In defence of democracy
Following the failed coup attempt staged in Turkey on Friday July 15, 2016 Ambassador Fatih Ulusoy and his staff have been busy in pursuing instructions sent from Ankara and hosting and receiving messages conveyed to Turkish People by Ethiopians here. Since July 16 onwards the ambassador has been receiving guests who visit his office to offer their condolences and solidarity. This week, on Thursday, while having an exclusive interview with The Reporter, a group of orphan children who receive assistance from Turkish Development Agency (TIKA), went to visit Ambassador Ulusoy to pay their respects to the victims. The foiled coup remains a hotspot with once again with the government’s continued massive detentions, suspensions or roundups of many suspects that might have been involved in the plot. The ambassador highlights that there is misinformation spread alleging high number of arrests however, most of them are suspension from government duties due to investigations, or detentions as a good number of civil servants, the academic circles, people at various ministries might have linked with the Fethullah Gulen movement (fGulen) which is registered as terrorist organization in Turkey. Ambassador confirmed all investigations and judicial proceedings will be done in full observance of Turkey’s constitution and international human rights commitments. In exile in the U.S. the cleric and businessman, Fethulah Gulen has argued non-involvement in the attempted coup which caused fatalities of 246 souls and 1,400 injuries. The plotters who masterminded the coup are believed to be a certain elements of the Turkish armed forces. Birhanu Fikade of The Reporter sat down with Ambassador Ulusoy to learn more about the attempted coup, how the country is handling suspects, why Turkey has declared a three month state of emergency. Ambassador Ulusoy mentions some elements of fGulen movements which he decline to mention are operational in many countries including Ethiopia and the Embassy has been sharing information with Ethiopian Government. He talks about investment and trade relations and some development activities Turkey is involved running are mentioned in the interview: Excerpt.
The Reporter: To begin with let us start with expressions of solidarity across the world to the people of Turkey. We are observing many nations expressing concerns and supports. Has the government of Ethiopia expressed concerns so far?
Ambassador Fatih Ulusoy: definitely, the government communication office and the ministry of foreign affairs have issued official statements condemning the act which was directed against democracy and constitutional order of Turkey. We appreciate very much the support and solidarity of the Ethiopian government and those many individuals who came to visit us at the embassy to express their solidarities. We have received messages of support from different officials of Ethiopian government and regional leaders. We are very happy with that.
How is the situation evolving in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt?
Let me give you the snapshot of what has actually happened in Turkey on the evening of July 15, 2016. On that evening a group inside the Turkish armed forces attempted to stage a coup in several cities mainly the capital Ankara and Istanbul. It was shortly understood that the act was beyond a coup attempt. It was actually a terrorist act. They didn’t hesitate to kill civilians and bombard the parliament with fighter jets. This has never happened in our history. Our parliament had never been bombarded in any war before. The perpetrators have shot their own people with arms that the people entrusted to safeguard them. That was very crucial point to consider. They stabbed their commanders at the back. The office of the presidency was one of the targets attacked. From the very beginning the command chain and the vast majority of the Turkish armed forced have resisted the coup. Minor elements in various departments of the military were behind the attempt. Both the police and the public persecutors immediately started to take measures to foil the attempt and launched investigations. I have to highlight one point here. The act was prevented thanks to the firm and brave stance of our president, of our government and parliament and members of all political parties. They have acted unified as one. I want to shed light also on our media’s reaction. Turkish media stood very strong against the attempted coup. They have been broadcasting how horrible and how unacceptable the act was as it violates democracy and constitution of the country. The most important stance was what the people have displayed in defending the country. We heard lots of heroic stories that night. There are footages that we have put in our Embassy’s social media clearly showing many citizens who have stood at a gunpoint and open fires to be shot by the traitors. Many stood firm facing tanks approaching them. Some of the tanks dared to crash and ran over citizens. It was very horrible scene. That is why I say it was not merely a coup attempt. It was terrorism. I would like to add some points with regards to the role of the parliament. Our parliament in its capacity, as the representative of the nation continued its duties despite the bombardments. Members of the parliament were in sessions while they were shelled and witnessed erring sounds of bombs. The building was shattered. Despite all the attacks they continued with the proceedings and called on the people. They have shown their perseverance. This was the parliament that has proven worthiness of its nation. I want to highlight that regardless of the political differences and ideas, MPs acted unified and echoed as one voice against the traitors. This is very significant point that needs to be well noted. The people and the MPs have put their seal in our nation’s history. The parliament also called on the people to avoid any act of violence which jeopardizes the democratic reactions. On the next day that is July 16, 2008 the parliament held sessions to issue a joint declaration signed by all political parties. In the declaration, MPs have saluted brotherly and friendly countries that include
