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Who Was Behind the July 15, 2016 Military Uprising in Turkey?

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Who Was Behind the July 15, 2016 Military Uprising in Turkey?

Mahmut Cengiz

The July 15 military uprising of 2016 has continuously served as a pretext for the Turkish government to crackdown its opponents. The government has made up a flimsy story of an attempted coup, including blame for the Americans behind it, and expects its people to believe the story without question. However, many details of the uprising are full of contradictions and dark points. So far, whoever questions the uprising outside the precepts of Turkey’s official government’s story has found himself or herself in jail. The suspicious attitude of the government creates curiosity about what happened prior to- and during – the July 15 uprising. Aiming to enlighten the dark points of the attempted coup, this article utilizes open sources as well as interviews[1] with military officers who made analyses on the attempted coup.

Turkey’s history since the 1960s is replete with both attempted and successful military coups. The lessons from these coups is that the coup plotters have shrouded their plans well, so that it has taken many years to learn about the facts of each coup. For example, major Samet Kuşçu who made great efforts to prevent the May 27, 1960 coup was labeled as an American spy and traitor in 1959. However, it is understood today, many long years later, that he had made attempts to reach out to Turkey’s Prime Minister Adnan Menderes to let him know about the coup attempt. Menderes did not give serious attention to Kuşçu, and he, and his country paid a dear cost.[2] The coup plotters of September 12, 1980 were declared as heroes for many years; however, analysts and politicians learned many years later that they ignored warnings to prevent clashes between right wing and left wing groups[3] and waited far too long for  military interference, resulting in the arrests of 650 thousand people.[4]

Similar to other military coups, the government has made efforts to cover up many details of July 15 attempted coup, and it seems that it will take some time to have answers for the questions about the attempted coup. Rather than preventing or conducting a fair investigation, the government has preferred to use the attempted coup as a pretext to crackdown its opponents, victimizing thousands of people and their families who are not involved in the attempted coup.[5]

While President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government identified the July 15 incident as a military coup, the chief opposition party, People’s Republican Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi-CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu defined it as a “controlled military coup.”[6] The former U.S. Vice President, Joe Biden, stated that he had the feeling of watching a video game during the coup.[7] When a journalist asked then-prime minister, Binali Yıldırım, if there was a suspicious project he did not like, Yıldırım replied, “July 15.”[8] The jailed elected political party leader Selahattin Demirtaş, the former leader of People’s Democratic Party (HDP), in his speech right after  the July 15 coup stated that President Erdoğan was well-prepared for the coup attempt and positioned himself to benefit from its results.[9] Despite different identifications and descriptions, there is only one reality – the July 15 military uprising was a turning point in Turkey’s history – and has resulted in the creation of more authoritarian government. Turkey recently seems to have distanced itself from Western values and now its government rules with a Middle Eastern style of dictatorship.

It seems that a small fraction of military officers attempted to plot a badly-orchestrated coup, and they deserved the label of “so-called coup plotters.”  Like committing hara-kiri, they launched the coup at prime time, closed only one lane of Bosporus bridge and partially controlled the Istanbul airport. No politicians were targeted by the so-called plotters, and they did not aim to control whole media outlets –except the state TV channel TRT1 which has a limited audience.

A few suspicious bombings in Ankara occurred on the night of the attempted coup. The indictment stated that F16s, wing numbers 105 and 110, bombed the parliamentary building and the police headquarters, respectively. However, it was understood that wing number 110 did not fly on July 15  and July 16 and wing number 105 took off 2:33 am so that it was impossible[10] for the 2:35 am bombing of the parliamentary building.[11] Moreover, the F16 pilot indicted for the parliamentary building bombing did not fly on July 15. [12] Also, it  has been determined that the explosives inside the parliamentary building detonated by remote control on the ground, not by an F16 in the air.[13] 

On the other hand, the post-coup period unfolded another group of plotters consisting of politicians, bureaucrats, and military officers who seemed to be well-prepared to let a controlled coup occur and benefit from its results.[14]  They are deservedly called “counter-coup plotters”.[15] Despite these government officials’ obvious failure to learn and to prevent attempted coups, they were awarded after the attempted coup by keeping their positions or being promoted to higher positions, and that indicates they satisfied the government’s desire to create a pretext for turning Turkey’s parliamentarian system into an extreme dictatorial one.

Timeline of July 15 Incidents

With the hour of its start, this attempted July 15, 2016 coup differs from coups staged in different countries. This coup launched during prime time on a Friday night when most people were wide awake, and many citizens were on the streets. The military tanks appeared on the streets of Turkey’s Ankara and Istanbul at 10 pm the same night. Gunshots were heard in both cities, and helicopters flew overheads at 10:50 pm.  By at 11:25pm, the military issued a statement announcing that the country was under the control of the Peace at Home Council. President Erdoğan addressed the nation via Facetime, urging citizens to flow to the streets in order to stand against the military uprising. Erdoğan’s call was announced from the minarets of mosques all over the country with the unusual sounds of prayer calls. The Justice Minister announced at 1:00 am on July 16 that the members of a movement loyal to Fethullah Gülen, a self-exiled cleric in the United States, specifically Pennsylvania, and that the army was behind the coup. Erdoğan’s aircraft landed in Istanbul at 3:20 am. The soldiers on Bosporus bridge surrendered at 6:40 am but were brutally attacked by civilians – one of them was beheaded.     

