August 01

Some of the President’s Men: Yıldırım, Davutoglu, and the “Palace Coup” Before the Coup


When Ahmet Davutoğlu announced on May 27, 2016 that he would return all the gifts he had accumulated during his eventful nineteen months in office, the media had barely settled into referring to him as “Turkey’s former prime minister.”[1] Just a month earlier, no such end was in sight for Davutoğlu—in fact, he seemed stronger than ever, having just negotiated visa-free European travel for Turkish citizens in return for stemming the flow of refugees. Then, in a rush of events, he was stripped of power by his own party and pressured into calling an extraordinary party convention at which he “chose” not to stand as a nominee for leadership.

Explanations for this rapid fall pointed to President Erdoğan’s resentment at Davutoğlu for becoming “a household name both in Turkey and overseas”[2]; his anger at Davutoğlu for having attempted to sideline him during the refugee negotiations[3]; or—allowing Davutoğlu a more active role in the process—the prime minister’s own frustration with “Erdoğan’s continued desire for more presidential power.”[4] One opposition leader called the events a “palace coup” while another dismissed the events as just a new step in an ongoing process: “What happened to Davutoğlu wasn’t a coup,” he explained, “Davutoğlu is just a puppet. Since the elections in June [2015] we’ve been speaking of a coup process. Davutoğlu supported that process.”[5]

That sentiment was widespread in international news coverage. Davutoğlu’s “resignation” provoked numerous post-mortem articles describing it as yet one more nail in the coffin of Turkish constitutional democracy. Consequently, few commentators have spent much time reflecting on Davutoğlu’s successor, Binali Yıldırım. The new Turkish prime minister has been described as an “ally” of President Erdoğan, “a loyalist,” and “as someone who will be subservient”—one article summed up the general tone nicely with the (not completely) tongue-in-cheek title “Do You Really Need to Know the New Turkish PM?”[6]

The question is fair: Yıldırım was appointed to the position of prime minister for the purpose of making the position superfluous. Moreover, in light of the far-less-metaphorical coup attempt on July 15, the daily grind of Turkish politics seems less relevant. Yet considering how a politician like Yıldırım enters politics, rises to power, implements policies, forms alliances, and dispatches rivals holds important lessons for those who want to understand how power is consolidated and lost in contemporary Turkey.

Whatever the government’s recent pretentions to regional leadership may be, the Justice and Development Party’s dominance of Turkish politics is based on its relations with business leaders, non-governmental organizations, and religious-political movements. Understanding a politician like Yıldırım and—more generally—the social networks he inhabits helps us appreciate how the government purses the policies that have made it popular and, in important ways, deeply corrupted it.[7]


I. Bureaucrats and Theocrats: Yıldırım Enters Politics

II. Making Policy Concrete: Yıldırım as Minister of Transportation

III. Un-Friending Social Media: Yıldırım vs. YouTube

IV. Pool Party: Business, Media and, Yıldırım

V. Interlude: Media Matters

VI. Shadow Prime Minister: The Davutoğlu Administration

VII.  Exit Davutoğlu

VIII.  Conclusion



I. Bureaucrats and Theocrats: Yıldırım Enters Politics

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Conservative-religious political leaders Abdullah Gül, Recai Kutan, Necmettin Erbakan, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the wedding of businessman Ahmet Albayrak’s duagther (Milliyet, 6/20/00)

Many leaders of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have roots in the religious-conservative movement of the late-1960s and 1970s. During these years, Turkish student politics had grown increasingly polarized between right and left as militant groups established themselves in and around campuses. At the same time, the political right was splintering internally between more nationalist and more religious factions. Student organizations that had once accommodated both tendencies now became dominated by one or the other.

These splits were apparent in organizations like the National Turkish Student Union (MTTB), which increasingly emphasized religious demands in line with the major Islamist party of the period, Necmettin Erbakan’s National Salvation Party (MSP). In 1977, for example, MTTB students rallied in front of the Aya Sofya, demanding that it be re-opened for Friday prayer service after having been a museum for the past four decades. While the students rallied in Istanbul’s historic district, Erbakan led a second rally in the more central Taksim Square, announcing:

There are many mosques on the face of the earth, but the Aya Sofya is an exceptional one. The Aya Sofya is a monument to the Lord’s victory over the west. The Aya Sofya is a symbol of the Conquest [of Istanbul by Fatih Sultan Mehmet]. The Aya Sofya is the banner of the new age. For nearly forty-two years it has been turned into a museum. Now in Istanbul, 524 years after the Conquest, a new generation of conquerors has been raised.[8]


Among this “new generation” were AKP founders like Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Abdullah Gül. By 1973, Erdoğan was already the president of the MSP Youth Wing in Istanbul and in 1974 he was elected Facilities Manager at the national convention of the MTTB. At the same convention, Abdullah Gül was elected to the Executive Committee.[9] In 1974, Erdoğan was twenty and Gül was twenty-four; by the early 1990s, they had moved into the leadership of Erbakan’s religious political movement. When Erbakan’s Welfare Party won the Istanbul municipal elections in 1994, Erdoğan became mayor. As he worked to fill posts in his administration with allies, he was introduced to Yıldırım.[10]

Yıldırım was not part of Erbakan’s political organization or the larger religious movement.[11] Though he had been studying engineering at Istanbul Technical University during these years,[12] he was not a figure in either the MTTB or the MSP; instead, he had focused on working his way up through the administration of the Istanbul shipyards.[13] In 1994, Erdoğan named him Director of the Istanbul Ferry System (İDO). In this position, Yıldırım promoted the twin goals of the movement: improved municipal services and the increased presence of religious symbols in public space.[14] During his five years in office, Yıldırım expanded the fleet of inter and intra-city ferries, making sure to advertise the fact that several of these new ferries (unlike those purchased by his predecessors) included prayer rooms. In another symbolic gesture, one of these newly purchased inter-city ferries was named for former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes. Removed from office and executed by the military forty years earlier, Menderes was remembered fondly by conservative politicians.[15]

Turkish citizens who wanted both an expansion of public services and of public piety embraced these accomplishments, but the policies were deeply distressing for citizens who saw strict separation between a secular public sphere and a religious private sphere as essential to the Turkish republic. When Erbakan’s electoral successes were repeated at the national level and he was allowed to form a government, the reaction from the military was strong. After a year of increasing tensions, military leaders demanded that Erbakan implement a series of policies designed to restrict public Islamic practice—unregistered religious courses were prohibited and headscarves were banned in public universities.

In addition to these explicit government policies, businesses and individuals tied to Turkish Islamic politics became the subjects of legal investigations; academics with such sympathies were removed; and officials like Yıldırım were accused of corruption—or, more precisely, their active participation in a political system well-oiled by patronage and kickbacks was brought to public attention. Yıldırım, for example, had given concessions at one ferry terminal to an uncle and at another to a second cousin’s wife. That wife also worked as a sales-representative for a company that ran concessions onboard the ferries. Yıldırım agency awarded this company with a highly favorable contract. In 1999, Yıldırım was removed from office.[16]

During the following three years, Erbakan’s political movement fragmented between his supporters and “reformists” close to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Yıldırım, never having had much connection with Erbakan, became a founding member of Erdoğan’s break-away AKP. In 2002, he was elected as one of its Istanbul candidates and named Minister of Transportation, Maritime and Communication.[17] As had been the case in municipal government, Yıldırım was in charge of realizing some of the government’s most popular electoral promises, namely infrastructure projects.


II. Making Policy Concrete: Yıldırım as Minister of Transportation

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Binali Yıldırım and Robotman at an electronic security technology fair (Milliyet, 10/30/06)

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) was elected following the abject failure of other parties to govern. In the three years since the previous parliamentary election, an earthquake had killed 17,000 people and an economic crisis had forced the country to seek aid from the International Monetary Fund, accepting all the conditions that such a loan entailed. The AKP government’s accomplishments during its first term were limited by economic conditions—but also by political conditions: the president of Turkey had been appointed in 2000 and remained strongly opposed to the AKP’s religious social policies until he left office in 2007.

In order to push ahead with its priorities, the AKP government sold off important state industries and issued contracts to private-sector firms to develop various mega-projects.[18] After 2007, with the presidency in its control, the government accelerated its development projects. Yıldırım’s ministry—and Yıldırım himself—were essential in overseeing the bidding process for these projects and cultivating the connections between the government and the business community that undergird AKP rule to this day.[19]

In terms of accomplishments, consider roads: since 1965, the length of paved roads in Turkey has grown by an average of 25% every four years. This number, however, varies wildly and obscures the fact that from 2007-11 the total length of roads grew 56% and, from 2011-15, 48%. Without such numbers, average growth over the past fifty years would be only 19%. Put another way: in 2002 there were 6,877 km of paved roads; in 2015, there were 17,095 km.[20]

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Yıldırım accepts a ceremonial check at the sale of Telsim to the British firm Vodafone (Milliyet, 2/6/06)

In other areas too, the changes Turkey experienced during Yıldırım’s time as Transport Minister are stunning. In 2002, there were thirty-nine airports operating in Turkey—meaning that, since the first airport was built in 1937, governments had been building an average of 0.6 airports each year. Between 2002 and 2015, the rate doubled.[21] The AKP government also allowed more competition in civilian aviation resulting in a rapid increase in cheap, private airlines and a fall in travel costs. Though train ridership has fallen over the years on account of cheaper airfare and growing automobile ownership, the government began building a series of high-speed rail lines in 2003. By 2009, there were 397 km of high-speed rail and, by 2015, 1,213 km.[22]

The Ministry also oversees telecommunications. During his early years in office, Yıldırım oversaw the sale of TürkTelekom and the opening of the market to competition. The privatization of the industry secured the state billions of dollars and led to 30,000 layoffs.[23] The whole process made for a case study in liberalizing markets: not only did the number of mobile telephone subscription per capita increase from 0.88 in 2007 to 0.94 in 2015, but the quality increased with the introduction of 3G technology in 2009. Likewise, broadband internet subscriptions rose from 4.6 million in 2007 to 48.6 million in 2015.[24]

Not only did Yıldırım’s adminsitration strive to increase and improve the services available to Turkish citizens, but it also sought to present itself as attuned to religious sensibilities: holding send-off ceremonies for citizens going on pilgrimage to Mecca; allowing airline stewardesses to wear headscarves; and banning alcohol service on most domestic flights. [25]

Development policies also created opportunities to transfer money to allies in return for favors down the line. Many of the airports opened during Yıldırım’s time in office were built by firms close to the government. [26] Nor were businesses close to the AKP the only ones alleged to be benefiting: according to the opposition, soon after Yıldırım took office, his son established a maritime company and began purchasing ships at a steep discount off the market value.[27]

Such accusations were not the greatest challenge that Yıldırım faced in his first term in office; far more serious was a high-speed train crash in July 2004 that killed almost forty people. The manner in which Yıldırım and Prime Minister Erdoğan chose to deal with the tragedy hinted at the fatalistic tone they would take with subsequent disasters.[28] When Erdoğan was asked by a reporter whether Yıldırım would resign, the following conversation ensured:

Erdoğan: Which newspaper are you from?

