Henri Barkey: Why Is Turkey Accusing Me of Plotting a Coup?

Dominic McKenzie
Dominic McKenzie


Date posted: September 1, 2016

Henri Barkey

On the night of July 15, elements of the Turkish military attempted a coup. It was a poorly organized effort that was defeated by a combination of people power, loyal units and serendipity. What made this failed effort remarkable was the putschists’ extreme brutality against civilians who resisted or happened to be in their way. Some 240 people were killed.

I was in Turkey at the time, leading a workshop on Buyukada, an island that is a 45-minute ferry ride from Istanbul. The workshop, which had been planned months earlier in conjunction with an Istanbul-based think tank, brought a small number of experts together to discuss Iran’s relations with its neighbors. Academic gatherings like these are important for my work, but I suspect most people would have thought it was pretty dull.


The purge is only the first step: The real aim is to change the Constitution and create a presidential system with weak checks and balances, enabling Mr. Erdogan to rule unchallenged.


Some people in Turkey, however, saw something far more nefarious. They thought I was behind the mutiny.

A headilne in Turkey reads, "CIA agent came to Istanbul on the day of the coup"

A headilne in Turkey reads, “CIA agent came to Istanbul on the day of the coup”

Soon after the coup was defeated, my colleagues and I became the targets of sensationalist conspiracy theories promulgated by Turkey’s pro-government press. The accusations ranged from organizing the coup on behalf of the C.I.A. to setting up communication links for the plotters and, most implausibly, bringing a convicted murderer from California into Turkey to engage in evil deeds.

Another headline reads, "Police is after Henri Barkey"

Another headline reads, “Police is after Henri Barkey”

The coup attempt appears to have been carried out by a hodgepodge coalition of officers: some loyal to Fethullah Gulen, a reclusive cleric who lives in Pennsylvania and was once an ally of the ruling party but is now its fiercest enemy, alongside strict secularists and some other opportunists who probably knew they would soon be dismissed from the military.

The Turkish people rejected the threat to their constitutional order. But in the weeks since, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has harnessed the trauma of the coup attempt to overhaul the state and its institutions. As millions have rallied to his side, he has begun to implement policies that had long been in the making, especially purging the Civil Service. The purge is only the first step: The real aim is to change the Constitution and create a presidential system with weak checks and balances, enabling Mr. Erdogan to rule unchallenged.

United States-Turkey relations are among the failed coup’s casualties. The decades-long Turkish-American relationship is based on more than just NATO membership. It is rendered strategic by a variety of transactions in almost every imaginable arena, from the environment to scientific research, cultural and educational exchanges, and important business ties.

This is all at risk now.

Turkish society has long been steeped in conspiracy theories, but the widespread stoking of anti-Americanism today is unprecedented. The accusations leveled at me and the other participants in our workshop — in the absence of any evidence — are cynical attempts to blame Washington and bully the United States into extraditing Mr. Gulen, and maybe even force it to abandon its support for the Kurds in Syria in the fight against the Islamic State.

What is most disturbing is that the attacks on me and the other academics appear to have been instigated by the government. The newspapers revealed details that only Turkish security services could have had access to, such as the exact time I crossed passport control entering and leaving Istanbul. Some of our Turkish colleagues have already been subjected to unfair retribution — suspended from their jobs or called in for interrogation. All of the participants in our conference have had our reputations unfairly damaged in Turkey and in the region. Abuse and threats have been pouring in through social media.

But beyond these petty attacks lies a more important issue. The Turkish press, which is almost totally controlled or influenced by the government, has come to characterize the United States as Turkey’s primary enemy. The government seems not to understand the long-term consequences of this.

Concerned about the safety of its citizens, the United States government has already announced a one-year suspension of Fulbright teaching fellowships to Turkey. Soon, civil society will pay a price, too, as opportunities for dialogue and space for honest analysis and critique, not to mention international business confidence, diminish.

