Turkey has seen several military coups over the last 50 years, but this one is different

Turkish tanks move into position as Turkish people attempt to stop them in Ankara. Burhan Ozbilici / AP

Turkish tanks move into position as Turkish people attempt to stop them in Ankara. Burhan Ozbilici / AP

The Turkish military apparently staged a coup on Friday night,deploying military into the streets of Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey’s largest city and capital, respectively.

“Turkish Armed Forces have completely taken over the administration of the country to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms, the rule of law, and the general security that was damaged,” a statement, published by a group calling itself the “Peace at Home Council” on TRT, Turkey’s state-run broadcaster, read.

But Turkish citizens began flooding the streets in support of President Tayyip Recep Erdogan after he called for citizens to gather and repel the coup.

The military in Turkey has forced out four civilian governments since 1960.

Here’s a brief outline, with information collected from Wikipedia, Al Jazeera, Foreign Affairs, and The Wall Street Journal:

1960: The military took over the government on May 27 during a time of heightened tensions between the government and the opposition, following some loosened rules on religion, but more restrictions on press. Prime Minister Adnan Mederes was executed.

1971: The military stepped in amid economic and socio-political troubles. The chief of the general staff gave a memorandum to the prime minister, who resigned shortly thereafter. The military then had a “caretaker” government installed.

1980: The chief of the general staff announced the coup on the national channel during a time of economic stress. The years following this coup “did bring some stability,”according to Al Jazeera, but the “military also detained hundreds of thousands of people; dozens were executed, while many others were tortured or simply disappeared.” Notably, while this was “the bloodiest military takeover in Turkey’s history,” it was also “highly supported by the public, which viewed military intervention as necessary to restore stability,” according to Dr. Gonul Tol, writing in Foreign Affairs.

1997: The military issued “recommendations” during the National Security Council meeting. Al Jazeera writes that the prime minister agreed to some measures, such as compulsory eight-year education. He resigned soon after. This is often referred to as the “post-modern” coup.

“E-coupe” in 2007: The military posed an ultimatum on its website to warn the Justice and Development Party (AKP) against backing Abdullah Gul for president. He belonged to an Islamist government. “The public and the AKP were outraged, and Gul was elected,” noted Tol in Foreign Affairs. “The military’s attempt to intervene against a popular party dealt a serious blow to its standing in society, and in an early vote held right after the e-coup, the AKP increased its vote share by 13%.”

As for 2016 …

Even though Turkey has seen a few military coups in recent decades, there are some notable differences between the ones in the past and the current one.

Business Insider reached out to Tol, director of the Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies, who explained some of the differences:

“[T]he situation is still very fluid but this is a very atypical coup. In the past, the military acted on calls from the people and staged a coup against an unpopular government. That is not [the] case today. The AKP and Erdogan might be very polarizing and might have alienated an important segment of society, but they still have the backing of almost 50% of the population. And we also have not seen large-scale calls for a military intervention, security collapse, chaos, the factors that played an important role in past coups. Also missing in this coup is the chain of command. In the past, the top brass went on TV right after the coups and explained [to] the public the reasons for the intervention. That has not happened yet. So this coup might not have the backing of the top brass.”

As an endnote, Tol added that “if Erdogan survives this, his hand will be even more strengthened and he will be able to convince people more easily that a presidential system is necessary.”

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