On 15–16 July 2016, an unsuccessful coup d’état was staged against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government by a faction within the Turkish Armed Forces. In a televised statement the group responsible for the coup named themselves the Turkish Peace Council. At least 290 people were killed and more than a thousand injured. In Ankara, the Turkish Parliament and the Presidential Palace were bombed. Shots were also heard near major airports in Ankara and Istanbul.
Reactions to the event were largely against the coup, both domestically and internationally. The main opposition parties in Turkey, for example, condemned the attempt, while several international leaders—such as those from the United States, NATO, and the European Union- called for respect for the democratic institutions in Turkey and its elected officials. A proposed United Nations Security Council statement denouncing the coup was not, however, accepted by Egypt, a non-permanent member of the Council at the time.
The incumbent government rapidly declared the attempt a failure and began prosecuting those involved. The first official reaction came from Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, who addressed the media one day later saying that the situation was “completely under control.” Mass arrests followed with at least 6,000 people being detained including at least 2,839 soldiers and 2,745 judges.
President Erdoğan blamed soldiers linked to the Gülen Movement, which the government has designated as a terrorist organisation under the name FETÖ, for orchestrating the coup attempt, though the Movement’s spiritual leader and exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen condemned the coup and denied any involvement.
As the coup attempt unfolded, numerous opposition politicians and journalists questioned the unorthodox strategy followed by the perpetrators and expressed doubt over whether the coup attempt was genuine or potentially staged by the government itself.
Politicians such as Deniz Baykal and numerous critics of the AKP government denounced the coup as a ‘tragic comedy’ or a ‘theatrical scenario’, citing numerous strategic shortcomings such as the fact that not a single government official was arrested during the events.
Skeptics pointed to Erdoğan’s past reliance on rumours of military coup plotting to consolidate his powers and noted that he stood to gain heavily from a failed coup attempt by legitimising purges in both the military and judiciary, increasing support for his calls for an executive presidency and the ability to pursue a more radical authoritarian political agenda at odds with the secular ideals of the Turkish Republic.
Kemalism versus Islamism
Since the establishment of multiparty democracy in Turkey in 1946, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) together with judiciary have viewed themselves as the guardians of Kemalist ideals and the secular Turkish nationalist state established under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk against political parties promoting a larger role for Islam in public life. The military and judiciary have regularly intervened in politics to block or ban popular parties representing conservative Muslim Turks attempting to relax the restrictions on traditional religious practices like headscarves. The military has toppled four elected governments by coups in 1960 and 1980 and by military decisions in 1971 and 1997, and in addition banned several major political parties. In 1998, Erdoğan, who was the mayor of Istanbul at the time, was banned for life from politics and jailed because of a poem he read several years ago at a public meeting. In 2007, the military expressed its opposition to the election of Abdullah Gül of the AKP as the president by issuing an e-memorandum but Gül was eventually elected when the AKP won a referendum on the issue and a snap election and returned with a larger majority in the parliament.
The Ergenekon trials
In the years leading up to the 2016 coup attempt, the Ergenekon trials took place, which was seen as a bid by Turkey’s civilian leaders under President Erdoğan to establish dominance over the military.
In these trials in 2013 — viewed as “sensational” and “one of the biggest in recent Turkish history”— 275 people, including senior military officers, journalists, lawyers and academics, were accused of plotting a coup in 2003 and 2004 as part of a secret network named “Ergenekon” against Erdoğan, who was prime minister at the time. Additionally, some military officers were accused of involvement in a separate alleged plot, Sledgehammer. Simultaneously, Erdoğan promoted lower-ranking officers up the chain of command, ensuring that the military chief of staff was loyal to him, thereby demoralizing the army.
After the break between the Gülenist factions and Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) party, Erdoğan decided it would be advantageous to rehabilitate the army.
The “Ergenekon” convictions were overturned in April 2016 by Turkey’s highest appeals court, which ruled that the existence of the network was unproven.
The November 2015 election was re-held amidst controversy of a crackdown on the media, as well ongoing hostilities with the PKK, amidst the Syrian Civil War, and relations with the country’s Kurds.
The “immunity bill”
On 13 July, less than two days before the coup was launched, Erdoğan signed a bill giving Turkish soldiers immunity from prosecution while taking part in domestic security operations, requiring cases against commanders to be approved by the prime minister, while cases against lower-ranking soldiers may be signed off on by district governors. The immunity bill was seen as part of the détente between the government and the Armed Forces, while the latter have increasingly been taking over the military operations in the Kurdish-inhabited areas from police and paramilitary units.
At the time the coup began, Erdoğan was on vacation in southwest Turkey.
