06:30 rolls around at about the same time everyday. That doesn’t seem to change. But my preparedness to greet it, well, that is something that can and does vary greatly.
On this particular Saturday morning I was decidedly not adequately prepared.
My alarm is the soft chirping of a bird song, so nothing jarring. There are times, in response to the bird song, when I rise, refreshed and ready to face the day. At other times, I rise, grudgingly greet the day, and get on with my business. And then there are days where I somewhat rise out of my groggy, sleepy, stupor, give a fleeting sidelong glance at the day, and then stagger out of bed, one eye intermittently opening to guide me to my chosen destination and all the while I perform my rather convincing impersonation of the zombie walk.
Today was a prime example of that latter form of rising.
When I, on unstable pins, came out of the bedroom, my wife, who has no problem whatsoever in greeting the day early – for her, rising at 06:30 is considered a lie-in – well, she introduced me to the events of the night just past.
Well, that is one way to quickly transition from groggy to wide-awake.
It seems, while we were happily in the land of Nod, dreaming weary dreams of the tired, significant and far-reaching events were unfolding in the major cities of Turkey.
The first indications that we had, were not in response to distressing sounds of the city, nor some media, but as my wife rose, she checked her emails to read one from our daughter – in a far off land – expressing concern about the events transpiring and that ‘the borders may be closed’ and she queried how that might effect us.
Hmm, borders closing… first I’m hearing about that…
Then, when I checked my emails, there was one from a chap in our company inquiring about the ‘situation’.
So, the first task of the morning was to learn what was the ‘situation’, what was happening, here, where we live.
It is rather ironic that the first news sources I had recourse to, were foreign news services – the BBC heading the list.
Now the problem with a source like that, is they are posting stories as events transpire and hence at various times during the previous night. The natural consequences of this flow of news is that each story reflects the understanding of events at each of those unique points in time.
Therefore, even though I am reading from what I would generally consider a generally balanced and reasonably trustworthy source, there are articles that are no longer true, superseded or rendered irrelevant by subsequent events – and all without any indicator that this may be the case. Indeed, when major events occur, I’ve learned that I need to be very careful in reading news sources and try to be aware of the chronology of events and the chronology of the articles written about them.
So, some articles said that we were under ‘martial law’ and others seemed to indicate that we were not. Some said that a curfews had been declared and others made no mention of one. To say the least, it was a contradictory and confused picture.
Then, speaking Turkish as I do, I turned to some Turkish news sources.
Now this can be tricky as well, partly because they, too, post articles at various points that, although they are still available, may well have been superseded by later articles. But, also by being in-country, if there actually has been a successful coup, then one of the first acts of coup-makers is to control the various news outlets – and hence endeavour to control the ‘news’.
In truth, I would not have been surprised if the Internet connection to the rest of the world had been cut – they have blocked Facebook, and Twitter and other sites in the past when the government deemed that the material there presented was offensive. Indeed, since first drafting the preceding sentence, Turkey has banned Wikileaks for posting over 300,000 emails sent by the ruling AK party that were sent over the course of some sixteen years.
But, no, the Internet was functioning normally.
At the end of the first half hour, if I were to proclaim that it was a confused picture, that would be true. However, it is safe to say that my over-all impression was that the events amounted to an ‘attempted’ coup rather than a ‘coup’ as some of the earlier reports had stated – the attempt having failed. The question still remained as to whether one could venture outside or not – the uncertainty over the state of ‘martial law’ and of the existence of a ‘curfew’ remained.
I looked at our home security camera, showing the street – and the street was devoid of people, vehicles, even passing cats. Mind you, it was still before 07:00 on a Saturday morning, so maybe that was not so indicative.
In any event, our morning had commenced and we went about our regular activities.
Now, normally, I go for a brisk walk at 09:00 and often one of my destinations will be the shopping mall that has been built in the centre of town. There I can do whatever work I have taken with me, be it reading or writing or preparing, in the relative comfort of an air conditioned space.
I had deduced by 09:00 that there was no curfew or at least, no effective curfew, for as time had progressed, I noticed some people on the streets and a random vehicle or two traveling about – oh, and the odd cat.
So I set out on my morning constitutional.
