Coup attempt against Erdogan in Turkey fails
WASHINGTON - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan survived a deadly challenge to his rule when loyal military units and mass protests on the streets turned back a coup attempt by insurgent troops aiming to overthrow him.
More than 160 people were killed in clashes between rival army units and bombings around the country, which included attacks on the presidential palace and the parliament building in Ankara.
More than 1,500 suspected coup supporters in the armed forces were arrested. Their leaders are expected to be tried for treason. Erdogan blamed the coup on US-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen, who denied involvement.
“We will not leave from here until things are back to normal,” Erdogan told supporters after arriving at Istanbul airport early July 16th. “I will not go away, either.”
The president was on holiday on the Aegean coast when the uprising started late July 15th. Troops trying to oust the government blocked bridges across the Bosporus in Istanbul and low-flying fighter jets screamed over Istanbul and Ankara.
Military officers calling themselves The Council for Peace in the Country, the name evoking a famous saying by Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, said it had taken control. A coup declaration was read out on state television as soldiers deployed in Istanbul and other cities and told people to stay home.
It soon became apparent the coup lacked the support of key military units and the public. Opposition leaders supported a call by Erdogan that Turks take to the streets to stop the coup.
Clashes continued, however, and Erdogan’s office warned that “a new move [by coup supporters] is possible any minute”. There were reports of atrocities by both sides, including civilians crushed by tanks and soldiers killed after they surrendered.
Turkey has a history of military takeovers. Generals pushed out elected governments — either by force or by political pressure — in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997. Erdogan limited the military’s political influence following a power struggle in 2011 but there had been no recent outward signs that another coup attempt was likely.
Observers expect Erdogan, who has been accused of a growing authoritarianism, to tighten his rule further. Some critics even said the uprising might have been staged by the government.
Other Erdogan opponents said the coup attempt was undemocratic and had to be rejected despite shortcomings of the Erdogan administration. “Even the worst civilian government is better than a coup,” columnist Ahmet Hakan wrote in the Hurriyet newspaper.