UA professor in Istanbul witnesses failed coup

Published: Jul. 22, 2016 at 5:01 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 28, 2018 at 5:17 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A University of Arizona professor was in Turkey during the failed military coup, and he has watched the aftermath of the uprising in recent days.

Brian Silverstein is an associate professor at the UA School of Anthropology and the director of the Arizona Center for Turkish Studies. He was visiting Istanbul when the coup broke out.

"It was clear that something major was going on," Silverstein told Tucson News Now by Skype on Friday.

Silverstein, whose wife is from Turkey and whose research focuses on contemporary Turkish society and culture, said he and his family were not in danger when a military coup tried to overthrow Turkish President Recep Erdogan's government on July 15.

"We decided to head home, most people did. It wasn't a panic you know, but people quickly got up going to their cars, looking for cabs, or as in our case, looking to get to the other side by boat," Silverstein said.

The coup was poorly executed and involved only a small faction in the military, Silverstein said in a UA news release.

A Turkish cleric and founder of the Gulen movement, Fethullah Gulen, has been suspected of being behind the coup. Silverstein said officers associated with Gulen were likely linked to the coup.

Silverstein also noted the importance of watching what plays out in Turkey following the failed coup, as Turkey is a key NATO ally.

"It's often said Turkey lives in a 'tough neighborhood,' bordering countries including Syria, Iraq and Iran on one side; Greece and Bulgaria in the European Union on another; and Armenia and Georgia and with a water border with Russia and Cyprus," Silverstein said in the news release.

"You can imagine being a country where on one side of you, literally on your border, you have what's going on in Syria and Iraq and on your other border, you have EU countries," Silverstein said.

Silverstein will be back in Tucson by mid-August when classes start again for fall.

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