Reporter: Radikal.

Erdoğan: You’re very radical.

Reporter: My job is to ask questions.

Erdoğan: I don’t think there’s anything in your question. Do you share this pain?

Reporter: The pain is all of our pain.

Erdoğan: If you shared this pain, you wouldn’t ask that question. First, we have to look at the cause of this accident. Your question is the last thing to be thinking about. Do governments and ministers always resign after this type of accident? Since the 1950s, there have been dozens of accidents on this line. There hasn’t been investment. Can you think of any accident that led to a minister being removed? For once, know your place in this matter and ask questions . . . These things happen everywhere. You are showing your ideology. [29]


Despite this obstinacy, the train derailment left Yıldırım exposed for several reasons. First because he had pushed for the rapid development of high speed lines, but second because the Director of Turkish Railways was Suleyman Karaman, from the same town as Yıldırım in the province of Erzincan. While Yıldırım had been in charge of Istanbul ferries, Karaman had been in charge of the subway and bus system.[30] Even as the two were accused of ignoring safety concerns, Yıldırım stood by his friend . . .until, that is, two weeks later, a second train crashed, killing eight more people. Only at this point did Yıldırım allow Karaman to be investigated.[31]

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Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım (left) and National Railroad Director Süleyman Karaman (back)



III. Un-Friending Social Media: Yıldırım vs. YouTube

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AKP leaders talking a selfie (SonTV, 3/9/16)

In 2004, there was still enough opposition media that Yıldırım came in for heavy criticism. Often as not, however, the situation was reversed with Yıldırım suing various reporters for libel. In 2007, he won 6000TL in a lawsuit against the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet for suggesting that he was corrupt.[32] A second case, in which he sought 100,000TL from the magazine Tempo for suggesting he had ignored warnings about the high-speed train line was rejected.[33]

A willingness to sue journalists—or, perhaps, a belief that media criticism was just political opposition in another form—led Yıldırım to take an increasingly hard line against new forms of media.[34] The tendency was most clear in his dealings with YouTube and Twitter. Both sites are wildly popular in Turkey but also beyond the ability of the state to easily censor—and, following Iranian protests in 2009—it became clear to governments how easily these new forms of media could be used to rally opposition.[35] Then again, the initial attempts regulate social media did not come from the government.

Introduced in mid-2005, YouTube had become a source of tension by early 2007. Over the course of the year, lawsuits piled up from ordinary citizens and nationalist political parties angry at videos that lionized the PKK, criticized the army, or claimed that Atatürk was a homosexual. Courts would block YouTube access until the offending videos were removed and, almost as quickly, a new complaint and a new block would go into effect. Unlike the series of short-lived bans throughout 2007, a ban issued in April 2008 stretched on for over two years.[36]

Yıldırım initially minimized his comments on the issue; in early 2009, he argued that his ministry was merely implementing court rulings and that parliament should pass a law specifically tailored for such situations.[37] By the end of the year—as the issue of social media became more prominent in international affairs—he had changed his argument, saying that YouTube had not paid sufficient taxes and that, unlike other enterprises doing business in Turkey, it had not established an office in the country.[38] By mid-2010, YouTube (and its parent company Google) were negotiating tax payments and making vague promises to open an office. By year’s end, YouTube had been reopened—albeit with occasional, subsequent closures and threats of closures.[39]

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Semiha and Binali Yıldırım

During the ban on YouTube, however, other video-sharing sites proved equally capable of upending politics. In May 2010, a video appeared of the main opposition leader dressing, post-coitus with another member of his party’s parliamentary delegation—not his wife. Within days, he had resigned.[40] A year later, in the run up to the 2011 parliamentary elections, similarly embarrassing tapes emerged of another opposition party’s members.

Whether the leaked videos came from the AKP, members of those parties, or another group was unclear. Some suggested that the tapes might be the work of the Hizmet movement, followers of the cleric Fethullah Gülen.[41] Though Gülen had fled to the United States during the military purges of the late 1990s, he had remained close with the AKP. Following the 2002 election, the AKP had discouraged the army from dismissing Gülenist soldiers and helped Gülenist lawyers gain positions in the judiciary. Since 2007, the group had been actively arresting and prosecuting military officers on seemingly manufactured evidence.[42]

The details of the falling out between the AKP and the Gülen movement have been told elsewhere—but the methods Gülenists used and the targets they chose in order to discredit the government are relevant to this discussion.[43] In addition to arresting (or ordering the arrest) of ministers’ family members and businessmen close to the party, a series of wiretaps were leaked onto social media sites. Several of these tapes implicated Yıldırım in a web of relationships between the government, major construction firms, and the national media.


VI. Pool Party: Business, Media and, Yıldırım

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Binali Yıldırım at an aviation exhibition with Limak CEO Nihat Özdemir (second from left) and Kalyon CEO Cemal Kaloyoncu (far right) (Apron24 12/9/15)

The most attention-grabbing of these leaked recordings was from an August 20, 2013 conversation between two businessmen, Mehmet Cengiz and Celal Koloğlu. The two men’s construction companies, along with several other large firms, had recently won the tender for building Istanbul’s third airport and only narrowly lost the tender for the third Bosphorus bridge.[44] Cengiz, owner of the eponymous firm, was from Prime Minister Erdogan’s home-province of Rize and had bought up several privatized state firms in the early 2000s.[45] Koloğlu was the owner of Kolin, another major construction firm. His firm had also secured many government tenders over the years—though, occasionally it ran into trouble: in 2007, Koloğlu was arrested for smuggling oil along with Nihat Özdemir, the owner of Limak Construction.[46]

In their conversation, Cengiz and Koloğlu discussed a “request” they had received from the government to pool their money with Özdemir and two other companies in order to buy the media conglomerate ATV-Sabah.[47]

ATV-Sabah was a multimedia conglomerate whose holdings included the largest pro-government newspaper in the country and one of the highest rated nightly news programs. Since 2007, the conglomerate had been owned by Çalık Holding, a firm whose cozy relationship with the government was embodied in its General Director, Berat Albayrak, the son-in-law of Prime Minister Erdoğan. Although ATV-Sabah had propaganda value for the government, it was a financial drag on the company and, consequently, the Çalık Group had been seeking to unload it for some time.[48] In order to help them, Erdoğan met with Orhan and Faruk Kalyoncu, the heads of the Kalyon Group.

More than any other company mentioned thus far, the Kalyon Group embodies the sort of links between business and politics that have buttressed power in Turkey during the years of AKP rule. The company’s founder, Hasan Kalyoncu, was a businessman from Trabzon and, more importantly, a long-time activist in religious-conservative politics. Like Erdoğan and Gül, Kalyoncu had been a member of the student organization MTTB and, during the 1970s and 1980s, he had expanded his firm into countries like Georgia while remaining involved in the Islamist movement’s factional struggles.[49] In 1996, after Necmettin Erbakan’s Welfare Party formed a coalition government, Kalyoncu promptly received a 12 trillion TL ($130 million) contract to operate a dozen coal and natural gas plants.[50]

When Erdoğan and Erbakan parted ways, Kalyoncu supported Erdoğan’s reformists, leaving him well-positioned after the AKP came to power in 2002. When his son Faruk was married in 2004, AKP founders Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Bülent Arınç served as witnesses.[51] When Hasan passed away in 2008, his brother Cemal took over the company with Faruk serving as vice-president—and when Cemal’s son was married in 2014, Erdoğan again served as a witness.[52] Over the last decade, the firm has won major contracts including roads, metro tunnels, and hospitals. Most controversially, it won the tender to remodel Istanbul’s Taksim Square, shifting traffic underground and replacing the adjacent Gezi Park with a shopping mall modeled on historic Ottoman military barracks.[53]

During the Kalyoncus’ conversation with Erdoğan in July 2013, however, the most relevant of their projects was the tender to build Istanbul’s third airport in partnership with Cengiz, Limak, Kolin, and Mapa.[54] When Prime Minister Erdoğan requested that they take the lead in buying ATV-Sabah, it was further suggested that they pool their money with those other firms in order to afford the hefty cost.


Kalyon CEO Cemal Kaloyoncu; MAPA CEO Nazif Günal; Cengiz CEO Mehmet Cengiz; Limak CEO Nihat Özdemir; Kolin Board of Directors President Naci Koloğlu; Kolin CEO Celal Koloğlu; Kalyon VP Faruk Kalyoncu

Binali Yıldırım was given the chore of arranging the pool. A holding company called “Zirve” was created to purchase ATV-Sabah for $1.1 billion. The final purchase went through on December 19, 2013, just two days after the Gülen movement began its “December 17” offensive against the government. On December 25, Gülenist-allied prosecutors ordered a second round of arrests; the list of names included all the CEOs involved in the airport tender and ATV-Sabah purchase.[55]

Yıldırım was not spared in the indictment and leaked wiretaps. According to one conversation, Yıldırım and other “high level” officials were demanding kickbacks in return for issuing tenders (as high as 10% in the case of the tender to build a new runway at Istanbul’s second airport).[56]

By the time these reports were emerging in the early months of 2014, Yıldırım was no longer Minister of Transportation; he had stepped down in order to run for mayor of Izmir in the 2014 municipal elections. Izmir was among the cities where the AKP was weakest and party strategists hoped that Yıldırım might stand a chance—and, anyway, the party’s three-term limit on members meant that he would have been obligated to step down in 2015. His prospects of victory were further damaged in early January 2014, when prosecutors launched a new round of investigations into corruption at the port of Izmir. Among those arrested was Yıldırım’s brother-in-law.[57] As with other investigations, this one was quickly quashed and the judges and prosecutors reassigned.

Yıldırım’s campaign continued along for three more months dogged by critics on Twitter like the account @oyyokhırsıza (“No Votes For a Thief”), which accused his family of enriching itself through government connections.[58] In mid-March, Yıldırım applied have the account removed. Taking the complaints from Yıldırım and several others into consideration, the Telecommunications Authority (TİB) banned Twitter completely on March 21, with just nine days until the municipal lections.[59] Six days later, YouTube was also blocked.[60] Although courts removed the ban on Twitter two days after the election, the government began to accuse the company of not paying taxes and not having an office in Turkey—largely repeating the arguments it had made regarding YouTube. During subsequent crises, Twitter and Facebook have been briefly blocked.[61]

Despite promising over fourteen-hundred new infrastructure projects and distributing free perfume and cologne with his name on it, Yıldırım lost the Izmir mayoral elections.[62] Yet the corruption charges do not seem to have hurt him. With Yıldırım as its candidate, the AKP vote rose 5.2% while its main opposition won with 5.6% less than in the previous election.[63] Even if such numbers suggested Yıldırım was a popular figure, they did nothing to help his political career: he was no longer a minister and he was barred from standing again for parliament. His future in politics depended now on his connections with soon-to-be-president Erdoğan.


