Seattleites from Turkey reflect on attempted coup — and its aftermath

Supporters of Tukish President Tayyip Erdogan celebrate after soldiers involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. (Photo by Yagiz Karahan for Reuters)
Supporters of Tukish President Tayyip Erdogan celebrate after soldiers involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. (Photo by Yagiz Karahan for Reuters)

Like many in the United States originally from Turkey, Ekin Yasin and her family spent their Friday night glued to the television, trying to make sense of what was going on during an attempted military coup of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party AKP.

“We stayed up all night watching CNN Turkey’s live broadcast,” said Yasin, a communications lecturer at the University of Washington. Nearly 300 people died in the uprising, which was stopped by Erdogan’s government over the weekend.

“Turkey is a complicated place,” she said. “Even if you’re not for the party, we are against a coup.”

The attempted coup began on Friday, when soldiers took control of military vehicles and planes and seized positions in Istanbul and Ankara, where the rebels bombed the parliament building.

However, Erdogan urged the public to counter the uprising, and by Saturday morning, the tide had turned and the coup wound down.

Erdogan successfully quashed the coup attempt, and the country is now under a three-month state of emergency.

Since then, reports the BBC and CNN, the government has arrested thousands of soldiers involved in the plot, and 50,000 state employees have been fired or arrested and nearly three dozen journalists’ press passes have been revoked.

While life has returned to a sense of normalcy for many in Turkey, the situation is still unsettling, Yasin said.

It’s unclear to people who are there as to how it is going to play out,” she said.

The country has been through several coups in the past 50 years. Erdogan has been in power since 2003, reports the BBC, and while the country has flourished economically, some have criticized Erdogan for leading the government in an increasingly religious and authoritarian direction. There were widespread demonstrations to protest that direction in 2013. 

Despite criticism of Erdogan, many people are relieved to see the military coup attempt end, said Seattle-based freelance writer Ceren Sehirlioglu, originally from Turkey.

“Turkey has a long history of coups, so we have paranoia and fear engraved to our collective psyche when it comes to military takeovers,” she said in an email. “The tanks were crushing civilians, F-16 planes were bombing the parliament and soldiers were trying to takeover the state TV, like it was 1960!

Sehirlioglu said this failed coup could backfire and lead to greater imposition of power by the current government.

“It was stupid, relentless and destined to fail, as it should. No matter how harsh we criticize the government and specially Recep Tayyip Erdogan for becoming more and more autocratic, vindictive and all else, a coup is never the answer,” she said. “Maybe a small consolation after the nightmare but, I’m glad we are not governed by martial law right now.”

The three-month state of emergency raises other questions too.

“One couldn’t help but to ask, what if one day he doesn’t like the actions seculars, leftists, Kurds and so on are taking (just like in Gezi resistance) and tell his ‘mad army’ to takeover again? I sensed the polarization, the hate, the incurable divide between my people all the more clearly. And this may be the saddest part of all.

Sehirlioglu and her family had planned a trip to Turkey with two small kids. While the thought about canceling, she heard from friends that life is returning to normal and they will stick to their plan to visit.

“In a way we felt like this might be the last time we’re able to go to Turkey, nobody knows what awaits the country in the future,” she said.

Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan sit atop an armored vehicle decorated with Erdogan's portraits in Ankara, Turkey July 16, 2016. (Photo by Tumay Berkin for Reuters)
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan sit atop an armored vehicle decorated with Erdogan’s portraits in Ankara, Turkey July 16, 2016. (Photo by Tumay Berkin for Reuters)

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