A faction of the Turkish military staged a coup late Friday, attempting to impose martial law and depose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan, speaking via FaceTime from an undisclosed location, assured the Turkish people and the world that the coup would be put down, telling crowds to defy the military’s curfew law and take to the streets in support of the government. The faction issued a statement saying it “had taken over” at around 4:30 PM , but hours later, a government official announced the coup had been squashed. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim later stated the coup had been foiled.
Some military figures denounced the coup. Commander of the First Army, Gen Umit Guler, issued a statement, saying “the armed forces do not support this movement comprised of a small group within our ranks.”
“We will overcome this. There is no power higher than the people,” President Erdogan said on FaceTime as a mobile phone was held up to a camera by an announcer on the Turkish sister station of CNN. He continued, saying, “Let them do what they will at public squares and airports.”
The military stopped traffic over two Istanbul’s bridges, which connect European and Asian sides of the city. Early Saturday morning, the coup showed signs of crumbling. When President Erdogan landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, he spoke about the military, saying, “they will pay a heavy price for their treason to Turkey.” He also said the coup would be a reason to clean up the army.
The success of the coup would mark a major political shift in the Middle East as Erdogan has ruled Turkey since 2003. Erdogan, an Islamist, has sought more control over armed forces during his time in office. In recent years, he has polarized the Turkish people with his autocratic tendencies, attempting to limit freedom of expression, making the role of religion more prominent in public life, and continuing war with Kurdish militants.
“A minority within the Armed Forces has unfortunately been unable to to stomach Turkey’s unity,” including that individuals loyal to the Gulen movement had “penetrated the Armed Forces and the police, among other government agencies, over the past 40 years,” said Erdogan.
Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania was once Erdogan’s ally fought with Erdogan over a corruption inquiry in 2013. Over the years, Gulen’s followers have established a presence in Turkey’s police and judiciary.
Gunfire and explosions hit Istanbul and Turkey’s capital Ankara. The military took to the streets with tanks. In conflicts between security forces loyal to the president and military forces attempting to overthrow him, 17 police officers were killed near Ankara. A bomb was also detonated at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, killing twelve people and critically injuring two. The prosecutor’s office has reported that 42 people in total died, most of them civilians. Government supporters took to the streets to show their support for the president and the government. In a statement, the United States Embassy told Americans to take shelter.
CNN Turk reported that a helicopter used by coup plotters was seen flying near Parliament. After CNN Turk reported the Parliament death toll, the network tweeted that a “group of soldiers” had entered the studio and blocked broadcasting.
Martial law has been attempted by military takeovers at least three times in the past 50 years. The coup leaders did not have control in many parts of the country. According to CNN Turk, the military had begun withdrawing at around 2 AM.
As he addressed the Turkish people, Erdogan attempted to reassure government supporters that the attempted coup would soon be over.
“I’m not going anywhere, I will be with my people.”