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July 15, 2016, Turkey: A Genuine Attempt or a "Synthetic" Coup for Media Consumption?

By: Alliance for Shared Values

About the Alliance for Shared Values

The Alliance for Shared Values is an umbrella non-profit serving as a unified voice for several civic, culture and service organizations around the U.S dedicated to promoting community service, education and interfaith dialogue. The Alliance’s local partners are founded by individuals who are participants in the Hizmet social initiative originated by Turkish Islamic scholar, preacher and social advocate Fethullah Gulen. The Alliance works with people and organizations of all backgrounds and faiths to promote greater mutual understanding, cooperate on meaningful projects, and build solidarity among all members of the human family.

About Hizmet Movement

Beginning as a grassroots community in Turkey in the 1960s, Hizmet today is a transnational social initiative that advocates for the ideals of human rights, equal opportunity, democracy, non-violence and the emphatic acceptance of religious and cultural diversity. Hizmet’s culturally and religiously diverse supporters are inspired by the life and works of Fethullah Gulen, one of the world’s most influential Muslim figures for his decades-long commitment to empowerment through education, interreligious dialogue and altruism. Hizmet participants bring to life these ideals by promoting philanthropy and community service, investing in education for cultivating virtuous individuals, and promoting intercultural and interfaith dialogue for peaceful coexistence.

Executive Summary

On July 15, 2016, Turkey experienced a horrific and historic event. During what appeared to be a military coup attempt, the Turkish parliament was bombed, and hundreds of civilians and soldiers lost their lives. This attempt appeared to have been planned and executed with remarkable incompetence and was crushed quickly. The failed attempt has been used as a pretext to launch an unprecedented crackdown by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his political opponents and the free press, clearing the way for the president to further consolidate power. In this report we examine three narratives about the July 15 attempt. The junta narrative that is voiced by Erdogan and his government, and two narratives voiced by observers, the broad coalition narrative and the collusion narrative.

• Many outside observers noted the convenience of a weak coup attempt that was crushed easily and enabled Erdogan to purge all his critics and subjugate the military. Lack of access to key witnesses and Erdogan government’s remarkable unwillingness to fully investigate the incident made it nearly impossible to piece together a factbased, coherent narrative.

• This report argues that the collusion narrative, which implies that some military commanders colluded with Erdogan to stage a limited mobilization of military units that gave the appearance of a coup, has the most explanatory power. • Per his junta narrative, Erdogan rushed to accuse Pennsylvaniabased Turkish Islamic Scholar Fethullah Gulen as the mastermind of the coup attempt as early as midnight July 15, despite the impossibility of a proper investigation by that time. Gulen has publicly condemned the attempt while it was ongoing, denied any involvement with it, and challenged Erdogan to allow for an independent investigation conducted by international observers. He pledged to abide by the conclusion of the investigation and return to Turkey if found guilty. Erdogan has not responded to this challenge.

• Erdogan’s junta narrative was not found credible by Western observers and governments. Reports by government agencies and declarations by intelligence officials within the European Union and the United States have rejected the allegation that Gulen orchestrated the attempted putsch.

• Erdogan’s junta narrative has an ever-growing number of contradictions. More importantly, it fails to explain actions that are counterproductive to a military coup such as the closure of Bosphorus bridge, the bombing of the parliament, the attack on police headquarters, the alleged attack on Erdogan and the deliberate targeting of civilians.

• The broad coalition narrative which is put forward by some observers and implies that a broad coalition of officers planned the attempt but stumbled upon being discovered early, has some explanatory power but fails to explain some of the aforementioned curious incidents during the attempt.

• The collusion narrative, which implies that some military commanders colluded with Erdogan to help create an atmosphere of expectation among the lower-ranking officers, mobilize a limited number of military units to give the appearance of a coup and trap unsuspecting officers, has the most power to explain the curious sub-events of July 15.

• The collusion narrative also implies that the neo-nationalist, anti-American, Eurasianist clique within the military was part of the collusion, explaining in part Erdogan’s getting closer to Russia in 2016 with his apology for the downing of a Russian jet, culminating in the purchase of Russian-made S400 missiles

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