Weekend Roundup: The Last Gasp of Atatürk


Nathan Gardels is the editor-in-chief of Noema Magazine.

If the aim of the coup plotters was to derail Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s march toward autocratic rule and restore the country firmly on the secular path envisioned by its modern founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, their failure achieved the opposite result. The last gasp of Atatürk has breathed new life into Erdoğan’s troubled and troubling tenure.

Oxford scholar Azeem Ibrahim credits the development of Turkey’s vibrant civil society and economy to the secular Kemalist vision and the stability secured over the years by the military and judiciary. “But the failed coup … marks an end to all that,” he writes. “And this may very well be the end of the Kemalist Turkish Republic.”

In an interview, Yusuf Muftuoglu, a top advisor to former Turkish President Abdullah Gül, explains the forces behind the coup and the resistance to it. He notes the critical importance of social media, of Istanbul as a new power center for Islamists and the key role of the police in fighting the armed forces. “Erdoğan is the biggest victor” of the coup “and quite deservedly,” he concludes. “Honestly, had there been another person at the same post, the coup might have succeeded. Erdoğan not only has shown the strong leadership to mobilize the masses against the coup plotters, which is unprecedented in Turkish history, but also, and more importantly, did so while he himself was physically targeted. … This whole process also confirmed once again Erdoğan’s seamless contact with his constituency and beyond.”

In another interview, one of Turkey’s leading novelists, Elif Shafak, sees her country “heading into a Kafkaesque world” in the wake of the coup, where everyone is suspect. “The question hovering in the air,” she writes, is, “Are you one of us or are you one of them?” She also worries that her country is now on the path to becoming an “illiberal democracy.” “A true democracy,” she argues, “needs separation of powers, rule of law, freedom of speech, women’s rights, LGBT rights, free and diverse media and independent academia. Without all these institutions and values you can only have ‘majoritarianism.’ And majoritarianism is not the same thing as democracy.” Another Turkish novelist, Kaya Genc, describes a night of both high anxiety and relief as he roamed the streets of Istanbul with anti-coup protesters. Writing from the Menemen District far from Istanbul, Ilgin Yorulmaz talks to people about the failed coup and says her, “pro-democracy friends support neither the coup nor autocracy.”

Reporting from Istanbul, WorldPost Middle East Correspondent Sophia Jones takes the pulse of everyday life on the streets among the city’s unsettled residents. Some are angry at the military, some at Erdoğan, she writes. “Anything can happen at any time,” one resident tells her. She also reports on the choice Greece faces over whether to extradite eight alleged Turkish coup plotters seeking exile in that neighboring country. Also writing from Istanbul, Behlül Özkan slams the “kamikaze coup attempt” that he thinks was bound to fail, but says, “Turkey is now in the midst of a national security crisis” and that Erdogan’s tactics for holding on to power by, “forming temporary, strategic alliances cannot solve” it.

In an interview, Can Dündar, the persecuted editor-in-chief of the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, fears the post-coup backlash. Speaking of Erdoğan’s comment that the coup was “a gift from God,” Dündar says, “He will make good use of this ‘gift’ and start a witch hunt against all opposition by accusing them of being coup perpetrators and thereby increasing his oppression.”

Turkish authorities have blamed the cleric Fethullah Gülen and his followers for fomenting the coup and demanded his extradition from exile in the U.S. James Dorsey tries to answer the question of whether Gülen is an Islamist modernizer or “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Graham Fuller, a former vice chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council once stationed in Istanbul, and whose security assessment (written in a personal capacity) helped Gülen to obtain status as a permanent resident in the U.S., offers his take on the Gulenist movement. He sees the political battle in Turkey between the AKP ruling party and Gulenists as a power struggle among two of the Muslim world’s more moderate movements. And he seriously doubts Gülen had anything to do with the coup attempt. Fuller concludes that, “Erdogan is planting the seeds of his own destruction” through the ongoing purges aimed at the Gulenist and liberal forces. “The country itself,” he writes, “is now his primary victim.”

