End of Ataturk era

Before Abdullah Gul Turkey had had no civilian presidents. Domestic and foreign policies of Turkey were shaped by the General Staff, and it seemed to continue forever.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan finally put an end to the Turkey of Kemal Ataturk. For the first time in the history of the Republic of Turkey, Chief of Staff along with the army, navy and air force heads resigned before their term expiration. This is an unprecedented phenomenon, but it well fits in the plan adopted by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to transform the secular state into a moderate Islamist one. In fact, AKP can now celebrate its victory over the generals.

PanARMENIAN.Net - On the other hand Erdogan can well remember the recent history of Turkey involving five military coups that ended in the generals’ victory. Turkey had had no civilian presidents before Abdullah Gul. Domestic and foreign policies of Turkey were shaped by the General Staff, and it seemed to continue forever. Chief of the Turkish armed forces Isik Kosaner resigned on July 29, following a tête-à-tête meeting with the Prime Minister. Erdogan wanted Kosaner to retire. In response, Kosaner resigned, followed by a series of resignations from the Commanders-in-Chief of the Land Forces, Air Force and Navy. In fact, the plan “Bayloz” and Ergenekon did their job. Now it’s too late to guess whether there actually was a plan of a military coup or not. Most likely, there was something like that, but Erdogan, having learned by bitter experience of his predecessors, thought it best to play for safety.

On August 4, at the meeting of the Supreme Military Council of Turkey, army general Necdet Ozel was named the new Chief of Staff. Gen. Hayri Kivrikoglu was named the commander of land forces, while Adm. Emin Bilgel was made navy chief. The new air force commander is Gen. Mehmet Erten, and Gen. Bekir Kalyoncu heads the Gendarmerie. In addition, dismissal of 14 jailed generals was expected, but according to the latest news, decision on their dismissal with preservation of their military titles was deferred for a year with the aim of strengthening the position of the new Chief of Staff. As noted by the media, it’s the first time that all the commanders have been graduates of Turkish military academies. Earlier, these posts were occupied by graduates of U.S. and European military schools.

Meanwhile, Isik Kosaner has quite a remarkable identity. In July of 1974, his brigade was among the Turkish troops who occupied Northern Cyprus and left 165.000 Greeks without shelter. The general served 37 years before he decided to resign. According to him, the government intervenes in the affairs of servicemen and purges the generals, which, by the firm conviction of the general, is intolerable.

According to an expert at Marmara University in Istanbul, Behlul Ozkan, for the first time in Turkish history top military commanders decided to quit their positions rather than seizing power and deposing the elected government. Oddly enough, some Western experts assess the changes in Turkey as “victory for democracy and civil society”, yet there is nothing of the kind! It is appropriate to note that, for some reason, the West estimates any change in various countries as the victory of democracy, when there is not even a trace of it. One doesn’t have to look far for examples: the events in the Arab world that resulted in military rule particularly in Egypt, for some reason are presented to the world as a democratic improvement. Now the West is trying to do the same to Turkey, not considering either the political system or the mentality of the East. A similar attitude have chosen also Turkish opposition newspapers, in particular the newspaper Taraf, which considers the rearrangement of the General Staff of Turkey an important step in Turkey’s long road to democracy. According to the paper Today’s Zaman, Turkey’s new Chief of Staff Necdet Ozel is “an army man with strong democratic credentials.”

Another Turkish newspaper Milliyet, referring to expert Asli Aydintasbas, writes that resignations mark the end of an era, in which Turkey's military regards its role as guardian of the secular state established by Mustafa Ataturk. According to the expert, at this point the first Turkish Republic ends and there starts the second. However, based on the history of Turkey, it is hard to believe that the army could lose ground so easily.

Turkish society is moving away from secularism, becoming a one-party Islamist republic. But the army will not be able to pull it out of collapse, should it happen. Those who treat the latest developments as a triumph of the civil society are likely to be solely mistaken, because, in fact, Turkey is moving not towards democracy, but towards Islamism.

Karine Ter-Sahakyan
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