V. Interlude: Media Matters

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It is worth pausing here to ask whether any of this matters. How do these dealings between politicians, construction firms, and the media affect the lives of Turkish people in a meaningful way?

Consider two tragedies that occurred in the years since the ATV-Sabah purchase: in May 2014, a mine accident in the town of Soma killed 301 miners; when Prime Minister Erdoğan arrived at the town, he was met by protesters, one of whom kicked Erdoğan’s car. The man was pinned to the ground by guards while an advisor to Erdoğan rushed over to kick the man.[64] Opposition papers spread the image and critics of the government proclaimed the that the deaths were “not accidents but murder.” Such heated words were backed up with reports of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s close ties with the mine owner and his lax safety efforts.[65]

Readers of Sabah received very little of this information: they learned that an Erdoğan advisor had kicked a protester but the articles emphasized that he had attacked the prime minister’s convoy and that the advisor had only acted after being subjected to “provocations, insults and attacks”—and, moreover, he had apologized.[66] (The protester currently faces ten months in jail for kicking public property; the advisor continues in his job.[67])

Various papers in the ATV-Sabah media group did criticize the mine owner—often in strong language—emphasizing his cavalier attitude toward safety regulations.[68] As for the ruling party’s ties to the mine owner, these were not mentioned and the critical stories came after stories that initially focused on the owner’s connections with “all parties,” masons, anti-AKP holdings companies, and Gülenists.[69]

A similar process played out in 2015. During that summer, tensions flared in southeastern Turkey as the government refused to intervene in northern Syria to aid Kurdish forces fending off ISIS attacks. From the government’s perspective, the Kurds in northern Syria were allies of both the PKK and the Assad regime meaning that there was little incentive to help; inaction, however, directly benefitted ISIS forces and infuriated many on the Turkish left.[70] Many Turkish citizens traveled to the border region to either join conflict or help refugees fleeing from it. On July 20, a suicide bomber killed thirty-two activists in the town of Suruç.

Whether or not the government could have done more to prevent the attack was debated. Within days, however, the identity of the bomber was announced and journalists were reporting the names of other potential suicide bombers, “shouting until [they] were hoarse.”[71] On October 10, another suicide bombing in Ankara killed 103 Turkish citizens at a rally organized by the main Kurdish party (HDP) and other left-wing organizations.[72] Within days it was clear that the attacker was the brother of the Suruç bomber and—more to the point—one of the names mentioned by journalists months earlier.[73]

Columnists at Sabah, however, were not mentioning these names.[74] Following the attack, Burhanettin Duran, one of the more moderate writers cautioned “patience” and assured readers that, “Of course, authorities responsible for the people’s security will have to account for their weakness.”[75] The remainder of his column then proceeded to focus on how Turkey must focus on the threat of Russia and how wrong the leader of the HDP had been to accuse the government itself of attacking the people.[76] Once it became clear that the attacks were linked to ISIS, Duran’s columns began linking ISIS and the PKK as part of a “terror cocktail.”[77]

Other columnists for the paper were less restrained. From the outset, Hilal Kaplan implied that the PKK was behind the bombing and focused her attention on the impropriety of the HDP leader’s accusations.[78] After the names and connections of the attackers became clear, Kaplan argued that the HDP had known the dangers in advance and, rather than apply to the government for extra protection, had knowingly sent its supporters into a dangerous situation. “Wherever you look,” she concluded, “clouds of doubt are piling up.”[79]

The point is not that the HDP leader was right to accuse the government of complicity—and, indeed, media that favored him was slow to criticize his heated language.[80] The point is that writers at the largest pro-government Turkish newspaper spent the week following the country’s deadliest terrorist attack criticizing the opposition and willfully muddling the focus of responsibility rather than considering security lapses on the part of the state.[81] As with the mine disaster the previous year, media outlets owned by the country’s major construction firms framed events in such a way that any government error was obscured.[82]

Rather than focusing on the government’s inability to provide adequate security in workplaces or on the street—failures that might have led to these disasters—media owned by government allies focused on the rhetoric of opposition leaders after the fact. Such an outcome may not be surprising, but accepting it as the norm is dangerous.


VI. Shadow Prime Minister: The Davutoğlu Administration

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During the four and a half months following his mayoral defeat, Yıldırım served as “chief advisor” to the prime minister.[83] In this capacity, he gave press conferences, suggested appointments,[84] and moonlighted as Prime Minister Erdoğan’s attack dog during the 2014 presidential campaign season.[85] Yıldırım was well suited for the role: in 2011, he had been among the earliest—and certainly highest placed—members of the government to support Erdoğan’s presidential ambitions. Furthermore, he had done so in a manner that undermined other factions in the party. By making his endorsement right before the sitting president, Abdullah Gül, was scheduled to give an interview, he forced Gül into either supporting or opposing the notion of Erdoğan as his successor.[86]

Following Erdoğan’s successful election as president, internal party polling showed that members of the AKP hoped for President Gül to return to the role of prime minister or, barring that, for Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to take the post. In order to prevent a figure independent of Erdoğan from leading the party, an extraordinary convention was organized the day before Gül’s term as president ended, thereby making him ineligible to stand for party leadership.[87] Instead, Davutoğlu was named party leader and prime minister. By early 2016, Gül had even been removed from the list of party founders on the AKP website.[88]

As with Yıldırım, Davutoğlu was not a politician with an independent political base. He had not, as Erdoğan and Gül had, risen through student politics and the Islamic political movement of the 1970s and 1980s. Although he had made friends with important future leaders of the pious business community in college, he remained peripheral to the larger movement. After earning his doctorate, he had taught in Malaysia. Much like Yıldırım, he had been ushered into politics through the patronage of a better-connected figure: Abdullah Gül. Returning to Istanbul in the mid-1990s, he had advised Gül and, when the AKP was elected in 2002, he had become the chief foreign policy advisor.[89]

Over his twelve years in politics, Davutoğlu had tried to develop his own political network. In college, he had been close with Murat Ülker, heir to Yıldız Holding, one of Turkey’s largest food manufacturers, and he continued to cultivate such relationships: his eldest daughter was married to Ülker’s nephew until 2015; her sister is married to the vice-president of Istanbul’s chamber of commerce.[90] Davutoğlu also sought to develop institutions favorable to him. In 2008, for example, he helped Ülker start a new university, Şehir, in partnership with the Science and Art Foundation (on whose board Davutoğlu sits).[91] Until recently, a number of professors on the International Relations faculty—the subject closest to Davutoğlu’s heart—were also members of SETA, a think tank funded in part by Ülker. Not only does the government draw many of its advisors from SETA, but papers like Sabah and the English-language Daily Sabah also draw many of their columnists.[92]

Davutoğlu’s attempts to develop a network of supporters as prime minister, by contrast, were quickly stymied: the cabinet he headed from August 2014 to June 2015 included many holdover’s from the “war cabinet” Erdoğan had assembled in December 2013 in order to push back Gülenist-led investigations of the AKP. These ministers continued to hold key positions such as the Interior and Justice ministries.[93] The AKP parliamentary group and party board of directors were also full of Erdoğan loyalists—and Davutoğlu’s efforts to exercise any control over appointments merely sapped his political capital.

Two examples of Davutoğlu’s pyric victories—and losses—include Hakan Fidan and Süleyman Karaman. In the first case, Fidan, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (MİT), resigned from his position in early February 2015 to stand for parliament. Though he had Davutoğlu’s permission, he did not have Erdoğan’s. After being publically criticized by the president for his decision, Fidan returned to his post at MİT. Two months later, Davutoğlu proved more successful in shaping the party’s candidate list when he denied Yıldırım’s old friend (and still Director of Turkish Railroads), Süleyman Karaman, a place on the ballot. Karaman, having already resigned his post in order to run, complained publically about his shabby treatment.[94]

Well before the contretemps over Karaman, however, Yıldırım and Davutoğlu’s relations were souring. From the time Davutoğlu took office, his power had been constantly undermined—often with Yıldırım leading the way. Now serving “unofficially” as President Erdoğan’s “special advisor,” Yıldırım explained that in minimizing Davutoğlu’s role, Erdoğan was merely exercising his legitimate constitutional authority. Echoing Erdoğan, Yıldırım argued that a new constitution should be written that removed any ambiguity.[95]

In late November 2014, the Office of the President announced it would be adding seven permanent advisors and giving each a particular area of policy to oversee and develop. Under this new organization, Yıldırım would be placed in charge of “investments.” Though the change was described as adding a “think tank”-like component to the presidency, the effect was to create a shadow cabinet monitoring Davutoğlu and his ministers. As the presidency is a non-partisan position, the change also created serious issues regarding the separation of powers.[96]

Explaining the changes to press, Yıldırım pointed to the relevant constitutional clauses allowing such an expansion of presidential power and then added that President Erdoğan would soon use his authority to call together Davutoğlu’s cabinet for a meeting. Although the notion of the president leading meetings of the cabinet caused many government critics to speak of power grabs, the action was constitutional; the more subtle power grab was that Yıldırım, technically a random member of the parliament, was announcing the president’s plans without consulting the prime minister.[97]

In the lead up to the cabinet meeting, Davutoğlu attempted to assert his role as a policy-maker, announcing anti-corruption legislation that would require more frequent and thorough financial reporting by candidates and make the zoning process for construction projects more transparent. In response, Erdoğan invited the AKP Board of Directors (minus Davutoğlu) to the presidential palace and criticized the reforms as poorly timed and bound to discourage qualified candidates from running in the approaching elections. As for the more stringent zoning laws: these would have “negative effects on the economy.” The legislation was delayed until an unspecified time after the elections.[98]

In the June 2015 elections, the first under Davutoğlu’s leadership, the AKP’s vote share dropped 9% and it lost its parliamentary majority. During the ensuing months of coalition talks, the lack of coordination between president and prime minister often became clear. On July 15, for example, Davutoğlu met with leaders of the People’s Democracy Party (HDP), which had won sizeable victories in the Kurdish regions of Turkey and which had seriously diminished the AKP’s vote share in those regions. Although Davutoğlu’s government had come to an agreement with the HDP in February to move forward with the peace process, violence in the southeast had been escalating over the past year.[99] Two days after Davutoğlu’s meeting, Erdoğan announced to reporters that he could never accept the February agreement—an agreement made outside the parliament between the government and a party “supported by a separatist organization.”[100] Since the other two parliamentary parties were either refusing to form a coalition with the AKP or making demands beyond what Erdoğan was willing to concede, scuttling any agreement with the HDP made another election inevitable.

