Turkey was at one time the home of one of the greatest empires the world has known, namely the Ottoman empire. After World War I, the Turks who had allied with Germany were defeated and the massive Ottoman empire dismantled by the English and French. Kemal Moustapha was a general of the Turkish army during World War I and was in the eyes of the Turks a war hero. After the end of the war, Kemal seized power after a civil war and became a dictator and President of Turkey in 1924. He continued to rule till 1938. Often referred to as the Ataturk, Kemal will go down in history as the founder of a modern and secular Turkey.

First military ruler

Kemal Moustapha laid the foundation of modern Turkey and he carried out some very significant steps that set Turkey apart from other Muslim nations.

He abolished the Caliphate and religious schools, and also forbade the recitation of Islamic prayers in Arabic. He set up a constitution that codified secularism and this was a sea change from the rule of the Ottoman empire which had Islam as the state religion. All this is important as he set Turkey on a course to modernization and secularism. After his death in 1938, the army usurped the right to defend secularism and often carried out coups. The first coup was in 1960 and ended with the hanging of prime minister Mendes. He had earned the ire of the military as he had opened religious schools and allowed prayers to be recited in Arabic.

Military coups

The army continued interfering with the government by a number of coups, with the last in 1997. The army at that time removed Necmettin Erbakan the first Islamist-led government in Turkey.

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Overall till then the army acted as the defender of the ideas of Kemal Moustapha, also known as Ataturk (the great Turk).Things began to change in the 21st century with the arrival of Tayyip Erdogan as premier and later president Erdogan has led a party that believes in slow Islamization, but could not touch the constitution. The army was sidelined and was kept out of the power-sharing loop.

The latest coup by the army is confusing as one is not sure if it was a rightist coup or just a coup for power. It is also not clear who is the leader of this coup, though Erdogan has pointed the finger at a Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen in self-imposed exile in the USA.  He has denied the allegations. Whatever the result the army cannot be sidelined and there is no guarantee that another coup will not take place. All this spells danger for the USA as Turkey is an important ally and allows the use of its airbase for operations by the USAF against ISIS. Instability in Turkey is of special concern to the USA. Turkey is also under attack from terror groups and that adds to the instability.