We had not seen anything like it until now. Since the cold January 1979 when, wrapped in blankets, tens of thousands of people climbed night after night onto the rooftops of Teheran. The rumour had spread that finally the long hated Emperor Pahlavi was fleeing the city. The streets were dark and free of cars, but a deafening scream started to be heard, as if they came down from the imposing mountains that enclose the scenery of the Persian capital. ‘Allāhu Akbar!’ They shouted from one terrace, ‘ Allāhu Akbar!’ They answered from another, and from another, and from yet another.
For centuries this ritual phrase that the believers knew like the Takbir had been considered of faith. Curiously, as happens with so many other things, the Koran does not contain it anywhere, but ‘ Allāhu Akbar!’ (‘God is the greatest’), in Teheran and shouted from the rooftops became a political sign for the first time. Against the Shah, Muslim, Muslims took over God and made him their own. They said that the greatest God was theirs and not of others and suddenly that ritual that priests use five times a day to start the praying, from Fez to Jakarta, from end to end of the Muslim world, became the political slogan that has most changed our world.
Those citizens who cried out the Takbir from the rooftops, expected and wanted the regime of religious terror that would come from Paris days later, when an official plane of the French republic brought the Ayatollah Seyyed Ruholla Khomeini to Teheran? It is hard to believe. Who would want such a necrocracy? Teheran of 1979 was a modern city despite the dictatorship, much more open in social and cultural terms than it has ever been since. Did those people want to take women out of public life? Did they want to install the sharia as the civil law? Did they want all of the Sunnites and Bahaist temples to be destroyed? I find it hard to believe. They rather wanted the democracy that the Shah had taken from them, but they found an unending religious dictatorship that not only continued destroying individual freedoms, but which went beyond where the Shah had ever gone, into the houses, into the people’s moral condition, and even into the daily lives of those who wanted to know nothing about politics.
On Friday night, Istanbul was shaken once more by the Takbir. In a few troublesome hours the minarets of the western part of the city all began to cry out ‘ Allāhu Akbar!’ They shouted it from Saint Sofia and repeated it from the Blue Mosque always listening to each other. The excited cries came from all of the minarets of Fatih, now the city’s great Islamist bastion. ‘ Allāhu Akbar!’ Sounded out even in Galata Tower, the symbolic remains of the Genoan past of the city. In Taksim, the square that so often had been the sign of the struggle for democracy, on Friday the cries were not against Erdogan and his authoritarianism. Nor were they in favour. The cries shouted time and time again that their God is the greatest. ‘ Allāhu Akbar!’, ‘ Allāhu Akbar!’
The minarets’ intervention was decisive in answering the armoured vehicles that had gone out into the streets hours before and in stopping the coup. Erdogan knows perfectly well what power they have and used them with full force at the time when he most needed them. He is so conscious of this that we just have to remember that he was imprisoned in 1999 and accused of reciting verses of Ziya Gokalp in public which, seeing the perspective of this weekend, we can only say are absolutely accurate:
Our minarets are our bayonets,
our domes are our helmets,
our mosques our barricades…
In today’s globalised world, the images spread like wildfire and very well on in the early morning, sitting on my sofa at home, I suddenly trembled when I saw a group of youngsters facing a tank on one of the bridges of the Bosporus. They were waving Turkish flags but clearly crying time and time again ‘ Allāhu Akbar!’ Challengingly. Obviously they were all men. There is no place for women in the society they want to create and that doesn’t surprise me at all. On the other hand I was surprised that the soldiers didn’t know what to do. One, the one on the turret of the tank, fired a few shots into the air and the crowd arose, they surrounded them shouting and shouting with ever tenser faces, with more and more inflamed eyes, with their veins standing out on their necks. ‘ Allāhu Akbar!’, ‘ Allāhu Akbar!’… Shouts which sounded like fist punches just an inch away from the soldiers faces while my mind returned time and time again to the images of the night in Teheran.
The Turkish army has no democratic credibility, but Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the criminal of the mahalle of Kulaksız, does not either. Since 2003 he has been the Lord of Turkey and done everything he been able to to wipe out the remains of democracy and laity. On Friday night, in a certainly highly clarifying lapse, he said in an improvised press conference at the airport that the coup d’état was ‘a gift from God to clean out the army’. If that is true, may Allah be merciful …
A coup to justify dictatorship
Nobody has to tell us how this works, we saw it live on 23-F. When it stands there before you you don’t know what it means. That day I got off the bus that was taking me from the centre of València to my home, which was then on the crossroads of Molinell with Alboraia. Panic had seized the city and the people made it impossible for the cars and public buses to get round. The tanks would arrive in a few hours, but when they did, silence and fear overwhelmed Valencia.
I always explained that in València we experienced the coup in a different way. That it is very difficult to explain what it seemed to us to anyone who was not there. I ended up hiding in the flat of my cousin Josep, from Benicàssim, because he had a telephone and television and I did not. We have always said that after that appearance of Juan Carlos on the television we went to bed convinced that the monarch was in favour of the coup. The surprise was to see the next day that without any explanation, this person changed from being the leader of the coup to being the saviour of democracy. I still don’t understand it today.