Ethiopia where the country offered supports from early hours. I would like to pass on this message. During that night we have lost 246 citizens including police officers but mostly civilians and some soldiers who stood against the traitors. More than 1,400 people have been wounded. Following these events, operations are underway against the terrorists. More than 9000 people affiliated with this act have been detained. The number of arrests is increasing. We have 24 coup plotters identified dead and 50 injured. But I think these numbers will increase. Another interesting development during that night was that a group of eight has fled to neighboring Greece with a helicopter. Our authorities have been in contact with Greek counterparts. So far the helicopter has been returned back. The extradition of the traitors is on the process. We have solid proof that the attempted coup and terrorist act was perpetuated by the Fethulah Gulen terrorist group. They have been listed as a terrorist group by our national security council some time ago. What has happened during that night reveals what the traitors are capable of. It revealed how dangerous it is to the whole world. At this point I would like to share an important concern that there are members of this organization in many countries including Ethiopia. We are in touch with authorities here and we share information in a transparent manner. We don’t want to see Ethiopia face similar situation by this terrorist group. I have personally been affected by the attackers where they fired at my sister’s flat. Thanks to God they are unharmed. Next day after the failed attempt, order has been restored. Starting from 16 July Saturday, Government offices, security organizations and the rest of public services continued as usual. Our deputy prime minister had conference call with international investors. We continued official state business as usual. Our president has received foreign dignitaries. There was a state visit from neighboring country. Due to our geographical location, we face threats and crisis however our economy has always shown resilience. On Wednesday, National Security Council chaired by our president have met and following that cabinet of ministers have met and official statement was issued declaring a three month state of emergency period in Turkey. However, I want to assure and confirm that this decision has no impact on ordinary citizens, tourists or any business persons. The only reason it is declared is to aid ongoing investigations as high number of people are under custody and the judicial procedures are progressing. The state of emergency is issued in accordance with our constitution with the full observance of the European Convention on human rights. This is a permissible measure under the international law. The state of emergency will not affect fundamental rights and freedoms of our citizens. It’s a nationwide measure taken for the efficient protection of the constitutional order to uphold rule of law. Following what has happened in Turkey; the government of Somalia has closedown schools, hospitals and other institutions linked with this terrorist organization. They have given one week notice to its members to leave the country. As I have mentioned we have received solidarity and support from Ethiopia. Our foreign minister has received telephone calls from 50 dignitaries who have strongly condemned the act and have expressed support to the people and government of Turkey. On Monday we have organized a gathering with Turkish community and Ethiopian friends here in Addis Ababa for prayers and to remember the fallen ones fighting traitors.
I want you give us any detail you have at hand that links with Fethulah Gulen Movement here.
On this issue we are sharing the necessary information with the Ethiopian government. But there are some organizations and offices. They have people affiliated with this group. After what has happened in Turkey, I think everybody is aware of the dangers. Wherever they reside, not only Turkey or Ethiopia, they show what they are capable of. We have good communication channel with Ethiopia and share whatever we have with the relevant officials.
Are they running schools or NGOs and the like here?
They have schools. They have businesses running here. They are not limited in Addis. They remain active in other cities. Once again I like to confirm that we share relevant information we have with Ethiopian officials on this issue.
Form past experiences of Turkey we know that a number of coups had taken place. But what can you tell us about the immediate as well as the gradual causes of the attempted coup staged last week?
There are press reports about that. We don’t have official information yet. However, it’s very clear that they didn’t hesitate to kill civilians with arms and ammunitions. Currently, investigations and judicial processes are underway. But for the official responses I think we have to wait the conclusions of the investigations and the judicial procedures. At this point, I would like to kindly advice and request yours and other media outlets to focus or follow on the official information released by government institutions back home and here at the embassy. We are sharing official updates in our social media. It’s because we are observing a very massive misinformation campaigns affiliated with the terrorist group.
You have mentioned the number of people detained amounts to be some 9,000 individuals. But from reports we learnt have that the numbers are climbing up to 50,000 including the number of teachers, workers of ministries and the likes. That is a massive detention and some media reports suggest that there have been huge roundup or suspending actions. What can you share with us in that regard?
This question requires more clarity. Once authorities identify some elements at different government organizations affiliated with the terrorist group, at first they will be taken out of duty. According to the judicial procedure, it is required that they need to go through investigations and must be taken to custody. If necessary, they will be arrested. The process goes step by step in accordance with law. The Turkish government fully follows and respects the judicial procedures. The numbers you have mentioned relates with some circles that provide huge numbers in relation to the arrested people. This however doesn’t exist. That number is for those people suspected as affiliates in government offices and they are taken out of duty. The number might be very high because it was their target to spread into the government systems and take control of the government. Some circles try to portray that this number represents the number of people imprisoned. We need to rely on official information here.
There is another development that implicates the academia. We hear that all members of the academic circles are not allowed to leave the country. Is that true?
The members of that terrorist group who are found are taken under custody. Those who are not apprehended are trying to flee the country. Hence, how do you treat a person who is suspect and trying to flee the country? With regards to the academia there are official statements issued. The Fethulah Gulen terrorist group very much focuses on the education sector. There are necessary investigations going on in relation to academia at various universities. But the investigations are not specifically carried out on academics or universities. We have on going procedures at all government institutions. Because what we went through last week shows the world the scope of the dangers.
Turkey has been negotiating with the EU to be one of its member states for the last two decades. Will the current incident affect that process? And what is the stance of the EU towards the issue?
