Erdogan’s black hundreds?

Looking back at the fateful night of July 15-16, the feel-good tweets about the Turkish nation standing as one against the perfidious military now seem delusional. In the early hours of the coup, there were no reports of angry crowds taking to the streets; instead, there were tweets about people shaking hands with soldiers manning the tanks.

Then Erdoğan went live – both on FaceTime and on CNN Türk – and muezzins started bleating and blaring calls to action from the minarets of Istanbul, Ankara and Smyrna. Instantly, thousands of very angry, mostly young, men swarmed into the streets, cornering the hapless soldiers and lynching some to communicate Erdoğan’s message more effectively.

I’m ready to give it to Erdoğan’s faithful – they did take a risk when pouring out to face the tanks, and quite a few apparently ended up dead, while their leader was safely out of reach of all that violence. But I’m not ready to believe they were ready to die for freedom of speech or of conscience or for other liberal values.


  1. it’s also going to be interesting to see what effect this purge, and the one from a few years ago of the top generals, has on the overall ability of the Turkish armed forces. It could well be that the Turkish army is called into action in the next few years and finds its reputation belongs squarely in the past. The Red Army of 1938-40 springs to mind here.

    • I’ve thought about it too – I’ve just finished Khlevniuk’s Master of the House, an account of Stalin’s evolution from the first among equals to the one and only during the 1930s, culminating in the army’s decapitation and decimation. I’m not saying Erdogan’s purges are going to be as large-scale but it seems they are focused on the air force and the navy so in percentage terms they could be as crippling.

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