WMNews: Turkish Military Coup

Script written by Sean Harris From violent unrest to a nationwide blame game, events in Turkey in 2016 have had the whole world watching. Welcome to WatchMojo News, the weekly series from WatchMojo.com where we break down news stories that might be on your radar. In this instalment, we’re counting down 10 crucial facts you should know about the military coup in Turkey.
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Script written by Sean Harris

WMNews: Turkish Military Coup


From violent unrest to a nationwide blame game, events in Turkey in 2016 have had the whole world watching. Welcome to WatchMojo News, the weekly series from WatchMojo.com where we break down news stories that might be on your radar. In this instalment, we’re counting down 10 crucial facts you should know about the military coup in Turkey.

#10: What Happened on the Night of July 15th, 2016?
The Coup

Just before 11:00pm local time, Turkish military jets were seen flying over Ankara in what the country’s Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım described as action ‘taken outside the chain of command’. It was the beginning of an attempt by a faction within the armed forces to seize control of Turkey, and overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Major government buildings including the Turkish Parliament and Presidential Palace were damaged. Istanbul was also targeted as the media reported the approach of tanks at Atatürk Airport and soldiers occupying Taksim Square. Over 300 people were killed as events unfolded and more than 2,000 people were injured. After a night of tension and fighting, the coup eventually failed, with Erdoğan’s forces regaining control by early morning on July 16th.

#9: What Is a Coup D’état?
Hit of State

A French term that literally translates as ‘blow’ or ‘hit of state, a coup d’état is an attempt made to overthrow a government by military or elite forces ordinarily under state control. Also known as a putsch, a coup d’état is considered a success if the organisers obtain and retain power for at least seven days. As a so-called ‘inside job’, coups can serve to seriously destabilise governments and societies whether they are successful or not. Coups are often the result of mounting unrest, but they can also be difficult topredict – according to reports, the scale and severity of the attempt in Turkey was largely unexpected. Examples of world leaders who assumed power via a coup include the presidents of Uganda, Chad, Mauritania and Egypt, as well as the Prime Ministers of Cambodia, Fiji and Thailand. 

#8: Who Is Responsible for the Turkish Coup Attempt?
The Peace at Home Council

Specific details proved difficult to ascertain in the days and weeks after the July 2016 attempt. The breakaway group declared itself as the ‘Peace at Home Council’ during the early stages on a state-owned news channel to broadcast a pre-prepared statement and overthrow announcement. News anchor Tijen Karas was allegedly reading the statement at gunpoint. No official statement on the group’s composition has been made, but former Colonel Muharrem Köse was arrested as a potential leader. Reports suggest that when Köse was arrested, he was carrying a list of 37 names of potential Council members. In the aftermath of the coup, at least 6,000 people were detained, including over 2,800 soldiers and over 2,700 judges.

#7: How Did the Attempted Coup End?
Erdoğan’s Forces

At the time of the coup, President Erdoğan was holidaying at the resort town of Marmaris. But, by dawn he had flown to Istanbul airport to address supporters and report the attempt as unsuccessful to the media. Erdoğan had previously communicated with the country via a FaceTime message broadcast on Turkey’s CNN channel. The President called for people to take to the streets in defiance, and they appeared to do exactly that. Groups confronted military vehicles and some laid down in front of advancing tanks – all despite the Peace at Home Council calling a curfew. The police and security services also battled back against the usurpers. Eventually the coup-plotters were overcome, as footage of some 60 soldiers surrendering control of a bridge in Istanbul was beamed to news channels worldwide.

#6: How Does This Compare to Past Coups in Turkey?
Past vs. Present

Turkey has a history of military coups, with 4 similar events taking place since 1960. The first in the Turkish Republic resulted in the then-president and prime minister being arrested and tried for treason; In 1971, the armed forces intervened following an economic downturn; Ongoing clashes between left and right wing groups resulted in anothercoup d’état in 1980; and military action forced the resignation of Turkey’s Prime Minister in 1997. Turkey’s military sees itself as the guardian of its democracy, but the events of July 2016 indicate a potentially dangerous division in the country. While those loyal to Erdoğan took to the streets in support, there are reports that the number of those against the President is quickly rising, with some analysts suggesting there’s an almost 50/50 split in the country. Though the coup failed, it is expected to have ramifications for Turkey’s short and long-term future.

