The coup and my reaction:
On July 15th 2016, my mum received a call from a concerned friend telling us to turn on the TV. Images and videos of the famous Bosphorus bridge being closed off by a big group of troops were scattered over almost every channel. There was a lot of confusion to what was happening, “Is there a terrorist attack underway?” was the only thought going through my head as I began to message family in Turkey. At that moment, our house went silent as the prime minister, Binali Yildirim announced that a military coup was underway. Things began to escalate quickly as I began to search up what a coup even was and why it was happening. I started hearing of fighter jets flying over Ankara and Istanbul alongside helicopters whilst panic struck the country. This was an attempt to seize power from the current president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Suddenly, things worsened. Claims of explosions and gunshots came to light in Istanbul and Ankara, the capital of Turkey. Then on a facetime call from his holiday… the president, appears and tells the people to fight and stand up for their country.
The videos began to surface of the citizens of Turkey flooding the streets to protect their country, a sea of red and white flags running toward the dangerous military weaponry. People were shot at and military helicopters were shot down. I remember feeling as though I was watching a film like the Purge. Surely all of this chaos could not be real on such a large scale in such a small amount of time? I remember lying in bed that night thinking “How can I visit this country now? What will happen?
On the morning of my flight two days after the coup, I was nervous. Very nervous. I had no idea if something bad was going to happen after the bombing of the airport and the coup that lead to so many deaths. “Take a deep breath” I said to myself as I boarded the plane. Once we had landed and the heat hit me, I knew I was here. Once I reached passport control. The man at the booth looked me up and down and viewed my passport. He picked up the phone beside him and whispered “Shall we let him pass?”, hearing those words made my heart race. I think we’ve all heard the stories of Turkey being corrupt, was I about to be taken away to a cell somewhere? I didn’t even have any 3G to Snapchat my arrest! – Ok so, I was a bit dramatic after all. I made it through and passed several men in bulletproof vests and with massive guns that could definitely do some damage. I guess the security was improved after all the events occurring.
There was a weird feeling in the air that I just couldn’t explain. For the time, I spent in Turkey all I heard about was the coup. Every channel, every billboard and every political meeting was about the coup. Every night people cohorts of people gathered in the hopes of protecting their country. Most houses had their own Turkish flag proudly hanging from the window to show the resident’s support of democracy in the country. Mosques with banners writing “Say no to coups, yes to democracy”. It honestly scared me that such a beautiful country could turn so dark in one month! I noticed a lack of tourists that would normally fill the streets taking photos and selfies of the beauty that surrounded them. The economy was hit hard. Some businesses decided to pull out of some deals to avoid the country altogether.
We didn’t, however let this stop our holiday. After days of site seeing and shopping we would watch the sun go down whilst drinking a fresh cup of Turkish Coffee, overlooking the beautiful city of Istanbul. Some mornings were filled with walks by the sea where the fresh smell of Simit (a type of Turkish bread) would hit you and make you crave some. Other days were spent relaxing on a beach, not wanting to return to all the responsibilities that awaited me at home.
Turkey may still be having issues today but underneath the unstable political environment and corruption, a beautiful and vibrant country remains.
Deniz Arslan is a University of Sussex student studying for a Masters degree in Msc International Marketing