Why was it a Gift from God?

In his speech in the early hours of the coup attempt, Erdoğan said, “This is a gift from God”.[16] It did not make sense why a leader of country considered the coup as a gift, because several hundred innocent people had lost their lives, and state agencies had failed to foil the coup. A dawn of understanding came to Turkey’s citizens in the early hours on July 16, when 3,000 + judges and prosecutors, followed by thousands of military and police officers, were suspended and then arrested.  Turkey’s President Erdoğan and his inner circle were well-prepared to benefit from the coup’s results. A common-themed question came to Turkey’s citizens –why did Erdoğan need to seek for such an “internationally-accepted pretext.”

The police investigations in December 2013 and February 2014 left Erdoğan no chance to be more authoritarian and to control whole institutions of the government. These investigations, based on solid evidence, proved that Erdoğan, his family members, cabinet, bureaucrats, and inner circle were implicated with corruption, illegally transferring weapons to Syria as well as mysterious relations with the Quds Force branch of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corpses (IRGC), which was designated as a terrorist organization by United States in March 2019.

The Zarrab’s Economic Jihad Case

While the anti-drug police were investigating illegal money transfers in a drug investigation, the police ran into an Iranian money launderer and illicit facilitator, Reza Zarrab, whose co-owned exchange office in Istanbul was used by drug traffickers to transfer money. When the police put a lens on this Iranian criminal, they launched another investigation, revealing his scheme to establish a bribing system to evade U.S. sanctions. Using counterfeit documents, Zarrab opened escrow accounts in Turkey’s state banks, giving millions of dollars of bribes to Turkey’s ministers and bureaucrats. Turkey’s police investigation resulted in the arrests of Zarrab, the sons of four ministers who were exploited by their fathers to disguise their corrupt transactions, as well as the director of a State Bank on December 17, 2013.

Zarrab paid bribes to the prison, and he was released from the prison in February 2014. In the meantime, Erdoğan tended to try to shut down the criminal case and he applied pressure on the Judiciary – and, incredibly, identified Zarrab as a philanthropist. Interestingly, Zarrab was arrested by FBI agents when he traveled to Miami with his family on March 19, 2016 as a result of another investigation launched in the U.S. The U.S. prosecutors used Turkey’s evidence against Zarrab who pled guilty and confessed to his corrupt transactions before a U.S. jury. He also gave some messages that he continued evading U.S. sanctions, with the approval of Erdoğan in June 2014, even after he was released.[17]

Erdoğan’s Pool System Case

The December 25 investigation in 2013 revealed a corrupt Erdoğan scheme that was a money pool system whereby he received commissions from government contracts provided to businesses, which, at one time meant, an easy 10 million dollars for him from a few contracts. The system created Erdoğan’s businessmen, most of whom currently own media outlets in Turkey. The police proved that Erdoğan’s son, Bilal Erdoğan, received money bribes from local and foreign businessmen, and also revealed how one al Qaida financier businessman was allowed to enter Turkey illegally.[18]

The Scandal of MIT Rigs

The scandal of the National Intelligence Agency (Milli Istihbarat Teskilati, or MIT) rigs in January 2014 proved that there was an illegal weapons transfer to Syria.  On a tip, the military stopped two lorries destined to Syria. However, the drivers hampered the search of the lorries. The prosecutor was obstructed by the mayor of Adana province, and the drivers headed to Syria. Later, details revealed that the weapons were transferred to one of al-Qaida affiliates. Can Dündar, the former editor to Cumhuriyet Daily, published the video footage of lorries with weapons. Then, he was jailed, but left the country immediately upon his release.[19]

Iranian Quds Force Investigation

The police investigation that launched in 2012 on Turkey’s branch of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corpse (IRGC) unfolded terroristic activities of 26 IRGC members and their Turkish counterparts in Turkey. They were linked to the highest levels of bureaucrats and politicians in Turkey’s government. The investigation revealed their attempt to target the U.S. Consulate and a nuclear research center in Istanbul.  Interestingly, the organization’s members in Turkey’s bureaucracy shut down the case and also imprisoned police investigators, prosecutors and judges, labeling them as terrorists.[20] In the meantime, 26 IRGC members left the country, despite lots of evidence and wiretappings that showed their links to the crime and terrorism.

These investigations and scandals confirmed that politicians and bureaucrats at the highest levels of government had committed crimes. It was high likely that these politicians and bureaucrats were going to find themselves in the jails. Therefore, they have started to scheme to design the country into a more authoritarian state in order to have guarantees they would never be investigated for corruption. As a result, they needed a “gift from god”, a pretext to serve as a convincing reminder to their citizens and the international audience a need for authoritarian control However, existing contradictions and suspicious attitudes about the government’s efforts to cover its dark points and the attempted coup have negatively affected any legitimacy by investigations to target government’s opponents.

