Synopsis of the “military coup” in Turkey

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On the night of July 15, 2016, elements of Turkish Military showed up on the streets, F-16s roared over Ankara and Istanbul, tanks blocked the bridges over the Bosphorus. It was a chaos rather than anything else. The publicized purposes of the dissenters were to overthrow the Government, realign the administration with the constitutional norms, and revive the democratic values, which are owed to the founder of the country-ATATURK. The chaos resulted in hundreds of lives lost and thousands of people wounded. The aftermath was not much better.

On July 20th, ERDOGAN declared the State of Emergency and expanded the authorities of police and judiciary extremely. His crackdown was devastating, which resulted in 134,000 sacked public servants, 98,500 detained citizens, and 49,500 arrested suspects. More than 7,300 academicians, 4,300 judges/prosecutors[1], 160 Generals[2], 6,500 elite military officers, and 16,500 military cadets were purged. Turkey became world leader in imprisoning journalists[3]. 231 journalists were jailed and 149 media outlets were closed[4].

ERDOGAN promised to terminate the State of Emergency after three months but later extended it three times until July 2017. It seems like ERDOGAN would like to prolong it as long as possible. The reason is clear. The State of Emergency grants ERDOGAN and his Government extreme and unbounded power in ruling the country by decrees and removing the opponents. It is an essential tool to bypass the Parliament and the Constitutional Court. The measures adopted by the Government against the alleged coup ironically worked against the democracy itself. The practices seriously undermined the rule of law, the human rights, and the fundamental freedoms in the country. ERDOGAN and his Government further benefitted from the turmoil to change Turkey’s governmental system in favor of their desires. They won a recent contentious referendum in April 2017 for substituting the country’s struggling democracy with an emerging dictatorship. Unfair campaign circumstances, vast practices of intimidation to the voters, and millions of ballot frauds could best define how the country concluded the referendum.

Turkey has experienced five major coups since its foundation. In 1960 and 1980[5], the Turkish Military unseated the Government and seized the control. In 1971[6] and 1997[7], the Military did not seize the control but forced the Government to resign. The events of 15 July 2016 are not comparable to any of them. The head of the Main Opposition Party CHP Kemal KILICDAROGLU repeatedly called the events on 15 July 2016 “a controlled coup”. ERDOGAN denied, but failed to satisfy the nation and the international community. He and the Government officials contradicted themselves many times in explaining their version of the story. There are a lot of questions unaddressed. Many critical details are yet in the shadow. Neither the recently dismantled Turkish Parliamentary Investigation Commission, nor the ongoing trials provide satisfying answers.

This study is a modest effort for a better understanding 15 July 2016. It addresses some of the critical areas like who the dissenters were, their motivation, ERDOGAN’s prior awareness, his role in the events, his supporters in the Military and elsewhere. This study is based on the collection and the analysis of the publicly available data. It comprises records of official/public speeches, press releases/reports, witness/suspect testimonies, and indictments. The study puts a light on the background of 15 July, reconstructs the critical events on a timeline, raises arguments and offers a series of findings. It is no way meant to influence the ongoing judicial processes.

The Authors of the study are several Turkish Government officials who were outside Turkey on 15 July 2016. The Government ousted them without any rationale; despite they had no role in planning or execution of the events. They firmly believe in democratic values and condemn any coup against a democratic government. The Authors cannot return to Turkey because of their lack of confidence in the severely degraded Turkish judicial system and prefer to stay anonymous for the safety of their families and the loved ones.

[1] This number reflects around one-third of total number of judges and prosecutors in Turkish judicial system

[2] Around 360 Generals exist in the Turkish Military.

[3] From

[4] Figures from