Factionalism has left the country unstable in the face of terrorism and a separatist insurgencyby Simon A Waldman, Emre Caliskan / February 8, 2017 / Leave a comment
Last month, Prime Minister Theresa May made Turkey her last stop on a diplomatic tour. This week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held his first telephone conversation with the new US President Donald Trump. But the headlines about the £100m fighter jet deal May secured and the possibility of better relations between Washington and Ankara are distractions from the reality that the country is in turmoil. Within four weeks, Turkey saw the new year shooting at Istanbul’s Reina nightclub, claimed by Islamic State; the assassination of the Russian ambassador in Ankara; and the Besiktas football stadium attack in Istanbul, claimed by Kurdish militants.
Meanwhile, state institutions, including the security services, are weak, divided and in turmoil. Last July, a faction within the military made an unsuccessful coup attempt. The Turkish government, led by President Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP), claimed that the ringleaders were members of the Fethullah Gulen Movement. The government said that the self-exiled Islamic preacher and his followers formed a “parallel structure” within Turkish institutions such as the military, the police force and the judiciary, as well as educational and civil society organisations.
If what the Turkish government said is true, it is a de facto admission of the country’s fragility. What else can be concluded if state personnel were not acting in the interests of the state itself, but rather to a faction answerable to Gulen, an unelected religious figure who currently lives in Pennsylvania? But the infiltration of Gulenists into state institutions was not a surprise to Erdogan or the AKP. It was they who turned a blind eye, even encouraging the activities of the movement, considering it a counterweight to the secular establishment who have traditionally formed the rank and file of state institutions. It was only after Gulen and the AKP fell out that the foundations of state institutions crumbled. Indeed, the AKP used the Gulen movement’s “parallel structure” to dislodge the “deep state,” another network within the country’s institutions. For the most part this “deep state” was an instrument of the military and Kemalist elite—followers of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the country’s first president and secular state builder. It was used to maintain the secularist nature of the Republic and to…