In a televised interview seven days after the July 15, 2016, coup attempt, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım did not hide his anger toward the air forces.
Yıldırım had recounted his conversation with some commanders, saying, “I said, ‘Don’t you have other vehicles, why don’t you stop them? Why aren’t you obstructing these people’s attack on civilians?’ They kept saying, ‘the planes are not loaded; it will take two hours to load them, it will take an hour to come from the other air base.’ I was extremely annoyed. How could that be?”
Yıldırım was the angriest when he told them that the things they kept saying was not convincing, ordering them to send planes to stop the attacks. But he was told by a general to send his order in a written letter.
“That’s when I got mad. I said, ‘What are you talking about? What written order? Look, I will hold you accountable for that. Whatever I say on the phone is like a written order. Either you execute this order or you will pay the price severely.’ We could only manage to fly the planes after so much effort and that made us lose two hours,” he said.
Yıldırım’s instruction was registered in the special book of the Eskişehir air base operation center as the following: “At around 04:36, upon the order of Gen. Ziya Cemal Kadıoğlu, the H-188 authority [authority to shoot down a plane] from the prime minister by a registered phone has been taken and the pilots in Erzurum and İncirlik were instructed to take off with the H-188 authority. The planes in the air would be warned; they will protect themselves if they face hostile action and will get engaged upon the order of the Eskişehir operation center.”
The expression to be “engaged” means shooting down the plane if it does not obey the warning.
While the above conversation was taking place between Yıldırım and Kadıoğlu, Air Forces Commander Gen. Abidin Ünal was incarcerated at the Akıncı air base after having been apprehended from the Moda Sea Club in Istanbul. Many air force generals were apprehended at that sea club, where they were attending a wedding. The operation center of the air forces command in Ankara
was taken under control by coup plotters.
Four generals, whom were Nihat Kökmen, Kadıoğlu, Murat Semiz and Dursun Pak, who had left the wedding, were on their way to Eskişehir by car. Shortly before being apprehended, Ünal ordered these four generals, who were on duty in Eskişehir, to go back to their base.
The generals found out about the raid against the sea club on their way to Eskişehir and intervened in the crisis happening in the air from their car with their mobile phones.
But on top of all that, uncertainty and chaos was reigning. At that stage, it was not known who was and was not a coup plotter. Which airbase was taken by the coup plotters and which base was under the control of those opposing the coup. As these questions lingered in the air, fighter jets taking off from Akıncı base in Ankara
were waging terror on the capital and Istanbul’s air space.
Meanwhile, among the four generals on the road to Eskişehir, Semiz was driving the car, which he owned. On a duty list published that night by the coup plotters, Semiz was seen to have been assigned as the commander of the martial law in Eskişehir. In other words, the driver was a coup suspect.
The two other generals in the car, Kadıoğlu and Kökmen, were supposed to be pacified. Pak was to continue his duty, according to the list.
At around 04:30, connection between the generals and the prime minister was established and Yıldırım issued the instruction for the planes to take off to obstruct the coup plotters’ attacks from the air.
Pak said in his testimony that he and the two other generals spoke to the prime minister while Semiz did not have a conversation during the drive.
As the planes started to take off from different air bases in Turkey, the air space got under the control of the democratic forces by 06:30.
Today, Pak is on trial without detention, accused of taking part in the coup as a member of the Fetullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).
Semiz is among suspects being tried under detention.
Kökmen was appointed in the latest Supreme Military Council as the head of the Turkish military delegation to NATO, while Kadıoğlu was appointed to the Air Training Command.