Turkey, one of the rare islands of stability in an otherwise turbulent region, found itself in midst of an attempted coup. A section of the military sought to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who was holidaying on the coast. The coup attempt seems to have been foiled with opposition parties, major international powers, other institutions of Turkish state and the people coming out in support of the beleaguered President.
Here is how the whole chain of events unfolded:
|194 lives were lost to the attempted coup.
12.59am - Istanbul's Bosphorus Bridge (which connects Europe and Asia) and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge both closed.
1.20am - Gunshots heard in Ankara, military jets and helicopters seen flying overhead. Helicopters seen overhead in Istanbul.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2cRWA18Cco0132 - Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says attempted coup under way, calls for calm. He says a group within Turkey's military has attempted to overthrow the government and security forces have been called in to "do what is necessary".
1.55am - Turkish military says has taken power to protect democratic order. In a statement sent by email and reported on Turkish TV channels, the military says all of Turkey's existing foreign relations will be maintained.
2.17am - Turkish chief of military staff among hostages taken at military headquarters in Ankara, says state-run Anadolu agency.
2.19am - Turkish presidential source says statement made on behalf of armed forces was not authorised by military command.
2.27am - Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media restricted in Turkey, say internet monitoring groups.
2.28am - Soldiers are inside buildings of Turkish state broadcaster TRT in Ankara, TRT correspondent tells Reuters.
2.32am - Head of Istanbul branch of Turkey's ruling AK Party says soldiers enter party building, told to go.
2.35am - Turkish state broadcaster says reading statement on the orders of the military - that new constitution will be prepared, accuses government of eroding democratic and secular rule of law, that the country is being run by a "peace council", that martial law imposed, curfew imposed across the country.
2.56am - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan urges people to take to the streets to protest against what he describes as a coup attempt by a minority faction within the military. Speaking to a CNN Turk reporter via a cellphone video link he says it will meet a "necessary response". He says he is returning to the capital Ankara.
3.21am - A military helicopter opens fire over the Turkish capital Ankara, witnesses report an explosion in the capital.
3.33am - Turkish justice minister says members of a movement loyal to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen in the army are behind the attempted coup.
3.38am - Tanks surround Turkish parliament building, open fire. Gunfire heard at Istanbul airport.
3.56am - Two loud explosions heard in centre of Turkish capital
4.07am - Commander of Turkey's First Army, part of land forces responsible for Istanbul and other western areas, said those attempting a coup were a small faction and "nothing to worry about".
4.29am - Turkish fighter jet shoots down military helicopter used by coup-plotters over Ankara, broadcaster NTV says.
4.35am - President Obama says he and Secretary of State Kerry agree that all parties in Turkey should support elected government. Urges restraint, avoidance of bloodshed - White House statement.
5.09am - Bomb hits parliament in Ankara, state-run Anadolu Agency says. Reuters witness hears blast in Istanbul.
5.50am - Turkish official says Erdogan's plane lands in Istanbul.
5.57am - Two more explosions hit parliament; member of parliament reached by telephone says lawmakers are hiding in shelters at the parliament.
5.15am - Around 50 soldiers, part of faction attempting to carry out a military coup, surrender weapons after being surrounded by armed police in Istanbul's central Taksim square.
06.30am - Erdogan appears among supporters at Istanbul airport, says uprising has been attempted against solidarity and unity of country; says no power is above national will.
09.34am -Turkey appointed the head of its First Army, a group of divisions within its land forces, as acting chief of military staff on Saturday while the whereabouts of the head of the armed forces was unknown.
10.40am - Turkey's military headquarters are now held by pro-government forces but small groups of rebel soldiers behind an overnight coup attempt are still resisting and control some military helicopters, a senior Turkish official said on Saturday.
10.50am - Turkish authorities have detained 754 members of the armed forces after an overnight coup attempt by a faction within the military that used tanks and attack helicopters to try to overthrow the government, a senior official said.
