Turkish Journalist: Erdogan’s FaceTime Call During 2016 Coup Was Staged

What was once believed to be a game changer during the critical moments of the Turkish coup, Erdogan’s FaceTime call would be a staged one.

Abdullah Ayasun

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When the putschist troops commandeered tanks and occupied key positions in Ankara and Istanbul in an ill-fated attempt to remove Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government from power on the night of July 15 in 2016, President Erdogan did something unexpected: he connected to an anchorwoman on CNN’s Turkish offshoot via a FaceTime call that was broadcast live on TV. In that iconic speech, Erdogan called on his supporters to confront the coup plotters.

Erdogan’s televised call put an end to an anxious wait among his core supporters by clearing the fog of ambiguity about his whereabouts, something that fueled fears that he might well have been captured by the pro-coup factions of the Turkish military when he had been absent from public view for a while. The feared scenario proved short-lived as Erdogan emerged as defiant as ever and professed his faith in his unswerving followers to combat the troops on the streets by all means necessary. That call became a turning point for the evolving course of events as hundreds of thousands of civilians quickly overwhelmed a few thousand putschists who gave the look of a ragtag, ill-organized bunch of disparate groups with little idea over what they were doing.

Hande Firat, the anchorwoman at CNN Turk who held the FaceTime call with Erdogan during the critical moments of the July coup, later recounted the scene in an interview with Euronews in 2017 when the country remembered the first-year anniversary of the bungled military attempt in government-sponsored rallies and events across the country. Firat contacted Hasan Dogan, President Erdogan’s Chief of Staff, who was with Erdogan on Marmaris, an Aegean coastal holiday resort, during the coup night.

“Until the broadcast of the coup declaration I shared on-air the information I received from Hasan Doğan, which was that the President was following events closely; that he emphasized the importance of democracy; and that he would soon make a statement,” she told Euronews.

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Abdullah Ayasun

Boston-based journalist and writer. Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. 2023 WHCA Scholar. On art, culture, politics and everything in between. X: @abyasun