This morning I chose to walk down to a main throughfare that runs parallel to the river and mountain, travelling roughly southwest by northeast. It is the most important street running through the old part of the city. The old quarter is built directly over the ruins of the ancient city. The path of this road, called ‘Salvation’ Street, seems to mimic the course of the ancient ‘colonnaded’ street which old plans of the city describe. The colonnaded street was the most important street in the ancient city and, reportedly, was one of the first street in the Roman world to have been fitted with a form of street lighting.
I was enjoying my brisk walk, walking in the early morning shade on the easterly side of road and heading, roughly, in an easterly direction. There was traffic, but not as much as normal. There were pedestrians… but again, less than usual.
I came to one of the large, main mosques of Antakya. It is named after Neccar Habib – reportedly a saintly Christian who lived in Roman times and is now revered as a ‘saint’ amongst the Muslim, Alevi population. This mosque intrudes some into the street and causes a wee wiggle in the otherwise straight Salvation Street. I have had occasion to visit the subterranean catacomb under the mosque where there are two graves of… not really sure who… but the stones appear to be old (how does one tell the age of a stone?), and it is deep in the bowels of the mosque…
In any event, as I progressed up the street past the mosque, I came to a number of shops where the shop keepers were busy hanging Turkish flags from their shop fronts… a kind of reaction to the previous evening’s events and showing support…
But I was not and still am not sure what they were showing support for, the democratic order, for the secular Republic, for the government, for the President… for the ruling Party… I do not know… but they were hanging the national flag… and showing support…
I continued my walk up the street, and then turned around and went back down the way I had come. At a convenient point I turned to my right and made my way down to and then crossed the Asi river – known in ancient times at the Orontes. The volume of water dribbling down the river in these modern times has been reduced to this desultory trickle by the demands of upstream farmers pulling vast amounts of water out to irrigate their fields. By doing this, they get not one, nor two, but up to three crops a year from their fields.
It doesn’t leave much to flow down the Asi.
Arriving at the shopping mall, the security at the door was normal – not extra, not less, just normal.
As I entered into the cool spaces, I noted that the large H&M shop was still fully shuttered, and as I wandered about I noticed that there were two other shops still closed. All the other shops were open for business.
I found my quiet corner, ordered a hot beverage and commenced the task that I had brought with me.
I had opportunity to chat with a person who works there. They said that normally staff get to work about two hours before the mall opens to the public, but on this day, they were kept outside and barred from entering for that time.
Generally speaking, there seemed to be a sense of unease and a degree of trepidation about.
As the hour arrived for me to return home, I noted that even though it was then 12:00 noon on a Saturday, a time when the food court should be chock-a-block, yet it was barren, just a few hardy souls and acres of empty tables and chairs.
My walk home was much like my walk out, everything was normal-ish. It wasn’t really normal… but it wasn’t really abnormal… it was almost normal… kind of normal-ish.
As the day progressed, more news came out about the attempted coup. The where, when and who did what, became a bit more clear. The number of casualties rose – how many homes would be getting the devastating news that their young men would not be coming home. The fatalities included police, military and civilians.
Then the photos and video began to become ubiquitous – in this modern day where everyone has a camera and access to the Internet. Soon social media was inundated with scenes of rampaging tanks, and then shots of static tanks and soldiers, followed by surrendering soldiers, then cowed and beaten soldiers, then bloodied and terrified soldiers. These were the initial images that came out on the day.
And by soldiers, I am not referring to the alleged plotters, organisers and perpetrators of this coup but I am referring to the simple, conscripts who were given orders and, as they are trained to do, they did as they were told, and all without knowing who, ultimately, is giving the commands and with no knowledge if the action they were engaged in was sanctioned. The officers, well, they will, or at least, should have known, what they were engaged in, but these poor privates were at a loss to know beforehand; and then they were abandoned to the ‘mercy’ of the mob.
For me, this attempted coup is not the main point of concern. Rather, it is the aftermath, it is what has come on the heels of this.
On the night of the coup, as the events had begun to unfold, the president of the Republic went on telly and also on social media calling for the citizens to come out into the streets and show support. He called for and unleashed the masses to stop a military coup. And people responded, in their masses.
However, there are examples where the unfettered and uncontrolled mass of civilians can go beyond the bounds of expected behaviours. In well-published occasions, civilians surrounded the soldiers. These, the non-officer/ non NCO class, these simple conscripted soldiers, found themselves facing what descended into a baying mob.
