Fate has put Turkey at the junction of two continents. A land bridge, meeting point and battleground, it has seen many people – mystics, merchants, nomads and conquerors – moving between Europe and Asia since time immemorial. Many have left their mark, so that the Turkish landscape is littered with Byzantine castles, Greek and Roman ruins, Seljuk caravanserais and Ottoman palaces, and the great book of Turkish history is full of remarkable and intriguing events, cultures and individuals.
Early Cultures, Cities & Clashes
Archaeological finds indicate that Anatolia (the Turkish landmass in Asia) was inhabited by hunter-gatherers during the Palaeolithic era. Neolithic people carved the stone pillars at Göbektepe around 9500 BC. By the 7th millennium BC some folk formed settlements; Çatalhöyük arose around 6500 BC. Perhaps the first-ever city, it was a centre of innovation, with locals creating distinctive pottery. Relics can be seen at Ankara's Museum of Anatolian Civilisations.
During the Chalcolithic age, communities in southeast Anatolia absorbed Mesopotamian influences, including the use of metal tools. Across Anatolia more and larger communities sprung up and interacted. By 3000 BC advances in metallurgy led to the creation of various Anatolian kingdoms. One such was at Alacahöyük, in the heart of Anatolia, yet even this place showed Caucasian influence – evidence of trade beyond the Anatolian plateau.
Trade was increasing on the western coast too, where Troy was trading with the Aegean islands and mainland Greece. Around 2000 BC, the Hatti established a capital at Kanesh near Kayseri, ruling over a web of trading communities. Here for the first time Anatolian history materialises and becomes 'real', with clay tablets providing written records of dates, events and names.
No singular Anatolian civilisation had yet emerged, but the tone was set for millennia to come: cultural interaction, trade and war would be recurring themes in Anatolian history.
Ages of Bronze: The Hittites
The Hatti soon declined and the Hittites swallowed their territory. From Alacahöyük, the Hittites shifted their capital to Hattuşa (near present-day Boğazkale) around 1800 BC. The Hittites' legacy consisted of their capital, as well as their state archives and distinctive artistic styles. By 1450 BC the kingdom, having endured internal ructions, re-emerged as an empire. In creating the first Anatolian empire, the Hittites were warlike but displayed other imperial trappings, ruling over vassal states while also displaying a sense of ethics and a penchant for diplomacy. This didn't prevent them overrunning Ramses II of Egypt in 1298 BC, but did allow them to patch things up by marrying the crestfallen Ramses to a Hittite princess.
The Hittite empire was harassed in later years by subject principalities, including Troy. The final straw was the invasion of the iron-smelting Greeks, generally known as the 'sea peoples'. The landlocked Hittites were disadvantaged during an era of burgeoning sea trade and lacked the latest technology: iron.
Meanwhile, a new dynasty at Troy became a regional power. The Trojans, in turn, were harried by the Greeks, which led to the Trojan War in 1250 BC. This allowed the Hittites breathing space but later arrivals hastened their demise. Some pockets of Hittite culture persisted. Later city-states created a neo-Hittite culture, which became the conduit for Mesopotamian religion and arts to reach Greece.
Classical Empires: Greece & Persia
Post-Hittite Anatolia was a patchwork of peoples, indigenous Anatolians and recent interlopers. In the east, the Urartians forged a kingdom near Lake Van. By the 8th century BC the Phrygians arrived in western Anatolia. Under King Gordius, of Gordian knot fame, the Phrygians created a capital at Gordion, their power peaking later under his son Midas. In 725 BC Gordion was put to the sword by horse-borne Cimmerians, a fate that even Midas' golden touch couldn't avert.
On the southwest coast, the Lycians established a confederation of city-states extending from modern-day Fethiye to Antalya. Inland, the Lydians dominated western Anatolia from their capital at Sardis and created the first-ever coinage.
Meanwhile, Greek colonies spread along the Mediterranean coast and Greek influence infiltrated Anatolia. Most of the Anatolian peoples were influenced by the Greeks: Phrygia's King Midas had a Greek wife, the Lycians borrowed the legend of the Chimera, and Lydian art was an amalgam of Greek and Persian art forms. The admiration was almost mutual: the Greeks were so impressed by the wealth of the Lydian king Croesus that they coined the expression 'as rich as Croesus', but the Lycians were the only Anatolian people they didn't deride as 'barbarians'.
