Turkey coup to have adverse effect on Azerbaijani domestic policy - expert opinions

On the night of July 15 - 16, factions of the Turkish military attempted an armed coup. According to information disseminated by the Turkish Foreign Ministry on July 18th, 290 people were killed in the ensuing chaos, more than 5000 people have been detained and thousands of others forced to resign.

Opposition politicians and experts in Azerbaijan believe that the attempted coup in Turkey will echo loudly in Azerbaijan and Baku’s domestic policy. Caucasian Knot interviewed several leading experts in Azerbaijan and asked their opinion on what the ramifications for Azerbaijan will look like. Meydan TV presents this interview, translated from Russian into English, for its readers: 

Khalid Baghirov - Member of “Civil Society Platform”

Khalid Baghirov

Khalid Baghirov

“A stronger Erdogan means a stronger Aliyev. They have well - established political relations and share the same views on many issues, including administration. Recent events in Turkey will not bode well for democracy in Azerbaijan. The closing of ANS TV for its intention to broadcast an interview with Fethullah Gulen - announced in Turkey as the mastermind of the coup - gives no ground for optimism”, Baghirov told Caucasian Knot. He also noted that in Turkey, media associated with Gulen had been banned. 

Tofiq Turkel - Turan News Agency columnist 

“We’ve already seen the closure of several institutions because of their connection to Gulen - Qafqaz University and ANS TV. Three years ago, a similar wave of closures took place when a network of educational institutions (Cag Ogretim Isletmeleri - Modern Education Enterprises), which was accused of secretly being connected with Gulen, were shut down and their leadership deported back to Turkey. Adherents to Gulen’s ideals — called nurçu or ‘nur’ists in Turkey and Azerbaijani — were also persecuted, despite the fact they were praying in private houses, without a mosque of their own. Azerbaijan is forced to take into account Ankara’s position on these issues because Turkey is one of Azerbaijan’s biggest allies and also one of its largest trading partners. Azerbaijani oil and gas are exported to the global market through Turkey.” Turkel told Caucasian Knot. 

After the attempted coup, Erdogan said that Turkey intends to reinstate the death penalty in the Republic. When asked whether Azerbaijan would initiate similar procedures, Turkel answered: 

“I would not expect the reinstatement of the death penalty in Azerbaijan. In the first place, there is no need to restore it because there is no serious threat to the authorities nor stability in Azerbaijan. Secondly, Azerbaijan is closely monitored by the international community, and could face expulsion from the Council of Europe.” 

On the proposed constitutional amendments: 

“I do not believe that the proposed changes to the constitution are directly related to events in Turkey; I think we’re looking at something that was prepared much longer in advance. But the attempted coup was simply a convenient moment to present the changes to the people as a necessity in order to ensure the continuity of security, continuity and public order.” 

Ali Karimli - leader of Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA) 

The protest of the public played a major role in the failure of the military coup in Turkey, Ali Karimli claimed. However, he is concerned that the authorities may use the current situation to strengthen the regime and to neutralize 'undesirables.' As evidence of this, he pointed to calls for the restoration of the death penalty in the country. 

“The restoration of the death penalty would be contrary to the international obligations of the country. Moreover, it would be absurd to apply the death penalty to the rebel officers and soldiers, while it has not done so in relation to Abdullah Öcalan and other militants of PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party). This will only increase anger and hatred in Turkish society. The Turkish authorities managed to prevent a coup with the support of the society, the media and the opposition; now they have to behave more modestly, and in a conciliatory manner", said Kerimli.

Ali Karimli

Ali Karimli

In his opinion, the best response for the support of people should be the strengthening of democracy: "They must abandon the old - style, tough rhetoric against opponents of the government. It is necessary to put an end to pressure on the media, to be more open to critical opinions, to take initiatives and tackle the atmosphere of confrontation in society”, said Kerimli.

Of course, added Kerimli, plotters and their supporters have to be punished.

"But this failed coup should not be an excuse for mass arrests, repression against independent people in the courts, the prosecutor's office, and the justice system. The arrests, investigations, judicial processes must be transparent. Society must be ensured that the attempt of rebellion will not be used for tightening the screws", continued the leader of PFPA.

In general, from his point of view, the country is at a crossroads.

