Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
A military coup is unfolding in Turkey.
On Friday night in the Turkish capital of Ankara, military aircraft flew low, close to streets overrun by tanks and military personnel. Then came reports of gunfire. In Istanbul, soldiers blocked the bridges to the Bosphorus, a strategically significant straight in Northwestern Turkey that links the Middle East and Europe. Flights out of Istanbul Ataturk Airport were canceled, and social media sites in various cities were shaky.
The Turkish military, the country’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim soon announced, was attempting to take over. Although he steered cleared of using the term “coup,” it’s become clear that’s exactly what is happening in Ankara.
In a statement to local news organization NTV television, the military faction behind the takeover has declared martial law. But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, appearing via Facetime video on CNN Turk, has rejected the coup, calling on his supporters to take to the streets. Via CNN:
"Go to the streets and give them their answer," he urged residents during a Facetime interview on CNN Turk. "I am coming to a square in Ankara. ... This was done from outside the chain of command," he said of the military. "Those who are responsible, we will give them the necessary punishment," he said.
Earlier this year, experts predicted that a coup d’état was the inevitable in Turkey—a natural consequence of the power play between the country’s increasingly erratic, increasingly autocratic president, and its historically influential Turkish military. Via Newsweek:
Erdogan long ago sought to kneecap the Turkish military. For the first decade of his rule, both the U.S. government and European Union cheered him on. But that was before even Erdogan’s most ardent foreign apologists recognized the depth of his descent into madness and autocracy.
So if the Turkish military moves to oust Erdogan and place his inner circle behind bars, could they get away with it?
In the realm of analysis rather than advocacy, the answer is yes.
And here’s some context on past coups orchestrated by the Turkish military, via The New York Times:
Since the founding of modern Turkey in 1923 the military has staged coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980—and intervened in 1997.
The military had long seen itself as the guardian of Turkey’s secular system, established by the country’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Where Erdogan was speaking to CNN from, or where he is currently, is not clear. Meanwhile, the atmosphere on the ground in Turkey is becoming increasingly chaotic. Follow along as developments on this attempted coup unfold on The Atlantic’s live blog.