Heightened Hellenic influence didn't go unnoticed. Cyrus, the Persian emperor, would not countenance this in his backyard. He invaded in 547 BC, initially defeating the Lydians, then extending control to the Aegean. Under emperors Darius I and Xerxes, the Persians checked the expansion of coastal Greek colonies. They also subdued the interior, ending the era of home-grown Anatolian kingdoms.
Ruling Anatolia through local proxies, the Persians didn't have it all their own way. There was periodic resistance from feisty Anatolians, such as the revolt of the Ionian city of Miletus in 494 BC. Allegedly fomented from Athens, the revolt was abruptly put down. The Persians used the connivance of Athens as a pretext to invade mainland Greece, but were routed at Marathon.
Alexander & After
Persian control continued until 334 BC, when Alexander and his adventurers crossed the Dardanelles, intent on relieving Anatolia of the Persian yoke. Sweeping down the coast, they defeated the Persians near Troy then pushed down to Sardis, which willingly surrendered. Having later besieged Halicarnassus (modern-day Bodrum), Alexander ricocheted ever-eastwards, disposing of another Persian force on the Cilician plain.
Alexander was more a conqueror than a nation-builder. When he died leaving no successor, his empire was divided in a flurry of civil wars. However, in his mission to remove Persian influence and bring Anatolia within the Hellenic sphere, Alexander was entirely successful. In his armies' wake, steady Hellenisation occurred, the culmination of a process begun centuries earlier. A formidable network of municipal trading communities spread across Anatolia, the most notable of which was Pergamum (now Bergama). The Pergamene kings were great warriors and patrons of the arts, and the most celebrated ruler was Eumenes II, who built much of what remains of Pergamum's acropolis. As notable as the building of Hellenic temples and aqueducts in Anatolia was the gradual spread of the Greek language, which eventually extinguished native Anatolian languages.
The cauldron of Anatolian cultures continued to produce various flavour-of-the-month kingdoms. In 279 BC the Celts romped in, establishing the kingdom of Galatia, centred on Ancyra (Ankara). To the northeast Mithridates carved out the kingdom of Pontus, centred on Amasya, and the Armenians (from the Lake Van region) reasserted themselves, having been granted autonomy under Alexander.
Meanwhile, the increasingly powerful Romans, based on the other side of the Aegean, eyed up Anatolia's rich trade networks.
Roman legions defeated the Seleucid king Antiochus the Great at Magnesia (Manisa) in 190 BC. Later Pergamum, the greatest post-Alexandrian city, became the beachhead for the Roman embrace of Anatolia when King Attalus III died, bequeathing the city to Rome. By 129 BC, Ephesus was capital of the Roman province of Asia and within 60 years the Romans had extended their rule to the Persian border.
Over time, Roman might dissipated. In the late 3rd century AD Diocletian tried to steady the empire by splitting it into eastern and western administrative units, simultaneously attempting to wipe out Christianity. Both endeavours failed. The fledgling religion of Christianity spread, albeit clandestinely and subject to intermittent persecution.
Diocletian's reforms ultimately resulted in a civil war, which Constantine won. A convert to Christianity, Constantine was said to have been guided by angels to build a 'New Rome' on the ancient Greek town of Byzantium. The city came to be known as Constantinople (now İstanbul). By the end of the 4th century Christianity was the official religion of the empire.
Rome Falls, Byzantium Arises
Even with a new capital at Constantinople, the Roman Empire proved unwieldy. Once the steadying hand of Theodosius (379–95) was gone, the empire split. The western (Roman) half of the empire succumbed to decadence and 'barbarians'; the eastern half (Byzantium) prospered, adopting Christianity and the Greek language.
Under Justinian (527–65), Byzantium took the mantle of imperialism from Rome. The emperor built the Aya Sofya, codified Roman law, and extended his empire's boundaries to envelop southern Spain, North Africa and Italy. It was then that Byzantium became a distinct entity from Rome, although sentimental attachment to the idea of Rome remained: the Greek-speaking Byzantines still called themselves Romans, and later the Turks would refer to them as 'Rum'. Justinian's ambition eventually overstretched the empire, and plague and encroaching Slavic tribes curtailed further expansion.
Later, a drawn-out struggle with age-old rivals, the Persians, further weakened the Byzantines, leaving eastern Anatolia easy prey for the Arab armies exploding out of Arabia. The Arabs took Ankara in 654 and by 669 had besieged Constantinople. Here was a new people, bringing a new language, civilisation and religion: Islam.
