Summary of the coup attempt in Turkey
November 29, 2023

Summary of the coup attempt in Turkey

On Friday, a faction of the Turkish Army leadership launched a failed military coup against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. However, despite the initial wave of control and presence enforced by the coup-faction in Ankara (the capital) and Istanbul, the Turkish government succeeded in neutralizing the uprising (believed to being led by Colonel Muharrem Kose as well as other mid-level officers). Erdogan even gave a speech at Istanbul airport, assuring the Turkish population – which has largely backed him during the crisis – that he is still in power.

First signs (evening hours)

The crisis started in the evening when Turkish Army personnel and vehicles – including tanks – entered Ankara and Istanbul. Shortly after, officials belonging to the coup-faction announced that they had taken control of the country. The Turkish Military’s Chief of General Staff – i.e. top commander – General Hulusi Akar was detained by the coup faction (The Telegraph).

Clashes (late night/early morning)

Up to two hours later, the coup faction had succeeded in taking control of the Turkish Parliament. Clashes between the coup faction and the government – via initially the police, but wider armed forces (including the Turkish Air Force/TuAF) – had begun in earnest. By midnight, at least 17 Turkish police personnel were reported to have been killed. TuAF F-16s were spotted flying low over Ankara and Istanbul, where they had begun interdicting coup faction helicopters (in which one helicopter was downed – Sputnik News). Explosions at a number of major sites, such as Ataturk Airport in Istanbul and Turkish Parliament in Ankara, were also reported.

Public response (late night/early morning)

Although Erdogan is a contentious figure at home and abroad, the apparent support of the coup quickly subsided when larger swaths of the Turkish population began to emerge in support of the government. Footage of protesters overrunning coup faction tanks and posts had emerged alongside reports of coup faction personnel firing on protesters (Business Insider). Middle East policy experts were not surprised at the support shown to Erdogan, he is still a popular figure (Vox Media).

Neutralization (early morning)

It is apparent that most of the wider Turkish military still supports Erdogan, which can be seen from the fact that (1) the coup faction had to target the top brass and (2) the fact that the Turkish government is able to wield its each of its armed organs, including the air force.

Current situation

The current situation is still largely unclear. While the coup did not succeed in toppling the government, there have still been reports (as of 4:45am in Turkey) of bomb explosions at the parliament building. The whereabouts of the Turkish Chief of General Staff – General Akar – are also unknown. A total of 42 persons – including 17 police personnel – are believed to have been killed.

Comment and Analysis [tentative]

We cannot comment on who instigated the coup, but in general terms, there is a very high level of uncertainty for Turkey moving forward. The Turkish economy and political climate alike are far from stable at this point, and the actual consequences of these events will become known in the coming weeks and months. How this impacts Erdogan or the Turkish military remains to be seen, but the unprecedented nature of this event (considering it has been over 30 years since the military overtly interfered in Turkey’s political environment) cannot be understated.