In Turkey, the beginning of 2016 was marked by escalating violence in the southeast as part of the renewed Kurdish/Turkish conflict following the 20 July 2015 Islamic State (IS) attack on the Kurdish city of Suruç. Following this attack, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) claimed that the Turkish government was collaborating with IS, prompting a series of revenge attacks against police in the area (IBT, July 23, 2015) and touching off a new round of conflict. Compared to 2017, violent interactions between PKK and Turkish military troops were double in 2016, the majority of which occurred during the spring and immediately following the failed military coup attempt between July 15-16, 2016.
The failed coup attempt itself was the defining event of the year. Orchestrated by members of the self-titled Peace at Home Council, pro-coup military personnel captured and attacked key government buildings mostly in Ankara and Istanbul during July 15-16, 2016. At least 271 people were killed over the two days in Ankara and Istanbul alone, most of whom were non-coup soldiers and civilians, and over one thousand people were injured during the same period (Wall Street Journal, August 1, 2016). The Turkish government claimed that the coup-plotters were led by Fethullah Gülen, an exiled political and religious figure, although Gülen himself denied this claim. In the aftermath of the coup attempt, many thousands of security personnel, members of the judiciary, and government workers were arrested or dismissed from their offices following government crackdowns and purges of anyone thought to be sympathetic to the coup or the Gülen Movement. In addition, the attempt led to over a thousand, in some cases daily, anti-coup “Democracy Watch” rallies being held in most major Turkish cities from July 15, 2016 until early August. This massive increase in demonstrations signifies Turkey’s most active demonstration movement between 2016 and 2018.