Post-Coup Period

Benefiting from the results of an attempted coup, Erdoğan swept to power by eliminating his rivals and opponents who have been considered as riskier groups because they are not loyal to Erdoğan’s regime. The government has targeted Gülenists, Kurds, and Seculars and has imprisoned them with scant evidence and minimal due process. First, almost 150 thousand allegedly Gülenists were fired from the public office, and around 96 thousand of them were arrested.[21] Second, the elected leader of HDP, Selahattin Demirtaş, and its co-head Figen Yüksekdağ, were arrested, and the elected municipality mayors of most of Kurdish provinces in eastern part of Turkey was removed from their positions. Third, the secular and liberal media outlets were targeted. The editors and journalists of Sözcü and Cumhuriyet Daily were arrested. Can Dündar was forced to leave the country. Also, Erdoğan silenced the media and shut down over almost 200 media outlets.[22]

The government has abstained from shedding light on the murkier, confusing and questionable points of the coup attempt, allowing only discussion of its thesis and approaches. The journalists Ahmet Şık and Ece Sevim Öztürk including Eren Erdem, the former CHP MP, who said that the July 15 coup is a hoax, were arrested due to their research. Furthermore, the government put pressure over its parliamentary investigation committee. The most critical officers who seemed to be the active members of counter-coup plotters, the head of intelligence and chief of staff, did not appear before the committee.

Although several hundred military officers attended the military coup, more than 20 thousand military personnel were purged and 7,000 of them were arrested. Subsequent to the suspension of The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and extension of detention period to 30 days, some military officers were severely tortured.[23] They were threatened with the rape of their wives and daughters if they did not sign false statements prepared by the police.[24]

The Government’s Story

It seems that so-called plotters are consisting of a tiny group of disgruntled military officers, including seculars, ultra-nationalists, and Gülenist officers, who believed the power of military coup in changing the governments.[25] Also, some military officers found themselves in the coup, because they complied with the directives of their commanders.[26]

The Turkish government accused Fethullah Gülen and his movement in the early hours of attempted coup. As a matter of the fact, the government made the lists of allegedly Gülenists from judiciary, police, and military and prepared to arrest them starting early July 16, 2016. It was a question how the government gathered evidence and accused thousands of these public servants linking them with the coup.

Based on the statements of two secret witnesses in the indictment, who had Sapka and Kuzgun as code names, the government asserted that two Gülen-affiliated civilians, Adil Öksüz and Kemal Batmaz, had a meeting with several Turkey military generals in a villa. Öksüz and Batmaz traveled to the U.S. and allegedly got the coup plan approved by Gülen. Then both returned to Istanbul on July 13. One of the secret witnesses who attended this meeting failed to identify other participants of this meeting during the court trials.[27]

If this coup, according to Erdoğan, had been orchestrated by Gülenists, why did Gülenists fail to make a detailed military coup plan?[28] Here are other questions:

  • Why did they exclude thousands of police and military who had been purged – those who were purged had an opportunity to get their positions back.
  • Why did they not involve in the coup over 150,000 civil servants who were purged?
  • Why did the plotters attempt to commit a military coup with only a handful of military staff?
  • Why did the helicopter technician who flew Erdoğan from his hotel to the airport in Marmaris and the F16 pilot who accompanied Erdoğan’s airplane from Marmaris to Istanbul on July 16 not take a role in the coup? Both of them were arrested for allegedly being Gülenist after the military coup. 

Gülen rejected all the allegations about his involvement in the July 15 uprising and alleged that the coup attempt may have been staged by Erdogan.[29] He asked for an independent international investigation commission to examine all the allegations. In the meantime, Gülen acknowledged that around 30 years ago, when Adil Öksüz was a student, he had been a part of a study circle within the movement.[30]

Öksüz seems to be the most critical actor among counter-coup plotters. He seemed to be on the side of so-called plotters, but his actions justified the suspicious activities of counter-coup plotters. He was briefly detained after the coup attempt and is still at large. In the records of MIT, he was coded as Timsah, the crocodile,[31] which means that he was a converted informant of MIT and, according to the Gülenists, had been assigned to implicate Gülenists in the attempted coup.

Adil Öksüz was arrested near Akıncılar Military Base on July 16, 2015. The prosecutor insisted on following Öksüz and, after taking his statement, the prosecutor referred Öksüz to the judge asking for his arrest. In spite of the fact that thousands of people were held detained in custody for many days, Öksüz was released after two days with the justification that he had a clear address, and there was no suspicion of escape. Nonetheless, the prosecutor appealed and asked his arrest from the Higher Court, but it was rejected. Öksüz flew from Ankara to Istanbul and then a mysterious person met him in the airport. However, the police interestingly did not follow him. The judges who released him were not arrested despite the purges of more than 4,000 of their colleagues.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the Leader of Republican People’s Party- CHP, questioned Öksüz and said,

“Who is this Adil Öksüz? I know who he is and they [the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government] also know who he is. I want them to give an answer. He was caught in a military zone with a mobile phone and GPS, but he was released. How is it possible that he was released, instead of being handcuffed and arrested, when he had a GPS device on him. Without knowing the answer, the coup attempt cannot be clarified. They [government] declared a state of emergency on July 20. Now they are trying to make use of the state of emergency to change the constitution and the regime. They want to switch to a dictatorial regime. They want to limit the multi-party system.”[32]

There is no video record showing Öksüz’s presence at teh Akıncılar military base; therefore, nobody knows where Öksüz had been arrested. Even as more than 1,000 lawyers were arrested, Öksüz’s lawyer was not among them. When Öksüz was under custody, the Prime Ministry’s adviser made two visits to Öksüz, confirmed by himself. He spoke Arabic with Öksüz at the arresting police station. One of Erdoğan’s political party member had a role in Öksüz’s escape. However, media news of the details of his escape were banned.