On 15 July 2016, as reported just before 11:00 p.m. EEST (UTC+3), military jets were witnessed flying over Ankara, and both the Fatih Sultan Mehmet and Bosphorus bridges in Istanbul in the direction of Anatolia to Europe were closed.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said military action was being “taken outside the chain of command” and it was an “illegal attempt” to seize power by “part of the military”. He further said that those involved “will pay the highest price.”Local media also reported tanks in Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport. It was reported that Internet users within Turkey were blocked from accessing Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Twitter later claimed that they “have no reason to think we’ve been fully blocked”. Some hostages were taken at military headquarters, including the Turkish Chief of the General Staff Hulusi Akar. The military also entered the Justice and Development Party’s offices in Istanbul and asked people to leave.
Early reports said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was safe in Marmaris, south-west Turkey, where he had been on holiday, while reports also alleged that he had fled the country in a private jet.
At around 11:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m., helicopters bombed the police special forces headquarters and police air force headquarters in Gölbaşı, just outside of Ankara. The attacks left 42 dead and 43 injured. Türksat headquarters in Gölbaşı was also attacked, killing two security personnel.
At around 11:50 p.m., soldiers occupied Taksim Square in central Istanbul.
At 12:02 am, it was reported by Reuters that Turkish soldiers were inside the buildings of the Turkish state broadcaster, the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), in Ankara.During the coup attempt, soldiers forced anchor Tijen Karaş to read out a statement saying that “the democratic and secular rule of law has been eroded by current government” and that Turkey was now led by a “peace council” who would “ensure safety of the population.”The statement read in part, “Turkish Armed Forces have completely taken over the administration of the country to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms, the rule of law and general security that was damaged. […] All international agreements are still valid. We hope that all of our good relationships with all countries will continue.”The plotters said they had “done so to preserve democratic order, and that the rule of law must remain a priority”. The statement also ordered temporary martial rule, and claimed a new constitution would be prepared “as soon as possible”. TRT was then taken off air.
Peace at Home Council (Yurtta Sulh Konseyi)
The “peace council” reportedly was chaired by Muharrem Köse.
The name of the “Peace at Home Council”, “is derived from Ataturk’s famous saying ‘Peace at Home, Peace in the World’ “, according to a BBC article by Ezgi Basaran – Turkish journalist and academic visitor at St Antony’s College, Oxford University.
Analysis of the statement of the junta: A BBC article by Ezgi Basaran said that “the statement of the junta, that was forcefully read on the official government TV as the coup got under way, bore a strong resemblance to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s famous address to the Turkish Youth. […] On the other hand, given that these references are too obvious, they may have been intentionally included to insinuate a Kemalist junta rather than a Gulenist one”.
Government response and conflict
The Turkish Presidential office said President Erdoğan was on holiday outside Turkey and safe, and condemned the coup attempt as an attack on democracy.
A presidential source also said Erdoğan and his government are still in power.
The first messages from Erdoğan were transmitted at around 12:23 am.
At about 1:00 am, Erdoğan did a FaceTime interview with CNN Türk, in which he called upon his supporters to take to the streets in defiance of the military-imposed curfew, saying “There is no power higher than the power of the people. Let them do what they will at public squares and airports.”Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş appeared on live television, saying Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is still in charge of the government. The mayor of Ankara, Melih Gökçek of the AKP, encouraged people to go out to the city’s streets in defiance, despite a curfew imposed by the military.
Erdoğan’s plane took off from Dalaman Airport near Marmaris at 11:47 pm, but had to wait in the air south of Atatürk for the airport to be secured. His plane could only land at 2:50 am.
The First Army General Command in Istanbul claimed that the TSK did not support the coup and the perpetrators represented a very small faction that were on the verge of being brought under control. Istanbul Atatürk Airport was closed; all flights from the airport were cancelled. There was an explosion in the TRT broadcasting headquarters and gunfire was reported in Ankara. Soon after, it was stormed by a crowd of civilians and police, with four soldiers inside reportedly being “neutralised”. The channel went back on air and Karaş, who had previously announced the coup, told live that she had been held hostage and forced to read the declaration of the coup at gunpoint.
By 1:00 am, it was reported that the military had pulled its forces from the Atatürk airport and people were coming inside, but by 1:13 am, it was reported that tanks were inside the airport and gunfire was heard.
Tanks opened fire near the Turkish Parliament Building.The parliamentary building was also hit from the air.
Injuries were reported among protesters on Bosphorus Bridge following gunfire on the bridge.
A helicopter belonging to the pro-coup forces was shot down by a Turkish military F-16 fighter jet.
There were also reports of pro-government jets flying over Ankara to “neutralize” helicopters used by those behind the coup.
At 3:08 am, a military helicopter opened fire on the Turkish parliament.
