As we are commemorating the first anniversary of the thwarted coup attempt of July 15, 2016, we are still struggling to overcome the trauma of this existential threat to our country. July 15 was not a typical military putsch.
At the first sightings of fighter jets flying over Ankara and Istanbul, we recognized that there was something amiss. In the ensuing hours, this feeling was intensified by the horrifying realization that it was beyond a military coup d’état and that the perpetrators of this hideous undertaking actually consisted of the disciples of Fetullah Gülen, the man who calls himself “Imam of the Universe”.
It is impossible to find the appropriate words to describe the brutality and treachery that the putschists displayed that night. It was the worst act of terror in the history of the Turkish Republic.
They used lethal military hardware against innocent civilians who took to the streets to defend their democratic institutions. They killed unsuspecting military personnel who took them for their comrades in arms and commanders who refused to take part in the attempt.
The putschists used fighter jets to bomb the Turkish Parliament, the Presidential Compound, the National Intelligence headquarters, and the Special Forces headquarters in an effort to subdue the resistance against them. They attempted to assassinate the president and the prime minister.
On that night they took the lives of 250 Turkish citizens and wounded more than 2,000 people. July 15 was a trial of strength and perseverance for the Turkish democracy and the state. It makes us proud to have passed this test.
All the political parties, both in government and in opposition, the uninfected elements of the Armed Forces, the Police Force and the media stood up against the putschists. Above all, it was the people of Turkey from all backgrounds and political views who resisted and displayed a historic example of solidarity as they stood selflessly in front of the tanks and reclaimed their democratic rights.
Even on the night of July 15, it was obvious that Fetullah Gülen and his disciples were behind this bloody attempt. His desire to take control of the Turkish state and to reinstitute the regime according to his perverted religious ethos was no secret in Turkey.
For decades, he directed his followers to infiltrate all critical state organs, such as the police, the judiciary and the armed forces. These so-called ‘Gülenists’ constitute a typical case of radicalization by a cult of personality.
They believe that Gülen is the ‘Messiah’ and that they are the “golden generation”. Their loyalty is to him only, making them violate any legal, religious or ethical codes in order to advance the interests of this group.
They also excelled in concealing their affiliation with him, so that they can penetrate all circles without raising suspicion. In other words, FETÖ (Fetullah Gülen Terrorist Organization) is a new-generation terrorist organization that is based on hypocrisy, concealment and secrecy.
As a matter of fact, the Turkish government had already taken action against this mafia-like cultish organization and its financial resources before July 15.
The decision to shut down prep-schools was a huge blow against this structure, since these schools were the main recruitment centers and a major financial source for FETÖ.
It was followed by a series of administrative and judicial investigations into the criminal aspects of the organization, including their large-scale cheatings at the admission tests for public institutions, illegal wiretappings, money laundering operations, and many others.
The police and the judiciary also had taken measures to discharge FETÖ members from their ranks. In short, FETÖ was about to lose its power in Turkey. Attempting to capture the state by their disciples disguised as army officers and NCOs was their last chance to survive.
Hence, we were able to identify the perpetrator as FETÖ even on July 15. What was shocking for us, though, was the scale of their penetration of the Turkish Armed Forces. Their audacity to attack the Turkish state institutions and their sheer brutality were almost surreal.
In other words, July 15 was a stark revelation of the existential threat that targeted the very foundations of the Turkish state. FETÖ had in fact “moved through the arteries of the system without anyone noticing their existence” as advised by their leader Fetullah Gülen, and they had almost “reached all the power centers”; like the infection caused by a virus that gradually seizes vital organs of a body.
Now, after a year of extensive administrative, criminal and judicial investigations, we think we have a better grasp of what happened on July 15 and the perpetrator that was behind it. There are 78 ongoing court cases in 23 different provinces with regard to the perpetrators.
Prosecutors have gathered crucial evidence pointing to the unmistakable imprint of FETO behind the coup attempt. The Turkish authorities have also managed to decode encrypted communication systems such as ‘Bylock’, used only by FETÖ members.
Actually, that was the biggest breakthrough enabling the police to better identify FETÖ members who have infiltrated the state institutions and to illuminate their illegal activities.
During the last year, criminal activities of FETÖ have also been investigated in more than a thousand different court cases, bringing to surface the darker undertakings of the organization.
Confronting such a dark, sinister and clandestine structure is not easy. The Turkish government rightfully takes necessary and proportionate measures to suppress and eventually defeat this imminent threat.
The state of emergency, which was declared immediately after the foiled terrorist coup attempt and extended until mid-July 2017 in full conformity with our national legislation and international obligations, was necessary to make the state organs act swiftly and effectively. It is not intended to intervene in the daily lives of our citizens.
As acknowledged by the international human rights mechanisms, in the course of the attempted coup, very serious crimes amounting to massive human rights violations have been committed by the plotters. These crimes should be punished.
The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe further confirmed that the Turkish state has the right and duty to take necessary measures to confront the threats against the state and the people.
Utmost attention is paid for keeping the right balance between freedoms and security needs. Our international obligations are observed, as always. As part of our commitments, relevant international organizations are timely informed about the measures taken under the state of emergency.
Domestic administrative and judicial remedies exist for reviewing measures for those who claim they have been wrongfully suspected. To date, over 345 institutions that were shut down have been reopened.
More than 34 thousand public employees have been reinstated through administrative boards of review. We also continue our cooperation in a spirit of constructive dialogue with relevant international mechanisms, including the Council of Europe, the UN and the OSCE.
Taking also into consideration the recommendations of the Council of Europe, an inquiry commission has been established to address the measures taken through emergency decrees. With the establishment of the Inquiry Commission, the most important recommendation of the Council of Europe was fulfilled.
This decision was announced by the secretary general of the Council of Europe as a significant step forward, along with all other existing national remedies. The Inquiry Commission has also been recognized by the European Court of Human Rights as a domestic legal remedy.
We are committed to strengthening our democratic credentials, because we know that this is the only way to counter terrorism in all forms and manifestations.
We are determined to fight such enemies of democracy through democracy. We are aspiring to do so, while we also fight the most dangerous terrorist organizations simultaneously, that is the PKK and DAESH. In these critical times, we need support and encouragement from our friends.
The author is the ambassador of Turkey to Uganda.