Turkey declared a state of emergency on July 20, 2016 – almost two full years ago— shortly after a bloody coup attempt. The reason behind this decision was crystal clear: The failed coup was orchestrated by the terrorist group led by Fetullah Gülen, officially known as FETÖ, after systematically infiltrating the various public institutions, including the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), for four decades.
Two years later, some Western governments are still questioning whether Fetullah Gülen's followers were really responsible for the coup attempt. The Turkish authorities shared multiple batches of evidence linking Gülen, who currently resides in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, to the failed coup with the U.S. Department of Justice to secure his extradition to Turkey. Another key piece of evidence, which was uncovered just last week, however, speaks volumes by itself. Let us discuss it briefly before going back to the state of emergency.
On the night of July 15, 2016, there were two civilians at the Akıncı military base in Ankara, which the coup plotters used as their command center: Adil Öksüz and Kemal Batmaz. In retrospect, Turkish authorities discovered that the two men repeatedly traveled to the United States and flew back to Turkey together. Turkey maintains that they received instructions from Fetullah Gülen himself before the attempted coup. During the chaotic aftermath of the July 15 coup attempt, Öksüz managed to escape. Batmaz, by contrast, was caught by the authorities and has been behind bars pending trial. According to Turkish authorities, Öksüz is currently in Germany and his family has been hiding in the United States. Last week, new evidence was discovered regarding Batmaz's role in the coup attempt. The Turkish authorities found the smartphone that Batmaz used on the night of the coup and successfully accessed his call history and correspondence, which indicated that he was indeed in contact with members of Gülen's inner circle in the United States. Provided that there is concrete evidence showing that a civilian, who was caught at the coup plotters' command center, was in contact with and receiving instructions from members of Gülen's inner circle, it is no longer possible to question who was responsible for the July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.Let us now go back to the state of emergency, which has been in effect for almost two years. For Turkey, the state of emergency was absolutely necessary to combat terrorist organizations, including FETÖ and the PKK. The daily lives of ordinary citizens, however, were unaffected by this measure. Under the state of emergency, the Turkish authorities issued decrees to dismiss officials with proven ties to Gülen's organization from public service. The state of emergency also made it possible for suspects, who were detained in the failed coup's immediate aftermath, to be kept in police custody for extended periods.
In recent weeks, there have been strong signs that the state of emergency will be lifted. Ahead of the June 24 elections, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that his administration wouldn't extend the state of emergency. He subsequently said that lifting the state of emergency would be his first order of business after the elections.
The question is how ending the state of emergency will affect Turkey's war on terror. The Erdoğan administration wants to lift the state of emergency without undermining ongoing counterterrorism efforts. The answer, senior Turkish officials argue, is to adopt the French model. In the wake of multiple terror attacks, France declared a state of emergency in November 2015, which remained in effect for two years. Although the state of emergency ended in November 2017, the French Parliament passed a series of laws to ensure that the necessary security precautions could be taken. Now, Turkey wants to follow in France's footsteps by lifting the state of emergency but adopting new counterterrorism laws to maintain the war on terror's momentum. Simply put, Turkey will adopt the French model on the state of emergency and the war on terror.