Writing from Germany, Christoph Asche says that the restoration of the death penalty in Turkey “could kill relations” between the two countries since European Union nations reject executions on a human rights basis. Foreign Affairs Reporter Akbar Shahid Ahmed and others explore the complex history of relations between NATO and the various democratic and military governments in Turkey over recent decades. Ahmed also writes on Donald Trump’s recent NATO controversy. Referring to the backlash against Trump’s remarks that Europe should share more of NATO’s burden, he says, “key anti-Trump forces are offering evidence for the Republican standard-bearer’s argument ― that U.S. elites are so hung up on past commitments that they can’t embrace fresh thinking.” Tunisian blogger Ramzi Houidi compares the failed coup in Turkey to the successful military coup in Egypt in 2013. The difference, he says, is that “in Turkey, the opposition chose to democratically stand against the coup, putting the interests of the country before the party’s.”

France is once again reeling, this time after the Nice attack by a Tunisian immigrant that killed scores of people on Bastille Day. Former Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey argues that many “losers” in society, like the Tunisian attacker, turn to terrorism so they can become “heroes.” Islamic scholar Akbar Ahmed argues that more attacks on the self-proclaimed Islamic State won’t end terrorism in France or Europe as a whole. Only an affirmative policy of integration of Muslims will make a difference, he says. Writing from Stuttgart, Germany, Daniel Koehler brings common sense to the fight against terrorism. “Mothers may be the first, last and best approach to stopping militant recruiters,” he writes.

Turning to the political drama in the U.S., the Republican Party convened in Cleveland this week to nominate Donald Trump as its presidential candidate. Dean Obeidallah writes that a recent proposal by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a key speaker at the convention, to vet American Muslims over whether they believe in Sharia is a glimpse into the “inquisition” to come if Trump wins the presidency. Reflecting on the theme of Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday that “we should be afraid, very afraid,” Obeidallah also lends skepticism to the nominee’s credentials on security issues. “For Trump to justify scaring us, he needs to be able to deliver on his promise to keep us safe,” he writes.

In his own assessment of Trump’s speech from Cleveland, Howard Fineman thinks the American Founding Fathers would be turning in their grave. He writes that, “they knew the history of Rome, where tribunes ― in the name of the people but often for their own purposes ― wielded vast power. They didn’t think anyone had a direct pipeline to the voice of the people except the people themselves. The founders feared both the mob and the monarchy, but most of all feared an alliance of the two.”

Turning to Asia, Helen Clark looks at what the recent ruling by a U.N. tribunal against China and for the Philippines means for Vietnam, which has similar territorial claims against China. Vietnam is being cautious and not celebratory, she writes, because, “what happens next in the South China Sea won’t change: it is still up to China.” Looking into the not-too-distant future when robots will be creating new wealth, but displacing jobs, Moises Naim argues we should be open to the idea of a guaranteed minimum income for all.

Some things in the world are working. Google is using its DeepMind computing capacity to more efficiently regulate the flow of energy to its servers, which constitute 5 percent of the cloud.

As Saudi Arabia’s top clerical body renewed its fatwa against Pokemon, our Singularity series this week reports that the “Pokemon Go” craze is only a foretaste of our augmented reality future.

But not everyone loves “Pokemon Go.” Cavan Sieczkowski reports on what director Oliver Stone said about the game at Comic-Con this week. “It’s everywhere,” she quotes Stone as saying. “It’s what some people call surveillance capitalism … You’ll see a new form of, frankly, a robot society where they will know how you want to behave, and they will make the mock-up that matches how you behave. It’s what they call totalitarianism.” Nathalia Ramos disagrees, arguing that “Pokemon Go” nostalgically takes millennials back to an “innocent” era before 9/11 when they played a similar game as children. In yet another twist, some Syrian children are tapping in to the “Pokemon Go” craze to ask the world to help rescue them.


EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Co-Founder and Executive Advisor to the Berggruen Institute, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Executive Editor of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Alex Gardels and Peter Mellgard are the Associate Editors of The WorldPost. Suzanne Gaber is the Editorial Assistant of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is News Director at The Huffington Post, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost’s news coverage. Charlotte Alfred and Nick Robins-Early are World Reporters. Rowaida Abdelaziz is World Social Media Editor.

CORRESPONDENTS: Sophia Jones in Istanbul.

EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Arianna Huffington, Eric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media), Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa), Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera), Dileep Padgaonkar (Times of India) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).


CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.

The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.

Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the “whole mind” way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.

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