Malaysians stranded at Turkey airports

ULAANBAATAR (Mongolia) — More than 127 Malaysians are now stranded at international airports in Turkey, following a military coup attempt and a no-fly zone imposed over the country’s airspace, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said.

Of this figure, he said 27 Malaysians were from the Kelantan Islamic Foundation. They were stranded at the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, while over 100 others, on transit after an umrah trip, were now at the Esenboga International Airport in Ankara.

Most of those stranded were either on transit to a third country such as Egypt or returning from performing the umrah.

“These figures are what we have (as of 12pm Malaysian time). They were stranded after flight cancellations and a no-fly zone was declared in the country,” he told Malaysian journalists who were covering the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) Summit, which ended yesterday.

Wisma Putra, he added, would coordinate with the Malaysian Embassy in Ankara to ensure the welfare and safety of those stranded.

Zahid also advised Malaysians, including students in Turkey, not to leave their residence.

“They have to follow instructions issued by the Malaysian embassy there. Officials will contact them, if they have not been contacted, they have to contact the embassy,” said the deputy prime minister.

Following the restive situation in Turkey, Zahid asked Malaysians who intended to go there to postpone their travel plans.

In a related development, the Foreign Ministry said that a total of 260 Malaysians, including 180 students in Turkey are reported to be safe following Friday’s attempted coup.

Wisma Putra, in a statement, said the Malaysian Embassy in Ankara had been in contact with all Malaysians there.

“Malaysians requiring consular assistance due to the coup attempt may contact the embassy at +903124463547 or +903124463548 or e-mail mwankara@kln.gov.my for information,” according to the statement.

The Foreign Ministry has also opened a 24-hour hotline at 03-88874570 for the public to obtain updates.

Malaysian Students Association in Turkey (Masat), in a Facebook posting, said Masat would issue an official statement on the incident after updating information on Malaysian students there.

“It is hoped that everybody will be careful in selecting news and refer to verified news from trusted local news portal (in Turkey),” it said. — Bernama

NGO participant recalls frightening moments

KUALA LUMPUR — The situation in Istanbul was scary, with tanks patrolling everywhere and the sound of fighter jets heard all the time, said a Malaysian who is currently in Turkey.

Recounting the tense moments on the attempted coup, Aizat Shamsuddin, 24, said he was travelling by bus to Ataturk Airport in Istanbul and was detained by the military.

“The bus driver ordered us all to get out of the bus because the soldiers did not allow us to go to the airport.

“They put up roadblocks in all areas and were not allowing civilians back. I took a taxi and used another route but still could not get back,” he told Bernama via WhatsApp.

Aizat, who was on his way to Durban, South Africa, to attend a conference organised by a non-governmental organisation, was on transit in Istanbul for seven hours.

He said there was a small group of Turks who tried to provoke military personnel, adding that the group’s actions caused the soldiers to fire several warning shots into the air.

“I was with some of the locals and we fled after the shooting.

“It was a scary experience,” he said.

Aizat said he contacted the Malaysian Embassy in Turkey and then went to the lobby of a hotel located five kilometres from Ataturk Airport.

“I got into a car belonging to Turkish Airlines’ flight attendants to get to the hotel.

“We were willing to squeeze into the car in order to save ourselves. There were soldiers everywhere and it was a horrific experience,” he said.

Chinese news agency Xinhua reported heavily armed soldiers could be seen in Ankara, the Turkish capital, and Istanbul, the most populous in the country yesterday morning.

In a press conference in Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly said those involved in the coup attempt would be punished. — Bernama

Messi cancels trip to Turkey for charity game

PETALING JAYA — Lionel Messi, the world’s best player, has cancelled a scheduled flight to Turkey yesterday after the military coup attempt in the country.

He was due to take part in former teammate Samuel Eto’o’s benefit match in Antalya along with a host of other stars.

Turkish president Recep Erdogan was also reportedly set to attend and play in the star-studded event.

“We will contribute to the promotion of Turkish tourism, thanks to this organisation,” Messi was quoted in The Daily Mirror yesterday.

“President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the other government officials have supported us.”

Apart from Messi and Erdogan, Neymar, Luis Suarez, Diego Maradona, Eden Hazard, Francesco Totti, Michael Essien, Xavi, Jay Jay Okocha, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Andres Iniesta, Demba Ba, Didier Drogba and Arda Turan were also expected to attend the game.