According to Turkey’s government, Akin Öztürk and Adem Huduti were the leaders of the so-called coup plotters, but no formal or informal connections were found among the two leaders and Öksüz. In the meantime, according to Eren Erdem, the former CHP MP, it was revealed that the Minister of Defense had a contact with Öksüz in Sakarya on July 14.[33]

Contradictions and Dark Points

The involvement of counter-coup plotters is full of contradictions and dark points. For example, one of the reports, dated on July 16 at 1 am and signed by a prosecutor, caused suspicion. It was one of the evidences in the indictment of Akincilar Military Base.  The report was summarizing the violent incidents that happened after the attempted coup started. However, it included some incidents that never happened – such as the surrounding of the MIT building by soldiers; the bombing of police intelligence headquarter and special forces – or that happened after 1 am, such as the bombing of the Parliamentary building and the intersection roads in front of the Presidential building.[34]  Other dark points to consider are below:

When Did Erdoğan Learn the Coup Attempt?

Erdoğan made contradictory statements about when he learned the attempted coup. His statements in national and international media gave different times. While he first stated that he learned of the coup afternoon hours on July 15, he said in his interview with CNN international on July 18 that he learned it at 8 pm on July 15. Additionally, Erdoğan said in in his interview with Al Jazeera on July 20 that his brother-in-law informed him about attempted coup.[35]

Finally, Erdoğan contradicted himself in his speech with ATV on July 30, when he said that he learned the coup from his brother-in-law at 9:30 pm on July 15 and then he attempted to reach out Head of MIT at 10 pm, but he failed. It was revealed that the head of intelligence and chief of staff had a meeting at military headquarter between 6pm and 8pm. Erdoğan kept head of national intelligence in his position despite intelligence failure.

Dark Actions in Naval and Air Forces

The July 15 uprising recorded many suspicions among several Naval and Air Force commanders. According to one military brigadier, if the Chief Force Commanders had instructed their staff to retreat to the military barracks on July 15, all incidents would have been easily prevented.[36]

Air Force commanders seemed to be in favor of the so-called coup plotters in the early hours, but then took the side of counter-coup plotters. In his statement given two days after the coup, the Chief commander of Turkey’s Air Forces said that he learned the coup from his wife at 9:30 pm; however, in his second statement 13 days after the coup, he said that he had learned of it at 7:06 pm, due to the declarations of fly ban. Even though there was a flying ban in his region on July 15, he preferred to attend his Deputy’s wedding ceremony with 22 other generals.[37] As well, he created obstacles for an Air Force General who had attempted to prevent the so-called plotters. In his visit to an Air Force Academy training camp on July 15 he said, “do not make these cadets tired, they will be tired tonight.” A group of cadets had been assigned to the Bosporus Bridge, having been told they would attend a military drill. These cadets were attacked by civilians at the Bosporus Bridge. One of them was beheaded, and others were brutally beaten. Many comments by citizens and the military alike questioned why unarmed cadets were assigned to the Bosporus Bridge, given the known danger. However, the government found pretext to shut down all its military academies.[38]

In the meantime, shootouts on the Bosporus Bridge occurred, and even civilians were killed. Turkey’s government media alleged that they were killed by the soldiers on the bridge; however, the autopsy reports refuted the media because those people were shot in the back by undetermined weapons. Their wounds were not from G3 weapons, which the soldiers on the Bridge carried.[39] Some comments underlined the responsibility by Turkey’s government death squads in both beheading of the cadet and the killing of its civilians. It should be noted that 248 civilians lost their lives,[40] and the number of suspicious killings from military is unknown.[41] Nothing would darken the night of July 15 more than the government’s decision who did not allow ballistic examinations of the firearms and guns.[42] 

The Chief of Air Force asked Akın Öztürk, who was allegedly number 1 of the so-called coup plotters, to visit Akıncılar military base and wanted Öztürk to warn the staff to comply with the fly ban. It was one of the reasons why Öztürk was seen as the number 1 of so-called plotters.[43]