At 3:10 am, Turkish Armed Forces claimed on their website that they had complete control over the country.
However, at 3:12 am, Yıldırım made a statement saying that the situation was under control and that a no-fly zone was declared over Ankara and that military planes that still flew would be shot down.
It was reported that the Turkish parliament had been bombed again at 3:23 and 3:33 am.
A helicopter belonging to the pro-coup forces was also seen flying by it. Half an hour following the report of 12 deaths and 2 injuries in the parliament, soldiers entered CNN Türk’s headquarters and forced the studio to go off air.
After an hour of interruption by the pro-coup soldiers, CNN Türk resumed its broadcast. Later, İsmail Kahraman said a bomb exploded at a corner of the public relations building inside the parliament, with no deaths but several injuries among police officers.
At around 4:00 am, approximately one and a half hours after Erdoğan left his hotel at Marmaris, two or three helicopters attacked the hotel he had left. According to eyewitness accounts, ten to fifteen heavily armed men landed and started firing. In the ensuing conflict, 2 policemen were killed and 8 were injured.
The Doğan News Agency reported that in Istanbul several individuals were injured after soldiers fired on a group of people that was attempting to cross the Bosphorus Bridge in protest of the attempted coup.
Failure of the coup attempt
After Erdoğan flew in to Istanbul, he made a televised speech at first inside the airport at around 4:00 am, whilst thousands gathered outside. He addressed a crowd of supporters in the airport, at about 6:30 am.
He said, “In Turkey, armed forces are not governing the state or leading the state. They cannot.” He blamed “those in Pennsylvania” (a reference to Fethullah Gülen, who lives in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, and his Hizmet Movement) for the coup attempt. Erdoğan also said he had plans to “clean up” the army, saying that “This uprising is a gift from God to us.”
State-run Anadolu Agency named former Colonel Muharrem Köse, who in March 2016 was dishonorably discharged for alleged association with Gülen, as the suspected leader of the coup. However, the Alliance for Shared Values, a non-profit organization associated with Gülen, released a statement reiterating that it condemns any military intervention in domestic politics, and saying Erdoğan’s allegations against the movement were “highly irresponsible”.Gülen himself said in a brief statement just before midnight: “As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt. I categorically deny such accusations.”
Reuters reported that in early hours of 16 July, the coup appeared to have “crumbled” as crowds defied pro-coup military orders and gathered in major squares of Istanbul and Ankara to oppose the coup.Reuters also reported pro-coup soldiers surrendering to the police in Taksim Square, Istanbul.It was reported that by 5:18 am, Atatürk airport had completely been recaptured by the government whilst the police had surrounded the coupists inside the Turkish army headquarters, calling for them to surrender. Between 6:00–8:00 am a skirmish took place there. In Akar’s absence, Ümit Dündar, head of the First Army, was appointed Acting Chief of Staff.
In the early hours of the morning of 16 July, soldiers blocking the Bosphorus Bridge surrendered to the police.
According to the government-run Anadolu Agency, this consisted of a group of 50 soldiers. Some of these soldiers were lynched by the public despite efforts of police forces which fired into the air in order to protect the soldiers from civilians.
The throat of one soldier was reportedly slit whilst a video emerged in which one person claimed that four soldiers had been killed.Meanwhile, in the headquarters of the Turkish Army, 700 unarmed soldiers surrendered as the police conducted an operation into the building while 150 armed soldiers were kept inside by the police.
The coupists in the TRT building in Istanbul surrendered in the early morning as well.Chief of Staff Akar, held hostage at the Akıncı Air Base in Ankara, was also rescued by pro-government forces.
Turkish soldiers’ request for political asylum in Greece
On Saturday 16 July 2016, at 12:42 a.m. (UTC+3), a Turkish Black Hawk helicopter sent a distress signal and requested permission for an emergency landing to Greek authorities and landed 8 minutes later (12:50) at the Dimokritos airport in Alexandroupoli, in Greece, while two Greek F-16s observed the procedure and escorted it to the airport. Seven military personnel, who had removed the badges and insignia from their uniforms,and a civilian on board were arrested after landing for illegal entry into the country. They were transferred to the local police station, while the helicopter was guarded at the airport by the Greek authorities. Later it turned out that all were military personnel. The eight passengers all requested political asylum in Greece.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey has requested extradition of the persons who escaped to Greece and the return of the Turkish helicopter to Turkey.The Greek authorities answered that the Turkish military helicopter would be returned as soon as possible. Regarding the passengers they said that “we will follow the procedures of international law.However, we give very serious considerations to the fact that they are accused, in their country, of violating the constitutional order and trying to overthrow democracy.”
