A documentary that presents statements from military officers, politicians, journalists and civilians related to a coup attempt in Turkey in 2016 shows that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have purposefully blocked attempts to shed light on the event for the past five years.
The documentary, titled “Orkoz,” which was directed by journalist Bedrettin Uğur and contributed to by journalists living in exile in Germany, the US, the UK, Sweden, Norway and Canada, comes on the fifth anniversary of the coup attempt. Orkoz is the name of a strong undertow in the Bosporus Strait that can cause damage, a reference to the starting point of the coup attempt on the night of July 15, 2016 with the blockade by soldiers of the two bridges over the Bosporus.
“Hundreds of people lost their lives in 12 major attacks between June 2015 and July 2016. Turkey entered this spiral of violence after the June 7, 2015 elections, in which the ruling AKP lost the governing majority for the first time since the party came to power in 2002,” the documentary said, describing the atmosphere prior to the coup attempt.
Immediately after July 15, Erdoğan and his government pinned the blame on the Gülen movement, inspired by Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen, labeling the group as a terrorist organization.
Calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” Erdoğan initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
It was stated in the documentary that Erdoğan had been taking steps to eliminate the Gülen movement by criminalizing it because he wanted to erase the traces of corruption investigations in late 2013 that implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan’s close circle.
Erdoğan, who dismissed the investigations of December 17-25, 2013 as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government and began to target the movement’s members afterward, locked up thousands, including many prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in them.
According to official data, some 622,646 people have been investigated and 301,932 have been detained, and 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup, while the government removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs.
Norwegian filmmaker and researcher Jorgen Lorentzen says in “Orkoz” that he read about the accusations and allegations about the coup made by Erdoğan and his AKP, adding that he found no evidence proving them.
Lorentzen said the information presented as evidence are statements taken under torture and that they cannot be used as evidence in international courts, concluding that Erdoğan’s narrative of July 15 rests on very weak foundations.
Referring to his own documentary titled “A Gift from God,” where he says he proved that Erdoğan knew about the planned coup six days earlier, Lorentzen compares what the Gülen movement members experienced under AKP rule compared to what happened during the Holocaust.
“They call us terrorists. … I was at home that day [on July 15], and somehow I’m accused of staging an [attempted] coup,” says Fevzi Katran, a noncommissioned naval officer removed from his post by the government in a post-coup purge.
A parliamentary investigation commission formed with the approval of the Turkish Parliament following the coup attempt heard many retired generals, former ministers and mayors, but not the key state actors. Then-chief of general staff and current Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) head Hakan Fidan have never been asked to appear before the commission.
“Akar doesn’t prevent the coup attempt, something he could easily do. He doesn’t inform Erdoğan or others. … The next day, he somehow manages to make an agreement with the putschists and flies to Çankaya Palace [in Ankara],” Adem Yavuz Arslan, a journalist in exile, says.
“No judge anywhere in the world would say there’s no need to question the head of the Turkish military [Akar], who spent that night together with the soldiers who were said to be putschists at the alleged base of the coup attempt. But a criminal court judge said it, along with many lawyers representing the ruling party,” exiled journalist Cevheri Güven said, referring to Akıncı Airbase in Ankara, where Akar was forcibly held by putschist officers, according to the government narrative.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), is also quoted in the documentary as describing the state of emergency (OHAL) that was declared by the government days after the coup attempt as a “civilian coup.”
Under OHAL, which was criticized by human rights groups and the opposition for restricting rights and freedoms and lasted for two years, the government pressed ahead with many controversial decrees that have the force of the law and are not required to be approved by parliament. In line with these decrees, over 130,000 people have been purged from state bodies on coup charges.