A video that surfaced on Monday added one more figure to the gallery of ordinary people who were hailed for their bravery on the night of the July 15 coup attempt by the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).
The video shows a man holding a Turkish flag in capital Ankara as he confronts five tanks carrying pro-coup soldiers. The tanks and armored personnel carriers suddenly stop when the man jumps on the street, near the Prime Ministry building, armed only with the crescent and star flag. The man went as far as to lay down in front of the tanks in an attempt to stop them from advancing. The tanks were only able to continue after they forcefully pushed the man away from the road.
The man, hailed as a hero on social media, was Yaşar Yaldız, a native of Kırıkkale, a city neighboring Ankara. Speaking to A Haber TV, Yaldız recounted the fateful night and how he felt."I believe my stand that night personifies what the nation felt," Yaldız says.
Yaldız was among the millions who learned about the coup attempt on TV on July 15. "I was watching TV around 8 p.m. on July 15 when I saw news reports about the closure of Bosporus Bridge. It was something suspicious. I felt something was wrong. As soon as I heard a statement by the prime minister, I grabbed a Turkish flag I kept at home and got in my car," he recalls, referring to a live broadcast of Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım's statements describing the incident on the bridge as part of an "attack on Turkey."
He then hopped into his car, anxious to reach the Prime Ministry after the call by Yıldırım who, along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, urged the public to take to the streets against the coup plotters.
"I drove to Ankara from Kırıkkale, my hometown. It is a 90-kilometer road and usually takes about an hour to reach Ankara but I was there in 30 minutes. I drove to the entrance of Çankaya Palace [the Prime Ministry building] so I could help protect the prime minister," Yaldız said.
"I was full of [patriotic] emotions while I was driving to Ankara. I was listening to the national anthem on the road," he remembers.
"When I arrived, the Prime Ministry's bodyguards were still at the entrance of the Prime Ministry. Warplanes were flying overhead. I saw them and helicopters firing in places far away and later I found out they were attacking Parliament. About half an hour after my arrival, I heard the noise of [tank] engines. There was a column of tanks and armored vehicles waiting near the Prime Ministry. Ten minutes later, they started advancing to the entrance. There was no other civilian there. I started walking. I told the bodyguards to shield themselves. They were confused about how to act, they were not sure if they should fire on the soldiers. I thought I would act as a barrier between those terrorist troops and the bodyguards. I told the guards not to worry and that I would stop the soldiers," he said.
Yaldız thought the tanks would stop and not crush him but he was wrong.
"They were determined and were too aware of what they were doing. When the first tank stopped, I told the soldiers inside they should stop, they were committing a crime. They ignored me and tried to keep driving. They moved left and right because they thought I would be scared and go away. I had to prove that I was determined to stop them, so I decided to lay down before the tanks. One tank stopped but others started driving around them and advanced. Still, I managed to stop at least one tank," he recounted.
In the end, pro-coup troops withdrew and surrendered as a staunch public resistance with the aid of police quelled the putsch attempt all across the country by the early hours of July 16.
"They call me a hero and say nobody else would have done it. I believe any true patriot would do more than I did. Safiye Bayat did it. She confronted the soldiers. I was about to cry when I saw what she did. Compared to what she did, my efforts amount to nothing," Yaldız said, referring to the woman who was captured on video as she approached pro-coup soldiers on Bosporus Bridge on the coup attempt night. Bayat, unarmed, was injured when soldiers opened fire.
"There was a spirit, a spirit to confront [the coup plotters] that night. I did not fear that night like others who stood against tanks did not," Yaldız said. "I would do it again if I had the chance, to protect my country, my nation," he added.
He says that he kept in touch with his wife while he was in Ankara that night but his mother did not know he was outside the Prime Ministry on July 15. "My mother was sad when she learned what I did but I wouldn't be there if it wasn't for her. She raised me that way. I am proud of being her son," he said.
"These are our country and our leaders they targeted but we will never allow them to win. This was not a struggle to protect President Erdoğan. This was an independence struggle for Turkey," Yaldız adds.
Though the public managed to stave off the coup attempt, 242 people died in the process as soldiers opened fire on the crowds resisting them, either outside a city hall in Istanbul or the Presidential Palace in Ankara.
Yaşar Yaldız was not the only citizen to lay down in front of a tank. Sabri Ünal, 34, was injured when he jumped in front of fast-moving tanks in Istanbul in dramatic moments captured on security camera footage. Metin Doğan, another Istanbul resident, was hailed as a hero when he laid down before the tanks at Istanbul's Atatürk International Airport in a desperate bid to stop the pro-coup troops from taking over the airport.