The Turkish Foreign Minister made a statement, posted on Twitter, that the soldiers who landed in Greece, claiming asylum, would be extradited. A Greek government source denied this by saying the asylum process would be processed swiftly but international law and human rights will be fully respected. At night (after 11:00 pm (UTC+3)) a second Turkish Black Hawk helicopter with extra crew members arrived at the Greek airport from Turkey in order to retrieve the first helicopter, after the crew checked the helicopter, both helicopters returned back to Turkey early on the morning of 17 July.
The lawyer assigned to four of the Turkish military officers said they were all medical crew in Istanbul and they didn’t know about the coup and that they all have families and children in Turkey. She also added that the officers received orders on the evening of 15 July to transfer some injured people with their helicopters. They followed orders without knowing that a coup was under way. At some point, police opened fire against their helicopters. By that point they were aware a coup was under way and feared they would be executed as participants if they stayed in Turkey, so they decided to board a helicopter not damaged by by police fire and fly to Greece to request asylum. The lawyer also added that they were “in a bad mental state” because they were afraid for both their own and their families’ lives.
The eight Turkish soldiers appeared before a Greek prosecutor at Alexandroupoli on the morning of 17 July and were charged with illegal entry into the country and for illegal flight. Seven were charged with instigating the illegal flight, while the eighth, who was piloting the helicopter, was accused of executing the illegal flight.
According to Turkish authorities two held the rank of Major and the others were more junior officers.
According to Athens News Agency the group consisted of three majors, three captains and two sergeants major.
The Associated Press reports, however, that the group consisted of two majors, four captains and three sergeants major.
A trial was initially set for 18 July, however, a “court in northeastern Greece” has postponed the trial to 21 July 2016. Greek Deputy Defence Minister Dimitris Vitsas has noted that the group’s asylum applications were being processed and a decision would be made by the Greek courts. Although the applications would be examined under both “Greek and international law”, the argument for extradition is “very strong”.
Arrests and purges
Prime Minister Yıldırım announced on 16 July 2016 that 2,839 soldiers of various ranks had been arrested.
Among those arrested were at least 34 generals or admirals.
A number of students of the Kuleli Military High School, numbering enough to fill five buses, were also arrested.
By 18 July 2016, a total of 103 generals and admirals have been detained by Turkish authorities in connection with the coup.
On 16 July 2016, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors of Turkey (HSYK) removed 2,745 Turkish judges from duty and ordered their detention following the attempted coup.
Of these judges, 541 were in administrative judiciary and 2,204 were in criminal judiciary. This amounted to approximately 36% of all judges in Turkey at the time.
Two judges from the Constitutional Court of Turkey, Alparslan Altan and Erdal Tercan, were detained by Turkish authorities for supposed ties with the Gülen movement, while 5 members of the HSYK had their membership revoked and 10 members of the Turkish Council of State were arrested on charges of being members of the parallel state.Furthermore, arrest warrants were issued for 48 members of the Council of State and 140 members of the Court of Cassation. Yasemin Özata Çetinkaya, the governor of Sinop Province, was removed from her duty and her husband, a colonel in the Turkish army, arrested.
President Erdoğan had warned his opponents that “they will pay a heavy price for this.” Given his consideration of “this uprising [as] a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army,” international observers[who?] expect the president to “become more vengeful and obsessed with control than ever, exploiting the crisis not just to punish mutinous soldiers but to further quash whatever dissent is left in Turkey,” as the New York Times editorial board put it, who considered the aftermath an actual “counter-coup”.
Additional purges continued on 18 July 2016. The Turkish government suspended 8,777 government officials across the country for alleged links to the coup perpetrators. Among those suspended include 7,899 police officers, 614 gendarmerie officers, 47 district governors and 30 regional governors.
Turkish military conducted a raid on the Turkish Air Force Academy in Istanbul as well.
Among those arrested are:
– Erdal Ozturk, commander of the Third Army, arrested for alleged complicity.
– Akin Ozturk, former Chief of Staff Air Force.
– Adem Huduti, commander of the Second Army.
– Avni Angun, deputy commander of the Second Army.
– Nejat Atilla Demirhan, commander of the Mediterranean and the department of Mersina garrison, for having informed the gendarmerie area of competence a seizure of power by the army.
Investigations, detentions and arrests
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Possible reintroduction of death penalty
Following the arrests, thousands of anti-coup protesters demanded instituting the death penalty against detainees connected with the coup, chanting “we want the death penalty”. President Erdoğan has been open to reinstituting the death penalty, noting that “in a democracy, whatever the people want they will get.” Turkish authorities have not executed anyone since 1984, but legally abolished capital punishment only in 2004 as a pre-condition to join the European Union.
