For those who see it as a person rife with paradoxes, enigmas, games and plots, history remains as ever ironic. While our minds and hearts were trained on blood-soaked Nice, while we tried in vain to comprehend this new inexplicable horror, we found ourselves watching live coverage of the coup attempt in Turkey – yet another incident in a country that is still crawling toward democracy, unable to stand up and walk confidently.
International diplomats expressed themselves in guarded words – waiting to see who the winner would be – but the majority of the public, and certainly those who did not immediately jump to the supposition that it had all been staged, sided unequivocally against the coup plotters. This did not mean supporting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of course, as his democratic deficits are all too familiar, but rather, opposing those who turned their tanks against a government that was elected by the people. The memory of the 1967-74 Greek dictatorship was enough to set us against such a movement, even though it proclaimed to be championing democracy.
In one of the many paradoxes of this incident, Erdogan also rushed to adopt the same pro-democratic rhetoric. When he called on the people (via the same technological medium that he has hounded) to take to the streets and resist the military faction that led the attempted overthrow, he was calling on his people – his unarmed and poorly equipped army of followers. These are followers who overlook – perhaps even applaud – their leader’s sultanic ambitions and identify with the Islamist agenda. These are people who couldn’t care less when Kurds are crushed, prisons are filled with dissidents (a massive category as a dissident is considered anyone who questions the authority of the president/monarch) or censorship tolerates only media that rain praise on the regime.
The Turks who poured out into the street were not just Erdogan supporters, but it was this category that won. It was they who led the lynchings against soldier-puppets, most of whom were probably in Istanbul for the first time in their lives, under the impression they were taking part in a military exercise. The biggest winner of all, of course, was Erdogan, not democracy, which was destined to lose either way. Drunk on his blood-sealed power, he tossed all pretexts into the Bosporus (together with the advice of the American and European leaders to respect rights and freedoms he has never before respected) and swept clean the Turkish stage of every irritating obstacle by implementing a policy of mass reprisals.
Erdogan is now the absolute monarch – but of a country that is deeply divided and unable to fulfill his dream of establishing it as a mini-superpower.