Messi was supposed to fly in from his holiday in Ibiza but will now remain on the Balearic Island.

Proceeds from the now cancelled match were to go to the Samuel Eto’o Private Foundation.

Established 10 years ago, the charity was created as a non-profit organisation to raise awareness on the needs of the African continent.

According to its website, its goal is the protection of children and young people, providing emergency aid and encouraging education, basic health and social inclusion for the disadvantaged in order to help them create opportunities for the future.

Erdogan receives global support

WASHINGTON — The United States called on all parties in Turkey to support President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government against a coup attempt as world leaders expressed concern about the upheaval in a Nato member country which bridges Europe and the Middle East.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone and gave their support to Erdogan after Turkey’s military said it had seized power on Friday.

“The President and Secretary agreed all parties in Turkey should support the democratically-elected government of Turkey, show restraint, and avoid any violence or bloodshed,” the White House said in a statement.

Erdogan has ruled Turkey since 2003 and if the coup against him was successful, it would have been one of the biggest shifts in the Middle East in years.

The sharp-tongued Erdogan is often accused of authoritarian rule at home and has frequently fallen out with neighbours such as Israel, Iran, Russia and the European Union as he tried to carve out a greater role for Turkey in the Middle East.

But Turkey is a key ally for Washington, which has often pointed to the country as a good example of a free-market democracy in the Muslim world, even though it has a poor record on freedom of expression.

US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she supported Turkey’s civilian government and was following the events in Turkey “with great concern.”

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said the mass turnout of Turks on the streets overnight which played a critical role in thwarting a coup attempt against Erdogan.

“I welcome the strong support shown by the people and all political parties to democracy and to the democratically elected government of Turkey,” Stoltenberg said on Twitter.

The Nato chief called for “calm, restraint & full respect for Turkey’s democratic institutions and constitution.”

European Council President Donald Tusk called for a swift return to Turkey’s constitutional order, saying tensions there could not be resolved by guns.

“Turkey is a key partner for the European Union. The EU fully supports the democratically elected government, the institutions of the country and the rule of law,” Tusk said at a regional summit in Mongolia.

Those sentiments were echoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“The democratic order in Turkey must be respected. Everything needs to be done to protect human lives,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Twitter.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak condemned the attempt to overthrow the government of Turkey.

“We stand together in opposing unconstitutional attempts to undermine the people’s will, as expressed through the ballot box. Coups in any form must never be tolerated. Democratic process is the foundation of our freedom, security and prosperity,” he said.

“We hope to see stability and calm return to Turkey as soon as possible, and welcome the news President Erdogan has declared the attempted coup over.”

Israel, which last month approved a deal to restore ties frozen after a deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish ship in 2010, also condemned the coup attempt.

“Israel respects the democratic process in Turkey and looks forward to the continuation of the reconciliation process between Turkey and Israel,” foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said.

Gaza’s Islamist Hamas rulers, who have friendly ties with Qatar as well as Turkey’s ruling Islamic-rooted AKP party “condemned the failed coup attempt” and “congratulated the people and the Turkish leadership for successfully protecting democracy.”

Britain’s new Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said he was “very concerned” by events in Turkey, where many thousands of British and other European holiday-makers were spending summer vacations.

Pakistan condemned the attempt to undermine democracy and rule of law and China’s Foreign Ministry called on Turkey to restore order and stability as soon as possible.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Turkey’s democracy must be respected, according to the Kyodo news agency.
— Agencies

What next for Turkey?

ISTANBUL — He weathered anti-government protests that lasted for months in 2013.

He escaped the flames that engulfed some of his ministers in a corruption investigation nearly three years ago.

And now Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has survived a military coup — a boast many of his predecessors ousted in previous army takeovers cannot share.

In recent years, critics, foreign governments and Turkish citizens have expressed concerns about a steady decline into authoritarianism under Erdogan.

Although he won much praise in the first few years after becoming prime minister in 2003, since becoming Turkey’s first directly-elected president in August 2014, Erdogan has been accused of dictatorial ambitions.

Erdogan wants to change Turkey’s constitution, which was installed in 1980 following the last successful military coup, to adopt an American-style presidential system which would give him greater power.

Senior fellow at Foundation for Defence of Democracies in Washington Aykan Erdemir said one of the many factors of the coup was the military’s fear of the new system.

