Category 7

Examples of People’s Resistance Examples as the True Preventers of the July 15, 2016 Coup Attempt’s Success.

A Night That Solidified Democracy


Key words: July 15, coup attempt, democracy, resistance, integrity

The night of July 15 will forever be imprinted in the collective memory of Turkish citizens as a night of fear, chaos and horror. That night Turkey descended into a night of chaos and violence as a bloody coup attempt gripped the country, killing 249 civilians and police officers. An entity, judicially and officially recognized as the Gülenis Terror Group (FETÖ), operating through a group of its disciples in the Turkish military, attempted to overthrow Turkey’s legitimate and elected government. Several important and unprecedented factors prevented the coup from succeeding. Among them was the determined and courageous approach of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in solidarity with the opposition, the heroic resistance of the people, the anti-coup stance of the judiciary and the democratic posture of the mainstream media.

Turkey has a long history of coups and failed coup attempts. Turkey saw successful coups in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997. In 1962, 1963, and July 15, 2016, Turkey experienced failed coup attempts (Aslan, 2016). Of all the coups and coup attempts, this latest one proved to be the bloodiest and the most traumatizing. For the first time in Turkey’s history (Al Sharq Forum, 2016), Parliament, the Presidential Palace, the headquarters of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and of the Special Forces were bombed.

In a country where military coups are the longest established tradition, people of Turkey chose that night not to give up on democracy for the first time in their history. For this reason, we should ask which motivations and sociopolitical reasons turned ordinary individuals into heroes of democracy.

The first reason this coup attempt failed is that the nation resisted the coup attempt by taking to the streets upon President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s call. Almost from the beginning of the attempt, the Turkish people gathered at critical points that had been invaded by the coup units. Civilians placed heavy construction vehicles and cars at the entrances to barracks and prevented more coup units from taking to the streets. This resistance was at critical areas such as airports, bridges, security units and the Presidential Palace, which prevented the coup attempt from being effective. Even though coup soldiers succeeded in forcing a Turkish State Media (TRT) anchorwoman to read their statement, the public did not listen and instead entered the TRT headquarters, forcing the coup soldiers to surrender. In short, the people used every means available to them without using any weapons and did not cause any damage to public, private or state buildings. This was a noteworthy example of an effective resistance.

Another factor that led to the failure of the coup was the commitment of the government not to back down from this act of terrorism. One of the most important triggers for people taking to the streets on the night of July 15 was Erdoğan’s announcement that he would resist the coup attempt as the commander-in-chief of Turkey. He subsequently invited people to join the resistance. After realizing this was a coup attempt, Erdoğan, instead of giving up and yielding, took the risk of resisting, using his cell phone on a news broadcast to talk to the people and tell them to stand with him (CNN Türk, 2016). It is a well-known fact, even among his opponents, that Erdoğan has a strong and unusual connection with his voters, who trust his leadership. It is undeniable that this connection was very effective in driving people into the streets. For a moment, imagine that Erdoğan had never made that announcement and suppose that he asked for silence and yielded to the putschists by accepting their provisions. In this scenario, would the people have poured into the streets and risked their lives to stop the coup attempt? If the answer is no, then it is necessary to admit the crucial role of political leadership in the people’s resistance.

Erdoğan’s strong leadership was pivotal in the coup’s failure. At the same time, in the first hours of the coup attempt, Prime Minsiter Binali Yıldırım stated that the government would stand strong against the coup, and key ministers embraced this decision. Both Erdoğan and Yıldırım directed the operation successfully and provided excellent communication to the Turkish people, which played a very important role in the collective process that resulted in the successful operation against the coup attempt.

The spirit of integrity among society did not end right after the night of July 15. According to Anadolu Agency, the cross-party, pro-democracy rally held in Istanbul on Aug. 7, 2016, was the largest such gathering in Turkey’s political history. The president, prime minister and the leaders of the main opposition parties shared the same platform to speak with one voice against the coup attempt (Anadolu Agency, 2016). In so doing, they helped celebrate the public’s sense of ownership of Turkey’s emerging democracy. This sense of ownership might have been one of the primary factors that indirectly contributed into the failure of the coup attempt. Not just civilian politicians, the people at large also listened probably for the first time in Turkey’s history to the Chief of General Staff, who spoke on the same platform, denouncing the attempted coup and pledging loyalty to the civilian system of rule.

If the coup attempt had succeeded in some way, the people of Turkey would have lost the means that gave them a voice in the government, i.e., democracy. Some may think that people do not give much attention to democracy or fight to protect it (Dion, 2016). However, democracy generally makes ordinary people better off, as it strengthens and empowers them. Elites in a society can find safe and secure places in every regime. Only in democracies do ordinary people have opportunities to prosper along with rights and legal protection. And the citizens of Turkey choose not to give up on democracy that night.

Unlike in previous coups, all the people in Turkey, whether they are conservative or religious or liberal or elites, had strong motives to directly and actively resist the July 15 coup attempt. This time, democracy was crucial to everybody, even to the point of death. They saw the reality based on the political awareness they had gained and they correctly analyzed political events. They made accurate judgments and predicted the cost of the coup, so they took a stance on the right side of the conflict (Konda, 2016). That is why July 15 will be recalled as an extraordinary victory by ordinary people.

Society spotted what they could lose after a coup and did not give up, not only for things that they would have lost, but also to protect their future. Therefore, the people resisted the coup attempt at the expense of some of their lives. Their motivation to resist was strong because the people recognized that there was much to lose, including the future of their grandchildren.


“Anatomy of a Failure: The Structure, Dynamics and Repercussions of Turkey’s Failed Coup Attempt”, Al Sharq Forum, 6 August 2016, http://sharqforum.org/2016/08/06/anatomy-of-a-failure-thestructure-dynamics and-repercussions-of-turkeys-failed-coup-attempt/ (Accessed: 1 March 2017)

Aslan, Omer; “The July 15th Failed Coup Attempt in Turkey: Causes, Consequences, and Implications in Comparative Perspective”, Al Sharq Forum, 31 July 2016,

http://sharqforum.org/2016/07/31/thejuly-15th-failed-coup-attempt-in-turkey/ (Accessed:1 March 2017)

CNNTürk (2016). “Cumhurbaşkanı Erdoğan’ın Darbe Gecesi Yaptığı Çağrı Konuşması”. www.cnnturk.com.

http://www.cnnturk.com/ video/turkiye/cumhurbaskani-Erdoğan-aciklama-yapti. (Accessed: 1 March 2017).

Dion Nissenbaum, “Turkish Military’s Influence Rises Again”, Wall Street Journal, 15 May 2016,

http://www.wsj.com/articles/turkish-militarys-influence-rises-again-1463346285 (Accessed: 1 March 2017)

“Millions gather in Istanbul for mass democracy rally”, Anadolu Agency, 7 August 2016,

http://aa.com.tr/en/todays-headlines/-millions-gather-in-istanbul-for-mass-democracy-rally/623021 (Accessed: 1 March 2017

KONDA Research Institution (2016). “KONDA 26 Temmuz 2016 Demokrasi Nöbeti Araştırması”. www.konda.com.tr.

http://konda. com.tr/demokrasinobeti/. (Accessed: 2 March 2017)

Category 7

Examples of People’s Resistance Examples as the True Preventers of the July 15, 2016 Coup Attempt’s Success.

1. Ejder OKUMUŞ

The People’s Revolutionary Resistance Against The July 15 Coup Attempt


A Night That Solidified Democracy

3. Esma Adiloviç HALİLOVİC

A Nation’s Strength Lies Within The Unity Of Its People