On the western front, Goths and Lombards advanced; by the 8th century Byzantium was pushed back into the Balkans and Anatolia. The empire hunkered down until Basil assumed the throne in 867 and boosted its fortunes, chalking up victories against Islamic Egypt, the Bulgars and Russia. Basil II (976–1025) earned the moniker the 'Bulgar Slayer' after allegedly putting out the eyes of 14,000 Bulgarian prisoners of war. When Basil died, the empire lacked anyone of his calibre – or ferocity, perhaps – and the era of Byzantine expansion comprehensively ended.
First Turkic Empire: The Seljuks
From about the 8th century, nomadic Turks had moved westward from Central Asia, encountering the Persians and converting to Islam. Vigorous and martial, the Turks swallowed up parts of the Abbasid empire, and built a kingdom of their own centred on Persia. Tuğrul, of the Turkish Seljuk clan, took the title of sultan in Baghdad, and from there the Seljuks began raiding Byzantine territory. In 1071 Tuğrul's son Alp Arslan faced down a Byzantine army at Manzikert. The nimble Turkish cavalry prevailed, laying Anatolia open to wandering Turkic bands and beginning the demise of the Byzantine Empire.
However, not everything went the Seljuks' way. The 12th and 13th centuries saw incursions by Crusaders, who established short-lived statelets at Antioch (modern-day Antakya) and Edessa (now Şanlıurfa). In a sideshow to the Seljuks, an unruly Crusader army sacked Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantines, ostensibly the Crusaders' allies. Meanwhile the Seljuks succumbed to power struggles and their empire fragmented.
The Seljuk legacy persisted in Anatolia in the Sultanate of Rum, centred on Konya. Celaleddin Rumi, the Sufi mystic who founded the Mevlevi, or whirling dervish, order, was an exemplar of the cultural and artistic heights reached in Konya. Although ethnically Turkish, the Seljuks were purveyors of Persian culture and art. They introduced woollen rugs to Anatolia, as well as remarkable architecture – still visible at Erzurum, Divriği, Amasya, Konya and Sivas. These buildings were the first truly Islamic art forms in Anatolia, and were to become the prototypes for Ottoman art.
In the meantime, the Mongol descendants of Genghis Khan rumbled through Anatolia, defeating a Seljuk army at Köse Dağ in 1243. Anatolia fractured into a mosaic of Turkish beyliks (principalities), but by 1300 a single Turkish bey (tribal leader), Osman, established a dynasty that would eventually end the Byzantine line.
Fledgling Ottoman State
Osman's bands flitted around the borderlands between Byzantine and Seljuk territory. In an era marked by destruction and dissolution, they provided an ideal that attracted legions of followers and quickly established an administrative and military model which allowed them to expand. From the outset they embraced all the cultures of Anatolia – as many Anatolian civilisations before them had done – and their traditions became an amalgam of Greek and Turkish, Islamic and Christian elements.
Seemingly invincible, the Ottomans forged westward, establishing a first capital at Bursa, then crossing into Europe and taking Adrianople (now Edirne) in 1362. By 1371 they had reached the Adriatic and in 1389 they met and vanquished the Serbs at Kosovo Polje, effectively taking control of the Balkans.
In the Balkans, the Ottomans encountered resolute Christian communities and absorbed them neatly into the state with the creation of the millet system, by which minority communities were officially recognised and allowed to govern their own affairs. However, neither Christian insolence nor military bravado were countenanced: Sultan Beyazıt trounced the armies of the last Crusade at Nicopolis in Bulgaria in 1396. Beyazıt perhaps took military victories for granted thereafter, taunting the Tatar warlord Tamerlane. Beyazıt was captured, his army defeated and the burgeoning Ottoman Empire abruptly halted as Tamerlane lurched through Anatolia.
Ottomans Ascendant: Constantinople & Beyond
The dust settled slowly after Tamerlane dragged Beyazıt away. Beyazıt's sons wrestled for control until Mehmet I emerged victorious in 1413, and the Ottomans returned to the job at hand: expansion. With renewed momentum they scooped up the rest of Anatolia, rolled through Greece, made a first attempt at Constantinople and beat the Serbs a second time.
