Shafiq ur Rahman
It was indeed a hot and peaceful night when I along with my wife reached home after having dinner under candle lights on the sea side somewhere on Aegean Sea. We were sitting on the terrace of our house to enjoy the fresh air before going to sleep. A kricket was throwing its strider in the air and a few cicadas were emitting their lasts cymbalisations. I was talking to someone on the phone when my wife alerted me that something was happening in the country. According to social media, military tanks were blocking three main bridges of Istanbul. She was following the emerging situation on her twitter wire, but, as it is the case when anything important happens in the country, the speed of twitter drastically slowed down and sometimes access becomes impossible, like in our case in Pakistan we close the cellular networks for security purposes. But she connected with her VPN and very soon the word COUP appeared on twitter. It was more than shocking for us and for a moment we were unable to decide what to do. It was around 11.30 pm. We decided to go back downtown in order to try to get more information and ‘smell’ the atmosphere, as we do not have any TV at home. We first rushed to the bank in order to get some cash money through an ATM.
In the streets, everything looked normal, except that the police station seemed to be on alert, with more policemen than usual standing in front of the building. Last passersby were going back home and we decided to do so as we could not witness anything special. While passing in front of a café we noticed a huge TV inside and the clients standing anxiously in front of it. We entered. More than a dozen citizens, both male and females, were watching a local TV channel, CNN Turk. I do not know Turkish language fully, however I was trying to understand the situation with the help of pictures and emotions both of the anchor person and audience too. What surprised me that her face was absolutely not smiley, which is quite unusual for an anchor person? In fact, we heard later that she was announcing in live the curfew and the instauration of martial law. I asked a guy from one of the audience in the café: “What is the status of coup?” He simply turned downed his thumb and said: “Erdogan is gone with a smiling face”. We left the place with a broken heart and took the way back home while discussing between the post-coup situations.
When we reached a nearby shop, we decided we had to buy water, as much as possible as the weather was extremely hot. Inside the shop, everyone including the owner of the shop seemed to be scared, they were discussing with very low voice the situation, while looking here and there that no one is witnessing them; maybe they were aware of the post-coup consequences. A client woman was filling a cart with dozens of bottles of water. When I asked if there was anybody who could speak English, a young guy came forward and said yes brother what can I do for you? My direct question from him was what’s happening in Turkey? He answered in a diplomatic way and said that some Army officers within the Army were not happy with the current government and that they were trying to take the power. Anxiety and depression was very much clear from every ones face.
He further added that, “apparently, it seems that Army has taken over the control, imposed Martial law &curfew”, adding: “You reached at the right time as we were about to close the shop, better it would be for you guys to buy necessary food items like a few packets of rice with high energy biscuits as you may not be allowed to go outside tomorrow morning with the curfew”. On his suggestion, we made a handsome procurement, it was an opportunity for them to sell maximum the same night, so many others citizens also came and most of them were asking for water.
After buying water and other necessary line items we rushed to home, under the shade of alleged violation of the state of curfew. We could witness, while walking in the streets, so many people, in front of their television sets at that late hours. When we safely reached our sweet home, it was almost midnight or 1:00am. Straight away, as it was impossible to sleep, we started to follow the events on social media. Suddenly, around 1.30 am, prayer callers started to call to morning prayers almost from all mosques of the town and at least I never witnessed before that someone called for morning prayers during mid-night time and for dozens of minutes. That was absolutely unusual and the prayers were going on and on for about one hour and a half. Friends of my wife started text messages to her, especially the foreigners who are living there, trying to understand the situation. Were these prayers normal? As per their understanding, it was a call to the local population to come on roads and resist against the coup, when I was asked is this normal? My answer was that it was totally unusual and I explained to her that they are not inviting people to be on roads, rather they only started morning prayer call before its schedule time because the Muslims believe that by doing so, it rebels the unwanted situation and leads to normalize the situation. We heard later that it was done throughout the country. Someone disclosed to me that this happened only for the second time in the history of Turkey, the first time being during world war 1st.
