Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has become a divisive figure in the country, with many believing that he is becoming too autocratic. A spokesman for the Turkish military claimed via a hijacked Turkish TV station on Friday evening that President Erdoğan had ‘eroded Turkey’s secular traditions’.
Reuters reported that gunshots were heard all over both cities, with Turkish police and members of the public fighting back against the coup. Local journalists claimed that at one point, tanks opened fire at Turkish parliament buildings.
Thousands of tourists became caught up in the disruption, including an estimated 50,000 from the UK, according to the Association of British Travel Agents. Flights out of the city were immediately cancelled as the airports were quickly taken over. Tourists were advised to stay indoors during the events.
Daniel Worley, a Briton holidaying in Istanbul, told the Daily Mail: "We didn’t know what to do – just sit tight and hope we don’t get hurt or anything bad was going to happen.”
A group of 41 British school children also became trapped. The group from Arthur Terry School, West Midlands was waiting for a connecting flight in Ataturk airport when soldiers attempted to capture the building. They spent the night in the airport before being able to get a flight back to the UK.
Two hours after the military faction made its move, President Erdoğan was finally able to contact national TV studios, via FaceTime. He had been holidaying in the popular Mediterranean resort of Marmaris when the military faction attempted the takeover. He told the public, 49.5 per cent of whom voted for him in the last election, to ‘convene at public squares and airports’ to help fight against the coup. He went on to add that ‘there is no power higher than the power of the people’. In retaliation, the military faction declared a curfew across parts of the country. However, this did not deter large crowds gathering in both Ankara and Istanbul to oppose the takeover.
By the morning of 16 July, President Erdoğan was able to land in Istanbul’s Ataturk airport. It marked an end to the revolt, with the military faction losing its control of key strategic points. By lunchtime, around 3,000 members of the Turkish army had been arrested. However, there were reports of isolated pockets of fighting happening across the country throughout the day.
There have not been any reports of tourists being killed or injured in the disturbance. Most are believed to have been holidaying on the Turkish coast, much of which was unaffected. Flights in and out of the country resumed normal service as of 18 July, although travel agent Thomas Cook offered to refund customers due to fly out to Turkey on 17 July. UK travellers have been urged to follow advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) who told those heading to the region: “The situation in Turkey appears to be calming following an attempted coup overnight on 15-16 July. The security environment, however, remains potentially volatile. Following earlier disruption, flights to and from airports in Turkey are returning to normal, although some disruption remains and you should check with your airline or tour operator before travelling.”
The attempted coup has also dealt a blow to Turkey’s hopes of increased tourism. The country experienced 10-per-cent fewer visitors in the first quarter of 2016, and the coup attempt, combined with a terrorist attack on Ataturk Airport on 29 June, is likely to impact the number of travellers to the country even further.