Istanbul After the Attempted Coup

We went to Turkey immediately after the attempted coup of last July. She felt different, eerie, even strange.

Something very serious has happened, people seemed in a state of shock, and yet, the deep trends in society continue to play underneath flags and demonstrations.

Is there a new Turkey where the flag and the mosque now embrace each other?


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Or is it the same old Turkey with all her usual contradictions, with her mixture of traditional and modern, East and West, religious and secular, and so on…

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Social inequalities, even larger between city and countryside, now exacerbated by three million Syrian refugees many of whom barely survive in the streets.

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Sharp generational gaps, where secular Ataturk, western pop and Islamism co-exist and collide.

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Huge demonstrations post-coup brought millions of people in the streets for several weeks. They can be seen in different ways.

What were they supporting?

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Were they supporting President Erdogan, who undeniably emerges stronger after the events and embarks upon a massive purge of opponents?

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Was it a more Islamic society, that finally gives recognition and dignity to more traditional Muslims after decades of imposed secularism and western values since Ataturk?

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Or was it simply an explosion of nationalism against growing foreign criticism of the government?

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More optimistically, was it just a massive and healthy popular support for democracy?

Maybe they represented the genuine desire of all parents for a better future for their children, peaceful and prosperous, leaving finally behind military interventions and control of the society?

Probably, all of them together, although in different doses for different groups of society.

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In any event, and well before the end of judicial investigations, some have already decided who is to blame and they accuse US-based cleric Fetullh Gullen and his Hizmet movement as the villains of this sad story that left so many innocent dead.

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There are as usual many alternative complot theories to explain these bizarre events, including even one that blames the government itself for being behind them, as it clearly emerges as the main beneficiary of this failed coup.

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Irrespective of this tragedy and its unpredictable aftermath, the good old Turkish struggle between modernity and tradition will continue, and maybe even become starker, in the mosques and in the streets…. life goes on.

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This should be a time for reflection and introspection.

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What happened is only the last avatar of the never ending struggle between old and new that permeates and divides Turkish society since the founding of the republic by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk almost one century ago.

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We got back to Brussels with many questions.

Wondering if Turkey will look back to her past and towards the East and her Islamic sources.

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Or will she continue to look towards a modern Western future?

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The answer to that question is very much open. The attempted coup has been a tragic episode in this long saga, with yet unknown consequences for this struggle that shapes Turkish life.

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