Conscripts' accounts reveal brutality of pro-coup officers
by Yüksel Temel
ISTANBULOct 06, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Yüksel Temel
Oct 06, 2016 12:00 am
On the night of July 15, a Gülenist junta tried to seize power and did not hesitate in killing anyone opposing them, be them unarmed civilians or police officers they outgunned. Accounts of conscripts who claim they were deceived and forced to join their commanding putschist officers in the coup attempt revealed how the putschists boosted their numbers and their brutality.
Questioned by judges, conscripts in the ranks of privates who were dispatched to army headquarters, police headquarters and other strategic locations in the capital city of Ankara, were unanimous in one thing: their commander Ejder Yıldırım, a pro-coup officer, would devise a way to seize power and was intent on killing anyone who tried to stop him. Yıldırım, arrested after the coup was foiled, was the commander of a brigade in Mamak, the largest military base in Ankara from which tanks and armored vehicles carrying soldiers tasked with attacking strategic targets were deployed from that night.
Soldiers said Yıldırım ordered them to fire on both police and civilians and personally mowed down scores of civilians who had gathered to protect police headquarters. Bahattin A., one of the soldiers, said he and others were summoned to a gathering point on the base and told they would "attend a military exercise." He said he was with three officers in an armored vehicle dispatched to stop civilians and seize public buildings but officers left en route to those places, leaving he and two others behind. Bahattin A. said Yıldırım had told them they were simply going to a drill and he was scared when people stopped them on the street. He said he saw Ejder Yıldırım and another officer were firing shots on the police. "I saw Yıldırım shooting an elderly woman carrying a flag. The other officer shot a police officer," he said.
Erman A., another conscript, said commanders told the conscripts they were sent to stop Daish militants. "They told us Daish raided army headquarters. When we arrived to the headquarters on a tank, an officer ordered us to fire in the direction of the building. The soldier behind the turret said it was not working. Then, I saw a tank behind us crushing vehicles and advancing. I also saw [pro-coup] troops in army headquarters firing on the crowd and I was confused. Tanks were crushing people and civilians started advancing towards us. A helicopter was firing on the crowd. I told another soldier we should leave. I told him that the people were with the police and that was where we should be. Then, we surrendered," Erman A. recounted.
Mehmet Ö., another conscript, said he was in front of police headquarters when Commander Yıldırım told them terrorists had occupied the building and ordered them to fire. "Non-commissioned officers opposed him and said that the people we should fire at were police officers. He gave the order again. Then, civilians surrounded us. Yıldırım started firing on them. I saw him shoot a civilian woman," he told judges.