The other military force that witnessed the activities of counter-coup plotters was Naval Forces. According to Ece Sevim Öztürk, the night of July 15 was the darkest day of Naval Forces.[44] The admiral of navy forces and the admiral of the fleet made a 1.5-hour secret meeting around lunch time on July 15. In his statement, the admiral of navy forces said that he left without his security guard at 7:30 pm to protect himself from the plotters, but then he said that he learned the coup at 10:23 pm, left the wedding ceremony of Deputy of Air Forces, and took a tour in Istanbul streets. No prosecutor asked him why he chose attending the wedding ceremony rather than taking necessary measures against the plotters. The admiral of navy forces learned that 29 warships sailed to Aegean Sea and Mediterranean Sea as a result of tips saying that there would be terrorist attacks. However, he did nothing to stop these ships and let his staff be, knowingly or unknowingly, part of this coup. He also attended the wedding ceremony. Both admirals trapped their staff, sailing them to high seas and turned off their cell phones and hid in a woody area in Istanbul. Also, both of them coordinated returning of selectively some ships, using their self-phones. For others, they did not reply the calling of other warship admirals. They even warned some admirals to keep their returning commands secret and not sharing with others.[45]

The admiral of the fleet interestingly gave an indirect command for other warships and then made announcement that whoever approached to the base, they would be opened fire. He took a boat and boarded one of the warships admiraled by a colonel who was in charge of conveying the commands of the admiral fleet.[46]

Dark Points in Marmaris

President Erdoğan was staying in a hotel in Marmaris for a short holiday. The fact that Erdoğan disappeared a few days ago from the July 15 attempted coup, and even he did not attend Friday praying, left doubts in people’s minds. A team of soldiers from special forces were assigned to abduct Erdoğan in Marmaris. The Minister of National Defense visited Erdoğan on July 14, travelling with a warplane. He said that he spoke about yearly assignments of military personnel.[47]

The team commander of abduction team stated that they were trapped and betrayed. The team seemed poorly prepared for kidnapping. They even asked to the stand-byers in what hotel Erdoğan was accommodating.[48] According to the statements of 47 witnesses, three helicopters without lights roamed over Marmaris between 12:30 am and 2:30 am on July 16. Security guards and police officers around Erdoğan’s hotel had opened fire, according to other witnesses. Confrontations happened between the police around the hotel and unknown attackers until 2:30 am. The confrontations left 25 police officers and 1 security guard seriously wounded.[49]

The abduction team arrived at the hotel at 3:38 am on July 16, and they were accused as the attackers in this case. One of the police officers unearthed secret helicopter team in his statement before the prosecutor. However, he was stabbed by a known gang car thieves, in a crime full of suspicious facts.[50] Another witness stated that a helicopter opened fire from the air at 1:30 am, but he was forced to correct the time to 3:30 am. Nobody knew who sent the helicopters or their pilots nor why they targeted innocent people from overhead. The video cameras of the hotels’ record up to 3:20 am on July 16 were deleted, and only a few moments were recorded by citizens living in the hotel’s neighborhood. According to one statement, the security details of Erdoğan deleted them.[51]

In the meantime, the doctor reports revealed that two police officers were killed with bladed tools at 12:43 am on July 16; however, it was recorded as 3:43 am, then changed again to 4:40 am “with weapons,” in court records. Over 3,000 citizens’ tips made to police and military police between 10 pm on July 15 and 6 am on July 16 were deleted.[52] The soldiers under the command of the abduction team said they did not use these weapons to kill the police officers, but the judge ignored them and put the evidence into court records. Erdoğan left the hotel sometime between 11:30 pm on July 15 and 1am on July 16. The commander of abduction team stated in the court that he wanted to learn who asked them to wait at Çiğli Military Airport and also who assigned them to make a raid to the hotel after Erdoğan left it. The helicopter who was going to transfer the soldiers of abduction team to Marmaris lacked fuel, and there created obstacles to refuel.[53] The warplane who was in charge of transferring abduction team after the raid were not sent to Marmaris. Several questions regarding contradictions are as follows:[54]

  • Who ordered and wanted an abduction team soldiers to wait four hours but sent them to the hotel, knowing the hotel was empty?
  • Who protected the mysterious helicopters who wounded and killed people?
  • Who trapped the abduction team?
  • Why did Erdoğan say that he had a narrow escape even though he left the hotel several hours ago?
  • Who sent a team of police officers from Izmir in order to save Erdoğan at 11:30 pm, aiming to create a fight against his alleged abduction team?
  • How did Izmir police learn about abduction attempt at 11:30 pm?
  • Why was a kidnapping team sent from Istanbul – when there was a big naval base, consisting of 4,000 soldiers, near Marmaris, whose commander was arrested – despite no involvement in the July 15 coup?
  • Why did Erdoğan not attend Friday prayer on July 15 though he never missed it?
  • Why did Erdoğan use an old photo of him teaching Qur’an to his grandson, during the military’s uprising?
  • Why did Erdoğan’s aircraft roam for 47 minutes over Canakkale-Biga?  How did he dare to fly in Canakkale where there was a huge military airbase with many of F16s in Bandirma and Balikesir bases?
  • Why did Erdoğan attempt to hide his travel plan? Why did he not use Dalaman Airport, 40 km away from Marmaris, but instead use Cildir Airport, which is 150 km away from Marmaris?

