On a February evening in 1959 an airplane plummeted through fog and crashed into woodland close to Gatwick airport. Aboard was Turkey’s first democratically elected prime minister, Adnan Menderes. To the amazement of a local couple who rushed to the scene, he walked out of the wreckage barely scratched.
For the ecstatic crowds who greeted him back in Ankara, his miracle escape was a sign of divine approval for his attempts to bring Islam back into the daily lives of Turks who had been forced to secularize by Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the republic. Yet two and a half years later Menderes would be hanged on a prison island, the first in a line of modern Turkey’s leaders to be toppled by its coup-happy generals.