In the face of the coup attempt organized by FETÖ on the night of July 15, people poured into the streets upon the call of President Erdoğan. The democracy defense that began on that night in the streets solidified the determination of the coup resisters and rendered the attempt ineffective. Although a week has passed since the attempt, people still continue to gather in public squares to protect democracy.
Aside from signifying the presence of a danger in practice, the democracy watch also symbolize people’s stance against the coup. People continue to issue the message that they guard democracy, and the constitutional and legitimate government by gathering in squares every night. At this point, indicating the codes of public reflexes is crucial to shedding light on the possible reactions to similar movements in the future.
Within his scope, a field study was initiated by SETA in the aftermath of the coup attempt and a series of interviews were conducted with the persons joining the democracy defense. In Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Adana, Sakarya and Trabzon provinces, many face-to-face interviews were made and the findings were assessed. The findings were evaluated in two specific contexts. The first is the framework that was formed through the answers to the questions regarding the experiences on the night of July 15, the aftermath of July 15, and the confrontation with the coup attempt. The second context is the narrative account of people’s observations with the aim to reveal the general psychology prevalent in the squares.
The night of July 15 and its aftermath
The results of the interviews show that the “stance against coup” acted as the main motivation mobilizing all the people to the streets regardless of their political views. Another aspect that must be emphasized is that Erdoğan’s call accelerated the street mobilizations. Also, a considerable part of the participants expressed how they saw the president’s composure and call to public as the main factor that repelled the coup. A substantial part of the participants stated that TV broadcasts and social media had a major role in the people’s organized resistance. It must also be added that the misinformation in some of the news circulating in social media was not taken into consideration by the participants.
Underlining the police’s struggle during and after the coup attempt, the participants also regard the contribution of the police’s anti-coup fight as a valuable factor leading to the failure of the attempt. Almost all participants referred to various foreign forces that abet FETÖ as one of the components behind the attempt. Most of them regard the United States as responsible for the insurrection since it hosts FETÖ leader Gülen. Furthermore, the participants stated that they found the news on the subject released by European media outlets biased and fabricated.
Although most of the people in the squares are AK Party proponents, the MHP and CHP electorate are also participating in the democracy defense. Particularly The anti-coup sentiment was especially strong among the nationalists. Some participants in various cities expressed a lack of trust towards the approach of the CHP.
Trust in TSK is expected to improve after it is cleansed of FETÖ affiliates
A big question remains as to whether the organization of the coup attempt by a terrorist group that infiltrated the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) changed society’s perspective towards the TSK. A substantial part of the participants do not consider the terrorist elements and the rest of the TSK the same, while expressing that cleansing the terrorist elements from the TSK would improve the prestige and trustworthiness of the institution. Nevertheless, some participants taking into consideration that in the past the TSK had acted on the grounds of ideological concerns, now approach the institution more cautiously. The emergence of such an initiative within the TSK leads some participants to believe that a security weakness might arise in the process following the attempt. However, a considerable part agrees that the government and President Erdoğan will not allow such a weakness to manifest.
All participants wished the coup plotters to be held accountable for their actions but emphasized that this must be carried out within the scope of the law and that they must be given fair trials. However, they argue that the penalties given to them must act as deterrents to similar actions in the future. The outstanding options of penalties in this respect include life imprisonment and capital punishment.
Also, there is a strong consensus among the participants that the political power’s fight in the aftermath of the coup attempt has been very successful and this fight must be maintained until the FETÖ threat is completely eradicated.
Observations from public squares
To better grasp the collectivity of the people gathered in squares, the participation rates, the songs and anthems played, the slogans and the placards give some important clues. In cities like Istanbul and Ankara, where people and the coup attempters confronted and clashed with each other more intensely, the participation rates in the democracy watch is much higher and people tend to stay in the meetings longer.
In all the public squares where people gathered, an atmosphere of festivity is prevalent. The crowds enthusiastically sing along and shout slogans in unison. In some provinces, municipalities and various NGOs offered food and drinks to people.
Another notable aspect in the squares is the slogans shouted in favor of President Erdoğan in the company of Turkish flags. The most popular slogans include “Democracy is and will remain ours,” “Martyrs do not die, our country is not split,” Ya Allah, Bismillah, Allahuekber,” ”We sacrifice our lives for our country,” “One nation, one flag, one homeland.” In addition, prayers and passages from the Koran are being recited almost in every square in the memory of the martyrs. Mehter anthems are being played and hymns are being sung. The most popular songs include “Dombra,” “Türkiye’m” (My Turkey), and the soundtrack of the TV series “Diriliş” (Resurrection).