If you’ve seen coverage of Friday night’s coup attempt in Turkey, you’ll know that a faction of the country’s armed forces attempted to overthrow Turkey’s democratically elected government and that the coup plotters were defeated by popular will. But what happened in between? The press corps won’t show you much, because anything too dramatic will be censored out by editors so you don’t get offended.
Coups may be televised, but I promise you they’re not PG-rated.
Overseas reporting has become so saturated with casualty figures and sanitized statements that the stories lose all impact. The more conspiracy-minded start to wonder whether anything happened at all. Perhaps it was a staged media spectacle, they wonder, and its victims were really the perpetrators. We become apathetic in a sea of information we don’t trust. Meanwhile the heroism of ordinary people on the ground amid the chaos gets forgotten.
So what happened in Turkey? The putsch began on Friday at about 10 pm when coup forces occupied the Bosphorus Bridge which links Europe to Asia in Istanbul and attacked the Turkish Armed Forces General Staff building in Ankara. Around midnight, coup leaders declared that they had formed a military-controlled “Peace Council” to take charge of the country to protect “constitutional order, democracy, human rights, and freedoms.” Double-speak much?
That evening, apparently to help protect democracy and freedom, the Turkish Parliament was bombed.
There was also an airstrike on the Presidential Palace in Ankara.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself was in the town of Marmaris, on Turkey’s southern coast. He reportedly escaped a bombing at his accommodation before calling, via a Facetime message broadcast on CNN Turk, for people to rise up against the military across the country.
From there, all hell broke loose. People swarmed out of their homes, perhaps with their minds set on preventing another murderous military regime like Egypt’s from taking power. In the streets, it was crowds versus tanks as civilians attempted to blockade the military. This led to some intense confrontations, as the army tried to exert its authority.
Some soldiers were willing to drive tanks right through crowds of civilians, with brutal results.
In some areas, though, there were reports of soldiers laying down their arms when they were told a coup was taking place. Some soldiers were seized by crowds and viciously beaten.
Those loyal to the government didn’t only have to contend with tanks. Military helicopters fired into crowds of civilians in the streets.
As loyalist and rebel factions of the air force vied for control, there were recordings of extremely low fly-overs by military jets in the cities.
Ultimately, it appears to be the heroism of ordinarily people risking their lives by putting their bodies in front of the military machine, as well as the refusal of soldiers to kill their own people en masse, that has saved Turkey from military dictatorship.