In preparation for new elections in November, the AKP allowed Yıldırım and a number of other representatives who had served three terms in office to run once again on the party ticket. At the September party convention, however, the tension between Davutoğlu and Yıldırım came into the open. In the first place, Davutoğlu sought to add his own allies to the party’s Central Executive Decision Committee (MKYK) and leave Yıldırım out. When Erdoğan became aware of this gambit, he demanded that the prime minister revise around 60% of his proposed candidate list. Yıldırım meanwhile began calling convention delegates, lining up their support for a potential leadership challenge. Though Erdoğan ultimately got his way and Yıldırım was included on the MKYK, reports suggested that Yıldırım had the support of over half the delegates.[101]

At the November election, Erdoğan’s political stratagems were rewarded with a 9% rise in the AKP’s total vote and a renewed parliamentary majority. This government would be led by a prime minister (and nominal party leader) with very little influence over his own cabinet or his party’s internal organizations. Yıldırım was again appointed as Minister of Transportation; Erdoğan’s son-in-law was appointed Minister of Energy; Erdoğan’s former chief advisor remained Minister of the Interior[102].

Six months later, Davutoğlu had been forced out.

Dav Er
VII. Exit Davutoğlu

(HDN) 1

During his final six months in office, Davutoğlu continued his attempts to distinguish himself from the president in small ways, often setting himself up as the liberal leader in contrast to the president with his increasingly harsh tactics: Davutoğlu suggested that peace talks could restart with the PKK were it to return a ceasefire; he dragged his feet on issues of constitutional change and penal code revision; and he criticized the arrests of journalists and academics.[103] Such positions played well abroad but did little to affect the political dynamics in Turkey. What seems to have been the final straw for the president, however, was Davutoğlu’s attempt to form relationships with foreign governments.[104]

Over the course of March 2016, Davutoğlu negotiated a deal on refugees with the European Union in which Turkish authorities would stem the flow into Europe in return for €6 billion and visa-free European travel for Turkish citizens. Despite criticism from opposition figures and human rights organizations that he had used human lives as bargaining chips, Davutoğlu played up his skillful negotiating tactics on the world stage.[105]

In late April, he continued his efforts to cast himself as an international leader, by announcing he would visit Washington in early May to have an official meeting with President Obama. The announcement came only a month after Erdoğan had visited the American capitol and been given only an “unofficial” meeting with Obama. To that diplomatic slight was now added this embrace of Davutoğlu. At the following week’s meeting of the AKP Central Executive Decision Committee (MKYK), forty-seven out of the fifty members voted to strip Davutoğlu of his power to appoint provincial officials.[106] The next day the White House announced that Davutoğlu’s meeting would have to be postponed due to the impossibility of arranging both Obama and Vice President Biden’s schedules on such short notice.[107] And, over the weekend, an ATV-Sabah columnist began spreading an article via Twitter: a single, anonymous blog post enumerating the ways in which Davutoğlu had sought to undermine his “head of state.”[108]

The blog post was published on Sunday, spread on Twitter and discussed in the media on Monday. On Tuesday, Davutoğlu gave a brief speech at the weekly parliamentary group meeting and that night was informed that his normal Thursday meeting with the president had been moved to Wednesday. At that meeting it was “decided” that an extraordinary party convention would be held at the end of the month and that Davutoğlu would not stand again for his post. The following morning he formally announced these decisions to the AKP Executive Board and the press.[109] And that was it. Though two weeks of discussion followed in the media as to whom his replacement might be, the answer was already fairly obvious.


VIII. Conclusion

Erdogan Chairs First Cabinet Meeeting(Daily Star, 5.25.16) copy

President Erdoğan chairs the first meeting of the Yıldırım Cabinet (Daily Star, 5/25/16)

Again, the accumulation of detail begs the question of significance. One ruling party functionary is replaced by another ruling party functionary. The true leader remains the same. In what sense should knowing the underlying intricacies affect our understanding of events in Turkey, including the recent coup attempt?

In the first place, the foregoing details should give a sense of how broad the AKP’s links are with Turkish society. One-time student radicals have moved into leadership positions in business and politics; they have solidified their ties through marriage and mutually-beneficial business deals; they have cultivated a media environment that conveys their views to millions of people; they have provided services that ease people’s daily routines; they have intensified the use of Islamic imagery and symbols that resonate with many Turkish citizens; and they have incorporated people like Ahmet Davutoğlu and Binali Yıldırım who were only tangentially connected with that student radicalism into their political coalition.

The coup attempt on July 15 failed first and foremost because it was rushed and poorly executed, but it is difficult to imagine a political order as complex as Turkey’s being overthrown as easily as the coup-plotters envisioned.[110]

The tight networks of businessmen and politicians that Yıldırım and other AKP leaders have cultivated over more than a decade allow the government to effectively pursue development projects that even AKP leaders describe as “crazy.”[111] The party and its allies in the media are well aware of this connection. Consider how the managing editor of the pro-government[112] newspaper Yeni Şafak described the situation in Turkey following Yıldırım’s election at the party convention[113]:

The date on which Binali Yıldırım began as prime minister will be recorded in history as the beginning of the republic’s most absolute transformation . . .The position of prime minister will not be a realm of authority connected with the shape of domestic power, it will simply be a position related to service and coordinating services . . .The things being experienced are essentially a revolution . . .The thing we are calling “a revolution” is not limited to double-roads, bridges, airports, “crazy” projects . . .it means a new foundation, a new social contract, a reshaping of institutions.


Paved roads lead to a new social order. The firms that build these roads also promote that new order through their publications. A virtuous circle, perhaps, but these relationships increasingly blur the line between private profit and public gain, construction projects and constructing a better society.

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[1]Davutoğlu başbakanlığı sırasında kendisine verilen hediyeleri Başbakanlık’ta bıraktı,” Karar, 5/27/16; “Davutoğlu pazartesi yeni evine taşınıyor,” Milliyet, 5/28/16; “Davutoğlu yeni planını açıkladı,” Hürriyet, 6/19/16.

[2] Soner Cagaptay, “Turkey’s King: Erdogan After Davutoglu,” Foreign Affairs, 5/8/16.

[3] David Barchard, “Ahmet Davutoglu Resigns: Whey the Turkish Prime Minister Had To Go,” Newsweek, 5/5/16.

[4] Dexter Filkins, “The Eleventh Hour For Turkish Democracy,” The New Yorker, 5/6/16.

[5]Kılıçdaroğlu: Bu bir saray darbesi,” BBCTürkçe, 5/5/16; “‘Davutoğlu’na saray darbesi’ sosyal medyayı salla,” Birgün, 5/5/16; “Selahattin Demirtaş: Saray darbesi Davutoğlu’na değil, halka yapıldı,” Cumhuriyet, 5/6/16

[6] “Ally” (Patrick Kingsley, “Turkish president consolidates power as he confirms new PM,” The Guardian, 5/22/16), “loyalist” (Mehul Srivastava, “Erdogan ally Binali Yildirim set to become Turkey’s prime minister,The Financial Times, 5/19/16), and “subservient” (Ceylan Yeginsu, “Erdogan Loyalist Is Nominated to Be Turkey’s Prime Minister,” The New York Times, 5/19/16). Mustafa Akyol, “Do you really need to know the new Turkish PM?” Al Monitor, 5/19/16. To be fair to all these writers: they are not attempting to write 5,000 word pieces; they all point to his role in mega-projects, his long service, and corruption accusations against him, all of which amounts to the tl;dr version of this article . . . (For an article in Turkish summarizing many of the points that are delved into here, see Nur Banu Kocaaslan, “Aykırı bir Binali Yıldırım portresi : ‘Havuz’ başından başbakanlığa,” Diken, 5/22/14).

[7] Murat Yetkin argues that Yıldırım is not a “yes man” but rather one of the last figures left whose opinions Erdoğan listens to—albeit behind the scenes (“Yıldırım as an executor of Erdoğan’s projects,” Hürriyet Daily News, 5/20/16).

[8] Turhan Feyizoğlu, Akıncılar ve AK-Gençlik’ten AKP’ye: Akıncı Gençlik Tarihi, 1969-2001 (Istanbul: Tekin Yayınevi, 2015), 91; Nadire Mater, “Meclis Başkanı Kahraman’ın Başkanlık Yaptığı MTTB’yi Tanıyalım,” Bianet, 11/23/15.

[9] Feyizoğlu, Akıncılar, 36. Ahmet Davutoğlu was also (seemingly) part of the MTTB—though he is younger than Erdoğan and Gül and would have only been twenty-one years old in 1980 when it was closed by the military government (“Gül’ü üniversiteye sokmamış,” CNNTürk, 6/7/11).

[10] Soner Yalçın, “Gemicik iktidarı,” Sözcü, 5/20/16.

[11] For a brief list of important AKP politicians who were connected with Erbakan’s various parties see Yalçın Bayer, “Bizim mahallenin çocukları’,” Hürriyet, 7/11/11.

[12] In 2013, Yıldırım would explain his choice of Istanbul Technical University over Boğaziçi University thusly: “I would have either gone to Boğaziçi University or Istanbul Technical University. I visited Boğaziçi, looked and saw it was a different world: different buildings, a space surrounded by walls. Then, sitting on the grass, boys and girls. I was shocked. ‘I’ll go astray here,” I said. After that, I selected technical school” (“Bu sözler sosyal medyayı salladı,” Hürriyet, 1/29/13; “Binali Yıldırım: Yoldan çıkarım diye Boğaziçi’ne gitmedim,” Cumhuriyet, 4/19/16).

[13] Specifically, Yıldırım worked at the Camialtı Shipyards. These were closed in 2013. Along with adjacent yards on Istanbul’s Golden Horn waterway, they are now the subject of a development plan to build the standard hat-trick of hotel/shopping mall/mosque that characterizes many new developments. The Koç family, owners of Turkey’s largest holding company and not always in synch with the government, say they would like to build a large museum on the land. (“Camialtı Tersanesi’nin yerini verseler 150 milyon dolar yatırımla müze yaparız,” Hürriyet, 11/30/11; “Camialtı Tersanesi – Haliç,” Emlak Ansiklopedisi, 7/3/13; Nilay Vardar, “Haliç Dayanışması: 6 Asırlık Haliç Tersaneleri Parçalanmamalı,” Bianet, 8/14/14).

[14] For good accounts of government efforts to bring religious motifs into municipal spaces, see Alev İnan “Refah Party and the City Administration of Istanbul,” New Perspectives on Turkey 17 (Spring 1997): 23-40; Nilüfer Göle, “Islam in Public: New Visibilities and New Imaginaries,” Public Culture 14, no. 1 (2002): 173-190.

[15] “Mescitli Deniz Otobüs,” Milliyet, 4/11/97; Arife Avcu, “İki mescitli feribot,” Milliyet, 7/3/98.

[16]Bufeleri akrabalarina dagitti,” Hürriyet, 2/11/99; Ayşe Altıok, “Gürtuna operasyonu,” Milliyet, 11/4/99.

[17] “İşte İstanbul’da 8 partinin milletvekili adayları,” Milliyet, 9/12/02.

[18] For an excellent list of mega-projects in Istanbul see HERE.