Dark Relations Among Active Actors of Counter-Coup Plotters

It appears, now that the political and military dust has settled, that Turkey’s government Head of National Intelligence Agency (HNIA), Chief of Staff (CS), and Commander of Special Forces (CSF) were part of a series of suspicious activities before and after the attempted and failed July 15, 2016 coup. For example, the Graduation Ceremony of Special Forces Expertise Course was conducted on July 14, even though it had been done on Fridays in previous years.[55] HNIA attended the ceremony for the first time in the history. He, together with the CS, came to a dinner invitation and preferred to sit at a quiet table. They had a 3 ½ hour conversation. They alleged that they spoke about the details of a yearly military consultation meeting, made in late August to decide about the future of staff. HNIA had another one-hour meeting with CSF at 11:30 pm on July 14. HNIA and CSF had a 6.5-hour meeting in total on July 14 and 15.[56]

From statements made during the court trials after July 15, it is clear that the HNIA and CS took several meetings that linked them to each other in the preparations of counter coup plotting. HNIA had another meeting with the Director of Religious Affairs on July 15, who coordinated the mosques and clerics to make frequent calls from the mosques to organize people against the so-called coup plotters.[57] 

Dark Points in Special Forces

The Special Forces are purported to have staged suspicious activities on the night of the July 15 coup. Semih Terzi, the Brigadier at Special Forces, was killed because he is alleged to have led the coup’s attempt. However, his killing raises a myriad of serious questions.  Semih Terzi had called the commander of special forces to come to Ankara in order to ask his assistance about his father’s illness.[58] Even though the CSF prepared negative reports on Terzi in the past years, he had tried to ease Terzi’s trip and removed obstacles on the flying ban for Terzi who, with that exception, flew from Diyarbakir to Ankara.

In the meantime, the martial law directive reached out to the special forces at 9 pm on July 15, giving the replacement of CSF to Terzi. At 9:20 pm, 33 special forces soldiers raided the office of the commander in chief.  Thus, before Terzi came to Ankara and took over the office, his special forces were implicated with the attempted coup. At 10:15 pm, CSF called one of his deputies and instructed that he not allow anyone else to enter the quarter except for Terzi. Terzi landed at Diyarbakir at 11:10 pm and took off to fly to Ankara by 11:59 pm. CSF called and gave a death order for the over 40 staff on July 15, including a colonel and a brigadier from special forces. CSF also gave an order to his aide-de-camp, Omer Halisdemir –CSF called Halisdemir eight times to convince him to kill Terzi.[59] Terzi landed in Ankara after 2 am on July 16 and was met by the special forces staff. He was shot by Halisdemir right after he entered the quarter of special forces. Terzi was wounded and taken to the hospital, but Halisdemir was shot dead by another officer of the special forces.[60] According to comments, CSF killed two birds with one stone. He removed all evidence as to why Terzi was targeted and silenced, and why he had assigned Halisdemir to kill Terzi.[61]

Terzi’s wife inquired his husband’s suspicious dead. Whereas his death time was recorded as 11:30 pm in military hospital report on July 15, it was 2:16 am in the report of special forces on July 16.  Suspicious of the time difference, Terzi’s wife searched about for the military hospital doctor who had signed Terzi’s report. However, she was told that the hospital did not have such a name and that in turn created shadows that the report had been prepared well before Terzi died. Then Terzi’s wife was arrested and sentenced to 18 years imprisonment for being an accomplice of her husband.[62]

How Did Foreign Countries Allegedly Take A Role in the July 15 Uprising?

Some members of the Turkey’s government blamed the United States for the attempted coup –  with very scant evidence to make the accusation.  Turkey’s current Minister of Interior stated that U.S. was behind military coup.[63] Iran’s supreme leader said, “There are strong suspicions that U.S. is involved in Turkish coup.”[64] However, they all are unfounded allegations, without a shred of evidence or data. On the other hand, Russia’s government allegedly knew of the attempted coup prior to its execution. According to some allegations, Russians took a role in protecting Turkey’s Erdoğan and foiling the coup attempt.[65] Aleksander Dugin, the Russian political analyst, visited Turkey  before July 15 in order to inform Erdoğan about the coup attempt.[66] Dugin is linked to Dogu Perincek,[67] the current leader of Turkey’s Communist Vatan Party, who is also behind the purge of Turkey’s military staff.[68] Two retired Generals have been assisting Perincek in his purges. The statements of arrested military officers in the trials confirmed that Perincek’s followers in the military have purged several officers. Perincek visited Iran last year and gave information to the Iranian government about how NATO-oriented staff were purged. Perincek said to Iran’s press, “Turkey is cleaning the connections of America from Turkish military. They are all Americanist.”[69] It requires clarification on how a communist political leader has power to design Turkey’s military when his party represents less than a one percent of the people. One possible answer: his communist followers have infiltrated Turkish judiciary and military. Note, thanks to newly- assigned generals in Turkey’s military who lean politically to Russia, Turkey’s government purchased Russia’s S400 missiles.

Conclusion

It appears the July 15, 2016 coup attempt was staged – because of the strange confrontations between amateurish and provoked so-called “plotters” and well-prepared counter-coup “plotters”. The so-called coup plotters consisted of two groups: real plotters who were scared of being purged and trapped plotters who only complied with military directives. So-called coup plotters were poorly orchestrated, and they even lacked a coup plan. They appeared as a small group of uncoordinated soldiers committing political and military suicide.

