Explainer: What happened during the failed Turkey coup and what happens next?

Nathanael Williams

Key Nato ally in political chaos as government battles for survival

TURKEY hit the headlines at the weekend after an attempted coup by the military failed.

News coverage on Turkey often focuses on its democratically elected – although critics would claim it is authoritarian – government's actions, which has raised questions over press freedom, human rights and political pluralism. 

The weekend attempt by secular sections of the army to seize power was played out in real time and to many has been a confused jumble of explanations, motivations and counter motivations. 

We break down the events of the last weekend in the region to simplify what has been a chaotic chapter in international affairs.

When did it happen?

At around 9pm local time on last Friday 15 July, reports began to surface on social media that military units had established road-blocks in Istanbul and Ankara while helicopters and F-16 fighter planes conducted low-altitude flights over the cities.

What happened?

In Istanbul, soldiers blocked two bridges straddling the Istanbul Strait (Bosphorus) with tanks while armored units moved in to Atatürk International Airport. 

Clashes then took place between coup forces and military and police units loyal to the government.

At around 11.15pm, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım set up phone calls with television channels and confirmed an ongoing coup attempt. 

What did President Erdoğan do?

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was on holiday at the Aegean town of Marmaris, connected with media outlets via FaceTime and called upon citizens to march against the junta. 

Crowds loyal to Erdoğan's party, the AKP, and citizens of other political persuasions followed suit, gathering at the presidential palace, parliament and Ankara airport. 

Around that time, an anchorwoman read the junta’s statement on state television TRT, however the coup could not air its statement on other TV channels.

President Erdoğan flew in from Marmaris and gave a speech to the crowd at Istanbul airport; all four political parties in parliament condemned the coup attempt; and military and police units in Ankara stormed the coup leaders' strongholds. 

How did it end?

At around 6.45am, TV channels showed coup troops, many of them conscripts who had been told by their superiors that it was a “special exercise”, surrendering to police on the Bosphorus Bridge.

The fall out

According to latest estimates, around 265 people died, over 1,600 people were wounded.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag has said at least 6,000 people have been detained in Turkey in relation to a failed coup, with more detentions expected.

The number of 6,000 arrests includes 29 generals and 2,839 military personnel. 

The top judicial body, the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), dismissed 2,745 judges on Saturday, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Political fall out 

The chief military assistant to Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan, Ali Yazici, was also detained on Sunday, according to CNN Turk.

Currently up to 20 websites have been blocked in Turkey by the security forces for engaging in ‘subversive activities’, this includes websites of six independent dailies & news portals (Medyascope, Gazeteport, Rotahaber, ABC, Meydan & Karşı).

Offices of opposition parties have been ransacked by crowds loyal to the president despite going against the coup.

Diplomatic fallout

The Turkish government has already come out and accused the US of some degree of involvement in the coup attempt, a claim which has been strongly denied by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Currently the US base at Incirlik has been placed on shut down with no aircraft allowed in or out.

Among those arrested is General Bekir Ercan Van, commander of the Incirlik air base from which US aircraft launch air strikes on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (also knows as Isis or Daesh) militants in Syria and Iraq.

The US, EU and human rights organisations have pleaded for the Turkish Government to show restraint in relation to those detained and in light of talk of executions. 

Who has been accused?

News of the arrests came after President Erdoğan accused an exiled businessman and rival Islamist cleric, Fethullah Gulen, of orchestrating the violence and demanded the US extradite him.

Gulen, though, denies any involvement and has publicly condemned the events of Friday and Saturday.

Meanwhile, prominent Turkish investigative journalist Fuatavni has expressed the view, shared by some analysts of the region, that the coup plan was known but used as an excuse by President Erdoğan to secure more political power in its aftermath. 

Picture courtesy of Alper Çugun

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