[19] For an excellent visual depiction of the relation between businessmen and politicians during Yıldırım’s years in office, see Beyza Kural and Elif Akgül, “Binali Yıldırım Döneminde Ulaştırma Bakanlığı’nın İlişkiler Ağı,” Bianet, 5/19/16;

Mülksüzleştirme Ağları,”

[20] These and other statistics can be reached through the Ministry of Transportation, Marine, and Information website HERE.

[21] The AKP government claims to have built twenty-nine airports but this is not evident based on the dates listed for all fifty-five of the airports on the Transportation Ministry’s website (“Havalimanları”). Arife Yıldız Ünal, “Türkiye’nin deniz üzerindeki ilk havalimanı açılıyor,” Anadolu Ajansı, 5/21/15; “2015 yılında havada yolcu sayısında 180 milyon aşılacak,” Ministry of Transportation, Marine, and Information, 12/9/15.

[22] See Turkish State Railways Annual Statistics, 2007-2011 (2.1) and 2011-2015 ( 2.1).

[23]Türk Telekom transforms under leadership of Doany,” Hürriyet Daily News, 4/19/10; Bülent Gültekin, “The Privatization of Turk Telekom: Case Study,” Private Equity Workshop, Tenth Annual Private Equity Conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, July 2010.

[24] See Information Technology and Communication Board Statistics for 2007-2012 (iv) and 2010-2015 (ix).

[25] Turkish Airlines also banned alcohol on flights going to countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Around the same time, the airline also announced a new line of uniforms, reminiscent of Ottoman fashions (“Hacı adaylarına resmi tören,” Milliyet, 1/9/03; “THY personeli başörtüsü takabilecek,”, 12/21/10; “THY’den içki kalktı!Hürriyet, 2/11/13; “THY personeline yeni kıyafet,” Sabah, 2/12/13; Aysel Alp, “THY’nin içki yasağına 7 ülke 10 nokta daha eklendi,” Hürriyet, 2/14/13; Tim Arango, “Turks Debate Modest Dress Set for Takeoff, The New York Times, 2/24/13).

[26] Cengiz (Ordu-Giresun Airport, 2015); Limak (began Kocaeli in 1994, but finished it in 2011 due to the 1999 earthquake); and İçtaş (Kütahya, 2012). Sarıdağlar Construction also built two airports (Bingöl, 2013, and Hakkari-Yüksekova, 2015), but its connection with the government is less clear. As with many firms, the evidence of strong connection often circular: because the firm won a tender therefore it is a government ally. In the case of Sarıdağlar, opposition newspapers described it as close to the government while covering a scandal in which a ski-jump the firm had built in Erzurum collapsed (“Çöken pisti yapan şirket bakın kim çıktı,” Sözcü, 7/17/14).

[27] “CHP, Yıldırım’ın istifasını istedi,” Milliyet, 7/19/03. Whereas Yıldırım’s son has frequently been accused in opposition media of growing rich off government connections, his wife Semiha has merely been the subject of mean-spirited stories and poorly-sourced reports. One is a story about her sitting alone while her husband ate with party members—the implication being she was either too dogmatically religious to mix with men or that they were excluding her. Similarly, several details about her from a sentence-long Soner Yalçın profile in 2008 have continued to circulate—namely that the two were brought together through an arranged marriage, after which she began wearing a headscarf and gave up teaching. But these do not fully square with other facts. What seems sure is that Binali and Semiha were born in the same town (Refahiye, Erzincan) and have been married since 1975 (when he was twenty-one and she was twenty). She worked as a teacher until 1993 when she retired and has worked with various AKP social initiatives since then (“Şenol Çakır, “Üst kimlik alt kimlik,” Hürriyet, 11/28/05; Soner Yalçın, “AKP’nin tesettüre girme hikáyeleri,” Hürriyet, 2/9/08; “Binali Yıldırım’ın eşi kimdir? Semiha Yıldırım kaç yaşındadır? Nerelidir ve mesleği nedir?Karar, 5/21/16).

[28]Collapse could happen anywhere, Turkish transportation minister says,” Hürriyet Daily News, 6/26/12; “Erdoğan Soma’da konuştu: ‘Bunlar olağan şeylerdir,’” CNNTürk, 5/14/14.

[29] “istifa mı? O da ne?” Milliyet, 7/24/04.

[30] “Bakan ve TCDD Müdürü hemşeri,” Milliyet, 7/24/04.

[31] Initially, Yıldırım blamed machinists and said he would not force Karaman to resign; though he soon changed his stance, Karaman successfully sued to be reinstated in his job in 2005. In 2008, the Karaman was cleared of charges but a machinist was found guilty (“Yıldırım ve Karaman’a suç duyurusu,” Milliyet, 7/24/04; “Türkiye’de tren kazaları,” Hürriyet, 8/12/04; “Yıldırım: Soruşturma izni hemen verilecek,” Milliyet, 8/25/04; “AKP yağmalasın, cezayı işçiler çeksin,” Sol, 2/2/08).

[32]Bakan Yıldırım’dan İlhan Selçuk’a tazminat davası,” Hürriyet, 3/29/07; “Bakan Yıldırım 6 bin YTL tazminat kazandı,” Hürriyet, 12/26/07.

[33]Ulaştırma Bakanlığı’ndan Tempo Dergisi’nin haberine yalanlama…” Cihan, 7/29/04; “Ulaştırma Bakanı Yıldırım’ın davasına ret,” Hürriyet, 10/9/07.

[34] Famously, Yıldırım once explained that social media companies must follow the laws of Turkey, “Those who do not recognize the Turkish republic will not be recognized by the Turkish republic. They will be hit with an ‘Ottoman slap’ by 76 million people. The situation is that simple” (“’76 milyon Osmanlı tokadını çakar,’Star, 6/8/13).

[35] In 2011, Turkey had 30 million Facebook accounts, “making it the fourth largest country in the world in terms of country-specific user numbers”; by 2014, 17% of the population was using Twitter (Esra Dogramaci and Damian Radcliffe, “How Turkey Uses Social Media,” Digital News Report 2015, Reuters Institute).

[36] Ender Türkkan, “Youtube’ta Atatürk’e ve Türklere küstahlık,” Hürriyet, 3/5/07; Kenan Türkseven, “ROJ Tv’yi engellemeyen Türk Telekom’a suç duyurusu,” Hürriyet, 3/9/07; Ender Türkkan, “YouTube hakkında suç duyurusu,” Hürriyet, 7/7/07; “BBP’den YouTube’daki görüntülerle ilgili suç duyurusu,” Hürriyet, 11/22/07

Erol Önderoğlu, “Bu Gidişle Youtube Hiç Açılmayacak,” Bianet, 1/22/08.

[37]Bakandan Youtube açıklaması,” Hürriyet, 12/5/08; “Turkish minister signals legal amendment regarding YouTube ban,” Hürriyet Daily News, 1/5/09.

[38]Bakan’dan YouTube’a anlaşma önerisi,” Hürriyet, 12/9/09. In addition to unrest in Iran during the previous months, China had banned Facebook in July 2009 after it was used by Uighurs, the country’s Muslim Turkic minority, to organize protests (Robin Wauters, “China Blocks Access To Twitter, Facebook After Riots,” Washington Post, 7/7/09).

[39]Ve mahkeme Youtube’a AÇIL dedi,” Radikal, 10/30/10; Ece Toksabay, “Turkey reinstates YouTube ban,” Reuters, 11/3/10; “Google vergi mükellefi oldu,” Sabah, 5/31/11; Selim Öztürk, “Youtube Türkiye’de kapatılabilir,” Hürriyet, 9/26/12.

[40] Okan Müderrisoğlu, “Baykal, kaset ve siyasi kasvet!Sabah, 05/08/10.

[41] Kadri Gürsel, “Seks kasetleri: Nereden biliyorsun?Milliyet, 5/26/11.

[42] See Gareth Jenkins, Between Fact and Fantasy: Turkey’s Ergenekon Investigation, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, August 2009 and “Post-Putsch Narratives and Turkey’s Curious Coup,” The Turkey Analyst, 7/22/16.

[43] See, for example, Me, “Saving the AKP,” 5/13/14; or, if you prefer, Jeremy Salt, “Turkey’s Counterrevolution: Notes from the Dark Side,” Middle East Policy 22, no. 1 (2015): 123-141.

[44] Though the partnership between Cengiz, Kolin, Limak, Makyol, and Kalyon lost the tender for the bridge itself, it would eventually win the tender for the roads leading to and from the bridge (“3. köprü ihalesi sonuçlandı,” Sabah, 5/29/12; “3. havalimanının kazananı Cengiz-Kolin-Limak-MAPA- Kalyon OGGa,” Milliyet, 5/3/13; “3. Köprü bağlantı yolları için ihale yapıldı,” Hürriyet, 5/17/16).

[45]Mehmet Cengiz: Tayyip’le parlayan yıldız,” Sol, 2/9/08.

[46] In fact, at the time of the August 20, 2013 phone call, Nihat Özdemir was still under investigation for his role in defrauding the Ministry of Energy. He would not be acquitted until November 2013 (“Kolin İnşaat’ın sahibi gözaltında,” Sol, 11/9/07; “Şaibeli Limak’ın patronu gözaltında,” Sol, 11/27/07; “BOTAŞ’taki yolsuzluk davası başladı,” CNNTürk, 5/16/08; ““Mavi Hat”ta Çiftçi’ye 52 yıl hapis cezası,” Sabah, 11/23/13).

[47]‘Erdoğan istedi, yüz milyonlar toplandı,’” Diken, 2/1/14; “9 Soruda Sabah-atv satışı,” Diken, 2/13/14; “Havuzda paralar böyle depolandı,” Cumhuriyet, 8/7/14;

[48] Since the Çalık Group lost money on Sabah every year, it did not have to pay taxes (“News Corp mulls bid for Turkey’s ATV and Sabah: WSJ,” Reuters, 1/22/12; “Sabah’ın vergi fiyaskosu,” Sözcü, 5/28/14)

[49] M. Çağatay Okutan, Bozkurt’tan Kur’an’a: Milli Türk Talebe Birliği (MTTB), 1916-1980 (Istanbul: Istanbul Bilgi Yayınları, 2004), 206. Hasan Kalyoncu was seemingly closer to Korkut Özal than Necmettin Erbakan, which would have been useful in the 1980s, when Özal’s brother, Türgüt, was the most important political leader in Turkey (“Erbakan, ‘Anarşi AP Zamanında Çikti,'” Milliyet, 10/16/78; “Üç yüz bin oy isteme tebriği,” Milliyet, 8/12/86; “”Sağda ‘Misyon’ Arayışı,” Milliyet, 7/6/94).

