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Turkey Detains Thousands As Failed Coup Attempt Leaves A Fractured Society


Turkey's minister of justice says the government has detained some 6,000 people it says were involved in Friday's attempted coup. Dozens of arrest warrants have been issued for judges and prosecutors as President Recep Erdogan purges anyone seen to oppose the government. Joining us is Bulent Aliriza. He is director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He was in Turkey when the coup started. Thanks so much for joining us.

BULENT ALIRIZA: You're welcome.

NEARY: Now, much of the violence was in Ankara, where you are. What is the situation in the capital now?

ALIRIZA: Stable, but understandably tense. The night of the 15th and the morning of the 16th there was heavy fighting going on downtown. The coup perpetrators had taken over the headquarters of the military, and they had also engaged the police in other parts of the capital. It continued throughout the night and then it died down the next morning. But obviously, the events of a few days ago have left their imprint on the people.

NEARY: Have things returned to normal, would you say, or they're just - you used the word stable. Is there a sense of normalcy at all yet?

ALIRIZA: Well, you know, it depends what we mean by normal. Obviously, we're not back to the situation that existed before the coup. It was thought by many people that a coup would no longer be possible. This is a country that had suffered from coups in the past. And when we talk about normality in Ankara, it's a normality which nonetheless is affected by what had happened a few days ago.

NEARY: How firm is President Erdogan's hold on power?

ALIRIZA: Firm. It was firm before the events. It's firm again now. But it must have come as a shock to him that there was a coup attempt against him. After all, he and the party that heads - the AKP, the Justice and Development Party - had won a number of elections and was, as election results confirm, widely perceived to be popular with almost 50 percent of the vote. And yet here it was being challenged by the military. And on top of that, there was an attempt on his life. The hotel where he was staying was attacked by special forces. He wasn't there at the time. He'd just left. You know, that must've been a shock to him. He's back in control but very much aware of the extra-parliamentary challenge by the military (unintelligible).

NEARY: President Erdogan has placed the blame for this coup on Fethullah Gulen. He's a Muslim cleric living in exile here in the United States. He has categorically denied that he was behind this. These two men were allies at one point, but now obviously enemies, bad blood between them. What's the story there?

ALIRIZA: It's a very long story. And the bad blood stretches back to the end of 2014, when prosecutors believed to be followers of Gulen began a series of investigations against a number of ministers in the Erdogan government and then subsequently, a week later, against members of Erdogan's family and others associated with them. Everyone immediately branded that a coup and from then on has been making a point of naming the Gulen movement for still engaging in plotting against his government, and culminating with the blame that he has laid at the door of Gulen and his followers for the coup attempt.

NEARY: Turkey has asked the U.S. to extradite Gulen. Any chance you think that that would happen?

ALIRIZA: Well, it depends on the way that the U.S. government judge the seriousness of the allegations. And Gulen happens to be a permanent resident, so it has to be judged sufficient. But it has to be stressed that President Erdogan says the coup - has made a point of underlining his desire for the extradition of Gulen and appealed personally to President Obama, and said that he'd raised this personally with President Obama in the past.

NEARY: Bulent Aliriza. He is the director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Thanks so much for being with us.

ALIRIZA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.