Death Toll 161, Over 2800 Army Men Detained, And This Is Why It All Happened In Turkey

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7:06 pm 16 Jul, 2016

Before the break of dawn of Saturday, Turkey witnessed one of its grueling nights following a coup attempt by a section of the Turkish armed forces. It began with soldiers closing off the Bosphorus Bridge and declaring that they had taken control of the country.

By the morning of Saturday, the coup attempt failed. What was left were 161 dead, of them 104 were plotters. The rest were policemen who faced the military and civilians – both declared martyrs by the Turkish government. Around 1500 were wounded.


Forces loyal to the government detained over 2800 military personnel in what is being seen as one of the biggest confrontations in West Asia.

This was the fifth time since 1960 that the military launched a coup in Turkey. The previous four were successful.

The question is why did the military launch a coup?

In the statement issued by the section of the military which attempted the coup, the words were: “Turkish Armed Forces have completely taken over the administration of the country to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedom.”

The words are significant because a section of Turkey’s populace sees President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as an autocratic, Islamist leader.

In fact, Erdogan has been in power since 2003 when he was elected the Prime Minister. From being the Prime Minister of the country till 2014, Erdogan became the first ever elected President of Turkey.

His party, the AKP, or Justice and Development Party in English, is seen as an Islamist party. Ever since Erdogan came to power there has been a steady decline in liberal and secular values in the country – a feature that has since the fall of the Ottoman Empire distinguished Turkey from the rest of the Muslim world.

Press freedom is at an all-time low in Turkey. Prominent journalists who criticized Erdogan have been arrested and tried. The government accuses anti-Erdogan journalists of charges as serious as espionage.


The military, on the other hand, follows an ideology vaguely called Kemalism, after the founding father of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Atatürk transformed Turkey from a deeply-Islamist Ottoman country to a modern, secular nation. In fact, he even changed the script of the language from Persian-Arabic to Roman.

In the last 78 years since Atatürk’s death, many parties with Islamist leanings emerged in Turkey. They were all clamped down upon by the military.

Erdogan is seen as one of the most powerful autocratic rulers in Turkey’s history. His government’s Islamist leanings have been criticized. With the people of Turkey increasingly shifting towards the conservative, Erdogan found his popularity solidified. It was under Erdogan’s rule that a decades old ban on headscarves was lifted.

In 1998, during the fourth military coup, Erdogan was jailed for four months for inciting religious hatred.


Depo Photos/REX/Shutterstock

Depo Photos/REX/Shutterstock

In 2013, Erdogan crushed a mass protest over secularism in a violent manner. Some of his more orthodox supporters in Turkey’s interior Antolian region call him ‘Sultan’.

Though the economy improved during his long reign, Erdogan was also criticized for constructing a 1000-room presidential palace worth $615 million.

All through his reign, Erdogan worked to ensure that the military top brass is brought under control. Through sentencing of 17 military bosses for trying to overthrow the Islamist AKP party to this day when hundreds of his supporters managed to thwart a coup, Erdogan has now permanently cemented his place in Turkey’s political establishment.


What next?

Expect Erdogan to make sweeping changes in the laws of Turkey. He’ll grant himself more power and will turn into a truly autocratic ruler. The government is already planning to reinstate the death penalty to punish the plotters. In fact, The Independent reports, that #Idamistiyorum (‘I want death penalty’) was one of the top trending hashtag on Twitter in Turkey.

His government blamed Erdogan’s nearest and most powerful rival Fatehullah Gulen for the coup indicating that the President is very serious about defeating his rival’s political ambitions.

For the last few years, Turkey has been repeatedly seeking Gulen’s extradition from US. Just two days ago, Turkey said it had papers ready calling for his extradition.

This time, Erdogan will press the US for Gulen. Being a NATO member, Turkey is a natural US ally. How a fresh request in the backdrop of this coup attempt shapes up will be keenly observed by the world.

How did social media react?

Erdogan’s Islamist leanings is known by all. Though the military failed, some non-Turkish users felt it would have been good for the preservation of the country’s secular and liberal ethos had the soldiers succeeded.



At the same time, the top trending hashtag in Turkey was #askerimedokunma or Don’t Touch My Soldier. People condemned the savage treatment of the soldiers at the hands of Erdogan’s supporters.


As many experts have now predicted, expect a brutal crackdown on anyone opposing Erdogan.

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