[50] In its coalition, the Welfare Party (RP) controlled the Ministry of Energy. The Energy Minister, Recai Kutan, a leading figure in the movement was related by marriage to one of Kalyoncu’s partners, Zeki Çelik, who was the father-in-law of one of Kutan’s children and also the RP’s provincial party president for Ankara (“Elektrik ihalesi Refahlı Başkan’a,” Milliyet, 10/6/96; “Trilyonluk ihalelerde RP’li ağırlığı,” Milliyet, 10/13/96). Currency conversion is based on same day newspaper in which 93,000TL = $1 and the online US Inflation Calculator.

[51]Bakanlar Kurulu nikahta ‘toplandı,’” Sabah, 11/28/04.

[52] Mustafa Küçük, “Başbakan Erdoğan, Kalyoncu’nun düğününe katıldı,” Hürriyet, 2/1/14.

[53] Despite the fact that President Erdoğan continues to speak about demolishing Gezi Park to build a mosque and shopping center, Kalyon lists the project under its “completed” works (“TAKSİM MEYDANI PROJESİ,” Kalyon; “Taksim Meydanı Yayalaştırma Çalışmalarına Başlandı,” İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi, 10/31/12). The other notable project in central Istanbul, the renovation of the Tarlabaşı neighborhood is being conducted by the Çalık Group. At the time the project started, President Erdoğan’s son-in-law was still working for the company and not yet serving in government as Minister of Energy.

[54] For more information about Makyol, see Mehmet Demirkaya, “AKP’nin MAKYOL sevgisi,” Gerçek Gündem, 9/14/15.

[55] Ayşegül Usta, “Savcıları karşı karşıya getiren gözaltı listesi,” Hürriyet, 12/27/13.

[56] Although Cengiz Construction owner Mehmet Cengiz was the one hoping to secure a tender to build a runway at Istanbul’s second airport, his firm ultimately lost out to Makyol, also an ATV-Sabah owner (“Yüzde 10 itirafı,” Sözcü, 2/4/14; “Sabiha Gökçen’e ikinci pist ihalesini kim kazandı?” Airport Haber, 6/19/16)

[57]İzmir public prosecutor launches probe into police for failure to detain suspects after harbor raid,” Hürriyet Daily News, 1/8/14; “Former Turkish minister’s relative surrenders to police in fresh graft probe into harbors,” Hürriyet Daily News, 1/10/14.

[58] During the campaign, Yıldırım was dogged by the perennial

accusations that his children’s maritime company had grown based on his connections (Hakime Torun, “Binali Yıldırım: Çocuklarımın gemileri var,” Hürriyet, 3/26/14; “AKP’li bakanın oğlu kumar masasında,” Sözcü, 4/19/16). The Izmir campaign was notable as the first time Prime Minister Erdoğan chose to address a local party convention in hologram form—apparently at Yıldırım’s request (“PM Erdoğan uses hologram to address İzmir party members for first time in Turkey,” Hürriyet Daily News, 1/27/14; “‘Hologram Erdoğan’ again? Turkey’s AKP to announce presidential nominee with special effects show,” Hürriyet Daily News, 6/30/14).

[59] Ahmet Can, Dinçer Gökçe, Aziz Özen, and Ayşegül Usta, “Twitter’dan flaş Türkiye hamlesi,” Hürriyet, 3/1/14; “İşte Twitter’ın kapatılmasına gerekçe gösterilen hesaplar,” T24, 3/22/14.

[60] As for the reasons for blocking YouTube: in the period between December 17 and the municipal elections on March 30, more tapes were leaked, more raids and investigations against the government and its allies were launched and halted, more trucks linked to the security services were stopped at the borders and photos of their contents—often weapons—were leaked to opposition press. With only three days left before the elections, a new tape of the Foreign Minister and intelligence figures was leaked. Pointing to national security concerns, YouTube was blocked. Interestingly, however, the legal argument submitted to the court was based on a law blocking child pornography and the defamation of Atatürk. When the case was appealed, the court pointed out this inconsistency but allowed the ban to remain based on a separate statute that had not actually been invoked (“AKP’nin savaş suçu – 2 Hakan Fidan: ‘Gerekirse Süleyman Şah’ı biz bombalarız!’Sol, 3/27/14; Doğan Akın, “TİB, hangi yasal yetkiyle YouTube’u kapatabildi?” T24, 3/27/14; Elif Akgül, “İşte YouTube’un Gerçek Kapatılma Nedeni,” Bianet, 4/4/14).

[61] The tax issue appears to be ongoing (Orhan Coskun, “Turkey accuses Twitter of ‘tax evasion’, calls for local office,” Reuters, 4/14/14; Aysel Alp, “Twitter gerçekten vergi kaçakçısı mı?Hürriyet, 4/14/14; Ahmet Can, “Twitter, YouTube ve Facebook’a erişim engeli,” 4/7/15; “Turkey paves way for Twitter ‘e-office’ to bypass tax row,” DHA, 2/12/15).

[62] A campaign video touting Yıldırım’s promised infrastructure can be seen HERE and a video of Yıldırım describing his projects HERE (“İzmir’de Binali Yıldırım’a özel parfüm,” Radikal, 1/15/14; Banu Şen, “Neden 1414?Hürriyet, 2/25/14).

[63] Compare’s Izmir municipal election statistics for 2014 and 2009.

[64] Alican Uludağ, “Dayak mağduru madenci çıktıCumhuriyet, 5/21/14; Bahadır Özgür, “Yusuf Yerkel’in kariyer zinciri: Köşe, blog, tekme!Radikal, 5/16/14.

[65] Tuğba Tekerek, “Melike Doğru o şirketin yöneticisi,” Taraf, 5/19/15; “Soma Holding AKP’nin yakını çıktı,” Evrensel, 5/13/14; Pieter Verstraete, “Turkey coalmine disaster: accident or murder?” ROAR Magazine, 5/14/14; “Soma Holding ile AKP ilişkisi Meclis gündeminde,” Ulusal Kanal, 5/18/14; “Dünyanın bir numaralı gündemi: Kaza değil cinayet,” Cumhuriyet, 5/14/14; Banu Şen, “Soma’yı raporla Meclis’ten sansürlüyorlar,” Hürriyet, 11/14/14; Beril Köseoğlu, “Soma Holding-AKP ilişkisinin kilit adamı: Ramazan Doğru,” Diken, 5/19/14; Taylan Yıldırım, “Ramazan Doğru: Yeni maden sahası için AK Parti mitingine katıldık,” Hürriyet, 5/19/15.

[66]Advisor to Turkey’s PM apologizes for kicking Soma protestor,” Daily Sabah, 5/15/14; “Yusuf Yerkel’in tekmesinin öncesi ve sonrası,” Sabah, 5/19/15; “‘Yusuf Yerkel aradı helalleştik,’Sabah, 5/22/14.

[67]Yusuf Yerkel’in tekmelediği madenciye hapis cezası,” Cumhuriyet, 3/13/16.

[68]O madenin sahibi Alp Gürkan’ın yalanı ortaya çıktı,” Sabah, 5/15/14; Şeref Oğuz, “Hepimiz ölelim Alp Gürkan yaşasın,” Sabah, 5/18/14; Dilek Gügör, “Tek sorumlu Ramazan,” Takvim, 5/18/14; “Soma’daki maden faciasının temel nedeni,” Sabah, 5/19/14; “Mine owner’s absence of scruples tied to lack of liability,” Daily Sabah, 5/19/14.

[69]Maden sahibini neden koruyorlar?Sabah, 5/15/14; “Koç sayesinde batmaktan kurtuldu,” aHaber, 5/16/14.

[70] Whatever one’s sympathies, the glowing accounts of PYD-controlled northern Syria need to be balanced with accounts such as these: “Flight of Icarus? The PYD’s Precarious Rise in Syria,” International Crisis Group, Report 151, 5/14/14 (executive summary); “Under Kurdish Rule: Abuses in PYD-run Enclaves of Syria,” Human Rights Watch, 6/19/14; Khedder Khaddour, “The Assad Regime’s Hold on the Syrian State,” Carnegie Endowment for Peace, 7/8/15. For examples of more pro-PYD reports, see: Sardar Saadi, “Rojava revolution: building autonomy in the Middle East,” ROAR Magazine, 7/25/14; Meredith Tax, “The Revolution in Rojava,” Dissent, 4/22/15; Debbie Bookchin, “The Feminist, Democratic Leftists Our Military Is Obliterating,” The Nation, 2/1/16. For a well balanced piece, see Wes Enzinna, “A Dream of Secular Utopia in ISIS’ Backyard,” The New York Times Magazine, 11/24/15.

[71]Suruç bombacısının kimliği kesinleşti: 20 yaşında, Adıyamanlı, Abdurrahman Alagöz,” Diken, 7/22/15; quote from Ezgi Başaran, “Yeni bombalı saldırı tahmin ettiğimizden yakın,” Radikal, 7/23/15.

[72]Türkiye tarihinin en kanlı terör eylemi: Ankara’daki bombalı saldırıda en az 95 ölü,” Diken, 10/10/15.

[73] The best coverage of ISIS in Turkey is by Aaron Stein, for example: “The ISIS Link to the Ankara Bombing,” Atlantic Council, 10/14/15; Noah Blaser and Aaron Stein, “The Islamic State’s Network in Turkey,” Turkey Wonk, 10/30/15; “The Islamic State in Turkey: A Deep Dive into a Dark Place,” War on the Rocks, 4/6/16.

[74] According to Medya Tava, during the week following the attack (October 12-18) the circulation for papers was: 1) Zaman [Gülenist]-603,000; 2) Hürriyet [Doğan Media, sometimes critical of the government]-375,000; 3) Sözcü [nationalist, highly critical of the government]-328,000; 4) Posta [also Doğan Media]-322,000; 5) Sabah-313,000. It is worth noting, however, that during the subsequent two weeks Sabah was the third and forth highest selling. And, since April 11-17, 2016 it has consistently been number two.

[75] The Ankara attack occurred before the November 2015 election. At the time, a temporary cabinet was in place. Selami Altınok was serving as interim-Interior Minister. Prior to this appointment he had been serving as Security Director for Istanbul—a position to which he was appointed in December 2013 in order to stop Gülenist-led investigations. Rather than being demoted for presiding during the bombing, he is now serving as advisor to Interior Minister Efkan Ala (“İçişleri Bakanlığı Müsteşarı Selami ALTINOK’un Özgeçmişi,” Türkiye Cumhuriyeti İçişleri Bakanlığı, 12/18/15).

[76] Burhanettin Duran, “Katillerin hedefinde ne var?Sabah, 10/13/15.

[77] Burhanettin Duran, “Türkiye ve “kokteyl terör”ün geleceği!Sabah, 10/16/15.

[78] Hilal Kaplan, “Devleti katil ilan etme telaşına düşenler,” Sabah, 10/12/15; Hilal Kaplan, “Türkiye ve KRG’ye eşzamanlı saldırı,” Sabah, 10/13/15.

[79] Hilal Kaplan, “Kandil’in ‘biliyorduk’ itirafı,” Sabah, 10/16/15.