The soldiers had guns. Additionally, they had tanks. One assumes that they had munitions for those weapons… but even if they didn’t, they had tanks.
In Nice, France, we saw the carnage created by a single, empty, articulated lorry – leaving some 84 dead and multiple injured in its wake. One shudders to contemplate what would be the outcome if a tank were driven in such a violent and aggressive manner.
The soldiers were not without recourse – but they steadfastly did not fire on, nor defend themselves against their fellow citizens.
What follows next is sobering beyond description.
The civilian masses then descended on the surrendering soldiers, they herded them together, they beat them, they bloodied them, they cursed them, some they murdered and at least one was beheaded. Citizens doing this not to a foreign power, nor a terrorist organisation, but to their own brothers, cousins, sons, nephews – for these conscripts have come from citizenry.
The young men did not defend themselves with the tools at their disposal, and the mob assaulted, humiliated, beat, bloodied, and tormented them.
In the immediate aftermath of these confused and distressing events, one could almost, almost, understand…
But the calls to the general public continue to go out… for this coup attempt turned out to be a surprisingly close-run thing. It was the intervention of the common people that turned the tide.
From the mosques, the loudspeakers declare that the citizenry should go out in the evening and drive about the streets, hooting their hooters and making noise to declare their suppor for the established order.
However, when you call for the masses to, well, mass together, you are in danger of creating a ‘mob’. Mob mentality departs from normal human norms and takes on a life and personality all of its own. Let the one who summons the mob beware.
In Ancient Rome, the great and the powerful were always mindful of, wary of and fearful of the infamous Roman Mob. When large bodies of people gather, with no head, and many themes flowing about, then anything is possible.
One sobering historic example was when the crowd greeted Jesus as he entered Jerusalem with ecstatic shouts of “Hosanna” and “Great is God in the Highest” and just a few days later, in the same city, the mob gathered to violently demand, “Crucify Him” and “We have no King but Caesar.”
There is great power in the masses… and masses can be summoned and, to a degree, manipulated, but can easily devolve into a mob which can never be controlled. You may summon the masses. You may manipulate the masses. But, if the so-gathered masses deteriorate into a mob, then, ultimately, no one does nor can control the mob.
Now some facts of life: we live in a country that is prone to earthquakes and we live in an area that is one of the highest risk areas for earthquakes. We live in a province where on one side we have the Mediterranean Sea, on another, a small side, we have our link with Turkey and on the remaining two sides we have Syria. Syria, which is currently enduring a long, protracted, bloody civil war – a civil war complicated as it is, because in addition to being a civil war it is also a proxy war for major players in the world and yet further complicated by the fact that it is filled with foreign extremist fighters, fighting for their own agendas… Moreover, we live in a country that is being violently shaken by its own, internal ethnic conflicts and resultant violence. We live in a country with a growing sectarian divide, sowing the seeds of future chaos, struggle and the inevitable violence, injury and death. We abide in a land that has supporters of IS, and IS fighters live in our midst. We live in a country where the economy is suffering from the effects of all of the above, and as they economy suffers, so the common people suffer and suffering people will grasp anyone or any ideology which promises help… and all the dangers that poses. These are the facts.
But in viewing the images of the poor soldiers, surrendered, surrounded and cowed, those images cause me pause; the danger posed by rampant ‘mob violence’.
The masses can be summoned – as demonstrated in these past days. A focus or target can be provided – recently it was the military, but, at another time it could be something closer to home. The one instigating this may be doing so with the intent to intimidate, coerce, cow and domineer. That could be their genuine intent, but once unleashed, if the masses degenerate into a mob, then there is no control of, nor stopping it
The last pogrom, primarily against Greek Orthodox Christians living in Istanbul, was on 6 September 1955, in my life time. It was an example of mob violence, raised on a false accusation and resulted in the deaths of many, with mass migration a direct consequence.
