More than 50 of Turkey's senior military officers were arrested this week amid allegations they planned to overthrow the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2003.
A few days later, a judge released two of the most prominent suspects, the former chiefs of the navy and the air force but many questions remain unanswered.
According to investigators, Operation Sledgehammer--as it was known-- included plans to bomb mosques and other civilian targets and to provoke a new crisis with Greece in an effort to sow enough instability to justify a military coup. Coups are common in the country, which lies at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Turkey's military has overthrown three governments in the last 50 years and it forced the country's first Islamist-led administration from power in 1997. Tensions have been building between the current military and the government ever since Prime Minister Erdogan's Islamic-leaning AKP party was elected in 2002.
As the army and government continue to work out their differences the fate of the Turkish democracy may rest in their hands.
"The Turkish military has had always an inordinate amount of influence in Turkish politics." Henri Barkey, Carnegie Endowment For International Peace
"There have been concerns by the military and -- and the establishment that there's what's called creeping Islamization in the country for several years now, since the Erdogan government came into office. And reducing the military's powers and -- and really discrediting them could be one of the attempts at really undermining the main defender of secularism." Zeyno Baran, director, Center for Eurasian Policy at the Hudson Institute
1. Where is Turkey? Why is its geography important?
2. Why might there be tension between a country's government and its military?
3. What is a coup? Can you name any famous coups?
1. What did you learn about Turkey?
2. Do you think a similar plot could happen in the United States? Explain your answer with as detail as possible.
3. How does the United States deal with the separation of church and state? How is that different from other countries?
4. Can you imagine a time when a coup could be a good thing? Why?
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