[80] Immediately following the attacks, HDP Co-President Selahattin Demirtaş had said, among other things: “The ones in government are responsible. The time for the AKP government’s hemming and hawing is long-since finished. You are murderers. Your hands are covered in blood. Your faces, your mouths, all over is splattered in blood. And you have been revealed as the greatest supporter of terror. Inside and outside the country, your mentality, which seeks to impose a sense of terror on the people, has been revealed (“Selahattin Demirtaş’tan sert açıklamalar,” Hürriyet, 10/10/15). If one looks at writing by columnists on the left, the general tone is one of sadness mixed with, yes, accusations that the government is at fault, for example: Levent Gültekin, “Ankara’daki saldırının arkasında kim var?” Diken, 10/11/15; Murat Sevinç, “Ankara Garı: Bu satırları, şans eseri o noktada olmadığım için yazıyorum,” Diken, 10/11/15.

[81] It is important to emphasize that these examples were not just cherry-picked for being the most egregious columns: they are representative. Mahmut Övür, like Duran, blamed the HDP for divisiveness and emphasized that the attack on the left-wing rally “had not taken a single party, viewpoint, or set of individuals as its target; it took Turkey as an entire society as its target.” Even following the identification of the attacker, he continued to emphasize that the PKK could be at fault, pointing out that ISIS had not claimed responsibility. The day after the attack, another columnist, Şeref Oğuz, wrote, “We cannot yet name who is behind it, but we sense. The address of those whose bread is buttered by this leads to [the PKK in the Kandil mountains] but unfortunately exceeds that to include a multi-national alliance of devils” (Mahmut Övür, “Türkiye’ye saldırı,” Sabah, 10/11/15; Mahmut Övür, “Devleti ‘olağan şüpheli’ yapmak,” Sabah, 10/15/15; Şeref Oğuz, “Terörün miting tarzı: Katliam,” Sabah, 10/11/15).

[82] Compared with their reactions to the Ankara attack, the Sabah columnists were less accusatory in their discussion of the Soma mine disaster. Hıncal Uluç suggested the sadness felt by everyone in the country had brought people closer together as a nation. Mehmet Barlas spoke of the “silent majority” in the country that worries about a “noisy minority turning [the disaster] into street protests against the elected government.” Engin Ardıç argued that critics of the government were hypocrites for calling for resignations after the disaster when they had never done such a thing when they were in power. Burhanettin Duran called for improved safety standards and cautioned against giving into “political rage” (Hıncal Uluç, “‘Biz’ olmamız için ille de felaket mi gerek?Sabah, 5/15/14; Mehmet Barlas, “Kömür madenciliğinde yeniden yapılanma şarttır,” Sabah, 5/16/14; Engin Ardıç, “Psikopat muhalefeti,” Sabah, 5/18/14; Burhanettin Duran, “Uçurumları aydınlatan öfkemiz,” Sabah, 5/20/14).

[83] In May 2014, Yıldırım also sued the leader of the main opposition party, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, for accusing him of corruption, having said, “We call him ‘Binali’ [in Turkish bin means thousand] but that’s wrong; we should call this guy ‘Million Ali’” (“Binali Yıldırım’dan Kılıçdaroğlu’na “Milyon Ali” davası,” Hürriyet, 5/10/14; Meriç Tafolar, “Yıldırım’ın dava talebi reddedildi,” Milliyet, 9/13/15). Later that same month, Yıldırım’s brother, İlhami, who serves as head of the Red Crescent’s Istanbul branch made a stir as well by tweeting out that, “In this country, [protesters should] live quietly like donkeys or get out.” In early February 2015, İlhami was back in the news when he and his driver were nearly killed by gunmen outside his house (“Kızılay şube başkanının ‘Eşşek gibi yaşayacaksınız’ mesajına soruşturma,” Radikal, 5/23/14; Çetin Aydın and Ali Aksoyer, “Binali Yıldırım’ın kardeşi silahlı saldırıdan ucuz kurtuldu,” Hürriyet, 2/11/15).

[84] Burak Bekdil, “Defense firms blink to new top bureaucrat,” Hürriyet Daily News, 4/16/14.

[85] In one speech during the presidential campaign, Yıldırım explained that Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, the candidate backed by the major opposition parties was a nice guy but had no experience with the issues facing Turkey; previously he had lived abroad or run the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. In a statement that speaks to the AKP’s views of religion and politics, he explained, “We’re not choosing a teacher for the mosque. We’re choosing a president to run the county” (“‘YILDIRIM: ”GÜZEL İNSAN AMA CAMİYE HOCA SEÇMİYORUZ,’Milliyet, 7/24/14)

[86]I would like to see Erdoğan as president: minister,” Hürriyet Daily News, 12/27/11; Murat Yetkin, “An early start for power game in Ankara,” Hürriyet Daily News, 12/29/11.

[87] Nuray Babacan, “President Gül, PM Erdoğan set to have a final meeting,” Hürriyet Daily News, 6/19/14; Oral Çalışlar, “Gül, Başbakan olacak mı, olabilecek mi?Radikal, 8/12/14; Piotr Zalewski, “Erdogan nominates Davutoglu as Turkey’s new PM,” Financial Times, 8/21/14.

[88] Though the newspaper Sabah claims the accusations of erasing Gül’s from the website are overblown, the fact remains that it is gone (“Cumhuriyet’in ‘AKP, Abdullah Gül Ve Üç İsmi Sildi’ Yalanı,” Sabah, 2/23/16; “Gül ve Arınç AKP’nin kurucuları arasında neden yok, kimler listeden çıkarıldı?” T24, 2/23/16).

[89]Ahmet Davutoğlu: Konya’dan İstanbul’a, Malezya’dan üniversiteye, danışmanlıktan Başbakanlığa,” T24, 8/21/14.

[90] Why Davutoğlu’s daughter separated is unclear. If one really wants to follow Soner Yalçın and OdaTV down the conspiratorial rabbit hole: leaked tapes from the December 17/25 investigations reveal that Erdoğan—always concerned with the management of the Fenerbahçe football team—did not like Davutoğlu’s son-in-law and did not want him on the board of directors or, suggests OdaTV, married into the Davutoğlu’s family (Soner Yalçın, “Davutoğlu’nun bilinmeyenleri,” Sözcü, 8/29/14; “Ayrılığın sebebi Erdoğan’ın hakaretleri mi,” OdaTV, 7/5/15).

[91] According to the Istanbul Industrial Institute, Ülker is the sixty-fifth largest company in Turkey. For more on its current activities see Şüle Laleli, “Gıda devi Ülker’in yeni oyun planı,” Fortune, 6/5/15. For more on Şehir, see Jale Özgentürk, “Murat Ülker’in ‘Şehir’ efsanesi artık gerçek,” Radikal, 7/21/13.

[92] The former head of SETA, İbrahim Kalın, has served as President Erdoğan’s spokesman since his election. Kalın received his MA from International Islamic University Malaysia in 1994—the same period during which Davutoğlu taught at the school. The current director of SETA, Burhanettin Duran, writes for Sabah and taught at Şehir University until 2015. In October, however, Duran resigned along with Fahrettin Altun (Sabah columnist and SETA member) and Medaim Yanık (a SETA member; formerly a Sabah columnist, now a columnist for Star, a paper owned by AKP member Ethem Sancak). The three men resigned to protest the appointment of a rector at the university whom they claimed was both in favor of headscarf bans and a Gülenist (due to his connection with the Gülenist newspaper Bugün). The commotion caused by their public criticisms led Davutoğlu to request that Ülker replace the rector—which he did. The new rector, an expert on Islamic economics, had also taught at International Islamic University Malaysia at the same time as Davutoğlu (Yılmaz Polat, “Yandaş vakfa 4 milyon dolar,” Yurt Gazetesi, 5/24/15; Behlül Özkan “Dış politikada ‘entelektüel koza’ya hapsolmak,” Birgün, 7/10/15; Can Uğur, “Şehir Üniversitesi’ndeki istifalarda ‘AKP kavgası’,” Birgün, 10/26/15; “Murat Ülker ‘Hoca’yı kırmadı, rektör değişti,” Yeni Akit, 11/6/15; ‘Paralelci’ iddiasıyla suçlanan Ali Atıf Bir’in rektörlüğü üç hafta sürdü!” T24, 11/6/15; “İbrahim Kalın kimdir? Siyasi ve özel hayatı,” Haber7, 6/11/16).

[93] Serkan Demirtaş, “Yeni kabine ‘savaş kabinesi’ mi?” BBC Türkçe, 12/26/13;

Sebahat Karakoyun, “Erdoğan’ı Sevenler Derneği,” Birgün, 8/30/14

[94] In theory, Karaman was denied a spot on the AKP list because his brother was mayor of an Istanbul municipality and the party had a policy against close family members filling multiple positions—unsurprisingly, Karaman was skeptical. Karaman was not included on the November AKP list either (“Eski TCDD Müdürü Karaman: İstifada akraba kriteri yoktu!Radikal, 4/14/15; Soner Yalçın, “Bu da benim Pelikan Dosyam,” Sözcü, 5/5/16; “1 Kasım’ın 4 şifresi,” Hürriyet, 9/19/15).

[95] Gökçer Tahincioğlu, “Köşk’te Yıldırım’a özel görev,” Milliyet, 9/2/14. The scholar Ergun Özbudun suggested that Erdoğan’s maximalist constitutional interpretations were creating a state of “de facto” presidentialism (Ümit Çetin, “Gölge kabine tartışması,” Hürriyet, 12/12/15).

[96] Ümit Çetin, “Saray’da icraatı izleme ekibi,” Hürriyet, 11/20/15.

[97] Article 107 of the Turkish constitution allows the president to change the organization of his bureaucracy by executive order; Article 104 allows him to call together the cabinet and act as chair. (Nuray Babacan, “Binali Yıldırım: % 52’yle gelen ‘Karışmıyorum’ diyemez,” Hürriyet, 12/16/14; Murat Yetkin, “Erdoğan, Davutoğlu’na gücünün sınırlarını hatırlattı,” Radikal, 12/30/14; Emre Peker, “Erdogan Holds First Cabinet Meeting as Turkey’s President,” The Wall Street Journal, 1/19/15; “Erdoğan holds first cabinet meeting as Turkish president,” The Guardian, 1/19/15).

[98]Davutoğlu kamuda şeffaflık paketini açıkladı,” Sabah, 1/14/15; “Erdoğan’dan Davutoğlu’na ‘mal bildirimi’ tepkisi: Şimdi sırası değil, ekonomiyi olumsuz etkiler,” T24, 1/17/15; “Turkish government postpones transparency package after Erdoğan’s intervention,” Hürriyet Daily News, 2/6/15; “Erdoğan, Davutoğlu’na müdahale etti; ‘Şeffaflık Paketi’ seçim sonrasına ertelendi,” T24, 2/6/15).

