In interviews conducted on the sidelines of the Al-Sharq Forum’s Istanbul conference on Oct. 8 and 9, the journalists and academics said the West had misunderstood what was happening in Turkey.
David Hearst, editor of the Middle East Eye online news portal, said there was “no doubt” if the July 15 coup succeeded “the reaction of both Europe, the European Union and America in particular would have been the same reaction that took place to the July  coup in Egypt”.
Egypt’s military deposed Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, in a 2013 coup. The country has since been roiled by turmoil.
Hearst claimed the West would have avoided describing Turkey’s trauma as a “coup”, instead terming it a “political transition” and, in tandem, blaming President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for creating the conditions for the insurrection.
“What the West misunderstood was the normal Turkish reaction,” Hearst said, describing the people’s response against the coup as “not a party-political thing”.
“Everyone came out to the street because they knew exactly what would happen if the coup succeeded. There was memory — DNA of the Turks — about so many coups which had happened before,” he added.
Hearst claimed that on the night of July 15 itself, articles suggesting Erdogan was to be blamed started to appear in the Western press but several newspapers “had to row back in very quickly as it was clear that Erdogan had survived”.
Dr. Omar Ashour, senior lecturer in Middle East Politics and Security Studies at the U.K.’s University of Exeter, described the reaction to the coup attempt as “classic pragmatism”.
“They [states] usually do not condemn; they usually see who are the victors and then play with them,” he said. Ashour warned that “demonization of Turkey within many Western societies” should be stopped.
Ashour told Anadolu Agency the Western narrative was: “‘Turkey is not democratic society. [They] stopped a coup but, actually, the coup plotters, putschists are the good guys.’”
He posed some questions such as: “How are the putschists that killed more people in a few hours than Daesh killed in two years — how are they good guys?
On the other hand, Ashour said: “All these people who went down onto the streets to fight the coup, they are now called in some of the media ‘the mob’, like bad people, basically gangsters mainly.”
Salman Sayyid, professor of Social Theory and Decolonial Thought at the U.K.’s University of Leeds, described Western perceptions on Turkey as “former Islamophobia”.
“A decision not to support the government — the legitimate government — until it was clear [the coup failed] shows there could be a long-term problem of Western perception of the AK [ruling Justice and Development] Party’s government,” Sayyid said.
He claimed that since at least 2005 there had been a narrative among Western societies that Turkey is ruled by oriental despotism, and said Turkish people had been unsuccessful in changing that narrative.
Sayyid also said the reaction of Western governments against the coup attempt was a validation of their beliefs which “simply say that their perceptions are former Islamophobia”.
Meanwhile, Hearst criticized Western governments, saying they always wanted to lecture Turkey about democracy or human rights but had “abandoned [this] so many times before”.
“They abandoned all talk of human rights, even fair elections, in Egypt,” Hearst added.