But seen with perspective, nobody can doubt that the 23-F was a victory and that its political goal, to stop the dismembering of Spain and to redirect citizens’ freedoms to a lower level, was accomplished.
So I understood that the effects of a coup d’état cannot be seen the same night. It is too theatrical. Our eyes are now filled with so much spectacular imagery coming from Istanbul and Ankara, but in the end I am sure that this Friday coup will favour Erdogan’s plans just as the 23-F favoured those of Juan Carlos.
Erdogan came to power democratically, but from the first day he sought to bring democracy to an end, to restrict it to a simple ritual. The whole of his politics are aimed to achieve the power to allow him to change the present constitution and to establish another in which he would have more power and Islam would have more weight. The corruption, his continuous public scandals find the perfect cover in Turkish nationalism, and above all in Islamism.
In 2011, Erdogan won the Turkish elections for the third time, but without achieving the necessary majority to change the constitution. In 2014, he was elected president of the Republic. His obsession once more was to achieve the necessary votes to change the constitution, but the emergence above all of the HDP, and alliance between the Kurds and the Turkish radical left, prevented it.
In recent years, frustrated because the Kurds have found a way to be present in the Ankara parliament, Erdogan has tried in all possible ways to cause a conflict with the Kurds to make them illegal and therefore to be able to prohibit them from taking part in the elections. Therefore, for example, when half the world’s aviation attacks the Islamic State in Syria, he also makes believe he is doing the same but he actually attacks the Kurdish camps in the mountains of Iraq. For Erdogan the priority is to provoke the Kurds, to be able to crush them militarily.
The frustration at not being able to change the constitution, at never winning with enough votes to change it, may be compensated by the effects of the coup d’état. He himself qualified it as a ‘gift’ and has taken little time to act. Yesterday hundreds of judges were stripped of their posts without warning, without explaining what this has to do with a military coup. Erdogan said that the coup was the work of a ‘terrorist organisation ‘ run by the cleric Fethullah Gülen exiled in the United States. Gülen decided denied it as strongly as he could, but who really cares? The coup d’état presented as a great conspiracy against democracy will enable Erdogan not only to rid himself of any military leader coming from the historical laity of the Turkish state, but also to deal with repressing anything that he wants: parties, media … I don’t know whether the military foresaw this, but since yesterday Turkey has been on the way to the constitutional dictatorship that the urns had not allowed up to now, and who knows whether it is on the way to something worse.
Those who always lose
So the coup was instrumental, false? I wouldn’t dare put it that way, not today. These coups d’état are always so confusing that it is almost possible to work out the origin. The spectacular nature of the event is conceived to hide them. It is an imposing theatre in which the strings always remain behind the curtains.
But some strange things happened on Friday night. The first and the main one was that the Turkish army should have been so ineffective. Let’s go back to the tank on the Bosphorus. The scene lasts more than two minutes. There are enough soldiers to shoot at the people coming towards them and to kill a few before they take over the tank. I’m not saying that they should have done so, but rather that it is surprising that they did not do it. We are not talking about any old army, but rather the Turkish army, an army accustomed to attacking its own population and to killing people. And how is it that suddenly hand weapons give in to defenceless citizens?
And they not only give in. We have all seen the photographs of a group of people yesterday morning hitting the soldiers until they gave in. Many without their shirts, bare-chested and crying and bleeding soldiers huddled together in the shade of an imposing, and seemingly impotent, tank. A simply unbelievable scene.
There was also a moment of the night when I was absolutely flabbergasted. When Erdogan lands at Atatürk airport, suddenly all of the terminals start to work normally. They had been collapsed for hours, the planes on the ground, the passengers unattended, the controllers away from their posts, thousands of demonstrators occupying the runway, and all of this chaos is suddenly resolved just as Erdogan lands. The image was almost lyrical: the president is back! Order is restored! In fact it was so much so, so exaggerated, that for the first time I had my suspicions about what we were actually seeing.
Will we ever know what actually happened this past weekend? Surely in many years and little by little. That’s the way the world works. The transparency is apparent. Erdogan doing a FaceTime. Thousands of demonstrators broadcasting on Periscope. The occupied television reaching the homes via Facebook Live… Technology and more technology to make it seem that there was nothing obscure behind it, but what were we actually seeing? And how is it that in a country where the first thing that the government does is to shut down the social networks, that it uses them this time?
Experience shows us that there is a way to scratch away a little at events, and that is to observe who they favour, and I believe that the same old people will lose again. I was impressed that the Turks I know or who know the people around me were all hopeful of victory of the coup d’état, it must be because the people I know are amongst the losers. Always. Kurds, journalists, Unionists, left-wingers, lay, homosexuals, women, Christians … In the coming days, I am sure that it will be these who understand and will explain the demolishing effects of the surprising coup d’état that Turkey experienced on 15 July 2016. I only hope that the price paid by the good is as little as possible and that in a few years we do not have to remember that Friday night, that fanatical screaming through the streets, with so much concern and sadness as we now remember those cold nights on the terraces of Teheran.
Ajuda la premsa lliure
Gràcies a ells podem oferir els nostres continguts en obert per a tothom. Ens ajudes tu també a ser més forts i arribar a més gent?