Freedom House: One year after the coup attempt, Turkey is more fragile than ever

The US-based independent watchdog organization Freedom House said on Friday that Turkish society is more fragile than ever and has no clarity on what happened on the night of July 15, 2016, when a group of putschist soldiers tried to topple the government.

In a blog on the Freedom House website, Nate Schenkkan, project director for Freedom House’s annual survey of democratic governance, known as Nations in Transit, said “Erdoğan’s relentless drive for power has worsened fissures in society, the military, and the ruling party itself.”

According to Schenkkan, there is no unity in Turkey and even no clarity about what happened on July 15, 2016.

“The government has said from day one that it knows exactly who carried out the coup, pinning it exclusively on what officials call the ‘parallel structure’ of the religious movement led by Fethullah Gülen. (In one prosecutor’s version, this structure worked in collaboration with then U.S. attorney Preet Bharara, U.S. senator Chuck Schumer, and the CIA.)” he wrote.

Describing the government’s position on the coup attempt as “absurd,” Schenkkan said there has been no effort at a public inquiry aside from “a comically incomplete parliamentary hearing” and selective leaks to the media to prove the government’s claim that the diffuse Gülen movement was behind the failed coup.

According to Schenkkan, circles around the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have failed to establish a clear hierarchy or leadership for the coup attempt, or to address critical questions, like why the powerful National Intelligence Organization (MİT) did not notify the president of the attempt for hours after they learned of it.

Underlining that much of the Turkish military and MİT are still under suspicion, Schenkkan noted that “Erdoğan is expanding informal paramilitary groups” while the mass purge of officers has opened up opportunities for other ideological factions to advance within the military.

“Why a significant number of secularist officers participated, and who the plotters expected to act as the political pillar of the junta. These are largely the same questions that observers had in July and August 2016. We may not learn the truth for years or even decades,” he said.

“Instead, from the first days, the response to the coup attempt transformed into a purge targeting all manner of dissent and disagreement, including from those with not even a nominal connection to the Gülen movement,” he added.

According to Schenkkan, in the political crisis in Turkey, the damages will take decades to repair as Erdoğan creates a Turkey that cannot survive him.

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