DISCLAIMER: For security reasons, Vocal Europe decides to publish this interview by applying a cryptonym for name of the purged Turkish Military Officer running the twitter account @purgedNATO .
Vocal Europe: Can you talk about yourself? When did you first enter the military, what kind of official positions have you so far held? What was your last responsibility as a Turkish military official at NATO Headquarter in Brussels?
Purged Officer: I joined Turkish Military in 1985. I started to study at the Force Academy and graduated in 1989. I went through officer training in Turkey and abroad. I served in various units of the force. I got my master’s degree in United States. Like many other purged officers, I am a staff officer, graduated from War College. I have worked at various national and NATO posts as operational planner. Almost two months after the coup attempt, my NATO assignment was cancelled, after which I was recalled among 270 other officers abroad, for “Judicial Investigation”. Being in Europe, at the time, I couldn’t have been part of the coup. But when I saw that first 17 officers who returned were detained and treated badly, I decided to wait until there is rule of law in the country I have served for many years.
Vocal Europe: Can you share with us your take on the attempted coup on July 15? Was the coup staged by a coalition of groups in Turkish military or was the coup masterminded by Gülenists?
Purged Officer: I believe those involved are threefold. Before I explain who those are, my analysis stems from the belief that extremely poor execution of the coup and events in the aftermath highlight that coup attempt did not aim to take down the government but it was planned to be a failure from the very start. I don’t think there are that much Gulenists in armed forces, especially not in senior ranks. For me, it was an alliance of convenience between Erdogan and Ultranationalists. It was to be used as an excuse for Erdogan to get rid of the secular elite and the ones that opposed his policies and for the ultranationalists to take prominent role in armed forces and impose their Eurasian agenda. There are lots of inconsistencies one could find in the “most clumsy” coup attempt in Turkish history (Keep in mind that Turkish Armed Forces are no strangers to coups, they would have succeeded if there was a real attempt). The three types of people involved in the coup are:
1: A very small group who initiated the coup attempt and stepped aside afterwards,
This is the group that masterminded the coup plot. Judging by who benefited from the coup attempt; this group included Ultranationalists (Perincek Group), and those with ties to Erdogan regime or were simply bought off.
2: Those who believed that the coup was being done in chain of command so obeyed the orders
This included seculars and other Erdogan opposers, who were aware of the widely circulated purge lists and thus might have felt relieved by what they thought was a coup in chain of command. The secular elite had too much with the Erdogan’s policies.
3: Those who saw it as an opportunity to rise in the ranks
Those simply, did not care too much whether it was done in chain of command or not, but saw it as an opportunity to rise in the ranks.
Vocal Europe: Why is Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan blaming Gülen movement for the coup? And, are you a Gülenist?
Purged Officer: No, I am not a Gulenist. Erdogan blamed Gulenists for the simple reason of animosity. Erdogan owes his poll victories for years to the “enemies” he skillfully created at every turn. The Gulenists are the last one. Before them, external threats such as CIA, the US, and the internal ones such as Kurds, Alevis, and even secularists were targeted during the AKP rallies.
Many in Turkey believed that the leaked tapes in 17/25 December 2013, where Erdogan and his son talked about how to hide what seems to amount more than a billion dollar in cash, was done by Gulenists in the police force. The purge is not new, actually police force was purged starting in 2013. But Erdogan knew that he needed a stronger tool to get rid of all the opposition in Armed Forces. Armed forces could not be shaped with executive assignments, like it was done with police force. So he decided to enact state of emergency and use the immense powers he gains.
Vocal Europe: Why were you sacked from your position by the Turkish government? Any evidence relating you to the coup? And, how many Turkish colleagues of yours working at NATO faced the very same consequence?
Purged Officer: I was in Belgium at the time of the coup. There is no evidence of any Turkish officers in Belgium or abroad getting involved. If there was any evidence, the regime would have put it all over the mouthpiece media. The only attempt they made is to claim that those abroad planned to take over Embassies, to what purpose and with what weapons I don’t know. It was in the media several times and it was apparent that they were trying to stick a blame despite the reality.
The purged Turkish military personnel who used to work at NATO Headquarter in Brussels.
2/3rds of the Turkish staff in Belgium has been in the same situation, which amounts to more than 60 personnel. The ratio changes between ½ to ¾ in different HQs in NATO. There is a good picture that we had in one of our tweets where we crossed out the purged with X’s. It shows the severity of the situation. Right after the coup attempt failed, the government begun to take quick, painful, and harsh measures in order to not only punish ‘the actors’ but also reshape the state structure. Military high schools and war colleges were closed under the pretext of their current status ‘inclined to recruit and educate member of a terrorist organization.’ Since the “coup-fiction”, more than 4000 soldiers got sacked from the army, air force, navy, gendarmerie and coastguard. Total number of those got sacked in post-coup purge reaches at 124.000. Around 89.000 detained, and 43.000 arrested. I am not sure whether the government has got any legal and valid evidence to blame all those people for involving coup attempt in some way.
15th July will also be recalled as a turning point in terms of its deep impacts over Turkish Armed Forces’ staff quality, traditional practices, and organizational effectiveness as a whole. The so-called coup attempt, to say coup-fiction, gave way to eliminating high quality staff officers and NCOs whereas opening up an opportunity to those who are not capable enough to fulfill relevant posts, which requires professional competency as well as personal high values such as self-devotion, commitment, and sense of responsibility. By having a quick look at the target audience of the coup-fiction, one can easily notice the common attributes of Turkish military personnel who were, at first, sacked, and then arrested just after July 15.