#5: How Did the Government React Following the Attempt?
The Purges

The Turkish government blamed the Gülen movement for the attempted coup, and in the aftermath instigated a series of purges aimed at members of the civil and military services suspected of involvement. The Gülen movement is built around the Islamic theologian Fethullah Gülen, who has since condemned the violent attempt against Erdoğan. At least 2,839 soldiers were arrested, including over 30 generals and admirals. 36% of all judges in Turkey were detained and at least 7,899 police officers were suspended. The Ministry of National Education was also severely targeted, as 15,200 teachers were suspended, 21,000 teaching licenses were cancelled and over 600 educational institutions were shut down. Disapproval for the purges has been widespread, with many groups such as Amnesty International and the EU reminding the Turkishgovernment of its obligation toward human rights.

#4: What Is the Current State of Turkey?
Emergency Status

President Erdoğan quickly implemented a state of emergency, allowing the government to rule by decree. The purges appeared to be the first stage in a long-term plan for the country, as Erdoğan promised ‘fresh blood’ in the armed forces. In the wake of what he called ‘significant gaps and deficiencies’ in national intelligence, the president also said that a fresh coup attempt would be considerably more difficult to mount, as Turkey is ‘more vigilant’. Meetings with the Supreme Military Council to discuss the restructuring were scheduled, and Erdoğan also indicated that the state of emergency may be lengthened. Turkey’s foreign currency credit rating had suffered as a result of the putsch and purge, but Erdoğan has claimed that the financial sector remains strong. He has also said that ‘the state of emergency is not a curfew’ and that people would be able to get on with daily life, despite the government’s increased powers.

#3: What Are the Allegations of Conspiracy?
False Flag

In response to his being blamed by the Turkish government for the coup, Fethullah Gülen has suggested that it may have been staged by Erdoğan himself, in order to gain more power. Further skeptics have argued that the apparent sloppiness of the attempted overthrow could indicate a so-called false flag conspiracy, as could the rapidity with whichTurkish authorities were able to detain thousands of accused perpetrators. It has also been noted that actual MPs didn’t feature heavily as events unfolded, either as victims or rebels, despite the coup’s apparent anti-government motives, and that the coup plotters didn’t issue a list of demands. A final argument against the coup’s authenticity relatesto how transparent events appeared to be and how not covert the operation seemed. Comparisons to 1933’s Reichstag fire have since been made on social media, labelling the attempted coup as an elaborate propaganda exercise.

#2: What Has the International Response Been?
The Warning

After the initial overthrow attempt, governments and organisations around the world called for calm. US President Barack Obama urged all parties to back democracy, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the UN was working to clarify the situation, and Russia advised its citizens in the country to stay indoors amid the uncertainty. Since the coup was quashed and the purges began, global reactions took a different line, with many world leaders issuing warnings to Erdoğan. The EU called for ‘restraint and moderation’ in the government’s reaction, UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson echoed that response, and Belgium also called for ‘proportionate’ action. The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, reiterated America’s support for the elected leadership but also voiced concern, asking for ‘calm and stability throughout the country.’

#1: What Does This Mean For the Country’s Future?
Moving Forward

One of the most pressing matters in the coup aftermath concerned mounting calls from Turkey for the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, who has been living in the US following self-imposed exile. Should a formal extradition request be made, as many onlookers anticipate, then Turkey’s turmoil puts even greater pressure on international relations. For the country itself, the state of emergency and the prospect that it may be extended is likely to create further tension. Though the pictures suggest that Erdoğan has the backing of the Turkish people, the president’s critics argue that his post-coup actions are a consolidation of power in an already authoritarian regime. Regardless, Turkey’s geopolitical significance to ongoing global affairs means that what happened in July 2016 will have repercussions for weeks, months and potentially years afterwards.

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