THO Brief: Attempted Military Coup Q&A

How did it begin?

On July 15th, at about 10:00 pm, the coup attempt began with shots inside the General Staff complex in Ankara. Shortly after, the Presidential Complex in Ankara came under fire by tanks and helicopters. Meanwhile, it was reported that military forces had closed Istanbul's Bosphorus and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridges, and the Ataturk Airport was shut-down.
Factions of the Turkish military took control of the state broadcasting agency TRT to officially announce the coup. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim informed the nation that a coup attempt was underway. Addressing the nation via mobile telephone, President Erdogan confirmed the coup and urged people to resist and defend Turkey’s democracy by getting out to streets. 

Who was/were involved?

Although details of the involvement are still under investigation, security sources indicated that the coup was conducted by some high and mid-ranking officers who are members of the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organization (FETO) led by U.S.-based, self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen. The group called themselves the "Peace at Home Council".

Roughly one-third of the 220 brigadier generals in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and about 10 major generals were detained. Retired Air Force Commander Gen. Akin Ozturk and 102 other high-ranking officers were captured and arrested with treason charges. According to the Interior Ministry, more than 6,000 suspects, including military figures and judges have been arrested. Similarly, more than 8,000 officials, including governors, civil inspectors and legal advisors, were suspended.  

What is FETO?

Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization (FETO), referred as the Gülen movement, claims to be a transnational religious and social movement directed by the orders of an elementary school graduate imam and preacher Fethullah Gülen. The stated objective of the group, which presents itself as the “Hizmet (Service) Movement” in the countries it operates, is “to raise a moral community primarily in Turkey and Turkic geography.” However, many multi-national scholars dispute this objective and argue that the group has been acting with the purpose of forming an “organization within the State”, a parallel structure, since the first day of its establishment.
According to research conducted by various scholars, journalists and government officials, under their deviant religious ideology, FETO considers it legitimate to engage in all kinds of self-defensive deception, conspiracy, trap and illegal activities to achieve its objectives. With years of confidential training and dissuasion activities, members of the terrorist organization have gained a level of professionalism beyond the comprehension of ordinary people. Its members operate with a radical “devotion” and see themselves as the “chosen ones”.

The real objective of the group is to seize all mechanisms of constitutional institutions, security units, civil service and judicial authority of the Turkish state as well as to become a great and influential political and economic power at international level. 
According to Turkey’s Anti-Terror Law, with its distinct ideology, organized structure and using coercion/violence by all means to achieve its aforementioned objectives, findings indicate that FETO’s structure is a terrorist organization.  

Why they attempted now?
Supreme Military Council meeting on August. 1-4, which would have decided on the next round of promotions and appointments within the TSK, had already secured President’s approval to order mass arrests against the Gulenists within the TSK. 
Those planning the coup launched their attempt. In other words, the coup attempt that was planned for a future date was moved up.

Who thwarted the plot?

Simply, the Turkish nation who displayed a historic solidarity as they took to the streets and remained defiant. They stood bravely in front of the tanks and reclaimed their democratic rights.
Both the police and public prosecutors immediately took necessary measures to foil the attempt. It should also be noted that the Turkish media played a key role in defeating the coup attempt. Throughout the process, all the political parties and Members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly stood firmly by democracy, democratic politics, democratic institutions and the Constitution. A Joint Declaration in defense of democracy was issued during the extraordinary meeting of the General Assembly on the 16th of July. 

What are U.S. Officials saying?

President Obama gave the first statement of any world leaders after the violence began, expressing complete support for the Turkish government and its democratically elected leader. According to the official statement, “The President and Secretary Kerry agreed that all parties in Turkey should support the democratically-elected government of Turkey, show restraint, and avoid any violence or bloodshed.”

Secretary Kerry offered support to his counterpart, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in regards to conducting an investigation into who was involved and the continuation of Turkish-U.S.  efforts in Syria.
U.S. Ambassador John Bass dispelled any rumors that he or the U.S. government was trying to undermine Turkish security or was involved in the coup in any way: “Our alliance shows that we have continually invested in Turkey, in its security and its prosperity, and that we remain committed to helping everyone in this country realize a future in which Turkey and the Turkish people are strong and prosperous.” He also reiterated that the US would be more than willing to help Turkish officials with an investigation into who was involved in the attempt.  

What are Turkish Officials saying?

President Erdogan " A minority within the armed forces has unfortunately been unable to stomach Turkey's unity. They will pay a heavy price for their treason to Turkey."

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim “Turkey is a state of law. Everything will be made right within law, and wrongdoers [putschists] will be surrendered to justice."

Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlud Cavusoglu:” We don’t want the US,Our Ally, to harbor someone who has plotted a coup against Turkey.”

Turkish Armed Forces released a statement that "During the evening hours of July 15, 2016, the terrorist traitors of the illegal junta whom were nested inside the structure of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) were effectively neutralized without reaching their goals after the heroic and swift actions of the TSK and police. This honorable nation's people played the biggest role in obstructing the coup," the statement continued.

All parties in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) took a unified stance against coup attempt decrying the coup attempt by a small clique of Gülenist-linked military commanders, which was mostly quelled by troops loyal to the government, police units and millions of Turkish citizens taking to the streets in protest (see the Joint Declaration in page 13)

What was the media’s role in the coup?

The rebels tried to control the narrative surrounding the events by broadcasting their message and declaring ‘victory’ by taking over studios of the state TV channel TRT and later raiding private media outlets such as CNN Turk. Yet the plotters’ attempt to take control of the media did not last long because of modern social media. It is important to note that the Turkish media and Turkish citizens played a key role in squashing any leverage that the rebels had with state run media outlets.

On Twitter and Facebook, political leaders in Turkey and all over the world quickly condemned the coup and shared support for the President. The Turkish people did not sit back and allow the rebels to just take over-they also used all forms of social media to create an uprising against the coup. According to Bloomberg news, they were proactive participants who “undermined the coup plotters' attempts to convey a state of siege…The flow of information encouraged, empowered and mobilized Turks to confront the rebels and their tanks.”

Through the CNN Turk TV station, Erdogan used his iPhone to facetime an entire nation, urging them to take to the streets and stand up for their democratic nation.
According to Turkey Blocks, an organization that monitors social media and messaging in Turkey, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were blocked on Friday night for a few hours. 

How did it end?

Because support from the people or higher level military officials never materialized, members of the coup began to surrender early Saturday morning. Photos of military surrendering on the bridge and abandoning their gear was circulated on social media. 

By Saturday night, most bases and political centers were taken back and large crowds of Turkish citizens took to important centers showing their support for President Erdogan and the democratically-elected government of the Republic of Turkey.
Throughout the process, all Turkish political parties, Members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, and the people showed unwavering solidarity by standing firmly by democracy, democratic politics, democratic institutions and the Constitution. A Joint Declaration by all parties in defense of democracy was issued during the extraordinary meeting of the General Assembly on July 16th. 

Can people travel to Turkey now?

Yes, Turkish airports have been re-opened, but US and UK government officials advise their citizens against traveling to Turkey right now.

On July 18, 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration rescinded its July 15, 2016 notice to airmen (NOTAM) which was issued following the launch of an unsuccessful military coup in Turkey.  The NOTAM prohibited U.S. airline carriers from flying to or from Turkish airports and all airline carriers, regardless of country of registry, from flying into the United States from Turkey either directly or via a third country. Normal flight operations for all carriers between the United States and Turkey have resumed. 

Is the public order fully restored?

The main backbone of the coup plotters have been captured and legal processes began. The Government and our nation nevertheless remain vigilant against possible attempts by individuals or residual cells to take revenge or to disrupt public order and security.
The operation and investigations against the terrorist group, including the efforts towards eliminating it from the state apparatus, are still ongoing. As of July 29th, 2016;
  • 18,044 coup plotters have been detained and 9,677 were arrested afterwards,
  • 24 coup plotters are identified as dead, while 50 were captured wounded,
  • High Council of Judges and Prosecutors canceled the membership of its 5 members and 2745 judges and prosecutors were laid off,
  • 8777 personnel of Ministry of Interior, including law enforcement officials, were laid off.
How many were killed/wounded?

Unfortunately, more than 240 Turkish citizens were killed and 1,491 wounded. Looking at overall totals, 232 have been reported dead, including 24 rebels.

Infographic: Anadolu Agency

Why was a “state of emergency” declared?

State of emergency is a measure permissible under international law taken by many states when there is an imminent threat to its security and order. It is evident that Turkey has faced serious and multi-dimensional security threats since July 15. A similar measure is currently in place in France, who has recently extended its country wide state of emergency for another six months. 

Why certain media institutions were closed, journalists investigated?

During the State of Emergency, the Council of Ministers, meeting under the chairmanship of the President of the Republic is authorized to enact Decrees with force of law pertaining to the issues required by the State of Emergency. Since 21 July 2016, two Decrees with Force of Law have been enacted within the context of State of Emergency.

