If you’re not up on the latest events in Turkey, here’s a brief explainer about the coup attempt and what brought it about.
What exactly happened?
Late Friday, tanks rolled onto the streets of the capital, Ankara, and Istanbul. Uniformed soldiers blocked the famous Bosphorus Bridge connecting the European and Asian sides of Istanbul.
Media outlets, including CNN Turk, said they’d been forced off air, and social media experienced outages. Shortly before midnight local time, a faction of the military issued a statement, saying the “political administration that has lost all legitimacy has been forced to withdraw.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed the nation via FaceTime. Speaking to a CNN Turk anchor who held her phone so viewers could see it, he urged people to take to the streets to stand up to the military faction behind the uprising.
“Go to the streets and give them their answer,” Erdogan said.
Within a few hours – during which gunshots were heard at the presidential palace – the Turkish National Intelligence unit claimed the coup was over. But not before 290 people were killed and more than 1,400 people were injured.
Who is to blame?
Erdogan quickly blamed low-ranking military officers who rebelled against their superiors. He later pointed across the Atlantic, to a small, leafy Pennsylvania town that is home to his bitter rival: Fethullah Gulen, a reclusive cleric who leads a popular movement called Hizmet.
The 75-year old imam went into self-imposed exile when he moved from Turkey to the United States in 1999 and settled in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania.
“I call on the United States and President Barack Obama. Dear Mr. President, I told you this before. Either arrest Fethullah Gulen or return him to Turkey. You didn’t listen. I call on you again, after there was a coup attempt. Extradite this man in Pennsylvania to Turkey! If we are strategic partners or model partners, do what is necessary,” Erdogan said.
Could Gulen be behind it?
He’s called the accusation insulting and denied it.
Turkey's attempted coup: By the numbers
• At least 161 people killed• 2,839 military officers were detained• At least 1,140 people wounded• 1 airfield still under military faction’s control• At least 200 soldiers turned themselves in to police in Ankara• 11 years: Erdogan’s reign as Prime Minister• 2014: Year that Erdogan ran for President – and won
Supporters describe Gulen as a moderate Muslim cleric who champions interfaith dialogue. Promotional videos show him meeting with Pope John Paul II in the Vatican in the 1990s. He also met frequently with rabbis and Christian priests in Turkey.
Gulen has a loyal following – known as Gulenists – in Turkey, who all subscribe to the Hizmet movement.
Hizmet is a global initiative inspired by Gulen, who espouses what The New York Times has described as “a moderate, pro-Western brand of Sunni Islam that appeals to many well-educated and professional Turks.” Nongovernmental organizations founded by the Hizmet movement, including hundreds of secular co-ed schools, free tutoring centers, hospitals and relief agencies, are credited with addressing many of Turkey’s social problems.
Failed military coup in Turkey
Some analysts say a purge of high-ranking military officials loyal to Gulen was expected to take place next month. That’s the short answer.
The longer answer is that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made a lot of enemies over his tenure, including followers of Gulen – Gulenists – who were his allies for most of his tenure when he served as prime minister. In fact, it was with the help of the Gulenists that he was able to carry out the previous military purge, which targeted secularist generals and officers.
But after a fallout that started with the government trying to shut down Gulenist educational centers and the Gulenists accusing senior administration officials of bribery, the friction between the former allies became openly hostile. The government now categorizes the Gulenists as a terrorist organization, called FETO. Over the last year, police ranks have been cleansed of Gulenist officers.
Who were the coup plotters and why didn’t it work?
In a country that has experienced four coups and three coup attempts, most would argue this was a “sloppy” and “disorganized” try. But more importantly, Erdogan and his supporters have always known that it may come down to trying to stare down a coup attempt.
While the would-be junta leaders managed to take over state broadcaster TRT Friday night, more widely watched news channels were all still on air. The piece de resistance was Erdogan on Facetime, calling on his supporters to flood the streets of Turkey, thereby nullifying the junta’s declaration of martial law and a curfew. In fact, officials in Turkey are still calling on people to stay in the streets and squares as a protective measure against any further attempts.
Is Erdogan still popular across the country?
But coups have gone out of fashion in Turkey, which previously had a record of 10-year coup cycles and poor economic performance that may have swayed even those who aren’t really fond of Erdogan to support him against the would-be junta. When it comes to Erdogan’s popularity, his most ardent supporters routinely profess their willingness to die for him. He’s particularly popular among the poorer, more pious Muslim women who wear the veil and newly prosperous Muslim businessmen. And in a rare display of cross-regional reach, Erdogan supporters straddle the entirety of Turkey. While opposition leaders and parties tend to be regionally restricted, Erdogan has supporters in large and small cities as well as across rural parts of Turkey.
The president successfully mustered large crowds of supporters who took to the streets in cities across the country and in some cases confronted soldiers carrying out the coup.
In a sign of how little apparent public support the coup plotters had, even long-standing Erdogan critics condemned the plot, and all three main opposition parties in Parliament denounced the plot.
When it comes to Erdogan’s popularity, his most ardent supporters routinely profess their willingness to die for him. He’s particularly popular among the poorer, more pious Muslim women who wear the veil and newly prosperous Muslim businessmen.
In a rare display of cross-regional reach, Erdogan supporters straddle the entirety of Turkey. While opposition leaders and parties tend to be regionally restricted, Erdogan has supporters in large and small cities as well as across rural parts of Turkey.
Where does Turkey go from here?
While he has been pursuing his ambitions openly, there were still obstacles and challenges ahead. But now, with the military purge already underway, there are concerns about whether it will target the actual perpetrators of the coup or will turn into a bigger witch hunt for anyone opposed to the President.
The government has already arrested military commanders and members of the judiciary that it alleges are “would-be junta collaborators.”
Around 6,000 people have been detained and arrests will continue, according to Turkey’s Foreign Ministry. Responding to a crowd demanding the death penalty for the plotters, Erdogan said, “We can’t ignore the people’s request in a democracy. This is your right.”
What does it mean for Turkey as a NATO country and for the international community in general?
Turkey’s NATO membership and its international commitments remain the cornerstone of Turkish foreign policy. But if the power in Turkey becomes even more concentrated in Erdogan, the lines of communication to the Turkish bureaucracy or other state institutions will be severely limited.
The United States has repeatedly said it supports the democratically elected civilian Turkish government, but there is a host of ramifications. But there are concerns.
The United States has already expressed displeasure with Erdogan’s anti-Western and authoritarians tendencies. Now come concerns that Erdogan may use the coup to crack down on opposition and jail dissidents. Already, 200 top Turkish court officials, including members of the Supreme Court, were taken into custody despite a lack of evidence that any were involved in the coup.
There are also concerns that the upheaval could weaken ties between the countries’ militaries, hinder the fight against ISIS and bring more instability to the region.
CNN’s Chandrika Narayan, Faith Karimi, Farida Fawzy, Shanna Pavlak, Amy La Porte and Ivan Watson contributed to this report.