I was shocked to discover that Western media were apparently on the side of the coup plotters as they were terming it “the uprising of military regime” in Turkey. There were rumors that the Army chief was being arrested, some said he was killed in a counter firing between the pro-government and pro-coup plotters forces. Reports about the president were also not clear, meanwhile the state television announced that the Military in Turkey took the powers to ensure democracy and human rights and that all the international agreements will be honored. I know that, usually, in the first announcement after a coup, army guys only speak about the shift in powers and explain why they did so and, after success only, the leader of the coup usually talks about the internal agreements and his policies with the world. Here this was not the case and after this announcement, at least my moral was little high as I was sure that they directed the newscaster under gun to make such announcement. Indeed, that was the case.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım along with the Interior Minister and the Army acting chief talked to the media and declared that, unfortunately a small group within the Army headed by junior officers breached the chain of command and tried to topple the elected government; however the control is still with the government and all those who made this attempt will be dealt with an iron hand. Turkey is made for democracy and we will not surrender before the traitors, even at the cost of bloodshed.
The ex-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu while talking to Al-Jazeera in a live telecast strongly condemned the coup attempt and declared:“I worked with Turkish Military for almost two years and knew their loyalty with the system, the fraction who is trying to topple the elected government will not succeed”, adding “it’s the question of our democracy, it’s the question of democratic values, it’s the question of the integrity of national forces and the nationals will not allow the coup plotters to succeed. We are leaving to join our nation in the squares and we will defend our elected institutions, and the dignity of our national Army too.” When he was asked a question what you foresee what could happen till the morning, his answer was “In-sha Allah this morning will be the new beginning of democracy in Turkey”.
I wrote these historic comments on my Facebook status. Meanwhile a lady reporter from CNN Turkey could reach the President who was on holidays at Marmaris. His direct live message to Turkey was telecasted by the same TV channel live thanks to FaceTime. The President of Turkey first condemned and then invited the nation to come on squares and resist the traitors. It was around 1.45am. Immediately after the speech of the President, I could hear the slogans down on the sea side “Allah o Akbar”. After half an hour, thousands of citizens irrespective of their political affiliation came on roads to defend the democracy. Just look at the Türk nation love and level of commitment with democracy that, dozens laid down in front of the tanks, so many tried to stop the way of tanks by parking their own cars in the way of tanks although a few were crushed by tanks near the Bosphorus bridge in Istanbul.
We went on the roof of our house, from where we could hear a few klaxons downtown. Strangely, all our neighbors were also standing on their terraces, silent, trying to catch what was happening. We heard that Atatürk Airport in Istanbul had been blocked.
After receiving a green signal from his party workers who re-captured the Atatürk International Airport, the President decided to join them at Istanbul in-spite of life threats; he took this decision to be along with his followers who gathered at Atatürk International Airport to receive their leader. It was almost morning when the Turkish President reached Istanbul and made a historic speech in front of thousands of citizens who gathered there to protect democracy and defeat the coup plotters. While addressing this mammoth gathering, Erdogan declared that, “pro-Fetullah officers within the national Army tried to derail democracy and throw the country in a stone age once more, however they were not aware that, Allah SWT is the best Planner” . I congratulate the nation that, you are the winners and the battle is not yet finished, rather it just started, the government will deal with all the coup plotters with an iron hand and we will clean our institutions from such elements who tried to destabilize the country and derail the democracy.” He appreciated the unconditional support from all the major political parties of the country and said that, “this is our country and we have to defend our institutions together”. He requested the protestors not to leave the squares until and unless the situation comes under the full control of the government.
Around 4:00am we went to sleep. The next day, when we woke up, we learned that the putshists were almost contained. The regular Army had taken back the control. Down in the town, everything was normal, all shops were opened and it was like nothing had happened during the previous night.
While going to the sea side, I saw a café full of locals busy in playing games and enjoying Turkish çay and coffee. Local police was on high alert at all the key locations. On the very next day, 16thof July, we decided to travel as per our plan although a few friends suggested to avoid traveling, it was little risky however, when we started travelling by bus for our ultimate destination, Izmir followed by Selçuk, we really enjoyed the trip. Life was normal and everyone was busy in his/her own assignments and wheel of life was running as usual, only a certain number of people mostly from upper class opted to stay at homes. When we reached Selçuk, the representative of the hotel was waiting for us and by the grace of almighty we reached safely. We stayed two days there and enjoyed a lot, it was the third day of the incident, number of tourists was not up to the mark, hotel owners disclosed that, this year the inflow of tourists is very low due to Turkey and Russian relationships, and to the attacks, it was not due to the recent coup. We met a Pakistani delegation from Karachi who were roaming in the same area and they were at Istanbul the same night, they told us that initially they were little upset and were planning to go back to Pakistan but in the morning everything was normal in Istanbul and that’s why they opted to carry on with their scheduled trip.
