The deep state (or state within a state) is believed to be a secret network of military officers and their civilian allies who for decades suppressed and even murdered perceived opponents of Turkey’s secular order. It allegedly functioned as a kind of shadow government, spreading false propaganda to whip up public fear and destabilising civilian governments through bombing campaigns and even assassinations (events which have again become common place in Turkey today). Amongst other nefarious activities, the deep state is believed to have orchestrated the death of Prime Minister Adnan Mendres in 1960 and brought down the government of Necmettin Erbakan in the 1990s – both of whom they suspected of having Islamist leanings and therefore perceiving them as a threat.
The deep state’s foundations are believed to have been laid in the 1940s when the CIA trained Turkish soldiers and civilians in the event of a possible Soviet invasion. These groups, known as ‘Gladios‘, received military as well as intelligence training. They also learnt how to hide weapons around the country which they could later retrieve and use. Ergenekon, another group allegedly linked to the deep state, was exposed as a result of clandestine activities.
Initially, Erdogan and his allies were against the deep state and managed to initiate the ‘Ergenekon trials‘ and put hundreds of people involved behind bars. But since 2013, when the AK Party was subject of a major corruption scandal, Erdogan made an alliance with members of the deep state, perhaps seeing them as allies, and freed every single one of their members who was imprisoned during the Ergenekon trials. It is now believed they are both working closely together – Erdogan needs them to stay in power and crush his ever growing list of enemies and the deep state needs Erdogan to take revenge against those who they believe exposed and helped convict them.
Over the past 2 and half years, Erdogan has been arresting and suppressing journalists, lawyers and civil liberty campaigners based on zero or very flimsy evidence – this has now extended to any public figure or body that doesn’t support him. He has also been busy taking over media channels so the Turkish public only sees and hears state sanctioned news. But it’s the deep state which will be having the last laugh. Once they’ve used Erdogan to eliminate their opponents and do their dirty work they will most likely turn against him – but for now the unholy alliance continues.