Two years ago, on the night of July 15, 2016, the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) carried out a deadly terrorist attack in the guise of a military coup in Turkey. The attack was carried out by FETÖ infiltrators in the Turkish army, a group that defined themselves as the so-called "Council for Peace at Home."
That night, it was around 10 p.m. when we heard unconfirmed reports claiming that some soldiers had seized weapons from the police officers at the Beylerbeyi Palace on Istanbul's Anatolian side. In a few minutes, a friend who was driving from the Anatolian side to the European side called me and said that the Bosporus Bridge was blocked by the military. Something very strange was happening.
It was followed by other rumors that Turkish airspace was closed to military traffic. It was either a huge terror attack or a coup attempt, I first thought. But it was both.
Meanwhile, I was with friends in a cafe very close to the Vatan Boulevard in Istanbul, when rows of tanks started to appear. Two young men ran into the garden of the cafe, shouting that some tanks were on the street. The Istanbul Police Headquarters is located on that boulevard, and we figured out that the goal was to capture the building.
I was in the first crowd headed to the Boulevard taking pictures and videos. I posted them on social media to show people what was going on. The crowd parked cars and buses on the road to stop the tanks from getting to the police headquarters. I was standing in front of the tanks, shouting with the crowd. There were two soldiers on top of one the tanks and one of them opened fire on the crowd. He looked to be a high-ranking officer.At that moment, I thought that he was a Gülenist soldier but he was more than that. The day after the coup attempt, we learned that this individual in a high-ranking military uniform was Mithat Aynacı, a civilian and a former Gülenist police officer, who was suspended from duty in 2014 for his links to FETÖ. Amateur video footage showed that he jumped in one of the tanks on the road, changed his clothes inside, and pretended to be a soldier. He took a gun and a rifle in his hands, and tried to kill us.
As a matter of fact, the whole world was ready to take the bait. When news of the coup started to spread, some people were ready to believe that the attempt was in a chain of command of the military. Some people were really sad while some others were very happy. The global community did not know the fact that FETÖ has been one of the primary threats targeting the Turkish state and people for a long time.It took former Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar hostage, captured Turkish state-broadcaster TRT and sabotaged the official website of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). They announced a parallel statement on TV and the TSK website. Introducing themselves as the "Turkish Armed Forces," they said, "The Turkish Armed Forces have completely taken over the administration of the country to reinstate constitutional order, human rights and freedoms, the rule of law and the general security that was damaged. All international agreements are still valid. We hope that all of our good relationships with all countries will continue."
The world didn't but Turkish society knew these people very well. They knew what FETÖ was capable of, what it could dare to do and how low they could go. I remember that night, people immediately accused the Gülenists and vowed on the streets as well as in the social media "you will not get away with this," "you have to kill all of us before you become successful," and "we will not let you take our country, our will."
In a matter of minutes, the Turks were out; they were in front of the tanks. It was not simply hundreds, or thousands: When President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke to the Turkish people and urged them to resist the attempted military coup, people poured into the street, clashing with the pro-coup Gülenist troops. It was not only the Muslims, seculars, leftists, or conservatives; almost everyone in Turkey stayed together and announced, "We will not let this happen to our country.
July 15, 2016, was the worst and the best of days. Turkey's democracy faced a heinous attack that night, but then claimed one of its greatest victories.The next morning we started to see the whole picture. The whole scene was one of tragedy across different cities in Turkey that came under the wrath of tanks, helicopter gunships and fighter jets. The attack resulted in the death of 250 people and left over 2,193 wounded. The Turkish Parliament, the presidential complex and the police headquarters in Ankara had never faced bombing before.
However, it was also a historic moment. The Turkish people's resistance in the face of a military coup was a unique example in human history and in the history of democracy. The government, civil society groups and ordinary citizens joined together in unity and solidarity and defended the democratic order with the help of the police officers and the soldiers who were loyal to the state.
On the night of 15 July, millions of Turks fought against the Gülenists to defend Turkey's democracy and protect its legitimate government. On the second anniversary of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt we honor the memories of those who lost their lives safeguarding Turkey, its national union and democracy from the forces of fascism and terrorism. After two years, we still mourn our losses and praise the victory.