President Recep Tayyip Erdogan heads an emergency meeting of the National Security Council following the July 15 coup attempt. Ankara, Turkey, July 20, 2016 (Kayhan Ozer/Pool/Associated Press)

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan heads an emergency meeting of the National Security Council following the July 15 coup attempt. Ankara, Turkey, July 20, 2016 (Kayhan Ozer/Pool/Associated Press)

In the wake of the attempted coup that began in Turkey on the evening of July 15 and was quickly thwarted, it was unsurprising that the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan started to crack down on those who plotted to unseat it. The increasingly authoritarian initiatives to reduce the independence of the judiciary, restrict media freedoms, and punish expressions of dissent by citizens and foreigners alike provided ample indication that Erdoğan will not brook opposition.

Further, the initiative to remove the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) from power was not a bloodless one, as were Turkey’s four previous coups in 1960, 1971, 1980, and 1997 (if not the days that followed). Nearly 300 people were killed and thousands injured, civilians bulldozed by military tanks in the middle of the street, and government officials targeted with bullets to the head. A resounding response might thus be expected from any government. Nonetheless, the pace and severity has still taken most observers by surprise, and all are struggling to follow the rapidly unfolding events. Yesterday, Erdoğan declared a state of emergency for Turkey, allowing his government and local officials to use measures such as restricting travel, seizing materials, banning public assembly, and to rule by decree. Quickly following this announcement, Turkey suspended the European Convention on Human Rights, freeing the government from its obligations. Read more