He explained the reasons for the coup included “one of the latest developments (that) has been the bill redesigning the high courts as well as Erdogan’s refusal to be impartial”.

For Sinan Ulgen, director of the Edam think tank and visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, this was not a coup by the full army as in previous cases, but undertaken by a clique who held the top general hostage.

“This was beyond the chain of command — a relatively small group in the army, who even hijacked the military top brass,” he said.

“Without the full support of the army, they lacked the assets and capabilities.”

Erdemir said the era of successful coups — as in 1960, 1971 and 1980 — is over with the public largely hostile to the prospect.

This time the country put on more of a show of solidarity, with even the three opposition parties in Parliament swiftly condemning the attempted putsch.

Erdogan, a consumate political tactician, will sense the failed coup has created opportunities to tighten his control over Turkey but faces a critical choice.

“He can build on the fact that all parties got behind him and build an era of consensus or he can use this as an opportunity to consolidate his one-man rule,” Erdemir said.

“It’s almost fully up to Erdogan — the path he chooses will have enormous consequences. The optimist in me goes for the democratic way but the realist and pessimist says Erdogan would never miss such an opportunity.”

Erdogan will come out of this stronger, Ulgen said, but “the question is whether he is willing to use that to drive towards a more consensual politics”.

“This is a unique opportunity to advance a more ambitious democracy agenda. But the more likely scenario is Erdogan using it to drive his personal ambitions and create a presidential system.” — AFP

People power quashes rebels

ISTANBUL — Defiant Turkish civilians climbed on tanks and yanked soldiers from their vehicles as Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the masses to go to the streets to show people power.

Mobs of protesters were seen marching on the streets, chanting “shoulder to shoulder against the coup” as they stopped the military from advancing. One man was pictured lying on the road in front of a tank and several others tried to rip a soldier who poked out of the tank’s observation hatch.

There were others who celebrated the military intervention by gathering on the streets and waving Turkish flags. However, their numbers quickly dwindled after government forces went head on against the rebel soldiers who had later surrendered.

Some took out their belts and started hitting the rounded up soldiers.

While the government said the coup situation was “90 per cent under control” — although some military commanders were still being held hostage by the plotters — the nation is teetering in the brink of civil war.

Erdogan said yesterday: “Another uprising attempt in Turkey could be staged at any time. It is necessary for the people to stay in charge on the streets.”

He later sent a mass text message to Turkish mobile phones imploring Turks to “stand up” for democracy and peace.

The message, which came from “RT ERDOGAN” and was signed with his full name, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also called on people to take to the streets against a “narrow cadre”.

Erdogan became president in 2014 after securing a slim 52 per cent of the votes. His Islamist views, however, remain unpopular with many as he tries to turn Turkey away from secularism. There are those who believe the coup will help them rid the government which they see no other way of deposing.

“We are terrified of civil war,” a source in Izmir told Breitbart London.

“The Army is telling us to stay indoors but government officials are telling us to go out.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey has demanded the extradition of officers who went to Greece, NTV television reports.

Greece’s defence ministry says seven military personnel and one civilian have landed there in a Blackhawk military helicopter and asked for asylum. They were arrested for illegal entry.

In public statements, Erdogan and other members of the government also directed their ire at the Fethullah Gulen movement, anchored to the spiritual teachings of an aging cleric who lives in Pennsylvania, US.

The Gulenists, once Erdogan’s friends, now supposedly sought to undermine the government through their proxies in various institutions of the state.

Erdogan appeared to accuse the coup plotters of trying to kill him, and promised to purge the armed forces, which in the past have staged a number of successful coups.

“They will pay a heavy price for this,” he said.

“This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army.”

Flag carrier Turkish Airways resumed flights yesterday. Malaysia Airports, the operator of Sabiha Gokcen International Airport, Istanbul’s second airport, said it would continue to process flights in and out of Turkey. — Agencies

Key players

Armed forces

Turkey’s military is a trusted institution, seen as the guardian of the secularist principles on which modern Turkey was founded. It has intervened in national politics a number of times, including three previous coups since 1960, and as recently as 1980, it ousted an Islamist prime minister. The military has opposed interventions abroad, but it is not known how its senior officers, many of them appointed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, feel about his recent interventions in Syria.

