THO Special Brief: Attempted Military Coup in Turkey

Image How did it begin? On July 15th, at about 10:00 pm, the coup attempt began with shots inside the General Staff complex in Ankara. Shortly after, the Presidential Complex in Ankara came under fire by tanks and helicopters. Meanwhile, it was reported that military forces had closed Istanbul's Bosphorus and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridges, and the Ataturk Airport was shut-down. Factions of the Turkish military took control of the state broadcasting agency TRT to officially announce the coup. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim informed the nation that a coup attempt was underway. Addressing the nation via mobile telephone, President Erdogan confirmed the coup and urged people to resist and defend Turkey’s democracy by getting out to streets.

Who was/were involved?
Although details of the involvement are still under investigation, security sources indicated that the coup was conducted by some high and mid-ranking officers who are members of the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organization (FETO) led by U.S.-based, self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen. The group called themselves the "Peace at Home Council". Roughly one-third of the 220 brigadier generals in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and about 10 major generals were detained. Retired Air Force Commander Gen. Akin Ozturk and 102 other high-ranking officers were captured and arrested with treason charges. According to the Interior Ministry, more than 6,000 suspects, including military figures and judges have been arrested. Similarly, more than 8,000 officials, including governors, civil inspectors and legal advisors, were suspended. 

Why they attempted now?

Supreme Military Council meeting on August. 1-4, which would have decided on the next round of promotions and appointments within the TSK, had already secured President’s approval to order mass arrests against the Gulenists within the TSK. Those planning the coup launched their attempt. In other words, the coup attempt that was planned for a future date was moved up.

What are U.S. Officials saying?
President Obama gave the first statement of any world leaders after the violence began, expressing complete support for the Turkish government and its democratically elected leader. According to the official statement, “The President and Secretary Kerry agreed that all parties in Turkey should support the democratically-elected government of Turkey, show restraint, and avoid any violence or bloodshed.”

Secretary Kerry offered support to his counterpart, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in regards to conducting an investigation into who was involved and the continuation of Turkish-U.S.  efforts in Syria.

U.S. Ambassador John Bass dispelled any rumors that he or the U.S. government was trying to undermine Turkish security or was involved in the coup in any way: “Our alliance shows that we have continually invested in Turkey, in its security and its prosperity, and that we remain committed to helping everyone in this country realize a future in which Turkey and the Turkish people are strong and prosperous.” He also reiterated that the US would be more than willing to help Turkish officials with an investigation into who was involved in the attempt.

What are Turkish Officials saying?
President Erdogan " A minority within the armed forces has unfortunately been unable to stomach Turkey's unity. They will pay a heavy price for their treason to Turkey." Prime Minister Binali Yildirim “Turkey is a state of law. Everything will be made right within law, and wrongdoers [putschists] will be surrendered to justice." Turkish Armed Forces released a statement that "During the evening hours of July 15, 2016, the terrorist traitors of the illegal junta whom were nested inside the structure of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) were effectively neutralized without reaching their goals after the heroic and swift actions of the TSK and police. This honorable nation's people played the biggest role in obstructing the coup," the statement continued. All parties in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) took a unified stance against coup attempt decrying the coup attempt by a small clique of Gülenist-linked military commanders, which was mostly quelled by troops loyal to the government, police units and millions of Turkish citizens taking to the streets in protest.
What was the media’s role in the coup?

The rebels tried to control the narrative surrounding the events by broadcasting their message and declaring ‘victory’ by taking over studios of the state TV channel TRT and later raiding private media outlets such as CNN Turk. Yet the plotters’ attempt to take control of the media did not last long because of modern social media. It is important to note that the Turkish media and Turkish citizens played a key role in squashing any leverage that the rebels had with state run media outlets.

On Twitter and Facebook, political leaders in Turkey and all over the world quickly condemned the coup and shared support for the President. The Turkish people did not sit back and allow the rebels to just take over-they also used all forms of social media to create an uprising against the coup. According to Bloomberg news, they were proactive participants who “undermined the coup plotters' attempts to convey a state of siege…The flow of information encouraged, empowered and mobilized Turks to confront the rebels and their tanks.”[1]

Through the CNN Turk TV station, Erdogan used his iPhone to facetime an entire nation, urging them to take to the streets and stand up for their democratic nation. According to Turkey Blocks, an organization that monitors social media and messaging in Turkey, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were blocked on Friday night for a few hours.

How many were killed/wounded?
Unfortunately, more than 208 Turkish citizens were killed and 1,491 wounded. Looking at overall totals, 232 have been reported dead, including 24 rebels.

What is happening with the 8 men who escaped to Greece?

A group of eight conspirators involved in the coup attempt fled to Greece on board of a stolen Black Hawk helicopter, seeking asylum. The helicopter has been returned to Turkey, and Greek Minister Alexis Tsipras called Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Sunday night to discuss the situation. The trial is scheduled for Thursday (July 21st) that will decide the men’s fate. According to Tsipras, the asylum seeking process usually takes between 15-25 days and it will be handled by the Greek judicial system. Deputy Defense Minister Dimitris Vista reiterated that the 8 asylum applications will be considered, but stated that “the argument in favor of extradition from the Turkish side is quite strong, I would say very strong.”

How did it end?
Because support from the people or higher level military officials never materialized, members of the coup began to surrender early Saturday morning. Photos of military surrendering on the bridge and abandoning their gear was circulated on social media. By Saturday night, most bases and political centers were taken back and large crowds of Turkish citizens took to important centers showing their support for President Erdogan and the democratically-elected government of the Republic of Turkey. Throughout the process, all Turkish political parties, Members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, and the people showed unwavering solidarity by standing firmly by democracy, democratic politics, democratic institutions and the Constitution. A Joint Declaration by all parties in defense of democracy was issued during the extraordinary meeting of the General Assembly on July 16th.

Can people travel to Turkey now?
Yes, Turkish airports have been re-opened, but US and UK government officials advise their citizens against traveling to Turkey right now. On July 18, 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration rescinded its July 15, 2016 notice to airmen (NOTAM) which was issued following the launch of an unsuccessful military coup in Turkey.  The NOTAM prohibited U.S. airline carriers from flying to or from Turkish airports and all airline carriers, regardless of country of registry, from flying into the United States from Turkey either directly or via a third country.  Normal flight operations for all carriers between the United States and Turkey have resumed.

What’s next?

Now, Turkish authorities will seek swift and fair justice for all civilian and military perpetrators. However, purging of government and military officials could have the potential to lead to different types of domestic and foreign policy challenges, administrative and security challenges. From reinstating the death penalty to the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, Turkey will have to make some critical decisions. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım stated that Turkey submitted the file to officially request Fethullah Gülen's extradition from the United States, while he underscored that Turkey knows who the perpetrators are behind the July 15 coup attempt.

Although it will be remembered as a very dark day, it is clear that the recovery from the ensuing violence and chaos of this coup will be a turning-point in Turkey’s history. With the support of its allies and steadfast citizens, Turkey had already begun the process to become an even stronger, exemplar democracy in the region.

THO's Position &  Statement
Turkish Heritage Organization (THO) strongly condemns the attempted military coup in Turkey, which claimed the lives of 208 and wounded more than 1,400. Although the investigation is still in its early stages, government sources indicate that the mid-level members of the military, who had connections to the exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, were behind the attempt.
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07