The Obama administration clearly hopes that quiet diplomacy and time will somehow return things to normal. In dealing with Turkey, a difficult ally prone to gusts of emotion, Washington’s fallback option has always been to turn the other cheek. But this won’t work in today’s atmosphere of calculated hysteria.

Last week, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. went to Ankara, the capital of Turkey, in an attempt to mollify Mr. Erdogan and his government. It appears to have been a futile effort. On the same day the vice president arrived, the Turkish military went into Syria, where it is now fighting American-backed Kurdish forces. The anti-American conspiracy theories continue.

There’s another opportunity coming up. President Obama will meet on Sunday with his Turkish counterpart. Mr. Obama is the only American official who still carries weight in Turkey. When he speaks with Mr. Erdogan, he should address genuine Turkish concerns about the coup attempt. But he should also use the opportunity to forcefully — and publicly — demand an end to America-bashing before it is too late.


Source: New York Times , September 1, 2016


Related News

Finance Minister is the 1001st volunteer at meat distribution campaign

Mehmet Simsek, the Minister of Finance, spent the first day of Eid-Al-Adha at his hometown, Batman, an ethnically diverse city in the Southeastern Turkey. There he attended Kimse Yok Mu Association’s brotherhood event. When Simsek was told that a thousand volunteers from outside the city were gathered in Batman for the Eid-Al-Adha, he replied “Then, I’d be the thousand and first one!”

Turkey investigating 4,167 Gülen followers in 110 countries

At least 4,167 people in 110 countries are being investigated in Turkey over their links to the Gülen movement, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Thursday.

Said-i Nursi: An Ottoman Scholar in Turkish Republic

The saying goes as “The death of a wise man is like the death of the universe.” Those who can combine intellectual capacity with a purified spirit are like the enlightening candles of the world. As the Quran told us, among human beings only the wise men can have a true respect to Allah, because they are unprecedented examples of standing against cruelty, unswerving determination and constant struggle.

Turkey’s Intelligentsia Kneels to Erdogan

This selective application of democratic rights by Turkey’s intelligentsia only helps Mr. Erdogan consolidate his power. In their double standards, he finds tacit approval for his purges. Turkey lacks not only sturdy institutions that guarantee a system of checks and balances and the rule of law, but also a critical mass of citizens with the courage and integrity to demand them.

Turkey introduces new decree law to seize all Gulen-related companies

Thanks to a new decree law released as part of the state of emergency declared late on July 20 following a failed coup, Turkey’s government is now set to seize all the Turkish companies owned by businessmen somehow linked to the US-based Islamic Scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Turkish minister’s leaked emails show pro-gov’t figure has eye on Gülen-linked dormitory

Leaked emails of Turkey’s energy minister and son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Berat Albayrak, have revealed plans by a pro-government figure to assume ownership of a dormitory in Kayseri province that used to be operated by the Gülen movement but was closed down by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

Latest News

Fethullah Gülen’s Condolence Message for South African Human Rights Defender Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Hizmet Movement Declares Core Values with Unified Voice

Ankara systematically tortures supporters of Gülen movement, Kurds, Turkey Tribunal rapporteurs say

Erdogan possessed by Pharaoh, Herod, Hitler spirits?

Devious Use of International Organizations to Persecute Dissidents Abroad: The Erdogan Case

A “Controlled Coup”: Erdogan’s Contribution to the Autocrats’ Playbook

Why is Turkey’s Erdogan persecuting the Gulen movement?

Purge-victim man sent back to prison over Gulen links despite stage 4 cancer diagnosis

University refuses admission to woman jailed over Gülen links

In Case You Missed It

Two-truck load of Kimse Yok Mu aid for Turkmens

Conspiratorial minds, authoritarian politics

GYV slams government attempt to silence critics with recent measures

Fethullah Gülen extends condolences over death of Turkish literary giant

Educational unions lash out against gov’t-backed school raids

Kimse Yok Mu provides fast breaking meal to orphan students in Kenya

Former US diplomat: War on Turkish schools in Africa ruining Turkey’s credibility

Copyright 2022 Hizmet News