An attempted military coup against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took place late Friday
Jenny White: Friday's attempted coup 'took Turkey out of Europe and placed it squarely in the Middle East'
Editor’s Note: Jenny White is a professor of Turkish studies at the Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies and the author of ’Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks.’ The views expressed are her own.
Until Friday afternoon, Turkey remained a competent and stable, if problematic, country that served as a buffer between Europe and the imploding Middle East and a partner for the United States. It suffered from terrorist attacks like European countries, and shared a world where solidarity could be demonstrated by Facebook posts and projecting the Turkish flags on national monuments.
That changed with Friday’s coup attempt.
The military action, the results of which are still unclear, took Turkey out of Europe and placed it squarely in the Middle East. It tore away the country’s stability, replacing polarization with what could end up being outright civil war, whether the coup succeeds or not.
All this adds yet another conflict to those already blooming like unholy flowers on Turkish ground: ISIS suicide attacks; renewed fighting with the Kurdish separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK); wholesale destruction of Kurdish towns by Turkey’s security forces, which have been given immunity; not to mention the ongoing low-level violence that infects Turkey’s society, especially targeting women. Turkey can no longer be a buffer against violence; it has become a sacrifice on its own altar.
As a result, the reality is that Turkey’s usefulness as a “safe” haven for Syrian refugees is now in doubt, destabilizing the already morally suspect EU pact that provides money to Turkey in return for keeping hundreds of thousands of refugees.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s descent into what is likely to be a government witch hunt for “putschists” and massive violent reprisals means more anger, more polarization and a destabilized population that is more likely to seek protection from outside.
Groups like ISIS will likely capitalize on this disenchantment to seek more recruits inside Turkey. From there, they will be able to pass to Europe, just as jihadis in past years had moved through Turkey on their way to Syria as the Turkish government turned a blind eye. As the saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and ISIS and other jihadis were fighting Kurdish militants, Turkey’s biggest bugaboo that blinded it to all other dangers.
The United States and opposition parties within Turkey disapproved of Friday’s attempted coup. But if the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party), led by President Erdogan, neuters it, as it appears at the time of writing to have done, we can expect President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to use it as an excuse to ruthlessly crush what thin spine of opposition remains, breaking the back of the military once and for all and arresting – or worse – all manner of perceived and real “traitors.”