On the other hand, the counter-coup plotters were knowledgeable about prior attempted coups before the events occurred and they were clearly better prepared to benefit from its results. They planned to kill as many people as possible in order to make the coup scenario seem more realistic, and their plan is confirmed by the efforts of naval and air forces. The Head of National Intelligence Agency, Chief of Staff, the Commander of Special Forces, the Commanders of Air and Naval Forces were suspected to be the main actors among counter-coup plotters. They kept their positions or had promotions after the coup attempt, even though they failed to prevent it.

Turkey’s official government story about the perpetrators of the attempted coup lacks legitimacy, contains multiple flaws and holds several suspicions. To date, whoever questions the murky, dark and suspicious points of the government storyline about the attempted coup has been imprisoned. The attempted coup investigations, based statements of tortured officers, is far from being objective. The government implicates the coup with Gülenists, due to the role of Adil Öksüz who had a background in Gülenist movement. It seems that Adil Öksüz is under the control of MIT.

Even though the attempted July 15, 2016 is under cloud of multiple conspiracy theories, there are suspicions of an involvement of foreign forces. As opposed to underground American connections to so-called plotters, Russian connections with counter-coup plotters appear stronger.

Who is the likely culprit among all the theories?  The counter-coup plotters. Why? Because Erdoğan has had the support of Turkey’s people to render the country a more dictatorial regime and to purge thousands of Gülenists, Kurds, and Liberals from the army to replace by more Russian oriented military staff. Considering the current political atmosphere in Turkey, it may take a decade to learn what actually happened on the fateful night of July 15.  With the hope of a more open society and government in Turkey, one hopes the mystery unfolds sooner.   

End Notes


[1] This chapter used qualitative data obtained in open-ended ethnographic interviews. The dataset is comprised of 7 interviews conducted with military officers. The respondents were experts on July 15 uprising. They were selected through a snowballing technique because it was the best way to find experts on the topic. The respondents voluntarily participated in the research, and each interview lasted two hours. Each respondent stipulated to keep his/her identity confidential. Therefore, each respondent was codified to anonymize his/her identity, using letters and numbers. For instance, MO1 symbolizes the first military officer and MO2 is the second military officer.  

[2] Idris Gursoy, Dokuz Subay olayi ve Samet Kuscu (Istanbul: Kaynak Yayinlari, 2012).

[3] Halime Kirazli, “İşkencelerin ve utançların darbesi 12 Eylül”, Gercekhayat,  accessed on April 18, 2019 from http://www.gercekhayat.com.tr/kapak/iskencelerin-ve-utanclarin-darbesi-12-eylul/.

[4] Irem Koker, “ABD gizli diplomatik belgelerinde 12 Eylül darbesi”, BBC, accessed on April 5, 2019 from https://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-dunya-45499685.

[5] MO1 and MO3, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[6] “Kılıçdaroğlu: 15 Temmuz kontrollü darbe girişimidir”, BBC, ACCESSED ON April 5, 2019 from https://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-turkiye-39478777.

[7] MO2 and MO5, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[8] “Binali Yıldırım: "Hoşuma gitmeyen proje, 15 Temmuz!”, Youtube,  accessed on April 7, 2019 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XJ0W2eVcfg.

[9] “Demirtaş: Erdoğan darbe girişimini eniştesinden öğrenmedi, külliyen yalan”, Youtube, accessed on February 15, 2019 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0g_oCtwnzq4

[10] The distance between air base and the parliamentary building is around 17 miles.

[11] “Emniyet’i bombaladığı belirtilen uçak o gece yerden hiç kalkmamış”, Turkhane, accessed on May 13, 2019 from http://www.turkhane.com/15-temmuz/emniyeti-bombaladigi-belirtilen-ucak-o-gece-yerden-hic-kalkmamis-tbmmyi-bombaladigi-soylenen-ise---1037333/.  

[12] “15 Kemal Ucar”,  Haber Merkezi 3-Ekim-2017 | Kemal Uçar & Çağlar Cilara | Krt Tv,” Youtube, accessed on May 18, 2019 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw27PE2P514.

[13] Ahmet Nesin “Meclis bombalandı mı’ tartışmalarına Ahmet Nesin’den net cevap”, Grihat, accessed on March 17, 2019 from https://grihat.com/meclis-bombalandi-mi-tartismalarina-ahmet-nesinden-net-cevap/.

[14] MO1 and MO5, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[15] MO4, M05, MO6, and MO7, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[16]Darbe Girişimi Allah'ın Bir Lütfudur ''ERDOĞAN”, Youtube, accessed on January 16, 2019 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_BiFgBGNSY.

[17] Mahmut Cengiz and Roth Mitchel, The Illicit Economy in Turkey (Maryland: Lexington, 2019).

[18] Cengiz and Roth, The Illicit Economy in Turkey.

[19] Cengiz and Roth, The Illicit Economy in Turkey.

[20] Cengiz and Roth, The Illicit Economy in Turkey.

[21] “Turket post crackdown”, Turkeypurge, accessed on April 17, 2019 from https://turkeypurge.com/.

