Turkey’s Erdogan survives 5th attempted coup
This article originally appeared on The Media Line.
At least 194 are dead and 1,154 wounded in a failed military coup in Turkey, including 49 civilians, 41 police officers, and 104 coup plotters.
In some of the more dramatic moments of the violence, pro-coup Sikorsky helicopters attacked Parliament in Ankara with gunfire and bombs late Friday and into the morning.
“There was a loud explosion and lots of dust. It was hard to breathe,” İlhan Cihaner, a Member of Parliament from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), told The Media Line.
“Seven different parts of Parliament were attacked by the helicopter at the same moment.”
Zeynep Altıok, another CHP MP, spoke to The Media Line from Parliament early Saturday afternoon while sporadic fighting continued outside.
“There are still attackers in the building,” she said. “Gunshots are continuing close to the main gate”
She described the extensive damage to the building.
“The Parliament was directly hit by one of the bombs,” she said. “If you saw a picture you wouldn’t even understand [where it was taken]. There’s that much damage here.”
The coup attempt started at around 10:00 p.m. Friday night as tanks shut down the two bridges spanning the Bosphorus, which separates the European and Asian sides of Istanbul, and a few low-flying F-16 fighter jets caused deafening sonic booms over Istanbul and Ankara.
Only a small portion of the armed forces participated in the coup attempt, including elements from the air force, the gendarmerie and the armed forces.
“It was a significant show of force but it was not a full show of force by the armed forces by any stretch of the imagination,” Paul T. Levin, Director of the Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies, told The Media Line.
Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar was taken hostage by the plotters, who called themselves the “Peace in the Country Council.”
Pro-coup soldiers killed 17 policemen during an attack on the Gölbaşı Special Forces Department headquarters in the capital Ankara, which saw much of the most violent fighting.
Helicopters attacked a hotel in Marmaris where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had been staying less than two hours earlier. An F-16 also dropped bombs near the Presidential Palace in Ankara, killing five.
Soldiers raided the Doğan Media Center, briefly commandeering at least two television stations and a newspaper office, and forcing an announcer from national broadcaster TRT to read their official statement on live television and declare a curfew.
While Levin stresses that it’s still too early to know much about the coup plotters, he says it may be related to a past struggle between the government and military. The armed forces staged three armed coups and one peaceful one in the past, and even between coups exercised a great deal of influence over the civilian government.
“There’s been a struggle [for] control over the military. The [ruling] AKP [Justice and Development Party] seem to be moving in now to assert control,” he said.
Two trials, the first starting in 2008, accused an alleged secret organization, including much of Turkey’s top military brass, of planning a violent coup. Hundreds of officers were taken into custody, but released in 2013 after it was discovered that much of the key evidence had been fabricated.
“My understanding is that the second tier or junior leadership of the army was extremely disgruntled and upset over the way that the senior leadership had let themselves be humiliated,” Levin said.
The AKP and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have become increasingly authoritarian in recent years and hugely expanded their influence over almost all government institutions.
But, while the civilian government seems to have liberated itself from the military, the armed forces have resisted the AKP’s control.
“The military as an institution largely remained intact. It’s one of the few remaining institutions that’s been free from encroachments by the AKP,” Levin says.
The coup attempt seemed to draw little support, with all three opposition parties and several top generals quickly denouncing it, and many government supporters flooding the streets. Police forces also stayed loyal to the government.
“It did seem very poorly coordinated,” Levin said.
Early Saturday morning, two helicopters were shot down. Later, about fifty soldiers on the Bosphorus Bridge, some of whom had shot at civilians and police, surrendered. Some soldiers, most of whom appeared to be conscripts, were attacked and even beaten to death by pro government protestors. Hostages were freed.
By early evening, nearly 3,000 soldiers were in custody, including four generals and 29 colonels.
The AKP and Erdoğan accused their former ally and current arch-enemy Fethullah Gülen, a U.S.-based Islamic cleric and leader of a global movement, of orchestrating the coup, but offered little or no evidence. Gülen has denied the accusations.
Nevertheless, Erdoğan described the coup as a “gift from God,” giving the government the impetus to ‘cleanse’ the military from alleged Gülen sympathizers.
Levin says the government is likely to respond to the failed coup with a crackdown.
On Saturday afternoon the government announced that 2745 judges, allegedly Gülen sympathizers, had been suspended, in yet another massive judicial purge.