Here's What You Need to Know About the Attempted Coup in Turkey

On Friday evening, a military coup began in Turkey, sparking fear and confusion all over the world. Military forces supporting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan managed to end the coup, but not in time to prevent the chaos and violence that occurred. According to Turkey’s foreign ministry, at least 290 people died and over 1,400 people were wounded. Here is the timeline of events, according to CNN.

What Happened

On Friday evening, tanks were driven onto the streets of Turkey's capital city, Ankara, and Istanbul, though it is unclear who ordered this action. Turkish soldiers blocked the Bosphorus Bridge, which connects the European and Asian portions of Istanbul. Traffic to the European side of the city was blocked, but cars were allowed to freely travel to the Asian side.

Army tanks and a military vehicle gathered at Taksim Square, joined by approximately 300 people, some of whom were waving Turkish flags.


Photos and videos that were posted to social media showed crowds marching through the streets. Some decided to taunt rebelling soldiers, who were firing their guns in the air.

Late Friday night, social media outlets, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, stopped working in the country. A group that monitors censorship in Turkey, Turkey Blocks, reported that the websites have been blocked. Dyn, a service that monitors Internet performance worldwide, concluded that Facebook and Twitter were blocked for approximately one hour.

Following this, the portion of the military leading the coup made a declaration that the "political administration that has lost all legitimacy has been forced to withdraw." CNN’s Turkish affiliate and Turkish state broadcaster TRT were both taken over by the military and forced to stop broadcasting.

Very early on Saturday morning, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey addressed the Turkish people through a FaceTime call to a CNN Turk news anchor. President Erdogan encouraged Turkish citizens to challenge the members of the military responsible for the coup. He blamed lower-ranking officers, who allegedly rebelled against senior-level ones, for starting the coup, promising that they will be punished for their actions.


The presidential complex in Ankara, Turkey was attacked, while helicopters opened fire on the national intelligence headquarters. As the president requested, crowds gathered in the streets to stand up to the military, as well as at the airport in Istanbul (the site of a terror attack only a few weeks ago). 

At 2:51 a.m. on Saturday, Turkish National Intelligence reported that the coup was over. At the same time, bombs were thrown outside of the parliament building in Ankara.

Less than an hour later, President Erdogan arrived at Istanbul's airport. Turkey's deputy prime minister, Mehmet Simsek, reported to CNN that the government had regained full control after the coup attempt failed.

President Erdogan declared the coup over and condemned it as treason. Video showed soldiers on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul surrendering and abandoning their posts. Photos were also posted online of those killed and wounded during the night, as well as the damage to parliament.


In the afternoon, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim condemned the coup at a news conference.

The Aftermath

Turkey could be headed toward more authoritarian tendencies as President Erdogan cracks down brutally on anyone who may have been connected to the coup attempt. With the option of an undemocratic resolution to the uprising, U.S.-Turkey relations could get a lot worse in the upcoming days and weeks. 

President Erdogan has blamed the attempted coup on Fethullah Gulen, a cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania. He then demanded that the United States arrest or extradite Gulen, a former ally and current rival of Erdogan. However, Gulen has denied any involvement in the coup. Officials expect Turkey to submit an official, written demand for Gulen's extradition soon. The U.S. government has not hinted that it would cooperate in that request, but the Turkish president completely expects the Obama administration to comply. "We have a mutual agreement of extradition of criminals," said Erdogan, according to CNN

The BBC reported that since the coup attempt, 6,000 military personnel have been arrested, 9,000 police officers were dismissed, 3,000 judges were suspended, more than 250 staff were removed from the prime minister's office, and 24 radio and TV channels had their licenses revoked. In addition, more than 15,000 education staff have been suspended, including the forced resignation of 1,500 university deans. Erdogan promised to eliminate any media outlets that covered or sided with supporters of the coup. Anyone linked to Gulen, who continues to reject involvement, was also detained or removed from their respective positions. 

This purge could expand even wider as Erdogan considers reinstating the death penalty in Turkey. "The people now have the idea, after so many terrorist incidents, that these terrorists should be killed," Erdogan told CNN in an interview. "Why should I keep them and feed them in prisons for years to come?"

However, instituting the death penalty in the nation, which has been outlawed since 2004, could threaten Turkey's global standing considerably. Death as a punishment for the coup attempt would effectively disqualify Turkey from gaining EU membership. "Let me be very clear on one thing...No country can become an EU member state if it introduces [the] death penalty," Frederica Mogherini, EU foreign policy chief, said to CNN.

What This Means

U.S. ties with Turkey are extremely important in the mostly hostile Middle East. Turkey is an indispensable resource in the fight against ISIS in neighboring Syria. It is also a Muslim democracy, which is a rare and valuable ally for America. 

Damaged U.S.-Turkey relations could mean the addition of another anti-American Muslim nation in the Middle East, spelling out an automatic issue for the next president of the U.S. 

Officials and unnamed sources told CNN that Erdogan has referenced using the attempted coup to consolidate power in Turkey. Senior Turk officials have also suggested American involvement in the coup. This could be a strategy to shift blame to the U.S., which is an easy subject of hate in the Middle East, in order to gain support internally for a more authoritarian rule. 

Erdogan's reaction to this attempted coup could take on a few different paths. As more details develop, the U.S. will have to carefully navigate how to address human rights violations and democratic transgressions within Turkey. Otherwise, the ties between the two nations could be cut entirely.