Turkey Coup: Military Faction Attempts to Take Power from President Erdoğan


An attempted military coup broke out on Friday in Turkey, sending Ankara into a night of frenzy filled with explosions, air battles, gunfire, Internet blackout, and a fluctuating USD-Lira exchange rate. The Associated Press reports that at least 161 are dead and 1,440 wounded after the democratically elected government has supposedly regained control of the capital.

The coup began when an unspecified faction of the military blocked two major bridges in Istanbul, and tanks blocked entrance to the Istanbul airport, canceling all flights in and out of the country. A statement claiming to represent the Turkish Armed Forces declared that the military had seized complete control of the government late Friday afternoon

“to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedom, to ensure that the rule of law once again reigns in the country, for law and order to be reinstated.”

The military did not appear unified in the attempted coup, however, as top commanders denounced the faction for treason on television, ordering troops to return to their barracks.

Fighter jets flown by loyalists engaged helicopters controlled by coup supporters over the capital, a bomb hit a corner of the public relations building inside the parliament complex while tanks fired from outside, and protesting civilians were targeted and dispersed with gunshots by coup supporters on the Bosporus bridge and Taksim square, forcing citizens to flee to their homes as martial law consumed Ankara and Istanbul.

The coup crumbled on Saturday morning after thousands of Turks took to the streets, answering President Erdoğan’s call to support him. Prime Minister Binali Yildrim, speaking to the state-run Anadolu Agency, said 2,839 military personnel have been detained thus far, including several citizen’s arrests made by loyalists who entered government and media institutions to oust the rebels.

In his TV address, Erdoğan blamed the attempted coup on Fethullah Gülen, a self-exiled Turkish cleric and political figure, who allegedly conspired with a network of supporters in the judiciary, police, and media to overthrow the Turkish government through a coup in December 2013. Originally in a tactical alliance with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) – the party which Erdoğan led before presidency – when the party took power in 2002, Gülen and his influential movement refracted from supporting the Turkish government after a series of disagreements incited mounting distrust between Erdoğan and Gülen’s “parallel states.” Gülen immediately denied Erdoğan’s accusation of his involvement in inciting a coup.

Military coups are not a new phenomenon to Turkey. In fact, Turkey has become rather accustomed to military coups and memorandums that restore Turkey to its democratic, Kemalist nature. Turkey has experienced coups in 1960 and 1980, an alleged coup in 1993, and military memorandums in 1971 and 1997.

The attempted coup symbolizes Turkey’s mounting frustration with President Erdoğan, who has recently embarked on a press censorship campaign, increased extensive military operations in southern and eastern provinces to quell Kurdish unrest, and suspended Article 83 of the Turkish Constitution to try opposition lawmakers in the Grand National Assembly. Although Erdoğan and his government will effectively regain control of the country, the attempted coup will surely have lasting impacts on Turkey, which must be monitored by NATO allies, European neighbors, and international organizations that fear Turkey spiraling downward in a region already devastated by war, turmoil, and political unrest. Ironically, Erdoğan may resurface better off in the eyes of the people after the attempted coup than he was before – as the defender of “democracy” and legitimate rule in Turkey, his reborn popularity may allow him to consolidate power, leading Turkey further down a path towards authoritarianism.

Adam Gold