Over the weekend three-hundred people were killed in Turkey and there are over 1400 people wounded after a failed coup disrupted the already destabilized nation. Over the past six months Turkey has been going through major political changes. In January 2016, the then Prime Minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu assured investors in London that Turkey was a safe place to invest. Four months later he was thrown from office, and two months after that the military staged a coup against current President Erdogan who they claim does not represent the public properly and does not support Turkish democracy.
The coup began with the military blocked the bridges over the Bosphorus strait were blocked by troops late on July 15th. Fighter jets and helicopters were seen flying over the Turkish capital, Ankara, and gunshots heard. Soon after, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced that an attempt to overthrow the government was under way. A faction of the army then said, via a state broadcaster, that it had seized power to protect democracy from President Erdogan. A curfew, martial law and the preparation of a new constitution was announced. Mr. Erdogan, who was on holiday in a seaside resort town, called on his supporters to take to the streets in protest and returned to Istanbul.
For the coup to succeed the military would have needed backup and support which never ended up coming, the opposition to Erdogan also condemned the coup attempt. In the early hours of Saturday morning the military members involved began to surrender, they left their tanks with their hands up. The Turkish military often involves itself in military coups, as they are seen as the protector of democracy and secularism. There have been multiple coup attempts since 1960.
As of Monday July 18th over 6000 officials including military, police and judiciary members have been arrested. Erdogan is quoted as saying he wants to purge the “virus” that caused the revolt against his authority. Erdogan has also cracked down on media and his government is seen as authoritarian the world over. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, was in Brussels over the weekend as he is meeting with European heads of state. Mr. Kerry stood in defence of the Turkish government saying: “We will certainly support bringing perpetrators of the coup to justice – but we also caution against a reach that goes well beyond that (BBC, 2016).”
World leaders’ fear that Erdogan will use this failed coup as an excuse to take matters into his own hands and execute justice based on what he sees fit. It is also assumed Erdogan will use this situation to strengthen his position domestically, however in doing so he will diminish is credibility internationally.
So many people have been arrested there is no longer room for them in official government buildings. The lower ranking military members who have been arrested are being held in schools and gymnasiums until Erdogan thinks of his suitable punishment. Pictures are surfacing of hundreds of arrested citizens bound and naked laying on the floor of a gymnasium. Mr. Erdogan even hinted at reintroducing the death penalty, which was abolished in 2004 in Turkey. Some pictures have emerged of soldiers being stripped naked and their arms being handcuffed around telephone poles. Erdogan was quoted on Friday saying he will “clean the virus from all state bodies”.
Mr. Erdogan claims he evaded death by minutes several times on Friday, as the military bombed places he had just left as well as had F-16 fighter planes in the sky, while Erdogan was also flying in his plane. The F-16’s never fired on Erdogan even though they were harassing him in pursuit, why they never ended up firing is a mystery. Eight Turkish military officers who fled to Greece by helicopter to seek political asylum after it became clear the coup would not be successful appeared in court in the Greek border city of Alexandropouli charged with entering the country illegally.
The Turkish government has said they have been gathering information on a shadow organization that has been threatening to overthrow the government long before Friday’s failed coup. A successful coup would have been a disaster. Erdogan has massive support in the many Turkish populations and niches, particularly among religious conservatives. Mosques all over the country were lit through the night as imams repeated the president’s call for people to stand united, against the military. Any military-controlled administration would have faced a Syria-like insurgency of Islamists and others. The Middle East would have lost one of the most stable and democratic government’s that it has left. It would have furthered an already catastrophic humanitarian disaster.