The Ottomans had regained their mojo by the time Mehmet II became sultan in 1451. Constantinople, the last redoubt of the Byzantines, was now encircled by Ottoman territory. Mehmet, as an untested sultan, had no choice but to claim it. He built a fortress on the Bosphorus, imposed a naval blockade and amassed his army, while the Byzantines appealed forlornly to Europe for help. After seven weeks of siege the city fell on 29 May 1453. Christendom shuddered at the seemingly unstoppable Ottomans and fawning diplomats declared Mehmet – now known as 'Fatih', or Conqueror – a worthy successor to earlier Roman and Byzantine emperors.
The Ottoman machine rolled on, alternating campaigns between eastern and western fronts. The janissary system, where Christian youths were converted and trained for the military, gave the Ottomans Europe's only standing army – an agile and highly organised force. Successive sultans expanded the realm, with Selim the Grim capturing the Hejaz in 1517, and with it Mecca and Medina, thus claiming for the Ottomans the status of guardians of Islam's holiest places. It wasn't all mindless militarism, however: Beyazıt II demonstrated the multicultural nature of the empire when he invited the Jews expelled by the Spanish Inquisition to İstanbul in 1492.
The Ottoman golden age came during Süleyman's 46-year reign (1520–66). A remarkable figure, Süleyman the Magnificent was lauded for codifying Ottoman law as well as military prowess. On the battlefield, the Ottomans enjoyed victories over the Hungarians and absorbed the Mediterranean coast of Algeria and Tunisia. Süleyman's legal code meanwhile was a visionary amalgam of secular and Islamic law, and his patronage saw the Ottomans reach their artistic zenith.
Süleyman was also notable as the first Ottoman sultan to marry. While previous sultans had enjoyed the comforts of concubines, Süleyman fell in love and married Roxelana, known as Hürrem Sultan. Sadly, monogamy did not make for domestic bliss. Palace intrigues brought about the death of his first two sons, and the period after Roxelana's ascension became known as the 'Sultanate of Women'. A wearied Süleyman died campaigning on the Danube in 1566.
Sick Man of Europe
Determining exactly when or why the Ottoman decline set in is tricky, but some historians pinpoint the death of Süleyman. The sultans following Süleyman were not up to the task. His son by Roxelana, Selim, known disparagingly as 'the Sot', lasted only briefly as sultan, overseeing the naval catastrophe at Lepanto, which spelled the end of Ottoman naval supremacy. Süleyman was the last sultan to lead his army into the field. Those who came after him were sequestered in opulent palaces, having minimal experience of everyday life and little inclination to administer the empire. This, coupled with the inertia that was inevitable after 250 years of expansion, meant that Ottoman military might, once famously referred to by Martin Luther as irresistible, was declining.
The siege of Vienna in 1683 was the Ottomans' last tilt at expansion. It failed. Thereafter it was a downward spiral. The empire remained vast and powerful, but was falling behind the West militarily and scientifically. Napoleon's 1799 Egypt campaign indicated that Europe was willing to take the battle to the Ottomans. Meanwhile, the Habsburgs in central Europe and the Russians were increasingly assertive. The Ottomans, for their part, remained inward-looking and unaware of the advances happening elsewhere.
It was nationalism, an idea imported from the West, that sped the Ottoman demise. For centuries manifold ethnic groups had coexisted relatively harmoniously in the empire, but the creation of nation-states in Europe sparked a desire among subject peoples to throw off the Ottoman 'yoke' and determine their own destinies. Soon, pieces of the Ottoman jigsaw came apart: Greece attained its freedom in 1830. In 1878 Romania, Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia followed suit.
As the Ottoman Empire shrunk there were attempts at reform, but they were too little, too late. In 1876, Abdülhamid allowed the creation of an Ottoman constitution and the first-ever Ottoman parliament, but he used the events of 1878 as an excuse for overturning the constitution. His reign henceforth grew increasingly authoritarian.
It wasn't just subject peoples who were restless: educated Turks, too, looked for ways to improve their lot. In Macedonia the Committee for Union and Progress (CUP) was created. Reform-minded and influenced by the West, in 1908 the CUP, which came to be known as the 'Young Turks', forced Abdülhamid to abdicate and reinstate the constitution. However, any rejoicing by the Turks proved short-lived. The First Balkan War saw Bulgaria and Macedonia removed from the Ottoman map, with Bulgarian, Greek and Serbian troops advancing rapidly on İstanbul.
The Ottoman regime, once feared and respected, was now deemed the 'sick man of Europe'. European diplomats plotted how to cherry-pick the empire's choicest parts.