Personally, I do not know why I was sacked. I never got the specific reason. I was sacked with a decree claiming I had terrorist ties, along with 15000 other people. But I understand that some are sacked due to profiling. I have extensive education in US, I probably did not fit well in the new Eurasianist clique, dominating the Turkish Armed Forces. I was a very successful officer. I was assigned to high profile posts at strategic headquarters. A successful career with a solid education turned out to be a hindrance in new Turkey.
Vocal Europe: After the purge, did you have any contact with your foreign colleagues working for NATO? If yes, what are their reactions to your personal case?
Purged Officer: I have had a lot of support from my foreign colleagues. They have been very understanding. We had been working together for years, they knew me very well. They are all well educated officers. They saw the similarities between what is happening now and that happened with other dictatorships. They offered help. Some offered me to go to their country and stay in their empty home. Some found immigration lawyers and others tried to find a job for us. I was most impressed by the reaction of a friend, whom we had worked for a long time, when he said “I do not understand exactly what is going on, but I know you. I will support you in every way, just come and stay with us. We will figure out what to do later.”
I’d like to thank all for their support and kindness during this difficult period of time.
Vocal Europe: Instead of going back to Turkey for a trial, why did you decide to stay in Belgium?
Purged Officer: If there is no rule of law, there is no guarantee that you would not suffer horrible faith. Since the coup, there has been more than 50 suicides(!!) inside the jails. The newspapers are full of pictures of personnel tortured. There has been rumors of mass killing planned in the jails much like what Qaddafi did in Abu Salim prison in 1996, where 1270 prisoners were killed. I do not believe Erdogan regime plans a normal judicial process for those in jail. If those in jail would testify, then that might uncover the real planners of the coup. I believe this is one of the reasons why there is a ban on media for leaked testimonies. Hence I believe those in Turkey and especially those in jail are under great danger.
Vocal Europe: Do you feel insecure here in Belgium given the statements by various Turkish officials that ”those who have finger in what happened on July 15 will be taken back to Turkey at any cost”?
Purged Officer: I think that there is a possibility for it. Recently, Turkey passed a law that gave permission for the intelligence agency to conduct operations in other countries. So there is a chance. Thus I cannot take any chance for the security of myself and my family. Taking into account that pro-Erdogan people living in Europe are easy fits to Turkish Intelligence to gather info, I try to organize my life as appropriate for not to take any chances. I also know that some Turkish Military senior officials have provided Turkish General Staff a list of officers who applied for asylum in Belgium.
There are some instances which happened recently, that fortify my feeling. The attempted house-search of a former defence attaché by Turkish ambassador, the information collection activities of various Turkish Government bodies in Europe are good reasons to feel insecure to some extent.
Vocal Europe: Is there any link between the ongoing purge in Turkish military and the growing influence of Russia over Turkish army? If yes, what sort of problems that this new situation can create between Turkey and NATO in the coming years?
Purged Officer: It is not a coincidence that Eurasianists replaced the pro-western cadre for the prominent roles in the armed forces especially by the hands of Perinçek Group. It explains why 150 of 300 generals/admirals were sacked after the coup attempt, despite very small amount of forces involved (2-3 companies, couple tanks, less than 10 fighters, couple ships). In fact if 150 generals were to really conspire for coup, 400 000 strong armed forces would definitely be successful. While pro-NATO and pro-Western military staff were eliminated by means of unlawful practices, empty slots were filled by personnel who stick to the idea that Turkey’s destiny must be linked to Eurasia rather than the West. Turkey, as a member of NATO, is now under the influence of those who opts for Russia-Iran-China triangle vis-a-vis NATO and EU option, which endangers regional stability in the mid-term.
It is also very interesting that Eurasianists showed a distinct effort to mend the relations with Russia after the Russian fighter was shutdown in November 2015. There is a good video where the Eurasianist Alexander Dugin tells about the Eurasianist visit to Moscow, asking them to make peace with Erdogan. It is also interesting that the same person (Dugin) was in Turkey until one day before the coup attempt. The Eurasianist-Erdogan alliance is counter intuitive and could only mean that they are cooperating to get rid of the pro-western cadre. It seems to have worked. Erdogan got what he wanted with newfound powers and Eurasianists benefited from the control of the armed forces.
How is NATO going to trust Turkey when Turkey has just signed an intelligence sharing agreement with Russia? Another recent event is Turkey’s joint air operations with Russia in Syria. Although it is not a NATO operation, blaming US for not supporting Turkey in the air strikes and at the same time cannot have any reasoning behind it. It is just unacceptable.
Moreover, with the growing number of pro-Russia officers in Turkish military, it would be no surprise to witness any disrupt in critical modernization process and / or setback in national commitments to NATO, which in turn will affect overall effectiveness of NATO against wide spectrum of threats in a warming-up region. Besides, ignoring basic principles of human rights and rule of law makes Turkey unpredictable in the eyes of its allies thereby fueling lack of confidence.
*For security reasons, Vocal Europe decides to publish this interview by applying a cryptonym for name of the purged Turkish Officer running the twitter account @purgedNATO .