Coup Underway in Turkey

Coup Underway in Turkey

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said July 15 that a faction within the military is responsible for a coup that it claims has succeeded. The whereabouts of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was reportedly on vacation, are currently unknown. Turkish Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar said Turkey is now under military control, despite statements by Yildirim that illegal actions undertaken by the military will not be tolerated. There are reports that Akar has been taken hostage, and he may have made his statement under duress.

Turkish forces were reportedly swarming the streets of Istanbul and Ankara the night of July 15, some of them in armored vehicles and tanks. F-16 aircraft and combat helicopters were also reported to be flying at low altitude over Ankara. Checkpoints have been set up at strategic locations such as the Bosporus Bridge as well as near military headquarters in Ankara, where gunfire has also been reported. Civilians are being informed that martial law has been imposed and that they should return to their homes.

It is unclear at this point which military units are participating in the coup attempt and which are responding to it. Military units have taken control of Ataturk international airport in Istanbul, and communication channels including Twitter, Facebook and the state television channel have been blocked. Gunfire and explosions have been reported in several locations, but all reports are unconfirmed at this time. There have also been reports of clashes between police forces and military units, including alleged arrests of police officers by military personnel. Police forces have also purportedly ordered the arrest of any armed military personnel in the streets. The mayor of Ankara, who belongs to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), has reportedly called on supporters to come into the streets in defense of the government. There are also reports, however, that the military is arresting civilians.

Erdogan has no shortage of political enemies, though he has tightened his institutional control of the country in recent years. Most recently, Erdogan replaced Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and in May filled his Cabinet with loyalists. The military has conducted multiple coups in Turkey's history and has recently grown increasingly uneasy about the country's domestic and foreign policy under Erdogan. The military leadership, for example, has publicly opposed Erdogan's proposal to militarily intervene in northern Syria. With Turkey and Russia recently reconciling, the Turkish government may have been pushing more assertively for a military incursion into Syria, which could have provoked a faction within the military to rise up.

The coup attempt very likely garnered support from Turkey's Gulenist movement, which has been targeted in intensive government purges since 2014. The Gulenists, and their influence in Turkey's police, education, media and military, were critical to the rise of the AKP. But the group's influence has waned since the 2014-15 crackdowns. It is notable that the coup attempt includes figures high enough in the chain of command to deploy troops to major Turkish cities. There is, however, still the chance for a counter-coup.