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On Friday afternoon, an as-yet unidentified faction of the Turkish military launched a coup attempt aimed at toppling President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.
The coup leaders, claiming to speak for the entire Turkish Armed Forces, said they’d done so in the name of protecting democracy — despite the fact that Erdogan and his party were democratically elected.
"Turkish Armed Forces have completely taken over the administration of the country to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedom," the statement said.
This may sound crazy to American ears, but it makes at least a little sense in the Turkish context. The modern Turkish Republic was founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a former military officer deeply committed to a form of democratic nationalism and hardline secularism now called Kemalism.
The Turkish military sees itself as the guardian of Kemalism, and has overthrown four Turkish governments since 1960 in the name of protecting Turkey’s democracy from chaos and Islamic influence. Each time afterwards, the military has returned the country to democracy — though in a degraded form.
Erdogan is clearly a threat to Turkish democracy and secularism. He leads the AKP, a moderate Islamist party that has "reformed" Turkish schools along Islamist lines. He’s cracked down on Turkey’s freedom of the press and pushed constitutional changes that would consolidate dangerous amounts of power in the president’s hands.
For more on Kemalism, click on the wiki.