News & Politics

Live From Turkey: Soldiers Everywhere; Possible Military Coup

Live From Turkey: Soldiers Everywhere; Possible Military Coup
Turkish soldiers block Istanbul's iconic Bosporus Bridge on Friday, July 15, 2016 (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

See below for updates to this developing story. 

Izmir, Turkey: The Turkish military claims to have overthrown President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In an official statement, the military adds that its first priority right now is to uphold the rule of law.

My Turkish wife and I spent the last hour and a half walking back home from my in-laws’ home. There was nothing to see on the streets of Izmir — the third largest city in Turkey with a large Navy presence — except the usual: a few Syrian beggars and normal Turks enjoying the warm weather (and a drink).

When I arrived home, however, the telephone suddenly rang. I also received several notifications: a military coup was supposedly taking place in Turkey. According to some media reports, police officers are being disarmed by soldiers. There are also many photos and videos of Turkish tanks and airplanes driving through and flying above Ankara and Istanbul, respectively the nation’s capital and its largest city.

The Turkish prime minister, Binali Yıldırım, has gone on record calling the military action “an uprising.” He told broadcaster NTV in a phone call, “This cannot be called a coup for the moment. This is an uprising.”

Chances are that Yıldırım called it an “uprising” because he wants to belittle those trying to stage the coup. If they fail, he’ll be heralded as the man who kept calm under pressure, but if the coup succeeds, he’ll undoubtedly be known as Turkey’s version of Baghdad Bob.

And we’ve got some bad news for him. The military has just released a statement saying President Erdoğan has been overthrown.

In a statement, the Turkish military says the rule of law must remain the priority.

“The power in the country has been seized in its entirety,” said the military statement read on NTV television, without giving further details. The military’s website was not immediately accessible.

News channels will almost certainly be taken down, and chances are the internet will also soon disappear. If that happens, I won’t be able to report live. But until that happens, I’ll do my best to share the latest developments.

Since I’m in Turkey, I’m trying to follow the news as closely as possible. Ironically, that’s extremely difficult to do because broadcasters and newspapers don’t want to make mistakes. I’m sure they are also afraid of doing something the eventual winner — Erdogan and his allies or the military — will find disagreeable… and they also don’t know everything that’s going on.

Next page: Live updates to this developing story. 

Update 5:21 p.m. EST: The Turkish military has taken over state news channel TRT. The news presenter was obviously afraid when she suddenly came back on to read the official statement of the military.

Photo TRT Haber, the female presenter reads the military's statement

Photo TRT Haber, the female presenter reads the military’s statement

In the statement the military says that it staged the coup in order to protect Turkey’s secular system, and ironically its democracy, against an autocratic government. That is: the government led by President Erdogan who was over the last few months planning a major takeover of his own by creating a so-called presidential rather than a parliamentary system.

The military has made it known we’re not allowed to go outside. Tensions are rising fast, not only in Ankara and Istanbul where soldiers and tanks are patrolling the streets while fighter jets are flying overhead, but also in my city of Izmir (the country’s third largest city).

Update 5:53 p.m. EST: The head of the ruling AK Party (Justice and Development Party) of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to CNNTürk. He told Erdogan supporters to go out in the streets to resist the military coup.

The problem is, of course, that the military has announced a curfew. Another problem: the military has weapons. They’re driving around in tanks. There’s not much normal civilians can do about it when they’re serious about this coup. And it very much seems like they are.
Having said that, looking at what’s going on now, it’s clear that there’s only one way for the Erdogan government to survive this coup: to get the people to resist it even if they have to risk their own lives. That strategy is now playing out in Istanbul, where soldiers in tanks are surrounded by hundreds of AKP protesters, chanting “soldiers, go to your garrisons.”
Update 6:00 p.m. EST: President Erdogan appeared in a video call on NTV. He said a “minority group” within the military is responsible for the coup and added that civilians should actively resist it. “We will not leave the ground to them,” the (possibly disposed) president said. He then vowed to end the “occupation” and called on his civilian supporters to unite and protest at airports and squares.
Proof of life:
Next page: The latest.

UPDATE 6:40 p.m. EST: As I see it, there are three possible options right now:

1. A small group within the military is responsible for this coup attempt. If that’s the case, the coup could fail.
2. It’s a big military coup. If that’s the case, chances of President Erdogan surviving (politically) are rather small.
3. It’s a set-up. On Twitter, some Turks suggest it could be a power play by the government: there’s nothing better than to use a fake coup to increase your power as president. Especially so if you’re trying to push through a new so-called presidential system, but are facing a lot of (strong) opposition.


Explosions have been heard in Istanbul and Ankara. President Erdogan has reportedly landed at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, however it’s not clear whether the airport is in the hands of Erdogan’s forces or those supporting the coup.

The Turkish CNN station also went off the air after soldiers stormed the studio:

Much is still unknown at this hour, including who is in control of the military and the media. Are the “Turkish soldiers” who disrupted the CNN broadcast being directed by Erdogan sympathizers or the rebels? While some have claimed that the coup has been crushed, it seems that it’s perhaps too soon to tell. The “fog of war” is making it difficult to gather accurate information and there are multiple conflicting reports.    EDITOR’S UPDATE 10:21 p.m. EST: Mehmet Simsek, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, told Anderson Cooper that soldiers who participated in the coup will be prosecuted. He said Erdogan is in full control of the government and there will be a full cabinet meeting on Saturday.  However, the situation is still volatile and it’s unclear whether Erdogan is indeed in control.