How I survived the coup: Turkish president’s own story

Ten minutes later and they'd have taken me, says Turkey's president.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters outside his residence in Istanbul, Turkey, early July 19, 2016.  Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Palace/ Reuters
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters outside his residence in Istanbul, Turkey, early July 19, 2016. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Palace/ Reuters

ISTANBUL // Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims he narrowly escaped assassination on the night of the attempted coup last Friday.

In a dramatic account, Mr Erdogan described his escape from plotters who stormed his hotel in the resort town of Marmaris, on the Aegean coast, where he was on holiday.

He said he made his getaway to a plane bound for Istanbul only minutes before the rebels entered the hotel.

“Had I stayed 10, 15 additional minutes, I would have been killed or I would have been taken,” Mr Erdogan said.

Addressing hundreds of supporters outside his Istanbul residence early yesterday, he responded to calls for the death penalty with a simple statement: “You cannot put aside the people’s demands.”

His spokesman yesterday hit out at suggestions from Fethullah Gulen, the imam based in the US who is blamed by Mr Erdogan for orchestrating the uprising, that the president organised it to strengthen his position.

“It is really nonsensical,” Ibrahim Kalin said. “This is no different really than claiming 9/11 was orchestrated by the US, and that the Paris and Nice attacks were orchestrated by the French government.”

Turkey’s state-run news agency says the courts have ordered 85 generals and admirals to be jailed pending trial over their roles in the failed coup attempt, in which 208 government supporters and 24 of the instigators of the coup were killed.

Dozens of others are still being questioned, while thousands suspected of involvement in the coup attempt are said to have been rounded up and as many as 20,000 state employees removed from their posts.

But many analysts agree that the main achievement of the coup has been to strengthen Mr Erdogan’s power.

Bayram Balci, Turkey expert at Ceri Sciences Po in Paris, said that the coup was nothing less than a “gift from heaven” for Erdogan.

“He presents himself as the saviour of democracy, he starts a new life and this will increase his powers,” said Mr Balci.

Faruk Logoglu, a former Turkish ambassador to the US and an opposition party a member of parliament from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), said that the coup “will reinforce Erdogan’s powers and allow him to limit the freedoms that remain.” The outcome would feed Erdogan’s desire to seek constitutional change for a presidential system in Turkey at a time when he already has unprecedented powers over politics, the economy and the media in Turkey.

“Erdogan is going to be seen as very strong. He has lots of charisma, he shows both authority and authoritarianism.”

But Dorothee Schmid, a specialist on Turkey at the French Institute for Foreign Relations (IFRI) Schmid said all would now not be plain sailing for Erdogan who was leading a deeply polarised country where confidence in the political process has sunk. “He is also leading a state that is more and more in a state of disorder, a country which is more and more difficult to control,”

* Associated Press

Published: July 19, 2016 04:00 AM

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