T he night of July 15 was a turning point for Turkey. This precious nation made history by standing up against the coup attempt carried out by tanks, jets, and helicopters. Citizens on democracy vigils in the squares continued to stay up all night on Istanbul's most crucial points. Streets and squares became home to thousands of people with different views and ideologies.
Kısıklı, the Heart of the Squares
Kısıklı, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's home is located, was one of the first points where thousands of people kept watch from day one. Prayers, Takbirs and slogans chanted against the coup plotters filled the skies of Uskudar every night until dawn. Kısıklı Square, which became a fortress of resistance, was the point from the first hours of the coup attempt to stand up against coup plotters. Erdogan conveyed important messages to people from here. With his messages, the enthusiasm of thousands of people was doubled and they held those national will vigils with more passion.
Seventeen-year-old Ayse Beyza Aksoy, who did not leave Kisikli from day one, said "We keep watch next to our commander-in-chief. We are here until he asks us to leave." Forty-sixyear-old Ekrem Tarik Sen, expressed his excitement, saying "This is our second home now. We will not leave the squares. We get emotional when our president starts talking to us here. We are witnessing a historic event. And only people will write history.”
We Know Coups from Childhood
Nine -year-old Omer Tasdemir in military camouflage clothes draws our attention in Esenler Dortyol Square, among thousands of people holding Turkish flags."I was so scared when I saw the tanks. But now we are in the streets every evening with my dad and my brother. I am here for my country," says Omer. Like Omer, 10-year-old Azra Fatma Uyanik is one of those affected by the incident: "I've seen what a coup is at this age. It was a terrible feeling when I watched it on TV. I came here to prevent the coup."
Forty-six- year-old Mehmet Demir, who lives in Germany for 12 years, tells how he came to Istanbul the next day, after seeing the coup attempt on TV: "This is our country. Nobody can protect it better than us. As soon as I heard about the incident, I took my family and friends along with me and came for my country." Emine Kara, who has a mental disability, recognizes the horror of the attempt saying, "I am here for my homeland. We do not want coups. Turkey is the greatest!"
I Have Seen Two Coups, But Haven't Seen Anything Like This
Despite his weak health, one of those rushing to the squares is 76 year-old Mehmet Karataslioglu."I was 20 years old during the 1960 coup. Then I saw the 1980 coup. The folks weren't as aware as they are today. But I haven't seen any putschist desperate enough to bomb the parliament and people," says Karataslioglu. "They did this to Menderes. They thought they would do the same thing to Erdogan. But they forgot about people this time. We stay all night in the squares with my wife, children and grandchildren. When I saw the arrested coup plotters on TV, I said 'Die, shame on you!' These men must die from being in such a despicable situation. But they know no shame! Their blood is corrupt."
"We Are Here for the Homeland"
Sixteen-year-old Esra Cetinkaya and her 19-year-old sister Seda are the ones to experience a coup attempt for the first time. Esra says, "First I was so scared, my heart was in pain. But as soon as I got over it, I ran to the streets. I am here for my country." Then her sister Seda says "I took my flag and went out to protect my homeland. Even if the coup attempt was successful, be sure that I would still go out and stand up against them." Twenty-five-year-old graphic designer Enes Aksoy says that the first night was terrible, "I saw tanks running over cars, tearing people into pieces. We are here for our home today. If I got my hands on the soldier driving the tank towards me, I would beat him too. This is a festival of the people."
Moldovan Supporters in Sarachane Square
Another point where people were killed on that night was the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality building in Sarachane. The sounds of Takbir and chants rising to the sky blend with engine noises and horns. Three hundred bikers park in front of the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Monument with horns and Turkish flags. They raise hands to the heavens together and pray for the martyrs.
There were foreigners joining the prayers. Moldovan Olga Nedimov, who lives in Istanbul for 7 years, says "I love Tayyip Erdogan. He is a strong leader. I am in the streets both for him and for the Turkish people." Then another Moldovan, Yaemin Ikizli, who is married to a Turk and lives in Istanbul for 15 years steps in, "I wasn't scared when I first saw the coup attempt. But I did not expect it to be such a serious thing. We love Tayyip Erdogan and this country. We will continue to hold vigils for democracy."
Even A Two-Month-Old Baby Is on the Watch
Miray Meral, who is only two months old, watches around with curious eyes, unaware of what's going on. The baby, whose future would have been stolen from her should the coup attempt had been successful, carries a huge message. She smiles at her 12-year-old sister Beyza Fatma from time to time. Their mother, Nimet Marangoz says that they have been in Sarachane Square since day one: "I left all the chores at home. My country comes first, I'm on guard up here till the morning with my baby."
Then Erdogan's Kisikli speech starts to be broadcasted live on the giant screens set up in the square. The crowd begins to wave flags and chant. We leave this exuberant feast behind and head for Taksim.
I am in Taksim to Apologize to Young People
Taksim Square, where democracy vigils are held, sees a flood of people. The words of 52-year-old Selami Yalçınkaya, who is disabled due to an illness since the tender age of 17, are enough to touch people immediately: "I come here everyday from Esenyurt on my wheelchair. I will be at a different square each night as long as God gives me power. During the 1980 coup I was 16 and healthy. I now regret that I did not step up to the tanks at that time. We applauded the putschists. That's why now I am on guard to apologize to young people. Please, tell them to accept our apologies.”
Living the Coup Is Very Different from Reading About It
His 21-year-old daughter Esra is still shocked by the incident: "I have never experienced a coup. I have seen that living the coup is not the same as reading about it. It would be a lie if I said I wasn't scared but thank God we stand tall. It's worth seeing the unity of our people. As long as this nation is this devoted, no one can attempt a coup.We are here, we did not tumble, we stand upright."
I Have Heart Disease But I'm Here
Despite having a heart condition, 57-year-old Necla Aksut says, "We are aware this time. I was an ignorant 17-year-old when the 1980 coup happened. While the jets were flying over us on the first day, we walked to the Airport from Avcilar. Until the vigils end, we are here." Twenty-eightyear-old veterinarian Guler Caylak, who came to Taksim from Sariyer: "I rushed to go out once I heard about the coup. I tried to go to the bridge but I couldn't. Because the roads were blocked. I am sleepless for three days. I go to work in the morning, then come to the vigil in the evening. God save us from such evil."
Twenty-one-year-old Rumeysa Aslan, one of the three young women coming from Kagithane, says "I could not eat for two days. I was literally in shock. The scene that effected me the most was where one of the soldiers was poking his head from the tank, saying to angry people 'Please, I beg you, don't let my mom see this.' There I couldn't help bursting into tears. We will defend our homeland forever. Make them know that."
Yes, the squares write history with babies, with children, with the young and elderly.