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Dark Points in the July 15 Military Uprising: Was President Erdogan Really at the Hotel in Marmaris?

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Dark Points in the July 15 Military Uprising: Was President Erdogan Really at the Hotel in Marmaris?

Mahmut Cengiz

Small Wars Journal on July 7, 2019 published this author’s article[1]Who Was Behind the July 15, 2016 Military Uprising in Turkey?” and then retweeted it on July 15, 2019 the third anniversary of the coup attempt. In the meantime, a reader of Small Wars Journal, who is referred to hereafter as respondent X, who is from the United Kingdom (UK), reached out to article’s author to speak about the coup attempt and article. Given the necessary confidentiality of his identity, the anonymous reader explained that he was with his wife and three children at the Grand Yazici Club Turban hotel in Marmaris where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stayed and where the armed confrontation happened, that is, the beginning of the coup, which resulted in the death of two police officers and the wounding of 28 other police officers. He was an eyewitness of the armed confrontations and sent photos of his hotel room with its walls riddled with bullet holes.  Explaining that the aforementioned article is consistent and objective in its description of the coup attempt, he agreed to an interview.

Even though the witness is safe in a European country, he wanted to keep his identity confidential because of the present-day repressive atmosphere in Turkey. His statements have confirmed the dark points and questions in Marmaris that the author underlined the article heretofore. According to respondent X, the Small Wars Journal article accurately examines highly questionable actions of the July 2016 coup attempt in Marmaris, Turkey and herein this author shares the interview with respondent X, who was staying at the hotel.  Experts who were interviewed for this study and whose identities are also kept confidential for the article have examined and confirmed what is stated herein.       

A summary of the interview questions and answer between this author and Respondent X:

May I use your name in the article, why or why not?

“I would rather my name not be used in the article as I worry about any reprisal against myself or my family.”[2]

The answers by respondent X confirm Turkey’s current repressive political environment because the observer; though he lives in the UK, he wants total anonymity. As the aforementioned Small Wars Journal article states: those who have criticized or researched Turkey’s shadowy government investigations, find themselves in prison.

In what hotel in Turkey were you staying on July 15, 2016 – and with whom?

“On the 15 July 2016, I was on holiday in Marmaris and was staying at Grand Yazici Club Turban, the one next to villa President was staying. I was on holiday with my wife and three children. We arrived in the hotel on July 13, 2016. Some other family and friends also stayed at the hotel with us at this time but were situated at the other side of the hotel grounds.” [3]

Did you know Turkey’s President Erdogan was also staying at the hotel?

“Neither myself nor anyone in my group knew that Erdogan was at the hotel.”

President Erdogan mysteriously disappeared between July 9 and July 15, 2016, and he did not speak to the media in this time period.[4] It was alleged that Erdogan stayed at the villa, in the complex of Grand Yazici Hotel on the night of July 15, 2016. However, President Erdogan has said publicly, “I stayed in a different place, and the plotters even bombed there after I left.”[5]

However, the press was told that Erdogan stayed at the Yazici Hotel between July 9 and July 15. Even though the respondent X began to stay at the hotel starting from July 13, he and his friends did not know and even sense President Erdogan was at the hotel. According to one interviewee who spent years as part of Erdogan’s protection team, there should have been high security measures at the hotel if Erdogan had planned to stay there – however it appears that President Erdogan  and his bureaucrats knew of the July 15 coup attempt before it happened.[6]

The one military expert who was in Marmaris on the night of July 15 said he had heard of a yacht with helicopter landing pad that was anchored in Marmaris, and that Erdogan had left the hotel earlier and had watched the events from this yacht. Erdogan’s team had already planned how he could be saved—just  in case something out of their control happened there.[7] Another respondent stated that the hotel checked all Turkish customers and invited some police officers as customers, and the police cleared security line afternoon hours on July 15.[8] However, it was certain that some of Erdogan’s security guards were at the hotel and had positioned themselves to face an armed confrontation with the soldiers who had been assigned to abduct Erdogan from the hotel. The same soldiers even asked the hotel’s address!  In their statements they emphasized that they were trapped by their commanders.[9] The other experts’ answers have confirmed the highly unusual situation at the Grand Yazici hotel – it appears that Erdogan was not at the hotel until the late hours of July 15.[10]

 Did you see anything out of the ordinary at the hotel before the July 15 coup attempt?

