Turkish military forces said their attempted coup Friday was a response to the increasingly autocratic rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The group said, in a statement shortly after it closed down bridges, they seized control “to reinstall the constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms, to ensure that the rule of law once again reigns in the country, for the law and order to be reinstated.”
What has Erdogan done?
A number of journalists have been jailed since Erdogan was elected Turkey’s president in 2014. He served as the country’s prime minister from 2003 to 2014.
In October, 2015 police in Turkey detained Bulent Kenes, the editor-in-chief of an opposition English-language newspaper for posting tweets critical of the president.
The charges were laid under a rarely used law which barred insulting the country’s president. A former Miss Turkey and nearly 2,000 other people were also targets of the seldom used law, causing free speech advocates in the country to condemn Erdogan for trying to “silence and intimidate critics.”
Erdogan, however, rejected that, instead saying he had a large swath of offensive articles against him and his family as proof.
Similarly, Erdogan tried to prosecute a German comedian who insulted him. That resulted in a London newspaper having an international “President Erdogan offensive poetry competition” which Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London, England and now the country’s top diplomat, won.
Human Rights Watch has also accused Erdogan of being involved in the firing of journalists critical of his government as well as adopting intelligence legislation that outlawed not just the leaking of confidential information but also its publication.
WATCH: Citizens in Turkey have taken to the streets in support of the government after the military said they had taken control in a coup attempt.
Human Rights Watch also accused Erdogan of leaning on the judicial system to quash corruption investigations against his government:
“As for the investigation into his government’s corruption, Erdogan quickly intervened to quash the probe. He ordered the reassignment of thousands of police officers and hundreds of judges and prosecutors, and the four prosecutors who started the corruption investigation are now themselves under investigation. New prosecutors, in turn, have begun to dismiss the corruption cases.”
But Erdogan won reelection in November 2015, with just over 49 per cent of the vote. At the time Erdogan said the people voted for “stability” after a string of terrorist attacks left 130 people dead.
“The will of the people … opted for stability,” Erdogan said. “The developments in that short span of time made the people say: ‘there is no way out other than stability.”‘
And an Amnesty International report suggested that “the right to free assembly,” “excessive use of force by police and ill-treatment in detention” increased “markedly” since parliamentary elections in June.
A 95-page report, written in September 2015 by a group of British lawyers and commissioned by an exiled Erdogan opponent, accused the Turkish government of restricting freedom expression, shuttering websites, and subjecting prisoners to “degrading treatment” according to The Guardian.
The report, funded by former Erdogan ally-turned outright critic Fethullah Gulen, focused on his followers and claimed up to 40,000 of his followers have been removed from public positions, arrested or, in some cases, detained, according to The Guardian.
What happened in the attempted coup?
A portion of the Turkish military attempted to seize control of the country Friday, seizing the state broadcaster and declaring martial law in the process.
“The power in the country has been seized in its entirety,” BBC reported a statement from the military as saying.
Erdogan, meanwhile, urged his followers to rise up against the military, via a Facetime interview with a Turkish broadcaster. He was reportedly on vacation at the western resort of Bodrum when the coup was launched.
Loud explosions were in heard in Turkey’s capital of Ankara Friday, and Turkey’s state-run news agency reported military helicopters and military jets could be seen in the sky.
Earlier in the evening, military forces closed Istanbul’s Bosphorous and Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridges.