Muslim Press has conducted an interview with Professor Nader Entessar, to discuss the situation in Turkey and the post-coup era.
Below is the full text of the interview:
Muslim Press: More than three months have passed after a failed coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. What could you say about the players of the coup? Has it become clear who were behind it?
Nader Entessar: There are still a number of unanswered questions about the failed Turkish coup. The Turkish government has placed the blame squarely on the Gulenist (Hizmat) movement. Given the extent of the Gulenist officers' presence in the Turkish armed forces and the police force, it is likely that some of them participated or supported the coup. However, to blame only the Gulenists for the coup may be an exaggeration by the government of Erdogan and a convenient excuse by Erdogan to go after its chief Islamist opponent. The Erdogan government has had many domestic opponents, ranging from the old-guard secularists, to the Kurdish and leftists sympathizers and to the Gulenists. There has also been critics of Erdogan's domestic and foreign policy adventures, including several in the Turkish armed forces, who would have gained from Erdogan's overthrow. Some inside Turkey have even blamed Erdogan himself for staging the coup in order to cleanse his opponents from Turkish politics. With the passage of time we may find out more about the genesis and the forces behind the failed Turkish coup. At this time, we only have the Turkish government's version of the coup.
MP: Which group(s) benefited from the failed coup? Which one(s) would have benefited if it was successful?
Nader Entessar: So far, Erdogan and his supporters have been the main beneficiaries of the coup. In a relatively short span of time, Erdogan has been able to sideline a large number of his real or imagined opponents. Depending on who the coup would have unfolded, several groups could have become the coup's beneficiaries. If the old-time secularists had come to power, the Turkish armed forces may have been able to re-direct the policy and philosophy of the armed forces away from that of the ruling AKP party. If the Gulenist officers were the driving force behind the coup, then the Hizmat movement would have been the main beneficiary of the coup.
MP: What were the main motives behind the coup?
Nader Entessar: The coup was very poorly organized, so it is difficult to identify any clear motives behind the coup. Obviously, the main goal of the coup was to remove Erdogan from power, but beyond that it is difficult to ascertain the exact motives of the coup. If the coup planners represented multiple groups (e.g. Gulenists, the Kurds, secular Turkish nationalists), then each may have had different motives beyond simply removing Erdogan from power. Again, unless we have more verifiable data about the coup, it is simply a matter of conjecture to talk about the motives behind the coup.
MP: What's your take on Erdogan's crackdown on his opponents that lead to the arrest of thousands under a state of emergency? Has he gone too far?
Nader Entessar: This is the biggest tragedy of the coup's aftermath. The extent and severity of the measures taken by the government are reminiscent of the worst days of the era of military dictatorship in Turkey during the 1980s. There are also comparisons between what has happened in the post-coup Turkey and the onslaught by the Chilean military dictatorship under August Pinochet in the aftermath of the overthrow of Salvador Allende in 1973.
MP: According to the Human Rights Watch, detainees have been beaten, sexually abused and threatened with rape by Turkish police. How would that affect Erdogan's stance regarding the coup?
Nader Entessar: Erdogan has defended the draconian measures taken against more than 10,000 Turkish citizens as necessary moves to defend Turkey's national interests and territorial integrity. He has also dismissed criticisms of his post-coup policies as groundless accusations by the enemies of Turkey.
MP: How do you see the post-coup Turkey and Erdogan's fate in it?
Nader Entessar: In the near term, I see a more aggressive or chauvinistic development in both domestic and foreign policy thrust of the Erdogan administration. We have already seen this trend in Turkey's regional policies and its hardening stance against the Kurds in Turkey and Syria. But I also think the Turkish society is much more sophisticated and more complex than it was thirty or forty years ago. We will eventually see push-backs against Erdogan's authoritarian and neo-Ottoman's policies.
Nader Entessar is a professor in and the chair of the department of political science and criminal justice at the University of South Alabama. He is the co-author of the recently-published book "Iran Nuclear Negotiations: Accord and Detente since the Geneva Agreement of 2013," and the co-author of the forthcoming book "Iran Nuclear Accord and the Re-Making of the Middle East."