WWI & Its Aftermath
The military crisis saw three nationalistic CUP paşas (generals) take control of the ever-shrinking empire. They managed to push back the Balkan alliance and save İstanbul, before siding with the Central Powers in the looming world war. Consequently the Ottomans had to fend off the Western powers on multiple fronts: Greece in Thrace, Russia in northeast Anatolia, Britain in Arabia and a multinational force at Gallipoli on the Dardanelles. It was during this turmoil that the Armenian tragedy unfolded.
By the end of WWI the Turks were in disarray. The French, Italians, Greeks and Armenians, with Russian support, controlled parts of Anatolia. The Treaty of Sèvres in 1920 demanded the dismembering of the empire, with only a sliver of steppe left to the Turks. European triumphalism did not count on a Turkish backlash, but a Turkish nationalist movement developed, motivated by the humiliation of Sèvres. At the helm was Mustafa Kemal, the victorious commander at Gallipoli. He began organising resistance and established a national assembly in Ankara, far from opposing armies and meddling diplomats.
Meanwhile, a Greek force pushed out from İzmir. The Greeks saw an opportunity to realise their megali idea (great idea) of re-establishing the Byzantine Empire. They took Bursa and Edirne – just the provocation that Mustafa Kemal needed to galvanise Turkish support. After initial skirmishes, the Greeks pressed on for Ankara, but stubborn Turkish resistance stalled them at the Battle of Sakarya. The two armies faced off again at Dumlupınar. Here the Turks savaged the Greeks, sending them in retreat towards İzmir, where they were expelled from Anatolia amid pillage and looting.
Mustafa Kemal emerged as the hero of the Turkish people, realising the earlier dream of the 'Young Turks': to create a Turkish nation-state. The Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 undid the insult of Sèvres and saw foreign powers leave Turkey. The borders of the modern Turkish state were set.
Atatürk & the Republic
The Turks consolidated Ankara as their capital and abolished the sultanate. Mustafa Kemal assumed the newly created presidency of the secular republic, later taking the name Atatürk – literally, 'Father Turk'. Thereupon the Turks set to work. Mustafa Kemal's energy was apparently limitless; his vision was to see Turkey take its place among the modern, developed countries of Europe.
At the time, the country was devastated after years of war, so a firm hand was needed. The Atatürk era was one of enlightened despotism; he established the institutions of democracy while never allowing any opposition to impede him. His ultimate motivation was the betterment of his people, but one aspect of the Kemalist vision was to have enduring consequences: the insistence that the nation be solely Turkish. Encouraging national unity made sense, considering the nationalist separatist movements that had bedevilled the Ottoman Empire, but in doing so a cultural existence was denied the Kurds. Sure enough, within a few years a Kurdish revolt erupted, the first of several to recur throughout the 20th century.
The desire to create homogenous nation-states on the Aegean also prompted population exchanges: Greek-speaking communities from Anatolia were shipped to Greece, while Muslim residents of Greece were transferred to Turkey. These exchanges brought great disruption and the creation of ghost villages, such as Kayaköy (Karmylassos) near Fethiye. The intention was to forestall ethnic violence, but it was a melancholy episode that hobbled the development of the new state. Turkey found itself without the majority of the educated elites of Ottoman society, many of whom had not been Turkish speakers.
Atatürk's vision gave the Turkish state a comprehensive makeover. Everything from headgear to language was scrutinised and where necessary reformed. Turkey adopted the Gregorian calendar, reformed its alphabet (replacing Arabic with Roman script), standardised the language, outlawed the fez, instituted universal suffrage and decreed that Turks should take surnames, something they had previously not had. By the time of his death in November 1938, Atatürk had, to a large degree, lived up to his name, spearheading the creation of the nation-state and dragging it into the modern era.
Working Towards Democratisation
Though reform proceeded apace, Turkey remained economically and militarily weak, and Atatürk's successor, İsmet İnönü, avoided involvement in WWII. The war over, Turkey found itself allied with the USA. A bulwark against the Soviets, Turkey was of strategic importance and received significant US aid. The new friendship was cemented when Turkish troops fought in Korea, and Turkey became a member of NATO.
Meanwhile, democratic reform gained momentum. In 1950 the Democratic Party swept to power. Ruling for a decade, the Democrats failed to live up to their name and became increasingly autocratic; the army intervened in 1960 and removed them. Army rule lasted briefly, and resulted in the liberalisation of the constitution, but it set the tone for future decades. The military considered themselves the guardians of Atatürk's vision and felt obliged to step in when necessary to ensure the republic maintained the right trajectory.