"This failed coup attempt may result in the strengthening of authoritarianism in Turkey, or, on the contrary, may give an impetus to new democratic development, contribute to the enthronement of good will and national unity. The Turkish authorities should highly appreciate the support of people and find a path to protect their rights and interests, including those who did not vote for them", said Kerimli.

Natiq Jafarli — executive secretary of “Republican Alternative” movement

"On one hand, there has been an increase of religious concerns in the policy of the ruling elite. On the other, the military is trying to resist that. Seclusion of religion from politics is as important as the army non-interference in this process", he said.

Jafarli believes that the implementation of the same dynamic is important for Azerbaijan

"Improving the democratic situation in Turkey could positively influence the surrounding states, including Azerbaijan, with which it has a particularly close relationship.  On the contrary, the strengthening of authoritarianism in Turkey will be a bad example for its neighbors" , said Jafarli.

Natiq Jafarli

Natiq Jafarli

In his view, Ankara's influence on Baku’s foreign policy is enormous: 

"Azerbaijan must consider Turkey a factor in its policy. This is not only due to the nature of the ‘fraternal’ relations between the two nations. Azerbaijan has access to Europe through Turkey. Azerbaijani oil and gas are delivered to Europe through Turkey. Turkey is an important component of the transport corridor of the Silk Road and Azerbaijan has high hopes to diversify its income with the help of the corridor given the fall in world oil prices. It is important for Azerbaijan to have a partner that is at least a partially democratic state, and it is also important for Azerbaijan to constantly be aware of the vagaries of this unpredictable partner.” said Jafarli.

Ilham Ismail — Head of the Center for Security Studies 

A former officer of the national security agency of Azerbaijan, Ilham Ismail believes that increased repression, the restriction of democratic freedoms and the restoration of the death penalty would contribute to the deterioration of relations between Turkey and the outside world. The doors of the EU may forever be closed to Ankara, the Council of Europe may apply sanctions, the country could even face the prospect of exclusion from NATO.

"All of this, of course, will weaken Turkey and put an end to its foreign policy ambitions as a regional power. There is only one way to avoid all of this – real democratic reforms", said Ismail.

Ilham Ismail claims that the influence of Fethullah Gulen, who is residing in the USA, on the political life of Turkey is exaggerated. 

"Now the leadership is trying to assign responsibility for the attempted military coup to Gülen. However, there is no significant evidence to support this. The man fled to the United States when the country's political freedom was restricted by pressure from military circles. Moreover, hints from the Turkish government on the US involvement in the revolution could seriously complicate relations between Ankara and Washington. It is unlikely that the winning party will be Ankara ", Ismail continued.

Isa Qambar - head of the National Center for Strategic Thought

Head of the National Center for Strategic Thought, Isa Qambar, praised the behavior of the Turkish politicians and their reaction to the attempted coup. In particular, he welcomed the joint statement of all parliamentary fractions condemning the coup, confirming their commitment to republican values.

However, he considers it necessary to prevent steps aimed at reducing the authority of the army.

"It is unacceptable to discredit the entire army for the attempted coup of one faction of the military. On the contrary, the state must send a positive message to society, the military included. Free media, independent television channels, new communication technologies - Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, FaceTime - have created a completely different environment. Unlike the revolutions that happened in Turkey during the second half of the 20th century, now the society has the opportunity to receive information when it wants. 

This same transparency played a very important role in the restraining of the coup. The government should pay special attention to this fact and appreciate the importance of new media, social networking and they should put an end to thinking about how to counter new technologies, media freedom and abandon the practices of temporary blackouts in social media", said Gambar.

In his view, stability in Turkey and its development in the right direction are important for Azerbaijan and the whole region.

Jamil Hasanli — Head of the National Council of Democratic Forces

"The army, the police, the Turkish Gendarmerie are amongst the strongest in the world, however, they were powerless against the will of the people. On the night of July 15 - 16, the Turkish people showed their will and defended the elected authorities. It is a great victory for the Turkish people” Hasanli commented. 

Jamil Hasanli

Jamil Hasanli

However, in his opinion, unlike the rebels, the state must act within the law. "If the army was involved in the coup, it should not be penalized and lynched. Perpetrators must be punished on the basis of state laws by the court. Humiliation of soldiers should not be permitted", said Hasanli.

According to him, the excessive repressions will have a negative impact on Turkey's international image and will complicate its allied relations with Western partners, without which Ankara will become very vulnerable in the volatile Middle East region, surrounded by unfriendly countries.

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