What started as a perfectly normal day, followed by a normal afternoon, ended up becoming an actual nightmare.

It all started at around 10 pm. I was in the city centre of Antalya at a  restaurant with some close friends. We were having dinner and at the same time we were having the same types of conversations that we always have. Suddenly, mid-dinner, we started seeing strange posts on social media. The first thing that came to mind when we scrolled through Twitter to see that soldiers had closed off the Bosphorus bridges and that there was heavy military presence throughout Ankara and Istanbul was that there was probably an imminent terror attack. Perhaps one that was meant to be coordinated to strike several locations in several cities. Terror attacks have unfortunately become something that we are accustomed to here in Turkey after so many of them occuring within the past year.

After a while we were all frantically scrolling through Twitter and Facebook and we started to realise that this was definitely not a terror attack, but something more serious. We finished dinner quickly and kept an eye on what was happening. A short while later, we saw a video of a soldier on one of the Bosphorus bridges saying that they had taken over the administation of the country. That was when we realised that this was probably a coup. My friend’s mum, who had lived through the after-effects of the 1980 coup, became very worried so we got up soon after and rushed home. In the meanwhile we were all receiving countless phone calls and text messages. We were all trying to figure out what was going on.

When I got home, I found my family in the living room with their eyes glued to the TV, trying to make sense of what was happening, just like everyone else in the country. My mind was whizzing with thoughts of the worst case scenarios. After some time it became clear that this was definitely a coup. We were skipping through TV channels trying to see if there were any new updates. Our worries peaked when we saw that the state-run TV network TRT was not working.

Around the same time TRT was raided, politicians from all sides of the political spectrum were making statements on various TV channels. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also called in via Facetime. He warned all citizens of this coup attempt and he clearly stated that those responsible would pay the highest price. He urged people to go out onto the streets to foil the coup and to ‘protect democracy’.

The next turning point in the evening and what felt like the zenith of the putsch was when TRT started broadcasting again. It was a simple broadcast and it didn’t last for more than an hour, but it was something that I will never be able to forget. An anchorwoman was reading out an announcement by the so-called ”Peace in the Nation Council”. Her face expression, the beads  of sweat on her forehead and her trembling voice showed us that she was in a state of complete fear, as we all were. Despite that, she kept reading with utmost professionalism even though she was being forced at gunpoint.

The TRT broadcast didn’t last very long but it sent shockwaves through the country and through the minds of everyone watching. Soon after, TRT went blank again. Coup forces had lost control of the channel. There were soon reports of army jets and helicopters flying around Ankara and Istanbul and bombing certain locations. My heart stopped when we watched live as the Turkish Grand National Assembly was bombed. Nothing made sense, everything was unclear.

By the early hours of the 16th (saturday), it became apparent that the coup forces were losing. In their final attempts to cling to what power they had, they continued to bomb the Turkish Parliament (while MPs were trapped inside) as well as other key points. They also raided the headquarters of other TV channels, where the broadcasts were stopped for a short time.

When president Erdoğan arrived at Istanbul Atatürk airport from Marmaris, where he was on holiday, it became clear that things were more or less under control. In the meanwhile hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets and squares in cities all around Turkey to protest the coup. While there were reports of bombings all over Ankara and Istanbul, there was a mass sense of confusion, shock and stress in the minds of Turkish citizens and the international community.

By the time things started to calm down at around 5 am, soldiers were already turning themselves in and I allowed myself an hour-long nap. When I woke up, it was very obvious that the coup attempt failed and I had so many questions in my mind, and no medium for clear answers.

Two days have passed since the events started and I am still trying hard to make sense of things. I, among millions of others, am overwhelmed with questions. Things are very calm now, it feels like it was all a dream. Those moments of uncertainty and fear seem so surreal and otherworldly.

The universal opposition towards the coup led to a very rare moment of unity in Turkish parliament on the day after the coup attempt, when all parties came together to release a common statement condemning the putsch and reiterating the importance of democracy. It was perhaps the first time the 4 political parties represented in parliament ever listened to and applauded one another. It was a sign of hope, one the country was in desperate need of.

After all the events and chaos of the past few days I am deeply worried and full of concerns about the future of the country. I had always heard so much about the coups d’etat and the memorandums that had taken place in the past, but I never thought I would see one myself. This struck a deep wound in the psyches of all Turkish citizens, a wound that will take a long time to heal, but it is important that we all try our best to maintain faith despite all odds and under all circumstances.

 

Published by Kenan Cruz Cilli