Cengiz Çandar, a 75-year-old journalist who recently returned to Turkey to run for a seat in parliament after seven years of living abroad, has said he perceives the military coup attempt Turkey experienced on July 15, 2016 to have been a “planned operation” carried out with the knowledge of the government.
Many believe the abortive putsch, which killed 251 people and wounded more than a thousand others, was a false flag aimed at entrenching the authoritarian rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by rooting out dissidents and eliminating powerful actors such as the military in his desire for absolute power.
On the night of the abortive putsch, President Erdoğan immediately blamed the faith-based Gülen movement. The next morning, after announcing the coup had been put down, the Turkish government immediately started a wide-ranging purge of military officers, judges, police officers, teachers and other civil servants that ultimately led to the dismissal of more than 130,000 from their jobs.
Çandar on Monday said in an interview with the T24 news website that he didn’t like discussing July 15 based on the narrative pushed by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
“If we were to discuss the theory that the Gülen movement led people to distance themselves from Islam by attacking the parliament with tanks and artillery on July 15, killing many people, then let’s first discuss whether what we were told about July 15 really the truth,” Çandar said.
The journalist said it was “understandable” that there were elements of both the state and the Gülen movement involved in the events of July 15 since the movement had close ties to the government at the time.
“However, I perceive it as an operation orchestrated by the government. … I believe that Erdoğan was aware of it,” he added.
Referring to the civil servants purged in the wake of the coup attempt, Çandar said, “Their lives have been ruined. Are all these people now coup plotters? Were they aware of the coup, or would they have approved of it if asked? I’m not so sure.”
The journalist further argued that the list of civil servants to be purged was already prepared before the attempted coup.
“Think about it. A lot people die in İstanbul [on July 15]. … Early the [next] morning, a Saturday, hundreds of judges, prosecutors and members of the Constitutional Court are being arrested. … Clearly, there was a list. … There are many indications that this was a planned coup attempt,” Çandar said.
He also questioned whether Adil Öksüz, the prime civilian suspect in the coup attempt, was actually “a prominent figure of the Gülen movement or a person placed in the movement by the state’s security system with instructions to carry out a failed coup.”
Çandar, who left Turkey for Sweden in May 2016 upon the invitation of the Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies (SUITS) to work as a visiting scholar, returned to the country earlier this month from the French city of Nice where he was spending the winter.
He has been nominated by the Green Left Party (YSP) from the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakır, where it is almost certain that he will be elected.
Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He locked up thousands including many prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigation as well as journalists who reported on them.
Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following the coup attempt. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.