European Union officials have been vocal about their opposition to purges by Turkish authorities in connection to the coup. French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault noted that Turkey must work within the framework of the law to uphold Europe’s democratic principles. Furthermore, on 18 July 2016, Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of Foreign Affairs of the European Union, announced that no country will be admitted into the European Union “if it introduces the death penalty”.
Moreover, German press secretary, Steffen Seibert, stated that reinstituting the death penalty will end Turkey’s accession talks with the European Union.
Turkey is a member of the Council of Europe, and ratified the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as part of its terms of membership. The ECHR is an international treaty that includes the abolition of the death penalty among its terms. As such, Turkey is legally bound not to reintroduce the death penalty.
Allegations against Fethullah Gülen
Fethullah Gülen, whom President Erdogan had accused as being one of the principal conspirators, vehemently condemned the coup attempt and denied any role in it. “I condemn, in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey,” he said in an emailed statement reported by The New York Times. “Government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force. I pray to God for Turkey, for Turkish citizens and for all those currently in Turkey that this situation is resolved peacefully and quickly. As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt. I categorically deny such accusations.”
President Erdoğan asked the United States to extradite Gülen: “I call on you again, after there was a coup attempt. Extradite this man in Pennsylvania to Turkey! If we are strategic partners or model partners, do what is necessary.”Prime Minister Yildirim has threatened war against any country that would support Gülen.
Regarding the AKP’s allegations against exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania, Secretary of State Kerry invited the Turkish government “to present us with any legitimate evidence that withstands scrutiny,” before they would accept an extradition request.
Incirlik Air Base
The US consulate in Turkey has issued an advisory to U.S citizens to avoid the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey until “normal operations have resolved”.They stated that local authorities were denying access to the air base and that power supplying the air base was shut off. The U.S. Air Force was operating in the Incirlik air base for the American-led intervention in Syria.Nearly 1,500 American personnel are housed in the base.
Twenty-four hours after initial reports that the air base was shutdown, U.S defense department officials confirmed that the base and its airspace had re-opened to military aircraft and that operations by American aircraft will resume.
Incidents in anti-coup protests
On 16 July, anti-coup protesters chanted against locals in areas of Istanbul with high concentration of Alevis, including Okmeydanı and Gazi. Such incidents also occurred in a quarter of Antakya with a high Alevi population, where a motorcyclist claimed to be a sharia advocate was lynched. In a neighbourhood of Ankara, shops belonging to Syrians were attacked by a mob. In Malatya, Sunni Islamists harassed residents of an Alevi neighbourhood, particularly the women, and attempted to enter the neighbourhood en masse. Police intervened and blocked all roads leading there.In Kadıköy, people drinking alcohol in public were attacked by a group of religious fundamentalists.
Among the Turkish opposition parties, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) issued a statement expressing their public opposition to the coup, and the Hürriyet Daily News reported that Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli telephoned Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım to express his opposition to the coup. The co-chairs of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) issued a statement saying that the party was “under all circumstances and as a matter of principle against all kinds of coup…”Amongst the minor parties, left-wing nationalist Patriotic Party’s Doğu Perinçek seemed to back the AKP government, when he held Gülen and the Americans responsible.
Kurdish nationalist terrorist organization PKK urged their supporters to stay away from the coup and rather defend their people, while the Communist Party called upon the people to overthrow the AKP government which they called an “enemy of humanity”.
The majority of countries either expressed their support for the Erdoğan government or called for restraint. On 16 July 2016, however, a proposed United Nations Security Council statement denouncing the coup was not accepted by Egypt, a non-permanent member of the Council at the time, due to textual disagreements. Egyptian diplomats argued that the Council is “in no position to qualify, or label [the Turkish] government – or any other government for that matter – as democratically elected or not”.The leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Vladimir Zhirinovsky supported the coup attempt.
Reasons for failure
According to Naunuhal Singh, author of the coup analysis book Seizing Power, the coup attempt failed primarily because the plotters failed to secure control of the media, and shape the narrative. Successful coups require that all methods of mass communication be controlled by the rebels. This allows even small rebel contingents to portray themselves as fully in control, and their victory as inevitable. Consequently they convince the public, along with neutral and even loyalist soldiers, to defect to them, or at least not to resist. The rebels failed to properly broadcast their messages effectively across the media that they controlled. Worse, they also failed to completely shut down the private television networks, mobile phone networks, and social media.