[99] For excellent reporting, see the International Crisis Group, especially “The Human Cost of the PKK Conflict in Turkey: The Case of Sur” (3/17/16) and Turkey’s PKK Conflict: The Rising Toll. Also, Robert Worth, “Behind the Barricades of Turkey’s Hidden War,” The New York Times Magazine, 5/24/16.

[100]Erdoğan: ‘Dolmabahçe mutabakatı’ ifadesini cımbızlarım,” BBCTürkçe, 7/17/15; “Cumhurbaşkanımız Erdoğan’ ın Bayram Namazı sonrası Konuşması [17.07.2015],” YouTube.

[101] Nuray Babacan and Turhan Yılmaz, “Binali Yıldırım el altından AK Parti delegelerini yokladı: Aday olayım mı,” Hürriyet, 9/11/15; Deniz Zeyrek, “Çıkışın perde arkası,” Hürriyet, 9/11/15; Murat Yetkin, “Erdoğan kararlı, Davutoğlu mütevekkil, 1 Kasım sınavına…” Radikal, 4/15/15; “Davutoğlu’ndan ‘Binali Yıldırım aday olacaktı’ iddiasına: Psikolojimi etkilemedi, mutabakatla seçildim,” T24, 9/16/15.

[102] Efkan Ala served as Erdoğan’s Chief Advisor (Başbakanlık Müsteşarı) from 2007 until 2013 when Erdoğan named him Interior Minister. At the time, the prime minister needed to surround himself with close allies. Before joining Erdoğan’s inner circle, Ala had served as a governor in several eastern Turkish provinces. As governor of Batman and Diyarbakır in the early 2000s, he was seen as a reformist: he allowed street protests (provided no PKK-colors were on display); he argued against the need for emergency law in the region; and, for the first time, he answered questions from the Human Rights Association (İHD)—though, as Diyarbakır Branch President Selahattin Demirtaş argued, in a superficial manner. After becoming Erdoğan’s advisor, he gained the moniker “number one bureaucrat,” reviewing and often rewriting legislation as well as coordinating between the prime minister’s office, the military, and the intelligence services. The degree of trust between Erdoğan and Ala is suggested by the fact that Ala was the only minister appointed in December 2013 who was not a member of parliament—a sufficiently uncommon occurrence that President Gül was hesitant about the appointment (“Müdür, reformcu valiye küstü,” Milliyet, 11/25/04; “‘Hak ihlali yapılmadı,'” Milliyet, 12/23/0; Ramazan Yauz, Şeyhmus Çakan, and Özgür Cebe, “Diyarbakır’da polislerle göstericiler arasında yine çatışma çıktı,” Hürriyet, 3/29/06; Şükrü Küçükşahin, “Başbakanlık’ta Efkan Ala dönemi,” Hürriyet, 9/7/07; Zeynep Gürcanlı, “Dışarıdan ikinci bakan,” Hürriyet, 12/26/13; Nuray Babacan, “7 itiraz,” Hürriyet, 12/27/13).

[103] Turhan Yılmaz and Gizem Karakış, “20 ayda 20 sorun,” Hürriyet, 5/6/16.

[104] Tolga Tanış, “Yeni Başbakan İngilizce konuşmayacak,” Hürriyet, 5/8/16.

[105]Mesele ‘Kayseri pazarlığı’ değil,” Milliyet, 3/12/16; Zeynep Gürcanli, “Türkiye ile AB, mülteciler konusunda anlaştı!” Sözcü, 3/18/16.

[106] The stated reason for removing Davutoğlu’s appointment authority was that he had failed to consult with the board regarding appointments in the provinces of Adıyaman and Mersin—ostensibly because he was attempting to shape the party delegate pool in advance of the 2018 convention (Nuray Babacan, “Delege atama yetkisi MKYK’ya iade,” Hürriyet, 4/30/16; Emine Kaplan, “Davutoğlu kontrolü kaybetti,” Cumhuriyet, 4/30/16; Didem Özel Tümer, “MKYK neden yetkiyi geri istedi?” Al Jazeera, 4/30/16).

[107] Can Sezer and Jeff Mason, “Obama to hold informal talks with Turkey’s Erdogan as ties show strain,” Reuters, 3/29/16; “Davutoğlu ABD’ye gidiyor,” Sözcü, 4/25/16; Tunca Öğreten, “‘Erdoğan, Obama’yla sıkı fıkı olan Davutoğlu’na darbe yapabilir,’” Diken, 4/27/16; Deniz Zeyrek, “Washington seyahati ertelendi,” Hürriyet, 4/30/16.

[108]Selam Olsun!” pelikandosyasi, 5/1/16; “‘Reis’çiler düğmeye bastı: ‘Pelikan Dosyası’ adlı blogda ‘Hoca’ yerden yere vuruldu,” Diken, 5/2/16. One particularly interesting claim of the blog was that Davutoğlu had sought to create media enterprises that would support him against Erdoğan—namely the newspaper Karar, which had begun publication in March 2016, staffed by writers fired from other pro-government papers and—according to the blog—funded by Davutoğlu’s college friend Murat Ülker (“Star Medya Grubu CEO’su Mustafa Karaalioğlu, Genel Yayın Yönetmeni Yusuf Ziya Cömert ve Mehmet Ocaktan kovuldu,” OdaTv, 11/24/14; “İktidara yakın medyadaki çatlaktan Karar çıktı,” T24, 3/7/16).

[109]Başbakan Davutoğlu’ndan istifa sinyali,” Cumhuriyet, 5/3/16; “Erdoğan’la Davutoğlu arasındaki kritik görüşme sona erdi,” T24, 5/4/16; “AK Parti kongreye gidiyor: Başbakan Davutoğlu aday olmayacak,” Karar, 5/4/16; “Başbakan Davutoğlu veda etti,” Sözcü, 5/5/16.

[110]15 Temmuz Darbe Girişiminde Neler Oldu?” Bianet, 7/16/16; Christiaan Triebert, “‘We’ve shot four people. Everything’s fine’: The Turkish Coup through the Eyes of its Plotters,”, 7/24/16.

[111]İşte Erdoğan’ın çılgın projesi,” Milliyet, 4/27/11.

[112] Yeni Şafak is owned by the Albayrak Group, yet another construction company whose owners hail from Turkey’s Black Sea region. Founded by Haci Ahmet Albayrak in the early 1950s, the company become more involved with politics in the 1980s as his six sons began taking a more active role and expanding into new markets such as tourism and transportation. Two sons in particular became closely involved with Necmettin Erbakan’s religious political movement: one, Nuri, joined the Istanbul Municipal Assembly; the other, Ahmet, was the president of the Welfare Party branch in Istanbul’s Fatih district. Ahmet also bought the newspaper Yeni Şafak.

When Erdoğan became major of Istanbul, the firm began winning numerous municipal contracts. In the late 1990s, as religious politicians and corporations that supported them came under attack, the Albayraks were not spared: their newspaper and businesses were raided and the brothers were charged with multiple counts of corruption in tenders and contracts. Among the many charges, the Albayraks were accused of creating shell companies and submitting multiple bids on tenders; receiving improper loans from banks to fund their purchases of privatized companies; and overbilling the city on contracts. These charges were featured prominently in anti-AKP newspapers; the anti-climactic resolutions of these cases, less so.

Once the AKP had won at the national level and Erdoğan had become prime minister in 2003, many of these charges were dropped and the government quickly passed legislation reducing the firm’s tax burden. The bill altered the dates for reporting taxes in such a way as to benefit the firm and was vetoed by President Sezer.

In the years to follow, the firm has continued to secure government contracts and cement its ties with AKP leaders. In 2005, Erdoğan and his wife served as witnesses at the wedding of Ahmet Albayrak’s daughter Zeynep to Cemil Günaydın, the son of Yunus Günaydın, a businessman and AKP member in the Istanbul Municipal Assembly. In 2000, Erdoğan had also attended the wedding of Albayrak’s other daughter, Derya, to Nizam Günaydın.

As for Ahmet Albayrak, in 2010, he served a wedding witness for one of his CEOs alongside the same judge who had found him and Erdoğan innocent in 2003—a judge who is now the head of Turkey’s highest appeals court. When Haci Ahmet passed away in 2010, Binali Yıldırım attended the funeral.

The years of AKP rule have not been without drama for the Albayraks. In 2009, Ahmet Albayrak’s house was raided by police and prosecutors charged him with smuggling gravel. The case lasted three years and ended with Albayrak’s acquittal, but following the failed coup the lead prosecutor was arrested as part of a vast Gülen-led conspiracy.

(“Hacı Ahmet Albayrak vefat etti,” Of Hayat, 10/30/10; “Tarihçe,” Albayrak Group; İhsan Yılmaz, Arife Avcu, and Semra Pelek, “Albayraklar Refahla ihya oldu,” Milliyet, 4/28/99; Tuncay Özkan, “Devletin olanakları seferber edildi perde arkası,” Milliyet, 7/31/01; “İhaleler ‘itinayla’ alınır!” Milliyet, 8/15/01; Nedim Şener, “Tayyip’in günahı,” Milliyet, 10/25/01; Tolga Sarpan, “Bütün ihaleler Albayraklar’a,” Milliyet, 10/29/01; “Yeni Şafak Gazetesi’ne ‘Albayrak’ baskını,” Milliyet, 1/6/02; “Tayyip’e ikinci şok,” Milliyet, 5/25/02; Esra Alus, “’Hobi’ci Albayraklar’a ceza,”Milliyet, 1/23/03; Nedim Şener, “Albayraklar ve İGDAŞ’ın 190 trilyonluk gelir kaçırdıklarını,” Milliyet, 4/6/03; “Erdoğan nikah şahiti oldu,” Internet Haber, 2/28/05; Emine Türker, “Küsler düğünde buluştu,” Milliyet, 6/20/00; “Haliç’e nazır bir ömür ‘evet’ dediler,” Yeni Safak, 6/13/10; “Erdoğan’ı aklayan hakim Cirit Yargıtay Başkanı oldu,” Cumhuriyet, 2/10/15; Oya Armutçu, “Yargıtay Başkanı İsmail Rüştü Cirit’ten ‘çay’ yanıtı,” Hürriyet, 5/26/16; Soner Yalçın, “Erdoğan’ın yargıyla imtihanı,” Sözcü, 6/5/16; “Ahmet Albayrak´ın evinde arama yapıldı,” Hürriyet, 11/4/09; Nail Karaman, “Ahmet Albayrak’a hapis istemi,” Milliyet, 12/8/09; “Albayrak hâkim karşısında,” T24, 4/28/10; “‘Kaçak kum’ davasında 33 beraat,” Haber Turk, 3/29/12; “SAVCI FERRUH GÜN’E SAKARYA’DA FETÖ GÖZALTISI,” Milliyet, 7/28/16)

[113] İbrahim Karagül, “Binali Yıldırım en zor döneme tanık olacak,” Yeni Safak, 5/23/16.