ISTANBUL — Standing atop a bus outside his mansion in Istanbul on Saturday night, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, victorious after putting down a coup attempt by renegade factions of the military, told his followers, “We only bow to God.”
The symbolism was stark. The informal rally harked back to his days as an up-by-the-bootstraps populist and Islamist leader who often spoke from the tops of buses. And his message, cloaked in the language of Islam, underscored how much Turkey has changed in recent decades.
Members of the military, once the guardians of the country’s secular traditions who successfully pulled off three coups last century, were being rounded up and tossed in jail, and other perceived enemies were being purged from the state bureaucracy.
The Islamists, meanwhile, were dancing in the streets.
That is where, Mr. Erdogan said on Sunday, they would remain.
“This week is important,” he told a crowd gathered at Istanbul’s Fatih Mosque for a funeral for a person killed in the violence over the weekend. “We will not leave the public squares. This is not a 12-hour affair.”
The coup attempt seems to have been decisively quashed, with nearly 6,000 military personnel in custody. Funerals for many of the at least 265 people who died in clashes were taking place across Turkey on Sunday.
Now the country is left to consider what the lasting consequences of the uprising will be. While Mr. Erdogan has fended off a coup, the most urgent question is this: Has he emerged even more powerful, or is he now a weakened leader who must accommodate his opponents?
That much of the country, including those who have bitterly opposed his government, stood against a military coup as a violation of democracy has raised hopes that Mr. Erdogan will seize the moment to reach across Turkey’s many political divides and unite the country.
Yet as the weekend progressed, it was becoming clearer that for Mr. Erdogan and his religiously conservative followers, the moment was a triumph of political Islam more than anything else.
While secular and liberal Turks generally opposed the coup, it was Mr. Erdogan’s supporters who flooded the streets and gathered at Istanbul’s airport Saturday morning to push out the occupying army. They mostly yelled religious slogans and chants in support of Mr. Erdogan, not of democracy itself.
Interactive Feature | The Arc of a Coup Attempt in Turkey Here is a visual timeline of the country’s violent and chaotic insurrection.
After Mr. Erdogan’s speech on Saturday, thousands of his supporters marched down Istiklal Street in Istanbul to Taksim Square, mostly waving Turkish flags and shouting in support of their president.
It felt like a rollicking street carnival. Women in head scarves filled the square, a truck played a song about Mr. Erdogan, and passing motorists honked and waved flags.
That they were able to gather in public at all was significant, ample evidence that Turkey is, these days, for Mr. Erdogan and his supporters.
When other groups, like gay and lesbian organizations or labor unions, try to gather in public spaces in central Istanbul, the streets are sealed off. Armored vehicles with water cannons suddenly materialize, as do police officers with tear gas canisters.
“It was nice here today,” said Ali Tuysuz, 19, who was selling watermelon slices on Saturday in Taksim. “People are happy and buying watermelon. My tray was emptied three times. President Erdogan will protect the country.”
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The mosques’ role in mobilizing citizens to gather in the streets as the coup was unfolding was decisive, but it nonetheless unsettled many secular Turks. They called it a historic sidestep of Turkey’s secular principles, in which religion is meant to be separate from politics.
On Sunday, Turkey’s nearly 85,000 mosques, in unison, blared from their loudspeakers a prayer traditionally recited for martyrs who have died in war and called for people to continue to rally against the plotters of the coup.
“Most of the people who went out in the streets to oppose the coup d’état did not use democratic language,” said Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the director of the Ankara office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a research organization.
“There are people for whom Islam plays a big role in their lives in Turkey,” he added. “And there are people for whom Islam plays no role.”
As Turks waited to see in which direction their mercurial and powerful leader would steer the country in the wake of the coup attempt, Mr. Erdogan struck some conciliatory notes on Sunday. Yet he has also raised the possibility that Turkey would reinstate the death penalty, which it had abolished as a part of its pursuit to join the European Union.
“If they have guns and tanks, we have faith,” said Mr. Erdogan, who also attended a funeral of a friend who was killed, and was seen crying. “We are not after revenge. So let us think before taking each step. We will act with reason and experience.”
Nigar Goksel, a senior Turkey analyst for the International Crisis Group, said there were two possible directions. “Either Erdogan utilizes this incident to redesign institutions in Ankara to his own benefit,” she said, “or he takes the opportunity with the solidarity that was extended to him by the opposition and different segments of society to reciprocate by investing more genuinely in rule of law and legitimate forms of dissent.”
Mr. Erdogan’s history suggests the latter possibility is unlikely. Each time he has faced a challenge to his power, from street protests three years ago to a corruption investigation that went after his inner circle, he has sidelined his enemies and become more autocratic.
Already, even as the government has arrested thousands of soldiers and officers who allegedly took part in the failed coup, there were signs that it was using the moment to widen a crackdown on perceived enemies. Alongside the military, the government also dismissed thousands of judges, who seemingly had no role to play in a military revolt.
“Now the government has a free hand to design the bureaucracy as they like, and they will,” Mr. Unluhisarcikli said. “All in all, Turkey will become a country where power is more consolidated and dissent will be more difficult.”
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As the purge of the military continued on Sunday, one of those arrested was Gen. Bekir Ercan Van, the chief of Incirlik Air Base, from which the United States military flies missions over Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State. Over the weekend, General Van approached American officials seeking asylum but was refused, according to a person with knowledge of the matter who spoke anonymously because of the sensitive nature of the subject.
The Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, told Mr. Erdogan that the government would swiftly examine asylum claims by eight Turkish officers who fled to northern Greece in a helicopter and were detained on charges of illegal entry. Turkey has demanded their extradition.
As the drama of the coup attempt played out Friday and into Saturday morning, it looked for a moment as if Mr. Erdogan was on the verge of being toppled from power. The president spoke to the nation via the FaceTime app on his iPhone after he narrowly escaped being captured by mutinous soldiers, who arrived in a helicopter at a seaside hotel where he was vacationing — just after he had departed.
Then, around 3:30 a.m., he landed in Istanbul, after a dangerous flight undertaken while the plotters still had fighter jets in the air — the surest sign that the revolt was failing.
But more than his dramatic arrival at the Istanbul airport, his confident speech on Saturday on top of the bus seemed to emphatically declare that he was back in charge.
Celebrations by his supporters continued on Sunday, with jubilant crowds marching through the streets of Istanbul.
“Look around you,” one of the supporters, Eytan Karatas, 37, a mechanic, said. “Look at these people. We are the real soldiers of this country, and we have a chief.”
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