups separately from conflicts within the political community, or from conflicts among cliques within the state.
It would be either naïve or supportive of the ruling AKP-MHP regime if we analyzed the situation without considering the current state of our political community. The recent statement of retired admirals regarding the Montreux Convention has inserted back into our lives the coup supporter verses anti-coup dichotomy. This should be analyzed through a perspective including the consequences of historical experiences.
This is an impasse of the “civilian politics thesis,” which laid the groundwork for the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) period of political hegemony until 2013 and its maturing dictatorial tendencies after 2015.
This thesis ignores the main dynamic of social conflict in Turkey, minimizing the main conflict to a conflict between state forces and its elites, or between military-civilian bureaucracy and civilian government. Therefore, the political-economic dynamics on which the coup plotters are based and the political-economic basis of civilian governments are never included in this analysis. In such analysis, there are no people with different backgrounds; there are no organized workers and organized employers. It does not refer to the wealthy whose richness is ever-growing and the poor who are getting poorer. There are no Kurds whose rights are violated. There are no Alevis who are forced to other beliefs and there are no women who are being killed as if they were in a war.
Both the civilian government and coup plotters use the word democracy; but demos are not seen on the street or in town squares. The moment the demos appear and express their demands via democratic means, the civilian government willingly cedes some of its power to the coup plotter. The present situation in our country has taken this analysis to such an extreme that there is nowhere to go from here. The dichotomy of the putschist military and the civilian government has become a political discourse and a government discourse in today’s Turkey.
I tried to summarize the actions of the coup plotter, the general functioning of a coup based on experience, and what the coup stager usually does. Now, let’s ask a simple question and try to come up with simple answers: What should a person who is against coups do?
1-Why are you against the coup if you already want to suspend the constitution, remove constitutional assurances and institutions, and not respect any rules and institutions that will restrict your authority?
2- Why are you against coups if you are already going to eliminate legislative institutions, the parliament, and shut down political parties or constantly threaten to shut them down, and try to control who can and cannot participate in politics?
3- Why are you against coups if you are going to have the elected deputy in the parliament detained by a policeman who has been accused of torture, in a possible life-threatening operation?
4- - Why are you against coups if you are keeping the head of the third biggest party in the country in prison for years? That party has received six million votes in the presidential elections. There is a binding international court ruling demanding his release and that ruling has pointed out he is being kept in prison for political reasons.
5- If you are not going to issue the certificate of election to the elected mayor and if you are going to appoint a trustee to replace the elected mayor, then, why are you against coups?
6- If you are going to dismiss academics from universities because their views do not match yours, and if you are not going to respect freedom of expression and academic freedom, then why are you against coups?
7- If you are going to arrest journalists for reporting, if you are going to suppress and control the media and turn it into a propaganda tool, then why are you against coups?
8- If you are going to plainly deny the allegations of torture instead of investigating them, and blame those who file claims of torture; if you are not going to take action against those who have kidnapped students in the middle of Ankara in broad daylight; if you are going to detain people who exercise their right to protest by choking them and torturing them in front of the world, why are you against coups?
9-If you are going to give the names of citizens to newspapers to blacklist and discredit them, why are you against coups?
Of course, they will never answer these questions. But these are questions concerning the survival of citizenship and civil rights in Turkey. The current dictatorship cycle cannot be broken unless there is a drastic to the political mentality, which sees democracy as a procedure for decision-making, which excludes the role of the people, which accommodates conflicts, which excludes class, and which minimizes democracy to gain favor with the elites.
Within the current de-institutionalized regime, in which those institutions that could have checked and balanced the executive body have been eliminated and made dysfunctional, there is no problem in saying actions of the opposition are mean to pacify the people.
If being against coups is a political practice, there must also be the political principle of defending the substance of democracy and civil rights.