President Erdogan

An Islamist and populist who has been the dominant figure in the country for more than a decade, Erdogan came to power promising to reform the economy and give the country’s rural, more religious majority a bigger voice in the capital. More recently, he has grown increasingly autocratic and alienated many Turks as he cracked down on protests, took control of the media and renewed a war with Kurdish militants in the country’s southeast.

Fethullah Gulen

Gulen is a former imam and one-time ally of Erdogan who now lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, and has an extensive following in Turkey. He has promoted a more liberal stream of Islam, and his ideas are popular with the country’s police and intelligence establishments, although not necessarily the military. Erdogan accused Gulen and his supporters, whom Erdogan has called terrorists, of being responsible for the coup. He has repeatedly accused Gulen of plotting against him in the past. The Gulen movement has denied any involvement in the coup attempt and denounced any military intervention in Turkey’s domestic affairs.

Republican People’s Party

The leftist main opposition party is considered less pro-American than the governing Justice and Development Party. It has been trying to find a way to break Erdogan’s political grip, but it would not be likely to benefit from a coup. In the past, the military has tended to sideline leaders of all political parties when it took power. In a statement, party leaders spoke out against the coup.

Nato and the US

Turkey has been an American ally and a Nato member since 1952. Although the Obama administration has criticised Erdogan’s crackdown on civil society in Turkey, the US sees him as a stabilising and mainly pro-Western leader in a volatile region. The American-led coalition fighting Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq makes heavy use of the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.

161 killed, over 1,400 injured in coup bid

ISTANBUL — Forces loyal to the Turkish government fought yesterday to crush the remnants of a military coup attempt which crumbled after crowds answered President Tayyip Erdogan’s call to take to the streets and dozens of rebels abandoned their tanks.

At least 161 were killed and 1,440 wounded in violence that erupted late on Friday after a faction of the armed forces attempted to seize power using tanks and attack helicopters, some strafing the headquarters of Turkish intelligence and parliament in Ankara, while others seizing a major bridge in Istanbul.

Turkish authorities detained 2,839 members of the armed forces, officials said. Chief of staff Hulusi Akar, who had been reported held hostage by the rebels, has been rescued.

Five generals and 29 colonels were removed from their posts.

Turkish authorities also removed 2,745 judges and five members of High Council of Judges and Prosecutors.

Erdogan, who had been holidaying on the southwest coast when the coup was launched, flew into Istanbul before dawn yesterday.

Addressing a crowd of thousands of flag-waving supporters at the airport later, Erdogan said the government remained at the helm, although disturbances continued in Ankara.

The pro-coup faction said in an emailed statement from the Turkish military General Staff’s media office address that it was determinedly still fighting. Calling itself the Peace at Home Movement, the faction also called on people to stay indoors for their own safety.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said rebel soldiers, who had taken control of military aircraft, had fired from the air and fighter jets had been scrambled to intercept them. The soldiers also raided CNN Turk’s office, forcing broadcasters off the sets.

Gunfire and explosions rocked both Istanbul and Ankara in a chaotic night after soldiers took up positions in both cities and ordered state television to read out a statement declaring they had taken power. By dawn, however, the noise of fighting died down considerably.

Around 50 soldiers involved in the coup surrendered on one of the bridges across the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, abandoning their tanks with their hands raised in the air.

Earlier, around 30 pro-coup soldiers surrendered their weapons after being surrounded by armed police in Istanbul’s central Taksim square.

They were taken away in police vans as a fighter jet repeatedly screeched overhead at low altitude, causing a boom that shook surrounding buildings and shattered windows.

Lawmakers hid in shelters inside the parliament building, which was being fired on by tanks. An opposition MP told Reuters parliament was hit three times and many had been wounded.

A Turkish military commander also said fighter jets had shot down a helicopter used by the coup plotters over Ankara. State-run Anadolu news agency said 17 police personnel were killed at the Special Forces headquarters there.

Soldiers took control of TRT state television, which announced a countrywide curfew and martial law. An announcer read a statement on the orders of the pro-coup faction that accused the government of eroding the democratic and secular rule of law. Turkey would be run by a “peace council” that would ensure the safety of the population, the statement said.

TRT went off the air shortly afterwards. It resumed broadcasting in the early hours of yesterday.

Celebratory gunfire erupted in Syria’s capital Damascus after the army claimed to have toppled Erdogan.