“The first time anything seemed strange was on the evening of 15 July 2016. Myself, my family and friends were seated in the bar which was quite empty that evening. The staff had the news on the television. On it the coup was the breaking news, as you would expect and the staff looked worried, and more staff came into the bar from all areas of the hotel, I would estimate maybe 15 members of staff came in to the bar watching the news, they all seemed very concerned. At the time this did not seem strange as I presumed, they worried about family and friends in the main cities in Turkey, as this seemed to be to where the trouble was. My wife started to feel a bit nervous, but I told her not to worry as we were miles away from any unrest. We called it a night at around 10pm and went back to our room.” [11]

How close was your villa to Erdogan’s security details?

“Our room/villa was situated at the far end of the hotel grounds, away from the hotel, a few hundred meters away from the gated, secure luxury villa we later found out that Erdogan was staying in. His security details were staying in rooms/villas in and around the area that myself, my wife and 3 children were staying; however, I did not know this at the time.” [12]

What was the timeline of the attacks as far as you remember? Who targeted your room?

“I first heard the helicopters around 3 am. Our room was attacked at maybe around 3:15 - 3:20. The rest was a bit too chaotic to put a time on. The explosions, gunfire and chaos around the hotel grounds stopped between 6:15 and 6:45. My room was targeted by the soldiers. At around 3am I woke to go to the toilet and soon after I heard helicopters flying above the beach near our villa apartment, so I woke my wife up and informed her I was going to take a walk toward reception to see what was happening. As I walked from our villa apartment towards the main building the helicopter/helicopters were amazingly loud; however, I never had visual on them. As I walked up the path towards the hotel main building, I could see through the main windows that no one was in the reception area, so I returned to our villa apartment, all the time with the sound of the helicopters ongoing. When I arrived back to our villa room, I locked the door and my wife sat on the bed using the laptop (and) logging into her Facebook account, to tell people what she could hear. Very soon after we heard what sounded like several gunshots nearby, so my wife walked towards our balcony doors to see what she could see. She saw a little red light, so I walked over to have a look, and I very quickly realized it was a laser scope on a gun, and it was coming closer towards us.” [13]

By this first-hand account, it appears that a few helicopters flew over the Grand Yazici and shot people even before the abduction team’s helicopters arrived at the hotel. The commander of the abduction team, General Gokhan Sonmezates stated in court that he was a coup plotter and had been assigned to take Erdogan to Ankara but had questioned why his team was told to wait four hours and why they were there after Erdogan had already left.  His team’s soldiers lost about 30 minutes because of a fuel issue. Thus, it was 3:20 am when they arrived at the hotel,[14] but unidentified helicopters, mysteriously overhead before abduction team arrived, dispensed shots on the grounds.

As well, a small group of officials with masks settled down and waited for abduction team at the hotel. At the same time, Erdogan’s security detail, who had stayed in the hotel, positioned themselves to shoot the abduction team.  The coup’s abduction team, already anticipated by the masked officials and Erdogan’s security detail, ambushed and shot them. One abduction team soldier stated he did not know where Erdogan’s security details were but stated that they began to shoot us and then we reacted.[15]

Many questions arise upon consideration of these official statements and Respondent X’s account: Who told Erdogan’s security details to stay at the hotel? Why did the security details stay at the hotel even when President Erdogan left? Who were the officials with the masks? Who assigned the mysterious helicopters to arrive? Did the mysterious helicopters and masked officials kill the two police officers and wound others? Was Marmaris a part of other violent events, which counter-coup plotters planned because they needed strong evidence to blame the so-called coup plotters? Why does it seem that the counter-coup plotters were well-prepared for the attack – and thus behind the coup itself – this last question being raised in the Small Wars Journal article? 

