Scores of people have been killed and more than 1,400 wounded in Turkey after an attempted coup. It all started when bridges over the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul were blocked by troops on Friday evening. Gunshots were fired and helicopters and fighter jets flew over Ankara, Turkey’s capital.
This commotion was followed by prime minister Binali Yildirim’s announcement that this was all an attempt to overthrow the government. Part of the army declared that it had seized power in order to protect democracy from president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
What followed was talk of a curfew, martial law, and the preparation of a new constitution. Supporters of Mr. Erdogan (called by Erdogan himself) took to the streets to protest.
The night was filled with violence as TV stations were raided by soldiers, explosions were heard in Istanbul and Ankara, protesters were shot, the parliament and presidential buildings were fired upon, a military helicopter was shot down, and the Turkish military chief was taken hostage.
Early on Saturday morning, soldiers involved in the coup started to surrender and troops abandoned their tanks with their hands up. Security took back key installations and bases, such as the military headquarters, and by noon Turkey’s EU minister Omer Celik declared the situation “90 percent under control”.
Who was responsible for this still remains unclear, but the government did accuse a powerful and reclusive US-based Muslim cleric called Fethullah Gulen for fomenting unrest. He denied the claims and even condemned the coup.
The Turkish media believes general Akin Ozturk, former commander of the Turkish Air Force, and lieutenant-general Metin Iyidil, commander with the Land Forces Training and Doctrine Command, might have orchestrated the entire thing.
Nearly 3,000 people who allegedly backed the coup were arrested, including some high-ranking officers. Some of the soldiers claimed they were told what they were doing was a military exercise and not an attempted coup.
This is not the first time the Turkish army gets involved in politics, as it sees itself as the protector of Turkey’s secularism and democracy. There was clear tension between the army and Mr. Erdogan’s AKP party because of its political Islamism. The president is seen by many as an authoritarian and he has also cracked down on free media.
Regarding the response outside Turkey, US president Barack Obama urged Turks to support their elected government, while European Council president Donald Tusk called for a “swift return to Turkey’s constitutional order”. Nato called for “full respect” for Turkey’s democratic institutions, Russia called the situation a threat to regional stability, and Iran considers that the events showed a “coup d’etat has no place” in Turkey.
But is it safe now to travel to Turkey? The British Foreign Office advises visitors to stay indoors and to avoid public places as much as possible, and many flights in and out of Turkey have been cancelled, including those on British Airways. Turkish Airlines announced that they have restarted flights at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport.