Part one of this series can be found here.
After the coup failed, a purge of the ranks of the military, schools, and many other industries began. Erdogan and his allies sought to remove Gulenist influence from Turkey. Over 21,000 teachers had their licenses revoked, 9,000 police officers were fired, and more than 10,000 soldiers were detained as part of the purge.
“I can call you a Gulenist, and it is very difficult for you to prove that you are not,” Texas A&M Professor Karasipahi said. “Many of the leftists, Kemalists and opponents of Erdogan now either are in jail, or have been exported from their profession. It’s a witch hunt.”
Karasipahi said that it is impossible that Erdogan didn’t know that a coup was coming, and said that he might have helped orchestrate it in order to consolidate power.
“60% of the military was Gulenist and [the government] was waiting for a possible coup by them,” Karasipahi said. “Everyone was saying this, everybody knew this.”
Karasipahi also said that the coup was a golden opportunity for Erdogan to use martial law and extended power to weaken other political factions besides the Gulenists.
“He needed this coup,” Karasipahi said. “Because afterwards, he could crush the Gulenists, alongside opposition groups like the secularists. For him, it’s God’s bounty.”
So in a secular country like Turkey, founded on Kemalism, how did an Islamist party (The AKP) come to power? Karasipahi says that it’s not that Islamism became popular in Turkey, although it does form a plurality of the electorate.
“The AKP knew how to get people’s votes,” Karasipahi said. “It’s not because people became ‘not secular’, or became Islamists that AKP got elected. They got elected because they know public relations very well. The two main groups who vote for the AKP are people who are rich who benefit during their rule, or very poor people who also get some small pensions like coal and goats before the election. The AKP created a sort of cycle of dependency.”
Finally, I asked Karasipahi if Turkey could recover from Erdogan’s presidency and the coup purge.
“Turkey needs to get rid of Erdogan, but that is not an option for the short run, because there is no alternative,” Karasipahi said. “And that is what brings AKP to power, there is no alternative because the opposition is not powerful enough. In the long term there is potential because the secularists are a majority, but they don’t know their power. They are not as well connected or well organized as the Islamists.”