The world is still try to digest what exactly happened last week in Turkey and what the possible ramifications are, both in and outside of Turkey.
Tayyip Erdogan is the power hungry, despotic–terrorist sympathizing-Islamist President of Turkey. It was in this light that a faction of the Turkish military orchestrated a coup in an attempt to overthrow him. The actions of the coup plotters included imposing curfews in Ankara and detonating a bomb at the Parliament building. The coup would ultimately fail. An F-16 shot down a commandeered helicopter and the coup plotters ultimately abandoned their failed attempt to overthrow Erdogan. Opposition parties voiced support for Erdogan, presumably to ensure that Erdogan would not use the coup as an excuse to further stifle dissent (he’s gone so far as to demand people in foreign countries be prosecuted for insulting him).
The coup attempt failed largely because of two main reasons. The first being that the plotters failed to arrest or take down Erdogan (more on that later). Erdogan was on his plane at the time and ultimately landed in Istanbul and was able to retake control. The second was that military was not united in the desire to carry out a coup. The coup was not led by the military, but rather a faction of the military.
In the aftermath of the coup almost 3,000 have been arrested after 250 were killed and 1,400 were injured. Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim have pointed the finger at a cleric out of Pennsylvania by the name of Fethullah Gulen. Gulen denies any responsibility for the coup. Turkey has demanded that the United States extradite Gulen and has said that, “Any country that protects Fethullah Gulen will be an enemy to Turkey.”
Turkey initially closed the airspace around Incirlik Air Base where the US launches operations against ISIS. Turkey also cut power to the base, although internal power sources have kept the base otherwise operational. The 1,500 American personnel at the base were also put on “condition Delta,” the highest force protection alert. Turkish officials believe that Turkish planes based at Incirlik took part in the coup. On July 17, operations against ISIS resumed, despite the fact Turkey still has the power cut to the base, leaving US officials deeply concerned.
As for Gulen, John Kerry has said that the United States would consider extraditing Gulen if Turkey provided “… legitimate evidence that withstands scrutiny…” and that “… the United States will accept that and look at it and make judgments appropriately…” On July 19, Turkey officially demanded Gulen be extradited.
Gulen has floated the theory that Erdogan himself orchestrated the coup in an attempt to further clamp down on civil rights and dissent. 2,745 judges have already been purged. Erdogan’s “Gift from God” comments certainly seems suspicious. How many world leaders would thank God for a coup attempt? Some have compared the coup attempt to the 1933 Reichstag fire where Hitler cracked down on civil liberties and political opposition. Erdogan has also declared a three month state of emergency.
Some Turkish privates who were detained claim they were unaware they were taking part in a coup. They say they were told by their commanders that it was a military exercise and only realized it was a coup attempt when they saw civilians climb onto tanks. It has been reported that two F-16s locked onto Erdogan’s plane and two other F-16s protecting him, but did not fire. A retired officer said, “Why they didn’t fire is a mystery” in response to the commandeered F-16s refusal to fire.
There are still many questions regarding the events in Turkey. Was it real or staged? If it was real, were the enlisted men manipulated by their officers? Will the United States cave into Erdogan and extradite Gulen? What will Turkey do if the United States refuses to extradite Gulen? Was July 15, 2017 the day where freedom finally and officially died in Turkey?