We’ve had a relatively fast paced month here in Britain, with the EU referendum, a new government and the economy being incredibly unpredictable. That all looks relatively tame in comparison to what’s been going on in Turkey, which has been in the midst of a chaotic power struggle and subsequent security crackdown.
On 15th July 2016, a group within the Turkish military led a coup to overthrow the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The group disagreed with the way he was running the country and stormed Istanbul’s airport and raided the main TV and radio station. They forced one of the news anchors to announce that the coup had been successful and that the country was now being run by the “peace at home council” – the name the coup adopted.
The president’s response was swift, he called the attack “an attack on democracy” and called on the remaining armed force who were still loyal to him and the general population to rise up against the coup. Over the next few hours there was fierce fighting on the streets of Turkey.
The Turkish parliamentary building was bombed twice and tanks opened fire on the coup forces next to the building. There was gunfire for hours between the two forces but by the early hours of the morning the coup forces had retreated and Erdoğan retained full control of the country. 246 people died during the uprising.
After the failed coup, Erdoğan promised that he would clean up the armed forces and find those responsible. More than 15,000 people were arrested, with 11,000 still detained. 66,000 people from almost every area of life have been sacked as a result of them having some role in the coup. Most of these arrests were from within the military, over 10,00 in total.
The crackdown has also lead to a greater restriction on what the country’s media can and can’t publish. Over 130 TV, radio and newspaper outlets have been shut down since mid-July. This comes in a country where any media outlet can be shut down by police forces, one of the biggest newspapers in the country was shut down in March because of its opposition to the government.
After the main crackdown on the armed forces (with some members still being arrested), president Erdoğan turned his attentions to the outer rings. He wants to close all the country’s military academies and reshuffle the country’s spy agency so it operated entirely under his control. The military academies will be replaced by a national defense agency, which will also operate under Erdoğan’s control. If all these measures are passed, the president will have more control over who can and cannot enter the armed forces, to avoid another chaotic coup.
The rest of the western world did have it’s say about the president’s response to the coup, with many calling the extent of the purge unnecessary and harsh. Erdoğan was quick in response, telling the offending nations to worry about their own affairs, not his country’s. The trouble is Turkey is currently applying for EU membership, the EU will want to admit a stable Turkey into its ranks, rather than the current nation.
Image credit: flickr.com/ancientsword