The Rise and Fall of Turkey’s One-Night Coup Attempt

The latest episode of Source Material goes behind the scenes of the night senior military leaders in Turkey attempted a coup that led to hundreds of deaths.

“Let’s gather as a nation,” a holidaying President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the people of Turkey in an interview with CNN via FaceTime. “Let this minority come with their tanks and weapons and do whatever they may”

Erdogan’s instructions to his people came hours after a coup attempt by members of the Turkish military on the 15th of July, 2016. Or as the president called it: “an insurrection instigated by the parallel structure.”


The Turkish parliament was bombed, social media went down, the military seized control of the Bosphorus Bridge that connects the European and Asian sides of Istanbul. Soldiers took over the state broadcaster TRT and forced CNN off the air. Leadership participating in the coup issued a declaration stating that the “political administration that has lost all legitimacy has been forced to withdraw.”

Even before President Erdogan urged his people to resist the military takeover, the crowds had already gathered. Social media posts showed people taunting soldiers as they demanded an end to the coup. The public resistance worked and by 3AM the Turkish National Intelligence unit claimed the coup was over. A few hours later, Erdogan had returned from holiday and told the public that the coup had been stopped. Later that day, the president demanded that the United States arrest or extradite Fethullah Gulan, a Turkish thought leader living in self-exile in Pennsylvania. Gulan has denied any connection to the coup. 

The failed coup left at least 246 people dead, including 179 civilians. Thousands of members of the Turkish armed forces and judiciary were reportedly arrested and 104 members of the military were jailed for life. The government further cracked down by firing or suspending tens of thousands of educators and shuttering at least 2,000 institutions, including universities, private schools, publishers, and news organisations. All reportedly in an effort to reduce the influence of Gulan. 

In the latest episode of Source Material we see the coup in Turkey unfold and fall apart through those who experienced it first hand.