Travel

My Experience of a Coup D’etat

Coup d’etat
n. pl. The sudden overthrow of a government by a usually small group of persons in or previously in positions of authority.[1]

A friend and I had spent a week staying at a spa and beach resort in Abkük, Turkey. We had fallen into the routine of going for dinner at about 7:30pm and then wondering over to the bar area, and I think it’s safe to say we had made good friends with the bartenders by the time that the end of the week came around.

Our last night started out just like the rest, all you can eat ‘potatoes shaped in apple slices’ (potato wedges) and unlimited cocktails all round. I remember this song was playing, it was a favourite of the Turks and although we had no idea what was actually being said, we’d managed to pick up some of the lyrics and a few moves from the accompanying dance. But then everything stopped. The whole party turned towards where we were sitting and a stampede of concerned nationals headed our way…

On Friday 15th July 2016, a coup d’etat was carried out against the Turkish state by a segment of the Turkish Armed Forces that called themselves the ‘Peace At Home Council’. They attempted to seize control of multiple areas by blocking bridges in Istanbul, as well as fighter jets and helicopters being spotted flying over Ankara alongside supposed gun shots. Multiple government buildings including the Presidential Palace and the Turkish Parliament were damaged.

It was hard for us to understand at first because most people were shouting in Turkish. I remember looking around and noticing a small number of people who I can only assume were tourists too, finding themselves just as confused as us. The TV behind the bar had been switched over to the main Turkish news channel so I tried to focus on the English subtitles for a little help. It was making no sense. I’d had a few drinks (a few too many) but I knew that my friend would have her head screwed on. She Googled the on goings and we soon started to learn about what was happening, however the confusion didn’t settle. Most of the danger was taking place in areas such as Ankara and Istanbul, which were essentially England to Scotland distance away from where we were staying. I couldn’t understand why there were men in floods of tears and women screaming out for their sons. It was complete chaos, and I was scared.

We’d made great pals with one of the resort reps; he was honestly one of the loveliest people I have ever met in my entire life. I looked to my left and there he was stood, anxious, upset, angry. I asked him if he was ok. A stupid question I know but what else was I meant to say? It turned out that one of his best friends was in the Army and he had tried reaching him but couldn’t get in contact. He told me that he feared for his friend’s life. In that moment, my heart clenched, my throat tightened and a tear ran down my cheek. This man was my friend, and he was scared and upset and I couldn’t do anything about it. Once again, I looked around at all of the people feeling just like him. But instead of confusion, this time I just felt helpless and angry. Why do people do this? What gives any group of people the right to inject this amount of fear into families and friends just because they don’t agree with the rules and actions of the state? It wasn’t fair; it still isn’t.

Remember when 38 people lost their lives after a mass shooting took place on a Tunisian beach in June 2015? And then the Paris attacks in November of the same year? The Brussels airport bombing in March 2016? On June 13th 2016, a French policeman and his wife were stabbed to death in front of their 3 year old son. What about the man who drove a lorry into a crowd of people who were celebrating the Bastille Day fireworks, killing 86 people?

During the Military coup in Turkey, over 300 people were killed and more than 2,100 people were injured. Turkish Prime Minister  Binali Yildirim later made a statement to suggest that the coup “was a terrorist uprising”.

I’d heard about so many terrorist attacks in the year leading up to my trip to Turkey, but I’d never really appreciated the reality of it or the intense suffering that people go through as a result. I pray to the God that I don’t believe in that something so terrible doesn’t ever happen in my country. But that’s not enough. Because if not my country, then someone else’s. If not my family and friends, someone else’s.

I want to help but I don’t know how. This is the first time that I’ve written about my experience of being surrounded by such terror and even now, it’s still such a vivid, traumatic memory. All of those people, the suffering, I just can’t get my head around it I really can’t.

Arms and clothes dumped by Turkish soldiers
Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-36816045Soldiers abandoned their weapons and clothes as they surrendered.

The coup was instigated six hours ahead of schedule due to a leak of the plan. A junior officer killed one of the main organisers, Semih Terzi, right at the beginning which disrupted the command and control of the rebels. A lack of coordination and misinformation of the true purpose of the attack demoralised many of the conscripts, causing them to surrender.

Our flight home being cancelled and the fear that we may have had to stay in Turkey another two days sent us into complete distress and panic. Nevertheless, we packed up our stuff, handed in our room keys and headed to Bodrum Airport. We had no idea what we were doing, and our parents were going just as frantic as we were. However, the only way of getting out of the country was to fly and so the airport was our best option. We were prepared to camp out, but luckily a replacement flight had been arranged for us. It meant that we had to fly to Frankfurt first and do a couple laps of their airport (for those who have visited, you’ll understand – it’s massive), but once we were safely seated on our flight back to England, the biggest sensation of relief flooded through our veins.

I won’t say that returning back to miserable England was my favourite moment of last summer, but as I stepped out into the cold I could still only think about the past twenty-four hours and the level of fear I had been suffocated by. With all my heart I hoped that those friends I had made and their loved ones were ok.

To this day, I only have one wish.

Make. Terrorism. Stop.

References
[1] http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Military+coup
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Turkish_coup_d%27%C3%A9tat_attempt
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