None of us knew what was upon us!
My friend was in an unusual melancholy like something unpleasant was about to happen. We received a phone call at 22:36. A friend – in panic – told us to stay put. She suggested that there was a probable terrorist attack around Üsküdar and consequent military mobilization to thwart it. At that moment, we were at Istanbul Şehir University – sitting 2 km away from the Bosporus Bridge that became the symbolic center stage of the failed coup attempt that unfolded in the middle of the night of July 16, 2016!
We moved indoors. The images of soldiers taking over Istanbul’s main bridges and information about jet and helicopter flights in Ankara started circulating on TV and social media. Our first reaction was to contact our friends outside. Two of them had headed to Çengelköy that became one of the most violent points in the coup attempt. They got out of there despite heavy traffic. Meanwhile, messages from our closet circle started dropping through Whatsapp.
No body knew what was happening. Some suggested that it was the first step of a military coup. I was one of the few who rejected the possibility of any full fledged coup for all communication channels (mobile, internet, TV etc.) were fully functional. However, my friends were right; it was an amateurish attempt by a rogue platoon to take control. My friend wanted to leave for dorm alone, but I didn’t accept. In the meantime, two other friends joined us upon our request. They had been stopped by the Police and not allowed to head to the Bridge!
While the panic was developing, PM Yıldrım and Pres. Erdoğan appeared on TV to confirm the probable coup attempt and called for the people to flood the streets for democracy. News of firing and explosions in Ankara kept coming. Meanwhile, the call for prayers started coming from the mosque as a distress signal. Coup makers published their declaration on Turkish Army’s website and forced a TRT anchor to read it on gunpoint. Meanwhile, people started marching towards bridge and our friend left to join them. He would come back safe and sound, but drenched in blood, after a couple of hours. Shortly after, the soldiers at the bridge started firing in air. We can hear the bullets, see them flying like molten steel in the air. Then came the sounds of explosions, and sonic booms of jets. News from Ankara about bombing of the Parliament and gun battle at Turkish Army headquarter also kept coming. My friends were Ankara told that the capital was shaking due to the explosions and the flights of jets and helicopters.
The sound of firing from the bridge and ambulances towards the bridge kept coming. The messages from whatsapp, facebook, emails kept dropping. Meanwhile, Erdoğan landed in Istanbul and civil security forces started mobilizing against the insurgents – the coup attempt was piratically over. By the time – 5:30 – when we left our school, most of the rogue soldiers had laid down their weapons. The only critical points under their control were Bosporus Bridge and Çengelköy Police Station. While the former was surrendered, a gun battle took place at the latter involving the deaths of more than a dozen citizens.
The night that started for me at 22:30 on July, 15 came to an end at 9:30 on July, 16. For some of my friends, it continued throughout the day and the next night as well. It was a long night – probably the longest in our lives. It was a night full of lessons – both for those who lived through it and those who didn’t. It was the night of victory; it was a night of democracy; it was a night of civilians; it was a night of Turkey!
May Allah never repeat this night for us again!