I am shocked. My former colleagues in Kayseri, Turkey -- professional educators, including PhDs -- have been jailed, and the private schools and university I taught at are among thousands that have been closed, in a climate of hysteria, suspicion and fear following an attempted military coup in mid-July, 2016. It seems the country's private education system has ground to a halt during a three-to-six-month period of Marshall Law, or perhaps completely destroyed.
US Vice President Joe Biden, visiting Turkey and viewing the damage from the bombing of the Parliament building, compared the mood in Turkey today, after the coup attempt and almost routine terrorist attacks over the last year, to the mood in the United States after 9/11, only worse. "Imagine if the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, had made it to the US Capitol." He added, "Imagine the psychological impact on the American people."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his supporters blame ostensibly moderate Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, 75, who is living in the Pennsylvania Poconos, and his followers in Turkey, for the coup attempt.
The plotters seized state media, but did not shut down the Internet. Erdogan, vacationing in Marmaris, called CNN Turk on his IPhone and addressed the nation via the Facetime App, exhorting citizens to flood the streets to prevent the coup d'etat. And that they did.
"In the end, Turkey's coup failed because FaceTime and Facebook Live democrats beat the WhatsApp junta," reported Emre Kizilkaya of the Hurriyet newspapers.
As an outsider, an American, who doesn't speak Turkish, I can't pretend to fully understand the crises in Turkish society. If anyone reading this has insights, please feel free to post in the comments section.
I have been reading articles that do provide some insight:
1. Turkey’s Great Purge. Is President Erdogan crushing his critics or addressing a real threat to the Turkish state? NYTI.MS/2BFAC1N|BY MUSTAFA AKYOL. Akyol appears to be one of the most fair-minded journalists in Turkey that I have read. His article is among the best I have read about the current atmosphere.
Trying to grasp for historical parallels to the upheaval, historians and analysts have compared this purge to Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution in China in the 1960s and 1970s, and the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979.
“Mao and the Iranian Revolution are the ones that come to mind,” said Henri J. Barkey, a longtime expert on Turkey who is the director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “But these were revolutions. You expect this.”
He added: “So the interesting question is, Is Erdogan having his own revolution? He is going to completely restructure the Turkish state.”
This has raised fears of a prolonged witch hunt reminiscent of the McCarthy era in the United States in the 1950s.
Already, the country’s education system is stretched, with tens of thousands of teachers fired and every university dean, more than 1,500 in total, forced to resign...
Steven A. Cook, a Turkey expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, asked a simple question: “Who is going to run the universities?
“The purge of the education system — that’s the most remote from grabbing a tank or a plane and doing a coup,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, the Turkey director for Human Rights Watch. “I don’t know how the country will be governable at this point.”
3. Why Turkish President Erdogan fears the military (Washington Post). The execution of a former Turkish leader that still haunts Erdogan. A powerful president hopes to avoid the fate of his political icon.
4. Many Turks Prefer Even Flawed Democracy to Coup (NYTimes). After the attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, there was a sense of relief in Istanbul, and Sunday was a day of pro-government rallies and funerals.
5. Turkey's purge marks endgame in Islamist Civil War (Washington Post). Secularists in Turkish military once oppressed Islamists. Gulenists and Erdogan's AKP allied in a witch hunt against the secular military they feared would topple Islamists. Then Gulenists went after Erdogan and the AKP for corruption. Erdogan and the AKP retaliated, and are now engaged in a witch hunt against Gulenists for allegedly setting up a cult and "parallel state" based in educational institutions.
6. Turkey to Free Tens of Thousands of Inmates to Make Room for Coup Suspects. Some prisons are emptied of convicted criminals to make way for educators.
7. Obama Denies U.S. Involvement in Coup Attempt in Turkey. President Obama denied Turkish speculation that the United States was behind the failed military coup, saying that the rumors threatened the safety of Americans in Turkey. In response, Turkey says there's no evidence the US was behind the coup attempt.
8. Erdogan Seizes on Failed Coup to Supplant Ataturk, creating a new mythology for Turkey as his Islamists defend against so-called elitist Gulenist cult who allegedly staged coup and created "parallel state." Washington Post.
9. Just days before the coup attempt in July, Sabrina Tavernise of the NYT filed a report on the mood of unease among Turks as Erdogan "sculpts a new Turkish identity." Liberals and secularists said they felt hopeless, marginalized, unable to organize protests. Erdogan would clearly abandon Turkey's secular republic created by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk:
"Mr. Erdogan is tearing up the rigid secularist system imposed by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s, empowering the long-oppressed Islamic underclass and making Turkish society far more equal by carrying out economic policies that lifted poorer areas. But along the way, Mr. Erdogan has grown increasingly autocratic and his inner circle increasingly rich, and many Turks, including some from his own base, are worried about what he is erecting in place of the old system he is dismantling...
"In some ways, a search for a new Turkish identity was inevitable. Kemalism is a rigid, early 20th-century revolutionary ideology that forged a modern state. But it also repressed pious peasants from the heartland, along with ethnic minorities like Kurds. The fact that the Turkish identity is evolving is natural."
10. Turkey's purge could cause massive brain drain (New Republic). If Turkey does not quickly reassure educators that they are safe, not in danger of imprisonment, and will be returned to their jobs or find new work, the country could face a flood of tens of thousands of highly-skilled Turks fleeing the country, and the educational system will greatly suffer.
11. Why Turkey's Gulenist purge is going way too far. By Mustafa Akyol.
12. CHP, the Ataturk secular party, slams Turkish gov’t over ‘witch hunt’ against media, academics, teachers http://hry.yt/8LRod . The CHP also warned that Turkey’s “legitimate” post-coup attempt investigation must stick to the principles of presumption of innocence and individual criminal responsibility.
13. Turkey's Suspicious Mindset A Century in the Making (NYT). All about the Sèvres Syndrome, "harking back nearly 100 years to a treaty that was never carried out but that would have divided Anatolia, the Asian landmass that makes up the bulk of modern Turkey. The syndrome is named for the French city where Western powers, at the conclusion of World War I, signed a treaty that brought about the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Analysts have used the terms “phobia,” “trauma” and “syndrome” to describe the country’s mind-set, as if Turkey were a patient on a psychologist’s couch. Ever since Sèvres, they have said, Turkey as a nation has been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder."
Events in Turkey are fast-moving. I subscribe to the daily Turkish Digest, a compendium of news about Turkey from foreign and domestic sources. You can view the daily digest or subscriber here.