The EU has announced its support and solidarity to our government. They have issued supportive statements. What we have witnessed is that a terrorist group was targeting to affect democracy, the rule of law and constitutional order in a candidate country. Therefore, the EU respects and upholds human rights and the rule of law. They have made statements on our membership process with the EU and our expectation is to receive appreciation rather than anything else. Because the Turkish people across all the walks of society have shown that how they feel very much attached to democracy and they can defend democracy, rule of law and constitutional order risking their lives. During that night our president was not in Ankara or Istanbul. He decided to go to Istanbul to be together with the people to stand against the plotters. He knew fighter jets have been chasing his plane but he risked his life to fly to Istanbul. Thanks to God he arrived safe to Istanbul. He has shown his leadership once again.
What can you tell us about the bravery of the majority of the Turks that stood firm defending the government? Is it a unique display from the public or were there similar phenomena at the times of past coup d’états?
I think what happened clearly shows to everyone how much the Turkish people are determined to safeguard democracy and rule of law. Our history is full of heroic occasions. Our fight against terrorism is one good example. The recent incident is one more chapter that glorifies our fight against terrorism. We are very proud of our people that they have acted as one in such circumstances. They might have many different ideas or political views. In times of such difficulties they have acted unified. It was a very clear message the people of Turkey have conveyed. Nobody should dare plan to launch such indiscriminate act and harm democracy. Hence, we have bright future ahead of us because of the strength of our people. We have lost precious lives but our people have taught a very good historical lesson.
Let’s draw our attention to bilateral relations of Turkey and Ethiopia. What can you tells about the progresses after the state visits of president Erdogan last year?
I would like to remind you that our embassy was opened here in 1926. This is the oldest Turkish embassy in the sub-Saharan Africa region. My staff and I are very happy to serve in Ethiopia because we feel at home. I don’t feel like I am in a foreign country. Both Ethiopia and Turkey have many things in common. The first thing is that we both are in a very difficult neighborhood. Both countries however are very strong nations and have strong governments that play leading roles in our respective regions. We have the potential and capacity. We both are developing strongly in the economic front. Both our countries and governments are strong actors in fighting terrorism. The other similarity we share lies in hosting huge number of refugees. The most important similarities we share include the cultures we live with. I have witnessed similar hospitality here same as Turks. People invite us to their homes and serve us whatever they have. They warmly welcome us whenever we travel and visit different parts of the country. Following the foiled coup I have been receiving messages from friends of Turkey in Ethiopia. When we see the bilateral relations in terms of foreign direct investment, Turkey’s overall investment in Africa stands at six billion dollars. Out of that amount, 2.5 billion dollars is the share of Ethiopia representing almost half of the total investment of Turkey in Africa. There is an attractive investment climate in Ethiopia. I am working to push this number higher than the current status. We are trying to bring big businesses from Turkey. Recently, we hosted big business delegation here. That will continue in both ways. During the drought season, Turkish businesses here have voluntarily contributed to assist people affect by food insecurities. We have arranged the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Afar Regional State where the drought was felt very strong. We contributed food aid for three thousand people and animal feeds for five thousand families. Ethiopia has a very special place in the minds of Turkish people. Turkish Government offers scholarships to foreign students and last year from Ethiopia we had 88 students in Turkey, this year we hope to have more. You might know that Anadolu Agency, the Turkish (state media) has headquartered its Africa office in Ethiopia. Turkish Airlines has everyday flights from Addis Ababa to Istanbul. We have Turkish Development Cooperation Agency (TiKA) on the ground here operating. They are about to finalize two important projects in Ethiopia. One of the projects is the restoration of the Ottoman Consulate Building in Harar and we expect the completion very soon. In the Tigray region we have a project that works at the holistic site of Al Negashi near the town of Mekelle; the project involves nearly half of the Negashi village. In terms of our trade relations we have a 420 million dollars’ trade volume last year and Ethiopia stands the fourth largest trading partner of Turkey in sub-Saharan Africa. The overall trade volume with Africa stands at 19.5 billion dollars. Our export to sub-Saharan Africa is about 3.9 billion dollars. We are working with Ethiopian authorities to increase and beef up the current trade volume. As you have mentioned, during our president’s visit, both leaders of the two countries have agreed to raise the trade volume to one billion dollars. I think the target is achievable.
But recently some of your big companies are facing serious challenges in this country. For instance Ayka Addis is one of the biggest textile exporting firms where some 60 percent of the total export from that sector is made up. Unfortunately, the likes of Ika Addis are facing difficulties.
Its true companies like Ayka Addis have greater share in the export of textile and garment. Ayka Addis alone employs some 7,500 Ethiopians. I have visited that company and it is one of the Turkish companies I have visited having very comprehensive production plant. They have plans for further expansions. In this country there are ample opportunities and attractive incentives. However, as a developing country there might be some challenges as can be seen elsewhere in other parts of the world. Turkish businesses should keep their businesses running and improve whenever necessary. We appreciate the swift reactions of the government bodies whenever there are problems our companies are facing. We have to acknowledge that there are certain challenges. But looking at the future and highlighting the cooperative manner displayed from both sides is very important. We have friendly and brotherly relations between our countries and we can overcome any hindering issues if there exists.