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- Recep Erdogan was in Marmaris when troops attempted to seize control
- Military personnel occupied strategic locations across Istanbul and Ankara
- Erdogan rang CNN Turk on FaceTime and demanded to be put live on air
- He convinced supporters to take to the streets and face down the military
As heavy armour rumbled through the streets of Ankara and Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Erdogan was in Marmaris on the Mediterranean coast on a post-Ramadan holiday. Heavily-armed troops seized strategic locations across the two main cities, officers entered the building of the state-run TRT TV station and demanded the presenter read out a statement announcing the coup. The plotters, however, ignored social media and privately run TV stations in their haste to take control of the country.
CNN Turk presenter Nevsin Mengu held up her iPhone during the middle of the coup allowing President Erdogan to directly address his supporters using FaceTime to call them onto the streets to oppose the troops
Erdogan said on FaceTime: ‘Let’s gather as a nation in the squares. I believe we will remove this occupation’
Initially, it appeared the military coup was going to be successful with troops stationed at strategic locations
Gareth Jenkins, a researcher and writer on military affairs in Istanbul said: ‘This coup was obviously planned quite well but using a playbook from the 1970s,’
He said the plot mirrored those used in Chile in 1973, or Ankara in 1980 and failed to consider modern communications. Rebel forces closed the main route over the Bosphorus in Istanbul and established checkpoints on major intersections and the airport. Helicopters blasted the police headquarters building in Ankara, while a couple of jets roared across the sky at low level.
Erdogan, the rebels thought was powerless. The coup leaders, who described themselves as the ‘Peace Council’ warned the population to remain at home. Isolated inside the holiday resort, Erdogan made an inspired decision, which in all likelihood saved his presidency and showed the major flaw in the rebels’ plans.
With the state media service occupied, Erdogan called a private TV station on his iPhone. He needed to show the 80-million population he was still a freeman and needed to play his major gamble.
As Erdogan desperately clung onto power, an Air Force F-16 screamed across the sky to intimidate the people
However, Erdogan’s message soon got out, prompting people to take to the streets to oppose the coup
Thousands of people faced down the troops, who suddenly looked uncertain by the show of defiance
Civilians clambered aboard tanks, challenging commanders to run them down and start a massacre
Sinan Ulgen, of the Carnegie Europe think tank said the failure to shut down the communications networks, social media and private television stations undermined their attempt. Erdogan contacted CNN Turk on his iPhone using FaceTime and ordered the presenter Nevsin Mengu to hold her own handset towards the camera, where he urged his supporters to take to the streets. He gambled that troops would not massacre the civilians.
He said: ‘Let’s gather as a nation in the squares. I believe we will remove this occupation that has taken place within a short time. I am calling on our people now to come to the arenas and we will give them the necessary answer.’
At the time, tanks were rolling across the city. Less than 20 minutes later, prime minister Binali Yildirim was tweeting furiously, denouncing the rebels while stressing the government remained in full control. In the skies above, F-16s screamed across the sky. Military doctrine states that fast jets can intimidate people on the ground without releasing one weapon by their noise alone.
However, some people died as a result of clashes after gunfire was reported across Istanbul
Erdogan gambled that troops would not fire indiscriminately into large groups of supporters
Tank commanders crushed several cars but refused to drive over civilians blocking their path
Yet, emboldened by the pro-government messages on social media, and Erdogan’s unconventional appearance on television, people started streaming onto the streets. Members of Erdogan’s AK Party joined the clamour, directing the fightback. Ulgen said the rebels did not have the full support of the military and had to circumvent the chain of command.
He said: ‘Their blueprint was also ineffective since they failed from the outset to capture any military installations in Turkey or any of the (political) leadership.’
Throughout history, successful revolutions have harnessed the latest communication methods to outwit their enemies. In 1517 Martin Luther used the newly invented printing press to pass on his protestant doctrine and denounce the Roman Catholic church. While, in 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini recorded his messages of revolution on audio cassettes which were copied and passed around Iran to oust the US-supported Shah.
A generation later, Iran’s ‘Green Revolution’ protests against an allegedly rigged presidential election in 2013 were amplified by video shot on mobile phones and disseminated on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
With Erdogan’s return to Istanbul, troops began handing their weapons over to police
Rebel leader General Erdal Ozturk, pictured, has been arrested and charged with treason
Thousands of people congregated outside the parliament building in Ankara following the coup
In Turkey on Friday, aides to Erdogan were able to get messages out to Turkish and international media that the president, in power since 2003, was safe and not under arrest even as soldiers were taking over the TRT television station. His predecessor, Abdullah Gul, also used FaceTime to shout angry defiance at the coup plotters on CNN Turk, and former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke by mobile phone with Al Jazeera television to call the takeover a failure. After broadcasting to the nation, Erdogan boarded the Government Gulfstream IV jet and flew back to Istanbul.
According to Flight Radar 24, his aircraft circled south of Ataturk airport while loyal officials determined whether it was safe to land. Several tanks had been stopped by civilians on the outer roads leading to the airport. His return to Istanbul reinforced the failure of the coup.
The contrast was striking with the ultimately unsuccessful 1991 coup by hardliners against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who was reduced to listening to BBC World Service radio at his Crimean holiday home, powerless to intervene as events unfolded in Moscow. The Soviet plotters managed to take control for three days — earning embarrassing recognition from then French President Francois Mitterrand — before Russian leader Boris Yeltsin rallied public opposition to the coup, standing atop a tank in Moscow to harangue the crowd. The Turkish events also had echoes of a 1981 coup attempt against Spain’s young democracy by rebel officers who burst into parliament but failed to win broader military support after King Juan Carlos broadcast to the nation in military uniform urging people to uphold the constitution.
There have been mass expressions of support in towns and cities across Turkey for Erdogan since Friday
Protesters in Taksim Square in Istanbul demanded the reintroduction of the death penalty for the plotters
As in the failed Soviet coup, the Turkish coup leaders were dependent on raw conscripts who had either not been told the truth about their mission, or had not expected to face popular resistance and quickly melted away or surrendered. All three opposition party leaders quickly condemned the coup and social media amplified calls to demonstrate against it. The rebels bungled an attempt to silence CNN Turk, jointly owned by Turner Entertainment Systems of the United States and Dogan Yayin Holding. A helicopter carrying conscripts with a single officer landed at the station but was told it was impossible to take the signal off the air.
They forced the temporary evacuation of the studio. When CNN Turk came back on air, anchorwoman Nevsin Mengu and general manager Erdogan Aktas described the mood of the young soldiers. Mengu said: ‘These young soldiers had only fear in their eyes and no sign of devotion or determination. They asked us to go offline but we said it was not doable. They didn’t know how to do it so our empty studio was live on TV for the whole time before we regained control.’
During that break, a man in a pink T-shirt wandered into the studio chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is great) in support of Erdogan. Religious leaders loyal to the president also for the first time used the network of mosques with loudspeakers to urge Turks to go out into the streets in the name of ‘jihad’.
Howard Eissenstat, associate professor of Middle East history at St Lawrence University in Canton, New York, said: ‘He comes out of this tremendously strengthened. This has remobilised a base that was getting sort of tired of him. It gave him at least a moment in which he unified all elements of society against a clear threat.’
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- Approx. dimensions: 18″ x 7″ x 12″
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