What did you do when you heard the gunshots?

“My wife and I went into the next room where the children were sleeping and closed all the internal doors.  We continued to wake the children up and there were gunshots constantly being fired and getting closer and closer. We then tried to open balcony doors in the children’s room but could not open them, so we ran back into our room while the door continued to be kicked, the guns continued to be fired and the shouting was so loud. We managed to wake the children, the helicopter was still hovering outside, the gunshots had moved to the rear of our villa apartment. We then heard the person trying to kick the door down whilst continuing to fire the weapon. I managed to close all the internal doors behind us as we all headed towards the balcony doors in the main bedroom. Even though we were in a ground floor villa apartment, the balcony was around 2 meter from the ground and there was also a railing to get over. I got over the railing and onto ground level and started to lift the children down. The gunshots and banging continued. I then helped my wife down off the balcony, but she subsequently fell and injured herself.  She stood and started to run. We continued to run up the main path which have lamp posts running down the edges like a little street. We were coming towards a section of the path where around six of the lights had not been working since we arrived at hotel. My wife was running but struggling with her injury, my little lad was running, my eldest girl was running, and I was carrying my youngest girl. As I turned to the side to encourage my eldest girl to run faster, I then saw the laser scope was pointed at the floor near her feet, and the light was very unsteady as if person holding the gun was shaking, the light then went onto the back of her leg so I pulled her into the dark area on the grass and continued to run. We made our way towards the water slide as I believed it was our best chance of staying alive, however when we arrived the gates had been locked and could not be accessed. So, we continued to run at the rear of the main building. We managed to find two large gates that led to the main road, so we exited the hotel grounds and headed to the residential area across the road, where a German family took us in and looked after us while the gunshots continued at the hotel.”[16]

Despite the fact that President Erdogan has the highest security, it was a question why security details did not handle these six lights and who locked the doors, knowing that Erdogan’s security details and some tourists were inside. Also, considering suspicious actions around the hotel, these six lights brought up other questions. 

How was your family impacted from the attacks?

“My wife and children are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. My wife struggles to be in new or busy places and is always looking for an escape route. July 16, 2016 changed my family’s life forever.” [17]

The coup attempt produced trouble for all of Turkey – tens of thousands of officials from military, police, judiciary and education have been purged and jailed – even as Respondent X and his family struggle from the failed coup’s failure and aftermath. Like respondent X’s family members, the jailed Turkish citizens and officers’ wives and children have suffered many on-going problems.

Did you apply to any institution in your country?

“On July 17, 2016 I sent the following in an email to (sic England’s Prime Minister) Boris Johnson:”

“Early hours of yesterday morning our hotel was attacked and me and my family had to escape our hotel room as there was a gunman kicking at our door and shooting a gun. All staff at my hotel are denying anything serious took place. There is a major cover up here.  My family are petrified. I don’t fully understand why all British people at least at this hotel have not been contacted. Please contact me as soon as possible” [18]

On 18 July 2016 I received the email back.

“Dear Mr. X,

Mr. Johnson has asked me to thank you for your email. I can confirm that it has arrived safely in his Westminster office. Please could you let us have your full address and contact telephone number. Once we have received the necessary information Mr. Johnson can look into the concerns that you have raised.”[19]

Respondent X shared in his message to Prime Minister Johnson the coup attempt’s questionable vagaries only after two days the coup happened in Turkey. He emphasized a possible cover up. The most compelling motivation for the publication of the previously cited Small Wars Journal article is Turkey’s attempt to cover up the facts of the coup. Considering the jailed journalists who attempted to research about coup attempt, it is impossible today to find answers for the questions stated herein.    

 Did the police take your statement after the attacks? If not, why?

“No statement was taken from me or anyone from my group. The police and hotel staff denied anything had happened. No member of staff at the hotel and no police officers wanted to listen to us.” [20]

Although the Respondent X was one of the victims and eyewitnesses of the confrontations at the hotel, the police denied what happened to him and did not take his statement. However, several armed confrontations did happen – with the results of two police officer deaths and the wounding of many several others.  According to Turkey’s Criminal Procedural Law, the police were supposed to take the victims and eyewitnesses’ statements.

 Did you do research about the attacks on hotel? What are your findings?

“What happened on July 15 and 16 2016 has taken over my life as I need to find answers.  But anyone I try to contact in Turkey will not speak to me and say(s) my story may be false. From what I do know to(o) many things don’t add up. When the coup plotters arrived at the hotel Erdogan had already left. When I first saw the soldier through my window, I heard a gunshot. Then that soldier reacted to it as though it came from my room. Erdogan seemed to be expecting the hotel attack and for some reason left his security detail behind. The coup plotters seemed to have no idea where they were going and seemed to get ambushed by the security detail.  And myself and my family was unlucky enough to be stuck in the middle.” [21]

 Did you do research on July 15 coup? What are your findings?

“The only person to benefit from what happened on July 15 and 16, 2016 is (President) Erdogan himself.  He has more power than ever before. From what I have read I believe that the coup was a clever plan hatched by Erdogan and his closest allies.” [22]  

 Are you still in contact with other hotel settlers on July 15?  Do they want to be interviewed?

“Apart from friends who came with my family, no, I am not in contact with anyone else. My friends are not willing to talk as they are worried.” [23]

The friends of Respondent X confirmed the daunting atmosphere in Turkey. The fact that European eyewitnesses are worried about speaking about the coup attempt is giving message about the accuracy and validity of police investigations on coup attempt.   

 The hotel’s video records as well as police records were deleted and one of the police witnesses was killed after the armed confrontations in Marmaris? Why do you think it happened?

“So, the truth of what really happened that night will never be known.”[24]  

What did you think after reading the author’s Small Wars Journal article?

“It is great to finally see someone who is willing to stand up for the truth, and I respect you hugely for that.”

Conclusion

Respondent X from the U.K. confirmed the points and arguments discussed in the heretofore July 2019 Small Wars Journal article. It is obvious from his statements that President Erdogan spent some time at the Grand Yazici Hotel, but it is not true that he had a narrow escape. Knowing that the coup plotters would be tasked to abduct him from the hotel, he did not take any risks – rather, he had left the hotel much earlier than he and his government told the media. Additionally, respondent X confirmed the plan of counter-coup plotters, saying that President Erdogan left his security detail at the hotel. The abduction team was ambushed and shot by President Erdogan’s security detail.

The respondent X sent several messages to the highest politicians in the U.K. in order to let them know about a possible cover-up of the coup attempt. Interestingly, the hotel staff and the police denied what happened at the hotel, and the police did not take his statement, even though his room was shot, and he was an eyewitness of what happened at the hotel all the night of July 15, 2016. Given his disclosures in 2016 and herein, his concerns for his and his family’s security and confidentiality is appropriate, particularly in light of Turkey’s current repressive political atmosphere.

