Turkey is a country that has been politically unstable for some time now. The events of July 15th 2016 are proof of that. The most recent coup in Turkey was a decidedly non-violent one in 1997, but this one was very violent indeed. Here are the facts as we know them:
-A faction in the Turkish Army initiated a coup. Hundreds of soldiers commandeered helicopters, tanks, and fighter jets, and flew to seal off the bridges in the Bosphorus Strait, which connect Europe with Asia.
-The soldiers commandeered the television stations in Ankara, including CNN Turk (the Turkish affiliate of CNN America). In the meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Erdogan took to the Internet, live-streaming messages of resistance and threats against those who plotted the coup.
-There were many bombings and shootings, including an F-16 fighter jet shooting down a Sikorsky helicopter in mid-air that was being used in the coup uprising. A hotel that President Erdogan was at was also bombed, but he narrowly escaped with his life since he left shortly before the bomb went off.
-As of the morning of July 16th, there have been 161 people killed, 1,440 wounded, and 2,839 soldiers arrested. The coup is, for all intents, over.
Recep Erdogan is known as a populist president with authoritarian leanings. He has gradually imposed Islamic-based legislation in Turkey, which has historically been a secular country. He has also cracked down on the media, with many journalists being censored or arrested. Erdogan is, however, probably most infamous for his Presidential Palace, which was inaugurated by Erdogan as the official presidential living quarters. It reportedly cost well over $1 billion USD to build.
During the coup, Erdogan was able to rally support, and thousands of people came out to protest the attempted coup, and to support him when he showed up at the Ataturk Airport. There were clashes between soldiers backing the coup and civilians backing Erdogan, and there were many shootings and bombings in Ankara, Turkey’s capital.
How is this relevant to the United States? Well…
-Recep Erdogan has already blamed “parallel factions” for the attempted coup, which is widely believed to mean Fedullah Gulen, who is a Muslim cleric that lives in the U.S. The U.S. government, however, backs the Erdogan government in Turkey, and denounced the coup attempt.
-Erdogan has attempted to create a “cult of personality” similar to Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler. There have been parallels made in the state media comparing him to a religious prophet, and there are pictures and posters of him throughout Turkey. He has his strongest support from the uneducated, rural working class.
-Turkey is a very important country geopolitically, since it borders Eastern Europe, the former Soviet SSR’s Georgia and Azerbijan, and the Middle East, including the entire northern border of Syria.
-Turkey is allies with the U.S. in the fight against IS (Islamic State) terrorism, and is a NATO member country. They have shakier relations with Russia, especially since Turkish armed forces shot down a Russian jet that was in Turkish airspace in 2015.
It appears that, while there are still isolated reports of fights in the Ankara area, President Erdogan has reclaimed power. The instability is far from over, however. The coup failed because it didn’t have enough popular support, but the fact that one was even attempted clearly shows the instability in Turkey.
Erdogan says “they will pay a heavy price for this,” who also defended mass public protests against him in 2013. “This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army.”