Turkey suffered numerous bombings and shootings this year, including an attack two weeks ago by Islamists at Ataturk airport as well as those staged by Kurdish militants. The airport carnage left 40 people dead.

Erdogan’s AK Party had a strained relationship with the military and nationalists in a state founded on secularist principles after World War I. The military has a history of mounting coups to defend secularism, but has not seized power directly since 1980. — Agencies

Historic coups

France, 1799

As soon as Napoleon Bonaparte returned from his spectacular victory in Egypt in October 1799, he began his plot to overthrow the five-member Directory that ruled France. Helped by his public popularity, he kept his own intentions of power secret while feigning support to all sides involved in France’s rule. He was made one of three provisional consuls by the Council of Ancients, the upper house of France’s legislature. Napoleon eventually became first consul and completed his consolidation of power in 1804, when he crowned himself emperor.

Libya, 1969

Muammar al-Gaddafi always hated the Libyan monarchy and its Western backers and, as a junior army officer aged 27, he pounced on what he considered the country’s weakening leadership. On Sept 1, 1969, with the help of 70 co-conspirators, he ordered military vehicles into the cities of Tripoli and Benghazi and surrounded the royal palace and other key government buildings while King Idris was out of the country. They cut off communications inside the country and arrested officials and, the same morning, Gaddafi used a radio statement to tell the country the regime had been toppled. He was eventually killed 42 years later during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising.

Uganda, 1971

Like Gaddafi, Idi Amin became a top general in the Ugandan army. He was initially on good terms with president Milton Obote, who led the country to independence from Britain in 1962. However, the two fell out and when news reached Amin that Obote had secretly ordered his arrest, he moved troops into the capital of Kampala and took control of strategic buildings while Obote was out of the country. Like Gaddafi, Amin used a radio address to tell his countrymen of the coup and he later became known as the “Last King of Scotland”.

He is believed to have killed around 300,000 political opponents during his eight-year reign before being deposed. He fled to Saudi Arabia without ever facing charges. He died in 2003.

Chile, 1973

Augusto Pinochet was made head of the Chilean army at around the same time he joined a coup plot, backed by the Central Intelligence Agency, against the man who had promoted him, president Salvador Allende. In September 1973, land and sea military moved in on strategic positions in the port city of Valparaiso and the presidential palace in Santiago. On Pinochet’s orders, two fighter jets used rockets to bombard the palace and as soldiers stormed the building, Allende transmitted a radio announcement to the country blasting the “traitors” and stating his love for the country. He then committed suicide, leaving Pinochet to take control. He died in 2006 aged 91.

coups in Turkey

May 27, 1960

First coup in the Turkish Republic. President, prime minister and others arrested and tried for treason and other offences.

March 12, 1971

Economic downturn leads to widespread unrest. The military intervenes again to “restore order”.

Sept 12, 1980

Clashes between left and right-wing groups lead to another army coup. Hundreds of thousands of people arrested in following years, dozens executed.

Feb 28, 1997

Military offers series of “recommendations” following rise of Welfare party. Government accepts, prime minister forced to resign.

Wales rise as England slump

PARIS — Wales’ memorable charge to the Euro 2016 semi-finals has lifted Chris Coleman’s side up 15 places to 11th in the latest FIFA World Rankings published on Thursday.

Wales lost to England in Group B but went on to beat Northern Ireland and Belgium, the second best team in the world, before a 2-0 loss to Portugal.

Champions Portugal jumped two rungs to sixth with beaten finalists and hosts France climbing 10 spots to seventh.

England’s dismal showing in France where they lost to minnows Iceland saw them slip two spots to 13th The Icelanders are now in 22nd spot, above European football heavyweights the Netherlands who failed to make the 2016 championship.

Despite losing the Copa America Centanario final to Chile Argentina retain the rankings’ summit ahead of the Belgians, Colombia, Germany and Chile.

Rankings

1. Argentina

2. Belgium

3. Colombia

4. Germany

5. Chile

6. Portugal (+2)

7. France (+10)

8. Spain (-2)

9. Brazil (-2)

10. Italy (+2)

11. Wales (+15)

12. Uruguay (-3)

13. England (-2)

14. Mexico (+2)

15. Croatia (+12)

16. Poland (+11)

17. Ecuador (-4)

18. Switzerland (-3)

=19. Turkey (-1)

=19. Hungary (+1)

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