End Notes


[1] Cengiz, Mahmut “Who Was Behind the July 15, 2016 Military Uprising in Turkey”, Small Wars Journal, URL: https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/who-was-behind-july-15-2016-military-uprising-turkey. The Small Wars Journal article discussed the abundance of contradictions and highly questionable strategic maneuvers of the July 15 coup attempt and also explains that it has served as a pretext for Turkey’s government to repress its opponents. The article names and analyzes the two types of coup plotters: so-called coup plotters who were part of badly orchestrated coup attempt and counter-coup plotters, who, in spite of the fact that they were informed about the coup before it happened and let it happen under their control, positioned themselves to benefit from the results of the coup attempt. Whereas the so-called plotters were making up a small group of secular, ultranationalist and Gulenist military staff, the counter-coup plotters were consisting of military force commanders, politicians and high-level bureaucrats.  The article emphasizes: a) The many contradictions as to when President Erdogan learned of the coup attempt since he gave five different times in various local and international media interviews; b) the highly questionable strategic maneuvers by Turkey’s Naval, Air and Special military forces; c) the military force commanders and the head of intelligence, as members of the counter-coup plotters, who kept their positions despite a failure to prevent the coup attempt; d) the contradictory military instructions, the trapped military staff as well Air Force academy cadets who were trapped – and one beheaded – who obeyed the directives of their commanders; e) the weak and speculative early accusations by Turkey’s government of the United States as the force behind the coup attempt – as opposed to the stronger connections of Russia to Turkey and the obvious favor for President Erdogan’s government during the deadly fracas; f) the suspicious and poor government- conducted investigations, based mostly upon the statements of military staff who were brutally beaten, tortured and forced to sign prefabricated statements; g) the accusation that it was so-called Gulenists who were caught near Akincilar Military Base and that Adil Oksuz a top Gulenists was linked to the intelligence officials from counter-coup plotters but also suspiciously released by judges, leaving several unanswered questions; h) in the coup attempt’s aftermath, the government purged and jailed tens of thousands of police, judges, prosecutors and military, despite several hundred military staff’s the involvement; and i) the active role of the Communist Vatan Party leader, Dogu Perincek, who has led the purges of 17,498 military staff and has reshaped the army with generals sympathetic to Russian politics.

[2] “The Respondent X, Interview By Mahmut Cengiz, Personnel Interview, August and September 2019.

[3]  Ibid.

[4] “1 haftadir Yoktu…Erdogan’in nerede Oldugu Ortaya Cikti”, Cumhuriyet, URL: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/turkiye/567907/1_haftadir_yoktu..._Erdogan_in_nerede_oldugu_ortaya_cikti.html.

[5] “Iste Erdogan’in Kaldipi Otel”, Sabah, URL:  https://www.sabah.com.tr/galeri/turkiye/iste-erdoganin-kaldigi-o-otel.

[6] Interviewee 1, Interview By Mahmut Cengiz, Personnel Interview, September 2019.

[7] Interviewee 2, Interview By Mahmut Cengiz, Personnel Interview, September 2019.

[8] Interviewee 1, op cit.

[9] “Marmaris’teki darbeci timin komutani Binbasi Sukru Seymen: Tuzaga Dusurulduk.”, CNN Turk, accessed on September 2, 2019 from https://www.cnnturk.com/turkiye/marmaristeki-darbeci-timin-komutani-binbasi-sukru-seymen-tuzaga-dusurulduk.

[10] Interviewee 2, op cit.

[11] “The Respondent X, Interview By Mahmut Cengiz, Personnel Interview, August and September 2019.

[12]  Ibid.

[13]  Ibid.

[14] “Bizi 4 Saat Kim Bekletti, Onun Cevabini Ariyorum”, Oda TV, accessed on August 25, 2019 from https://odatv.com/bizi-4-saat-kim-bekletti-onun-cevabini-ariyorum-2102171200.html.

[15] “Bizi 4 Saat Kim Bekletti, Onun Cevabini Ariyorum”, Oda TV

[16] “The Respondent X, Interview By Mahmut Cengiz, Personnel Interview, August and September 2019.

[17]   Ibid.

[18]   Ibid.

[19]   Ibid.

[20]   Ibid.

[21]   Ibid.

[22]   Ibid.

[23]   Ibid.

[24]   Ibid.

Categories: Turkey

About the Author(s)

Dr. Mahmut Cengiz is an Assistant Professor and Research Faculty with Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC) and the Schar School of Policy and Government. Dr. Cengiz has international field experience where he has delivered capacity building and training assistance to international partners in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. He also has been involved in the research projects for the Brookings Institute, European Union, and various U.S. agencies.