The 1960s and ’70s saw the creation of political parties of all stripes, but profusion did not make for robust democracy. The late 1960s were characterised by left-wing activism and political violence, which prompted a move to the right by centrist parties. The army stepped in again in 1971, before handing power back in 1973.
Political chaos reigned through the ’70s, and the military seized power again to re-establish order in 1980. They did this through the creation of the highly feared National Security Council, but they allowed elections in 1983. Here, for the first time in decades, was a happy result. Turgut Özal, leader of the Motherland Party (ANAP), won a majority and was able to set Turkey back on course. An astute economist and pro-Islamic, Özal made vital economic and legal reforms that brought Turkey in line with the international community and sowed the seeds of its current vitality.
Turn of the Millennium
In 1991, Turkey supported the allied invasion of Iraq, with Özal allowing air strikes from bases in southern Anatolia. After decades in the wilderness, Turkey now affirmed its place in the international community and as an important US ally. At the end of the Gulf War millions of Iraqi Kurds fled into Anatolia. The exodus caught the attention of the international media, bringing the Kurdish issue into the spotlight, and resulting in the establishment of a Kurdish safe haven in northern Iraq. This, in turn, emboldened the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who stepped up their violent campaign aimed at creating a Kurdish state. The Turkish military responded with an iron fist, such that the southeast effectively endured a civil war.
Meanwhile, Turgut Özal died suddenly in 1993, creating a power vacuum. Weak coalition governments followed throughout the 1990s, with a cast of figures flitting across the political stage. Tansu Çiller served for three years as Turkey's first female prime minister, but despite high expectations she did not solve the Kurdish issue or cure the ailing economy.
In December 1995 the religious Refah (Welfare) Party formed a government led by veteran politician Necmettin Erbakan. Heady with power, Refah politicians made Islamist statements that raised the ire of the military. In 1997 the military declared that Refah had flouted the constitutional ban on religion in politics. Faced with a so-called postmodern coup, the government resigned and Refah was disbanded.
The capture of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in early 1999 seemed like a good omen for the state after the torrid ’90s. His capture offered an opportunity to settle the Kurdish question, although a solution remains elusive with the recent conflict in southeastern Anatolia recalling the darkest days. In August 1999, disastrous earthquakes struck İzmit, ending any premillennial optimism. The government's handling of the crisis was inadequate; however, the global outpouring of aid and sympathy did much to reassure Turks they were valued members of the world community.
Rise of the AKP
There was a spectacular collapse of the Turkish economy in 2001, leading to the government's electoral defeat in 2002. The victorious party was the moderate Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party; AKP), led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Much of the support for the AKP had arisen in the burgeoning cities nicknamed the Anatolian Tigers, such as Konya and Kayseri. These cities of the interior were experiencing an economic boom, proof that the modernising and economic development projects begun earlier were finally bearing fruit.
Elections in 2007 and 2011 had the same result, as did the municipal election in 2014. The result of the 2014 election was a disappointment to many secular and left-leaning Turks, as well as to former AKP supporters who had changed their political allegiance as a result of the government's handling of the 2013 Gezi Park protests in İstanbul.
After Gezi, local authorities cracked down on any political demonstrations that were seen as anti-government. Turkish media outlets seen to be anti-government were also targeted, with some being forcibly closed or taken over by the government. Many writers, journalists and editors were charged with serious crimes, including membership of a terror organisation, espionage and revealing confidential documents. Charges under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which make it a punishable offence to insult Turkishness or various official Turkish institutions (including the president), were particularly prevalent.
A coup d'état staged by a small faction of the military in July 2016 was defeated when members of the public took to the streets to defend the democratically elected AKP government. The government and many Turks believed that the coup had been orchestrated by US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, a former close ally of Erdoğan. Official reprisals against anyone suspected of being a Gülenist, coup perpetrator or coup supporter were draconian, with thousands arrested, media outlets closed down and universities and schools purged. Unsurprisingly, tourist arrivals to the country have plunged as a result of the turmoil and the local economy is still reeling as a result. Turkish society has never been so polarised – people seem to be either entirely in support of or entirely against the AKP and President Erdoğan. The next Turkish parliamentary elections, scheduled for 2019, are sure to be interesting.