[22] “Turket post crackdown”, Turkeypurge, accessed on April 17, 2019 from https://turkeypurge.com/.

[23] “15 temmuz darbe girişiminden sonra Dayak yiyen darbeci rütbeli askerler” Youtube, accessed on June 2, 2019 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2N6vZT-YqF0    

[24] MO2 and MO45, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[25] All interviewed seven military officers, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[26] MO1 and MO4, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[27] MO3 and MO5, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[28] MO3 and MO4, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[29]Fethullah Gülen: Turkey coup may have been 'staged' by Erdoğan regime”, Guardian, accessed on June 6, 2019 from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/16/fethullah-gulen-turkey-coup-erdogan.

[30]Gulen admits meeting key figure in Turkey coup plot, dismisses Erdogan’s ‘senseless’ claims”, France24, accessed on May 28, 2019 from https://www.france24.com/en/20170718-gulen-admits-meeting-key-man-turkey-coup-plot-dismisses-erdogan-senseless-claims

[31] Saygi Ozturk , Hayalet Imam (Istanbul: Dogan Kitap, 2018).

[32]Kılıçdaroğlu'ndan önemli Adil Öksüz açıklaması” CNN TURK, accessed on Aril 13, 2019 from https://www.cnnturk.com/video/turkiye/kilicdaroglundan-onemli-adil-oksuz-aciklamasi.

[33] “14 Temmuz'da Adil Öksüz'le Sakarya'da görüşen bakan kim?”, Youtube, accessed on April 3, 2019 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3owB_w2DSU.

[34] “Nedim Şener ve Ahmet Dönmez'in '15 Temmuz'u sarsacak belge' tartışması”, Ahval News, accessed on Jue 7, 2019 from https://ahvalnews.com/tr/15-temmuz/nedim-sener-ve-ahmet-donmezin-15-temmuzu-sarsacak-belge-tartismasi.

[35] “Erdoğan Ne zaman Öğrendi?’ Tartışmalarını Bitirecek Görüntü”, I Gazeteport, accessed on Jne 4, 2019 from http://gazeteport.com/2016/erdogan-ne-zaman-ogrendi-tartismalarini-bitirecek-goruntu-60667/.

[36] MO1 and MO6, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[37] MO2 and MO3, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[38] MO3 and MO7, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[39] MO2 and MO4, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[40] 15 Temmuz darbe girişiminin acı bilançosu! Kaç kişi şehit oldu?”, Sabah, accessed on June 8, 2019 from https://www.sabah.com.tr/gundem/2017/07/10/15-temmuz-darbe-girisiminin-aci-bilancosu-kac-kisi-sehit-oldu.

[41] MO1 and MO2, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[43] MO2 and MO5, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[44] “Ece Sevim Ozturk-Darkest Day of the Turkish Navy,” Youtube, accessed on Aril 28, 2019 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABuNXIX2kOw.

[45] MO1 and MO4, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[46] MO2 and MO5, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[47] MO1 and MO6, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[48] MO3 and MO4, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[49] MO2 and MO5, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[50] MO2 and MO7, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[51] MO1 and MO4, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[52] MO1 and MO2, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[53] MO2 and MO6, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[54] MO1 and MO2, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[55] MO3 and MO4, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[56] MO3 and MO4, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[57] MO3 and MO4, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[58] MO2 and MO7, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[59] MO2 and MO7, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[60] MO2 and MO7, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[61] MO2 and MO7, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[62] MO2 and MO7, Interview by Mahmut Cengiz, Personal Interview-Skype, March 2019.

[63]Darbe girişiminin arkasında ABD var”, Yenisafak, accessed on May 24, 2019 from https://www.yenisafak.com/gundem/darbe-girisiminin-arkasinda-abd-var-2495442.

[64] “Hameney: Darbenin arkasında ABD var”, Haber7, accessed on May 6, 2019 from http://www.haber7.com/ortadogu/haber/2061563-hameney-darbenin-arkasinda-abd-var.

[65]15 Temmuz'da Erdoğan'ı Ruslar mı korudu?” Youtube, accessed on June 11, 2019 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MgiVOSnpWo.

[66]Putin'in Özel Temsilcisi: 14 Temmuz'da uyardık”, Hurriyet, accessed on April 28, 2019 from http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/dunya/putinin-ozel-temsilcisi-14-temmuzda-uyardik-40238167.

[67]Dugin: "Perinçek'i tanıyınca bambaşka bir Türkiye keşfettim", Vatan Partisi, accessed on May 16, 2019 from http://vatanpartisi.org.tr/genel-merkez/soru-yanit/dugin-perincek-i-taniyinca-bambaska-bir-turkiye-kesfettim-25334

[68]Doğu Perinçek Ahval'e konuştu”, Vatan Partisi, accessed on April 7, 2019 from http://vatanpartisi.org.tr/genel-merkez/soru-yanit/dogu-perincek-ahval-e-konustu-25783.

[69] “Doğu Perinçek İran basınına konuştu”, Youtube, accessed on March, 2019 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p163Xcd6v0A.

Categories: Turkey - coup

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.