You can mitigate against the danger of earthquakes. You can take measures against the threats of religiously motivated violence. You can endeavour, as much as it is possible, to not be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But, there is precious little that you can do against a summoned mob, bent on violence… that will seek out and destroy, rightly or wrongly, the focus of their fury…
… as evidenced by the mob treating shamefully, then violently, then tortuously, then even murdering their own flesh and blood, the young lads conscripted into the military to do their ‘national duty’…
In the wake of this coup, thousands of military personnel, many of them very senior, have been arrested – well, these events were a military coup, so, I suppose, that is not surprising. However, immediately after the attempted coup, thousands of judges and prosecutors have been suspended and also thousands of police officers as well. Some provincial Governors – those appointed by the State – have also lost their jobs. It is believed that the instigator of the coup was the self-exiled Islamic scholar, Fethullah Gülen. Hence his followers, seeded throughout the organs of the state are being neutralised.
Hence there is a general ‘house cleaning’ going on, spurred on by the coup and yet with list already drawn up; it lends itself to a more dark interpretation.
On July 19, four days after the coup, 15,000+ education personnel from the highest positions downward have been suspended. Between the police, military, judicial and now education, the effects of this action continue unabated and neither diminishing in scope nor with an end in sight.
On the morning of 20 July, the following from the BBC:
“The army, judiciary, security and civil service have all been targeted following Friday’s coup attempt:
Now over 45,000 lost jobs, suspended or arrested
■ 6,000 military personnel have been arrested, with more than two dozen generals awaiting trial
■ Nearly 9,000 police officers have been sacked
■ Close to 3,000 judges have been suspended
■ Some 1,500 employees of Turkey’s finance ministry have been dismissed
■ 492 have been fired from the Religious Affairs Directorate
■ More than 250 staff in Mr Yildirim’s office have been removed
Turkey’s media regulation body on Tuesday also revoked the licenses of 24 radio and TV channels accused of links to Mr Gulen. “.
This is not a comprehensive listing… and since writing it, the new total being published is 50,000…
This is exceedingly troubling when one considers Jesus’s teaching on a house divided against itself – it can not stand.
And then, against the backdrop of the active fight against the PKK separatists fighters, IS fighters and with a fiercely contested war on the southern border and oh, yes, millions of Syrian refugees in country and mixed up in all that are the untold undocumented individuals who have also entered the country, it is not a good time to be eviscerating the police, military and the judiciary. Evidently the threat from within was viewed as greater than the threat from without.
Additionally, the sacking of
45,000 50,000 personnel, which is only the current count, will be devastating for the families of those directly effected and a body blow to the general economy.
We are travelling down a road and the vehicle we are travelling in is moving with shocking speed, and we do not know the destination, nor if anyone is truly in control.
Yes, it is normal for a fear, an almost animalistic, visceral fear to rise from within. But we are more than our senses, we are more than our circumstances, we are more than a helpless pawn being shunted around a glocal chessboard by the so-called great and powerful.
But let me interject, our situation is by no means unique.
Recently there was a referendum in the UK which was won, convincingly 52% to 48%. But, pause for a moment to consider the 48% whose votes did not carry the day. There has been no effort made in the aftermath to convince them of the value and benefit of the choice the majority took. To a certain extent, they are ‘along for the ride’ travelling down the ‘Leave’ path. They are in a vehicle, going down a path they did not choose and may not believe in. With all the uncertainties of the ultimate outcome, those so affected can be described as experiencing a similar ‘feeling’ to what we are.
Consider those of our cousins across the pond, some who write profoundly vitriolic abuse concerning one or the other of the two candidates to become the next president of the United States. One will triumph and one will lose. Those on the ‘losing’ side will be carried along by the winners. They, too, will feel powerless and helpless, going down a path that they did not choose. And, may experience a similar feeling to what we are experiencing.
But we are not subject to our circumstances. We are not slaves to what others decide. We are not obligated to be desolate and helpless and fearful of what may, possibly, come next.
We are children, by adoption, of God Almighty. We are under His care, His love and we are called to live in His peace where we can trust and rest in Sovereign Lord. I can focus on that reality, and breath deep, knowing He is faithful – come what may – or I can focus on what may be or possibly be, or the strength of the powers that be, or the machinations of my own imagination concerning what may happen next, all of which leads to worry, ulcers, high blood pressure, debilitating fear, stress and a nightmare existence.
At the end of the day, the choice of where I put my thoughts, my focus is up to me as an individual – and so it is for all. We can live the reality of ‘contentment’ regardless of our circumstances, or we can live as slaves to our circumstances – it is in our hands to choose.
God is faithful.
God is sovereign.
God is our High Tower – but we must enter in…