Last night (15 July 2016) an attempted military coup was staged by parts of the Turkish military. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was caught off guard as was much of the government while military personnel appeared in various strategic locations such as the Bosporus Bridge, government buildings in Ankara and Istanbul’s main airport.
Heavy weaponry was seen as tanks blocked Istanbul’s main airport while helicopters and jets deployed undertaking low fly by’s over the capital.
Clashes soon followed between pro coup personnel and those loyal to President Erdogan. Protesters came out in force on the streets following a message from President Erdogan and confronted pro coup military personnel. A number of civilians were allegedly shot by pro coup forces during confrontations.
Up to this point 256 have been killed, approximately 1,440 injured, 3,000 soldiers arrested and over 2,700 Judges have also been arrested.
According to Turkey’s acting chief of staff Umit Dundar, the coup was undertaken by by predominantly air force personnel. President Erdogan has said:
‘They will pay a heavy price for this’
‘This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army’
The trouble may not be over yet however as President Erdogan called for supporters to remain on the streets tonight and protest. This has been a fairly large scale and reasonably well organized coup attempt which has ultimately failed, but may have opened a door that cannot now be shut.
Internal division within the military, security and government structures have clearly boiled over and will not be settled within a short period of time. Large divisions are also clearly present within Turkish society but the true level of instability remains to be seen.
A sign of this could be reports that a number of soldiers that had taken part in the coup were allegedly beaten and beheaded after surrendering.
- Independent article (16 Jul 2016) – Turkey coup: Soldier ‘beheaded by government supporters’, pictures shared on Twitter suggest:
France 24 has reported that civilians allegedly fired on other civilians during the nights events.
Reports tonight claim that pro government forces are gathering in areas known to be anti-government and left wing supporters. Pro Kurdish HDP offices are allegedly under attack by pro Erdogan supporters in Iskenderun, Malatya and Osmaniye.
A crack down is clearly underway, the outcome and ramifications of such events are yet to be born out.
It also remains to be seen how this affects the Syrian conflict over the Turkish border. Turkey has long been used as a supply route for weapons, munitions and personnel supporting fundamentalist Sunni Islamic opposition groups fighting in Syria.
Turkey is an ally of the the US who also supports opposition groups taking part in the Syrian conflict. The potential instability in Turkey going forward will impact US and allied nations regarding their on going approach to Syria.
One early sign of this, at least in the short term, is the closure of Incirlik airbase currently being used by the US to undertake airstrikes on IS targets in Syria and Iraq.
Not all is quite what it seems currently but clarity will come over time.
UPDATE: 16 July 2015:
Pro Kurdish Twitter accounts show alleged clashes between Kurds and possible pro Erdogan/pro AK Party supporters and/or fundamentalist Islamic elements in Kurdish neighborhoods such as Gazi.
UPDATE: 18 July 2016:
More alleged footage is emerging following the failed coup showing attacks on the Presidential Palace, Turkish Intelligence Head Quarters, a tank colliding with and driving over civilian cars on a busy highway and pro-coup soldiers seizing TRT World (Turkish state TV station).
Videos have also emerged of civilians allegedly being shot at by pro coup soldiers killing and injuring a number of them.
Images and video have been released showing suspected coup personnel rounded up and presented to Turkish media following what looks like initial interrogations beatings and possible torture in some cases.
As of this update, numbers for those arrested or dismissed from post include: 30 provincial governors, 47 district governors, 8777 Interior Ministry staff (incl. police), 2745 judges and 3000 soldiers according to Turkish Media.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to be cracking down hard, taking full advantage of the current situation and clearing out many suspected/known to be associated with/follower of the exiled Muhammed Fethullah Gülen.
Any perceived threat will be targeted and the process of consolidation will continue, further securing his position but further polarizing the existing divisions that are clearly present.