The provisions regarding the media/press are included in the second Decree Law (No. 668) dated 27 July 2016. In accordance with the Decree Law, private-run radio and television institutions, newspaper, magazine, publishing companies and distribution channels which belong to, connect to, or contact with the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), established posing a threat to the national security, have been closed down.
It’s known that the majority of these establishments were subject to criminal investigations prior to the terrorist coup attempt and legal sanctions were taken for many. In the context of the said investigations, a number of Criminal Magistrates’ Offices indicated that those press and media organizations made publications by order of the founder and the executives of the FETÖ in order to achieve illegal goals of the organization. Many companies were also charged with carrying out false transactions aimed at financing a terrorist organization concealing the financial resources of the organization and transferring funds abroad.

Within this framework, judicial authorities consider it worthwhile to prosecute any support to the bloody coup, regardless of the profession of the supporters. A number of journalists, who are allegedly supporters of the FETÖ terrorist organization during or before the coup plot are being investigated. 

Why is Turkey blocking certain news websites?

Authorities indicate that they are simply following the court orders and taking necessary measures to prevent media outlets from spreading false information and rumors that may create panic. 

Will the human rights be respected during the state of emergency?

Leaders and government authorities have reassured the public that the state of emergency would not affect fundamental rights and freedoms of Turkey’s citizens. The main goal of the state of emergency is to protect the constitutional order as well as fundamental rights and freedoms. Government sources have indicated that utmost importance is duly being shown to protect Turkey’s democratic structure and the rule of law. 

Has Turkey suspended the European Convention on Human Rights?

No. Turkey has resorted to the right of derogation as prescribed by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Article 15 of the Convention allows the Contracting Parties to take measures derogating from their obligations under the Convention, in extraordinary circumstances such as a state of emergency.

Availing itself of this right Turkey informed the Council of Europe that a state of emergency was declared in accordance with its Constitution and relevant law for a duration of ninety days and that measures taken in the context of this process may involve derogation from the obligations under the Convention.

Can dismissals from public service be qualified as a purge?

No. Since the FETÖ is designated as a terrorist network that has infiltrated into state organs for the purpose of taking over the legitimate and democratic state regime, authorities indicate that it is urgently necessary to take prompt measures to remove from public institutions those who are considered to be a member of, or have relation, connection or contact with the terrorists. 
Turkey’s Decree Law No. 667 allows that public officials who are deemed to be members of or have links to terrorist organizations be dismissed from public service. Accordingly, through the boards existing or to be established within their higher bodies, each public institution or organization shall be empowered to dismiss staff from office when their ties to terrorist organization have been found. 

Will Turkey reinstate the death penalty?

Turkey abandoned the capital punishment in 2002 and there have been no executions since 1984. However, the Parliament can decide to reinstate the death penalty if they deem necessary. The President has also made it clear that parliamentarians must make the decision. But he said he would sign the bill into law if adopted.

How did this impact Turkey’s NATO relations?

Turkey, who has been a NATO member since 1952, has the second largest NATO army in the world. Investigations indicate that the coup attempt clearly took place outside the chain of command. Following the coup attempt, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated NATO’s support for the elected government to the President. 

Considering these circumstances, can Turkey continue to fight terrorism and continue to fulfill its international security obligations?

Turkey continues to fight terrorist organizations including ISIS and PKK. When people linked to the coup attempt are suspended, their responsibilities are taken over by law-abiding civil servants. In other words, they are replaced immediately. Following the removal of military personnel operating outside of the chain of command, Turkish authorities indicate that Turkey will now be able to fight terrorism more effectively. 
What’s next?

Now, Turkish authorities will seek swift and fair justice for all civilian and military perpetrators. However, purging of government and military officials could have the potential to lead to different types of domestic and foreign policy challenges, administrative and security challenges. From reinstating the death penalty to the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, Turkey will have to make some critical decisions.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım stated that Turkey submitted the file to officially request Fethullah Gülen's extradition from the United States, while he underscored that Turkey knows who the perpetrators are behind the July 15 coup attempt.

Although it will be remembered as a very dark day, it is clear that the recovery from the ensuing violence and chaos of this coup will be a turning-point in Turkey’s history. With the support of its allies and steadfast citizens, Turkey had already begun the process to become an even stronger, exemplar democracy in the region.  

THO's Position & Statement
THO strongly condemns the attempted military coup in Turkey and urges the United States to be supportive of its ally’s democracy during these extremely challenging times and continue its cooperation in other critical areas such as counterterrorism, NATO obligations, and regional security efforts.

Timeline of Events

Infographic: Anadolu Agency

The Triumph of Turkish Democracy