11.05am - The head of Turkey's armed forces Hulusi Akar has been rescued after being held hostage during an attempted coup by a military faction which used tanks and attack helicopters to try to seize power overnight, a senior Turkish official said
Coups are not new to Turkey:
Modern Turkey was founded by Ataturk Kemal Mustafa from the shattered remains of Ottamaon Empire, in the aftermath of the humiliating defeat of Ottoman Empire in the first world war, as a strictly secular Republic. The military has been an important force in the polity of Turkey and is seen as a protector of its secular order. In the past there have been four coups in which military deposed the government, took over power and after some time again restored power to civilians.
This time though the military seems to be divided about backing the coup and this could prove to be the decisive factor leading to failure of the coup.
Erdogan has to share the blame:
Even though the opposition and the people have disapproved of the coup attempts, it doesn't imply that Erdogan is above blemish. His rule has created a lot of unease at home and invited criticism from a cross sections of people for following reasons:
1) Autocratic rule- Erdogan has concentrated power in his hands and after becoming President is seeking to change the constitution to make it a presidential system instead of the prevalent Prime ministerial kind of system.
He has also jailed journalists who put forth inconvenient truth. There have also been striffling curbs on social media and growing tapping of conversations.
This year itself his move of stripping parliamentarians of their immunity and the resignation of long time PM have been viewed by many as further proof of Erdogan's ambition to move Turkey towards autocracy.
2) Shielding ISIS: Erdogan has earned many admirers for giving Turkey a higher profile in the region, but his foreign policy has come in for much criticism for the overt support Turkey extended to ISIS, in it earlier days. Under him Turkey has been accused of providing safe heavens and training for ISIS, providing transit for arms and recruits. Russia too has accused Turkey of supporting ISIS, to undermine its rival Syria and gain more influence over the regions affairs.
Only lately when ISIS has grown too big has Turkey started taking steps to close its border and withdraw its support to ISIS.
3) Atrocities on Kurds: At various points, Turkish forces have been accused of committing widespread atrocities including civlian killing in the Kurdish region in Turkey. In his political rhetoric too Erdogan has tapped into fears about Kurds and his policies have avoided any attempt at reaching out to the Kurds. He is often accused of politics of polarisation that has come at the cost of unity of the nation and undermined rights of minorities. Infact the Kurdish stringent opposition to Kurds has also taken a toll on the war against ISIS, as opposition from Turks have stemmed greater cooperation between US and Kurds both of whom are fighting against ISIS.
4) Wasting taxpayers money over extravagance and corruption: Erdogan has also been brazen about misusing taxpayers money for his extravagant lifestyle. Symbolic of this is his construction of Ak Saray,a presidential complex which is thirty times as large as white house and is costing taxpayers millions of dollars. He has continued with the project despite all round criticism about its wastefulness and inappropriateness when the debate around turning Turkey into a presidential system has not been settled. His government also has faced charges of growing corruption which included a 100 billion dollar 2013 government corruption scandal in which Erdogan was himself seen as involved.
5) Islamisation: Turkey for long has been held as an example of how to avoid the toxic mix of religion and polity that has bee the scourge of Islamic nations particularly. But under Erdogan, the famed secular character of the state is under seige.
Since he assumed power Erdogan has created thousands of mosques from state resources, has reintroduced head scarves, introduced Islamic banking in an array of measures for Islamization of Turkish society.
The traditional secular elites and military have till now seemed helpless against this popular turns towards more intermixing of society, polity and religion. But nevertheless it has caused great unease among many of them.
The Erdogan regime has survived the attempted coup, infact it may use it to create more paranoia, concentrate power in the President, boost his fledging support, isolate opposition, cleanse the administration and army of any opponents of Erdogan, still the coup is a warning that the path that Erdogan is taking Turkey down will breed more instability and will be detrimental to the prosperity and unity of the nation.
One hopes Erdogan realises this and takes corrective measures.