Equally important to the coup’s failure was the inability of the rebels to neutralize Erdogan and other high ranking government officials, either by killing or detaining them. A unit of special forces were sent via helicopter to kill or capture the president, but missed because he had been evacuated by his security detail just minutes before. Once Erdogan landed at Ataturk International Airport (which had been recaptured from the rebels by his supporters), the coup was doomed. According to a military source, several coupist F-16s targeted Erdogan’s presidential jet en route to Istanbul, but they did not fire; “‘Why they didn’t fire is a mystery,’ “, the source said.
Pro-government forces sent text messages to every Turkish citizen calling for them to mobilize.Mosques began broadcasting the “sela” funeral call to prayer in the middle of the night, and loudspeakers urged the faithful to engage in jihad against the rebels. Erdogan’s large cadre of supporters took to the streets to defend their president. The crowds that opposed the coup were made almost entirely of males, sporting mustaches (a style that secular Turkish men avoid), and chanting religious rather than patriotic slogans (such as Allah Akbar and the Shahada).
Another major reason the coup failed was because it was executed by disjointed factions rather than the entirety of the military. The highest ranking staff officers opposed the coup, and publicly ordered all personnel to return to their barracks. Acting outside the military chain of command, the rebels lacked the coordination and resources to achieve their goals. The conscripted soldiers that the rebels mobilized were uninformed of the true purpose of their mission, became demoralized, and many surrendered rather than shoot demonstrators.
Israeli analyst Yossi Melman said that the coup plotters should have first captured the Turkish leader. The ironic fact that Erdoğan used social media to call upon his supporters to take to the streets, played a substantial role in defying a coup plot that “initially appeared to be going by the book.” Though the US and most NATO members condemned the coup, voicing support for Erdoğan and the elected government, international concern about this key Middle Eastern state’s stability would further grow. As Melman expects Erdoğan to further increase his efforts on strengthening his grip on opponents, he sees the country tumbling into a period of uncertainty and disquiet.
According to Michael Rubin, an American analyst on the Middle East, Erdoğan had to blame himself for the coup. Following an increasingly Islamist agenda, Erdoğan had supposedly “dropped any pretense of governing for all Turks.” After “fanning the flames” at the 2013 Gezi Park protests, he transformed the predominantly Kurdish-inhabited areas of southeastern Turkey “into a war zone reminiscent of the worst days of the 1980s.” The biggest problem, according to Rubin, might have been Erdoğan’s foreign policy, which managed to turn the initial “no problems with neighbors” doctrine into a situation where the country has problems with almost every neighbor and has even alienated some of its allies and friends.
British Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk warned that “too late did Erdogan realise the cost of the role he had chosen for his country. It’s one thing to say sorry to Putin and patch up relations with Netanyahu; but when you can no longer trust your army, there are more serious matters to concentrate upon.” Even if this coup may have failed, Fisk expects another to follow in the months or years to come.
Turkish professor Akın Ünver described the coup d’état attempt as “more of a mutiny”.
False flag theories
During and after the events, several politicians and commentators, including former leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deniz Baykal, expressed doubt regarding whether the coup attempt was genuine or staged by the government.
The facts that the coup attempt began in the early evening rather than at a more inconspicuous time, the events were largely confined to Ankara and İstanbul, no members of the government or MPs were taken hostage, and pro-government media outlets were not obstructed from broadcasting live during the events, all contributed to doubts about the authenticity of the coup attempt. Journalists and opposition politicians[who?] branded it a ‘tragic comedy’ and ‘theatre play’.
Advocates[who?] of such theories pointed to how Erdoğan stood to gain heavily from the coup attempt in terms of increasing his popularity and support for his calls for an executive presidency, while being able to legitimise further crackdowns on civil liberties, judicial independence and the opposition in general.
Opponents of Erdoğan’s regime[who?] claimed that very little stood in the way of his government eroding the founding principles of the Turkish Republic such as secularism, which the AKP has been accused of wanting to abolish, and pursuing a more authoritarian agenda.
Potential government motives
A number of social media users have compared the coup attempt to the Reichstag fire, which Adolf Hitler used as an excuse to suspend civil liberties and order mass arrests of his opponents.
Politico correspondent Ryan Heath speculated that the coup was staged to give Erdoğan an opportunity to purge the military of opponents and increase his grip on the country.
Heath used Twitter to share comments from his Turkish source, who called the events of Friday night a “fake coup” which would help a “fake democracy warrior”, [referring to Erdoğan]. The source noted,
“Probably we’ll see an early election [in] which he’ll try to guarantee an unbelievable majority of the votes. And this will probably guarantee another 10–15 years of authoritarian, elected dictatorship.”
The New York Times reported that some Turkish citizens believed the coup attempt was staged by Erdoğan to improve his public image and popularity, while cracking down on political opponents and expanding his power.
Certain theorists[who?] found it suspect that reportedly no government officials were arrested or harmed during the attempted coup, which—among other factors—raised the suspicion of a false flag event staged by the Turkish government to crack down on opposition.