One morning, while roaming in the streets of Selçuk where the ruling party is in majority and the Mayor belongs to AKP party, a few female political workers were distributing lokma, a sweet dish, on the road side, they invited us and offered us too. In fact, they were celebrating the victory of democracy. Late evening after dinner we were on the way back to our hotel, when we saw a gathering of people sitting in front of a plaza. They are AKP workers observing the democracy watch. We went to them and as I introduced myself, we were warmly received and offered cold drinks followed by ice-creams. They told us that they were spending all night there after the call of the President. I had the opportunity to meet the President of Selçuk AKP, a very kind lady, who then introduced us to the mayor with whom we spent more than one hour in order to show solidarity on behalf of Pakistan. The Mayor, Zeynel Bakici, welcomed us and said that Pakistan and Turkey are brother countries and we could not forget the support of Pakistani mothers and sisters back in fifties when they offered their ornaments to support Turkey. The Mayor further added that the AKP Selçuk workers, even after the 3rd day, would spend their nights in the street. What a political commitment and sacrifice for democracy it was, only the Türks can do that! All the local leadership was present.
After the failure of the coup, the government started a crackdown against the coup plotters. Hundreds of soldiers and high ranking military officials were arrested. On the next day, 16th July 2016, the number of armed forces in detention reached to 2839. We learned that on the day of the coup 265 persons lost their lives, including 107 soldiers from the plotters, 47 civilians and almost same number of police. Moreover, reportedly 1440 were injured across the country. These figures were shared by acting military chief. Eight senior military officials, responsible for the coup, succeeded to escape to Greece and requested for political asylum. Turkey’s foreign office asked Greece to return them all. Reportedly Greece showed its willingness.
Major opposition parties, CHP and MHP, both strongly condemned the move and stated that the country suffered a lot and could not support such adventures, “we are with democracy”. Then they had a meeting with the President and the PM and agreed on to defend and strengthen democracy with in the country. All the political leaders gathered after a long absence.
The first decision on the next very date was the termination around 3000 Judiciary officers in light of the recommendations by the supreme judicial panel, followed by closure of around 20,000 pro Fetullah Gülen Schools, thousands work permits of the teachers and other administrative positions who were working in these schools were cancelled, hundreds were expelled or suspended from the foreign office service, police and education department. When I was leaving Turkey at the end of August, the total figures of military detention exceeded 60,000.
On the request of the President, in all the major cities democracy watches ceremonies went on and they used to spend their nights in squares as there were rumors about another possibility of coup.
This is not the first coup in Turkey. But in the previous military coups, neither civilians were killed nor state institutions were bombarded, like what happened to the national assembly building and the police headquarter where reportedly 50 policemen were killed on the spot, hundreds injured. During the whole night of 15th of July, F16s were roaming in the air at a very low altitude, to harass the gathered and angry citizens and this brutal attitude created a severe hate for them in the common citizens and every pro-democracy Turk.
One day I was on a routine visit to the nearby square of our city where the locals used to gather and celebrate, and I found so unbelievable to see both the AKP workers and that CHP workers together at the square, CHP workers were enjoying with the Atatürk flag and the AKP workers were waving their national flag, in other words this coup compelled the government and major opposition parties for political reconciliation and indeed, after meeting with all the opposition leaders, the PM in a live telecast publicly declared that it was now the government turn to keep this political harmony within the country and to continue the joint struggle towards 2025 Vision.
While on our way back to Pakistan, we spent one night in Istanbul. In the evening, in the surroundings of Blue Mosque, it was a pity to see that the tourists had left after the attacks. The inflow of tourists, especially in Istanbul, had really decreased, all the hotels, restaurants and shops owners were complaining. However, the encouraging thing was that hundreds of Arabs tourists were roaming the streets of Istanbul instead of Russians and other Europeans.
After dinner I made a plan to visit Taksim square in order to witness what was happening there. I reached there around 11:00pm, the square was full of youngsters, celebrations were on its peak, I had an opportunity to meet a few teachers from Jamia Ismalia, the famous mosque of Sheikh Mahmood Effendi. I spent almost 45 minutes there, made a few historic photos, was able to reach near the dice, the guy was very cordial and helped me to be on the top and witness the proceedings, he also offered me the Turkish national flag, that I accepted with all my pleasure and showed solidarity on behalf of my beloved country Pakistan. Pakistan Turkey Friendship ZINDABAD. PAKISTAN TURKEY KARDESH.