The moment the coup attempt started to foil

The moment the coup attempt started to foil

As Turkey is heading toward the first anniversary of the July 15, 2016, military coup attempt, new details about the plot and how it started to fall apart are emerging. 

Documents and indictments show that as the coup soldiers started their operation in the headquarters of the Turkish General Staff, they first raided the offices of Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Yaşar Gürel. Since the cabinet chiefs of both acted together with the coup plotters, both generals were seized by force.

At 21:30, directives signed by Brigadier Gen. Mehmet Partigöç, as the director of the Personnel Planning and Direction of the headquarters, were started to be posted to all related units of the Turkish Armed Forces through the Message and Document Delivery System (MEDAS) of the military.

The first message was called “Appointments,” delivered to the units at 21:28 when the “Peace at Home Council,” as the plotters called themselves, appointed and promoted new names to ranking positions that were already full. Partigöç, as an alleged member of the council, for example, was promoted in that message to a nonexistent position as an assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff.

The second message titled “Participations,” which decided on which units should do what according to the coup plot, was delivered through the system at 21:53.

The third message was titled “Martial Law Directive,” delivered at 22:21 and claimed from that point onward that the council had seized the power in Turkey and imposed a martial law, which is required to be applied by all units at once. 

Those messages and especially the last one was a mistake. It was a breach of the inner protocols of the Turkish military messaging system. Messages with the highest “Thunderbolt” urgency level were understood as being sent by or on behalf of the Chief of Staff himself. Partigöç’s authority was not enough to send messages with highest urgency levels after working hours. Another mistake that he did in the messages was the use of “Chairman of the Council of Peace at Home,” without any name and rank.

The first commander to detect the inconsistency in the messages was Gen. Ümit Dündar, the commander of the First Army based in Istanbul. Dündar ordered his superiors not to obey the directive from the headquarters in Ankara and tried to reach Akar and Güler, but he couldn’t since both were taken and held under arrest by the coup soldiers at Akıncı (now Mürted) air base near Ankara, which was used as the headquarters of the coup soldiers. 

Dündar then put the First Army units, which are loyal to the government, on alert against those seemingly acting upon the orders of the illegal network of Fethullah Gülen, the Islamist preacher living in the U.S.
In his testimony to the Parliamentary Investigation Commission about the coup plot, Dündar, now promoted as the Deputy Chief of Staff, said the “Martial Law Directive” was a “fake order” signed by Partigöç.

Dündar was one of the generals who contacted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on the night of the coup attempt, later reporting to Erdoğan, who was on a family holiday in the Aegean resort of Marmaris, that Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport was secured from plotters and was safe for landing, which he did and later delivered a speech calling on people to take to the streets against the coup soldiers, an evidence of his presence following the Facetime connection he established live on private broadcaster CNN Türk to announce that the coup plot failed to reach him and should be resisted against.

A high-ranking source told Hürriyet Daily News that if Partigöç and plotters have not made that formality mistake in sending coup messages to military units, the incidents could have unfolded differently, many units might have been deceived at least in the beginning and it could have been more difficult to suppress the coup attempt.