Scepticism over the coup strategy
Fethullah Gülen, whom Erdoğan had accused as being one of the principal conspirators, commented, “I don’t believe that the world believes the accusations made by President Erdoğan. There is a possibility that it could be a staged coup and it could be meant for further accusations [against the Gülenists].”
Numerous opposition MPs such as Fatma Kaplan Hürriyet took to social media shortly after the coup attempt was underway to denounce the events as a ‘theatre play’, citing the unorthodox strategy that the plotters were following that did not resemble an actual coup. Former leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deniz Baykal, who had lived through all the previous military coups in the history of the Turkish Republic, took to Twitter to denounce the coup as a ‘tragic comedy’, stating that the events did not resemble a legitimate attempt to take over power.
Shortly after the events ended, an article titled “Strangenesses of the 15th July Coup” was posted online, identifying numerous points of concern regarding the authenticity of the coup attempt. The list was as follows:
No government officials, bureaucratic officials, Members or Parliament or the President were taken hostage during the coup attempt and were able to freely continue their duties while the military attempted to take over bridges and airports.
The statement read on TRT was completely anonymous and gave no names, with no details emerging in regards to the Peace at Home Council
The Government did not declare martial law and a curfew.
The coup attempt was largely confined to metropolitan areas and soldiers were told to hold key bridges ‘until further orders’, which never came.
The privates and corporals holding bridges and airports were not aware of their involvement in the coup attempt and no senior ranking soldiers were seen during the events.
Only 16 soldiers were sent to take over the Presidential Complex in Ankara, which is the largest palace in the world, only to be immediately overpowered by police forces.
The Garrison Commander of Mersin phoned the Governor of Mersin and the provincial director of security to declare himself the Provincial Commander under martial law, only to be arrested shortly after.
Some military vehicles had their license plates covered so that their allegiance could not be identified.
Conflicting reports regarding the Chief of General Staff of Turkey, claiming that he had been taken hostage, then freed, then reports that he had not been taken hostage at all.
The whole coup appeared to have been organised on WhatsApp
Media outlets such as CNN Türk, Doğan Holding were taken over by the military but were still allowed to continue their operations.
TRT was able to resume normal broadcast as soon as the junta statement had been read.
Government officials used the same discourse when calling on people to take to the streets.
Over 90,000 Mosques called out the Adhan early and called on people to take to the streets in unison.
Government officials called on people to take the streets rather than calling on them to stay safe indoors while pro-government forces took back control.
Special forces in Taksim Square did not conduct any operations against soldiers waiting at the square, despite being extremely close.
Footage of helicopters attacking the Presidential Palace was relayed by media outlets to be footage of helicopters attacking ordinary people.
Footage of a tank crashing into citizens while attempting to escape was relayed as pro-coup soldiers intentionally attempting to murder civilians.
Armed soldiers were consistently overpowered by and surrendered to groups of protestors, many of which were armed only with knives or bats.
Electricity cuts in several provinces where no military action was taken, followed by calls from Mosques for people to take to the streets.
The Presidential plane carrying Erdoğan was able to navigate Turkish Airspace safely at will despite being able to be tracked online by pro-coup F-16’s and landed at an airport that had been reported earlier to have been under the control of pro-coup soldiers.
Pro-government channels immediately blamed FETÖ for the attempt minutes after the coup attempt got underway.
The coup attempt was launched at prime time when everyone would become aware of the events, rather than at a more inconspicuous time in the early morning.
Anti-government channels such as Halk TV and Ulusal Kanal were shut down during the coup attempt, rather than pro-government news channels.
The entire attempt was broadcast live from nearly all TV stations, in contrast with the government’s usual policy of implementing a media blackout.
Anti-coup posters and messages were hanged and displayed by AKP members soon after the events began, raising questions over when they had been prepared and printed.
The government called on people to take to the streets to stop the coup attempt rather than the loyal security forces.
The media increased coverage of pro-government economists who consistently praised the Turkish economy before the coup attempt, with critics alleging that it was an attempt to soften the economic and stock market uncertainty that would undoubtedly come about after the coup attempt.
Evidence of pre-planning
A banner depicting Erdoğan alongside former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes (who was deposed and hanged following the 1960 Turkish coup d’état) was hung by AKP supporters outside the party’s headquarters in Trabzon as the coup attempt unfolded, with the words ‘The Nation will never let this happen again!’ The banner was ridiculed on social media with several critics denouncing the poster as proof that prior preparations had been made by the AKP before the coup attempt began, citing the impossibility of such a poster being designed and printed in such a short space of time.
Sceptics also pointed to how the Adhan (call to prayer) had been called out early in large numbers of Mosques throughout the country with muezzins calling on people to take to the streets to protest the coup attempt.
The organisation and spontaneous synchronisation by large numbers of mosques was perceived to be unachievable unless there had been prior preparation, with journalists also pointing to how the call to prayer could have been strategically used by Erdoğan to invoke religious sentiment in a political situation as a veiled attack on state secularism.
Thousands of arrests and purges were conducted by Turkish authorities between 16–18 July 2016, as noted above. The sheer number of these arrests made at such a such a speed could only be done so if the “Turkish government had all those lists ready”, as suggested by Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, on 18 July 2016. Hahn also claimed that because these lists were already available immediately after the coup, the “event was prepared” and the lists were to be used “at a certain stage”.
Civil coup allegations
Politicians and journalists who were sceptical of the authenticity of the coup plot claimed that in reality, a ‘civil coup’ had effectively been staged against the Armed Forces and Judiciary, both of which were extensively purged of alleged Gülen supporters by the government shortly after the events. Sceptics argued that the coup would be used as an excuse for further erosion of judicial independence and a crackdown on the opposition, essentially giving the AKP greater and unstoppable power over all state institutions and paving the way for a more radical Islamist agenda at odds with the founding principles of the Turkish Republic.
22:00 (local time) on Friday, July 15, 2016, the Jandarma performs the closure of two bridges over the Bosphorus with the tanks.
At 22:19, the Minister Binali Yıldırım confirms the rumors about an attempt of some to make a military coup after some jets and helicopters had been spotted flying over at low altitude, both Ankara and Istanbul after hearing the gunfire near the headquarters of the turkish parliament.
At 22:21, the turkish army calls on the population to return to their homes.
At 22:22, it will be blocked all access to social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat , but not to the Virtual Private Network (VPN) that allow anyone to continue to post.
At 22:25, the military burst into the headquarters of the Turkish radio and television network TRT Istanbul are interrupted telecasts. The military say they belong to a “Turkish Peace Council” with the aim of forming a new government.
At 22:41, the military block with tanks the airport access Kemal Ataturk in Istanbul after having disarmed the police officers and security personnel also access even at Ankara airport is blocked.
At 22:43, the army enacts some shootings near the police headquarters in Istanbul.
At 22:49, the coup leaders are able to go into the turkish army headquarters in Ankara and take hostage Hulusi Akar, the chief of staff of the Turkish armed forces.
At 22:56, the military perpetrators of the coup declare themselves ready to keep intact the foreign relations and that “the rule of law will remain a priority.”
At 23:02, flights departing from and arriving at Ataturk airport are cleared by the occupants.
At 23:13, the Turkish state television reported spread of the armed forces that announce the introduction of the curfew and the proclamation of martial law.
At 23:18, the coup leaders burst into the headquarters of the AKP party and take possession of the building.
At 23:20, the military cause an explosion near the training center of the Gölbasi security forces in the province of Ankara.
At 23:24, the military declared the TV was the intention of creating a new constitution guaranteeing democracy and secularism.
At 23:35, Erdoğan connects from an unknown place, through FaceTime, with CNN Turk to denounce the military coup attempt of State and to incite the turkish people to “stand up and take to the streets”. Even the mosques around the country are incitements parties to fight against the coup leaders. During the night, many people have welcomed the appeal of the president and organized resistance movements against the military. In Taksim Square in Istanbul, some civilians after colliding with the military, they climbed on tanks and have made it clear to the occupants who would never have supported the overthrow of the Erdogan government.
At 04:30, shooting the television broadcasts of the networks previously occupied by the military.
At 05:30, the turkish government is able to regain control of the country, while Erdoğan returns to Istanbul and General Hulusi Akar of the armed forces is released.
At 10:32, is confirmed the killing of 104 alleged coup plotters, killing 47 policemen and the death of 41 civilians (later became 265), which have been called “martyrs.”
At 11:50 on 16 July 2016, confirms the failure of the coup although a small group of soldiers (about 150) remains barricaded in the headquarters of the command of the armed forces in Ankara to try to treat their surrender.
|Peace at Home Council||Government of Turkey|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Akın Öztürk alleged
Muharrem Köse alleged
|Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
|Casualties and losses|
|24–104 pro-coup soldiers killed
1 UH-60 helicopter shot down
7,543–8,775 arrested (6,030 soldiers, 2,745 judiciary members)
8,777 suspended (7,899 police officers, 614 gendarmerie officers, 47 district governors, 30 regional governors)
|63 pro-government forces killed (60 police officers and 3 soldiers)|
|145 civilians killed
232–290+ killed and 1,541 wounded overall