Turkey – A failed coup attempt and a state of emergency announced

On July 15th in Istanbul and Ankara Turkey, as tanks rolled onto the streets and jets tore through the sky the country saw its military make a grab for the reins and not for the first time in its relatively young history as a republic. Between 1960 and 2001 the Military has intervened with the government four times in attempts to restore and enforce democratic secular rule, as religiously inclined leaders steered Turkey down an increasingly Islamic path. Religious fundamentalism is a powerful force which continues its battle against secular governance. The current political party in power, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), are said to have become increasingly more autocratic and less secular sparking internal discontent from some parts of the military and society. The failed military coup highlights many fissures in Turkish society which have become apparent in recent years. 

Following Friday’s coup Turkey’s president announced a three month state of emergency. The state of emergency will allow the government to exercise drastically enhanced powers. They will be able to suspend or restrict the rights and freedoms of individuals, with the ability to bypass parliament in makings laws. The government also has the ability to ban press and media publications and communications. Since the president’s announcement there have been mass dismissals and arrests of civil servants, soldiers, police and judges as well as the reported closure of over 600 schools. Human rights groups have been critical of the declared state of emergency, while the EU have expressed their concern and encouraged the Turkish government to respect under any circumstances the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right of all individuals concerned to a fair trial. Recent events may have effects on the future of peace in Turkey and its political stability.

According to the 2016 Global Peace Index (GPI), produced by the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP), Turkey has fallen to 145th place out of the 163 countries ranked in this year’s GPI. Turkey fell seven slots from the previous year; this fall was the largest drop in its GPI score to date. It remains the least peaceful country in the European region. Its decrease in peacefulness has been largely attributed to heightened conflict with its Kurdish population, deteriorated relations with neighbouring countries namely Russia and increased terrorism impact. 

In 2015 Turkey suffered from a deepening of its internal security woes, a continued hard-line approach by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and spillovers from the conflict in neighbouring Syria. The main trigger for the deterioration in the domestic situation was the resurgence of conflict between the state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as well as a rise in terrorist activity, mostly on the part of ISIL. The country suffered its most deadly terrorist attack to date in October 2015 in Ankara, with 103 casualties and over 500 injured in the deadly bombings outside the Ankara railway station. 

The intensity of and the number of deaths from internal conflict have both deteriorated. Erdoğan’s tough stance against internal dissent has resulted in an increase in the number of jailed population as well as a rise in the number of security officers and police. 

Turkey’s relations with neighbouring countries also deteriorated in 2015, with tensions sparking with Russia after its Syrian intervention. In November 2015 Turkish military shot down a Russian aircraft which allegedly strayed into Turkish airspace, subsequently killing two Russian servicemen. This event has put a strain on its relationship with its second largest trading partner with economic sanctions being put in place on trade and businesses. 

Turkey said to alone be hosting an estimated 1.8 million refugees, this is a spillover effect from conflict in neighbouring Syria. 2016 GPI reported globally the number of refugees increased from 9.8 million in 2006 to over 15 million in 2015, a 52 per cent increase in under a decade. The increase in the number of IDPs was even more dramatic, rising from just under 12.8 million in 2006, to 34 million in 2015, an increase of 166 per cent. 

Although elections in 2015 consolidated Erdoğan’s authority, the excessive concentration of power in his hands, together with the numerous internal and external security threats, provides highly unpredictable prospects for sustained peace.

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