Voices: The Turks who resisted the attempted coup

TRT World spoke to a civilian who was injured and a father who lost his son during the failed coup on July 15.

Photo by: TRT World
Photo by: TRT World

Ahmet Ergin, father of Batuhan Ergin who died during the coup attempt, shows his son's last social media post from his mobile phone.

Updated Jul 24, 2016

On the bloody night of July 15 a faction of the military attempted to overthrow Turkey's democratically elected government.

The move was countered by pro-democracy police forces and civilians.

At least 246 people lost their lives, excluding the coup plotters, and 2,185 others were left wounded.

Approximately 160 people were brought to Istanbul’s Haydarpasa Hospital in Kadikoy, where 15 were pronounced dead.

At the hospital we spoke to some of those injured while resisting the coup, as well as a father who lost his son in the shootout.

Here are some of their stories:

Sebahattin Unal, 56, wounded.

Sebahattin Unal is a 56-year-old father of seven and a resident of the Sultanbeyli district on the Asian side of Istanbul.

Unal is originally from the city of Nevsehir central Anatolia.

He works as a courier and occasionally takes cargo to cities outside of Istanbul.

He sustained a wound above his right ankle and also to his left leg above the knee during the clashes.    

The night of the attempted coup he was returning home from his job.

He learned of the news of the coup attempt once he had already arrived home.

We spoke to him while he is laying on his hospital bed, with bandages on his legs and cords coming out of his chest.

Holding back his tears, he recalls his account of that night he was wounded defending democracy.

Sabahattin Unal who was wounded during failed coup is held by his brother Harun in hospital on July 19, 2016.

Where were you at the time of the attempted coup?

"I carry things around, and I had taken cargo to Avsa island in Balikesir and was returning from that area.

I got home at around 10pm. When I came home, my neighbour said to me, ‘Sebahattin, I need to get to Avrupa [European] side, but soldiers have shut off the Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge’.

I said I just used that bridge, there was nothing there.

I told him that perhaps this happened after I left. I got home and turned on Channel A to watch the news. I went ballistic when I heard the President’s speech telling everyone to go out on the streets.

I started my car, my aim was to quickly get to our President’s house in Kisikli. As I was driving there, I noticed the congested traffic.

I returned from the bridge. I stopped my car on the Sultanbeyli-Sile highway and started to walk from there to Kisikli."

You were alone when the incidents occurred on the bridge, right?

"Yes I was alone. As I was walking, I noticed many others were also walking. 

Then I made my way to Kisikli and one of my friends said, ’Sebahattin Abi, what are we going to do? we will be hungry and thirsty for a week, we can’t allow the tanks to come to Kisikli.’ And I asked what tanks? ‘There are tanks on the Bosphorus bridge’, my friend replied.

I told him that I wouldn’t wait for the tanks to come here, I will go to them! From there I sped off to the Bosphorus bridge.

There were many civilians in the area when I got there, about 500 metres away from the soldiers. The soldiers were in front of their tanks shooting at civilians.

They opened indiscriminate fire. I ran in a zig zag motion so that they couldn’t easily target me. I got shot in this right foot (above the ankle).

I didn’t care, I continued…

But then, I fell to the ground... I remember 3 or 4 people placing me in a car, which drove me to the hospital. I don’t remember anything else."

Clashes on the Bosphorus bridge on the night of July 15.

Did you see the soldier who shot you? Would you remember him if you saw him?

"I would have to work my memory a bit. But I wouldn’t easily forget."

Did he target you?

"He didn’t target me or anything, they were just shooting everyone randomly.

But I remember something clearly, he was wearing the uniform of a ranking officer, he was clearly a military officer. He was on the older side.

As long as I live in this country, nobody can touch Erdogan without taking my life first. No one can touch our President!

If they do, they will have to kill me first, then he will go do it. I can’t do anything about that.

However, as long as I live, I won’t allow this FETO disaster to carry on!"

You said you had fallen to the ground..what were you thinking of at that time? Was it your country, family or anything else?

"I didn’t think of my family at all. Before thinking of my family I always think of my country.

If a bird doesn't have a nest, they can’t make a home.

Firstly, the bird will have to make his nest, then with the will of Allah, with his partner he will raise his children there.

So you must have a nest in order to make a home."

So would you do it again if you had the chance?

"Yes, I definitely would. As long as I can stand on my feet, I will be at the frontlines...wherever I am needed.

I have no fear with the will of Allah.

I always make this prayer, ’O Allah protect me from the tyrants, and keep me on the straight path’."

Ahmet Ergin, 50, father of deceased coup victim

Ahmet Ergin, 50, runs a furniture business in Ortakoy, Istanbul.

He has two sons and lost his youngest son Batuhan, 21 during the attempted coup.

The late Batuhan had just completed a year and half in military training and had been recently looking for a job.   

Ahmet Ergin, father of deceased coup victim, explains how his son was killed on July 19.

He describes his son as being "young, cool, calm and very caring."

Batuhan was caught up in the middle of the shootout which took place on the Bosphorus bridge.

When we spoke with Ahmet he was still in shock and the anguish was visible on his face, he still couldn’t believe what had happened to his family.

It had only been two months since Batuhan had returned from completing his military service.

He had been looking for a job to help his family out, unaware that a bloody coup would soon take his life.

It was during the early hours of Saturday, July 16, when a family friend had informed Ergin that Batuhan had been wounded in the incident and was in hospital.

However, when he arrived at the hospital his son had already passed away, he told TRT World.

How did you learn that your son had died?

"Batuhan had gone with his friends to the bridge.

He got hurt there..his friend stopped a car and took him to the hospital. The friend then rang his father, who was in Ortakoy. His dad came to my house at between 3:30am and 4am.

He told me that Batuhan had been wounded and that he was at Caglayan hospital. I quickly went to Caglayan.

He wasn’t wounded, he had died.

I saw his dead body. This is all."

Why did your son go to the scene? Was he a supporter of the government?

"I will show you the photo my son posted on social media around 20 minutes before being martyred.

This photo better explains why he was there..."

Ergin showed TRT World his late son's last post on Facebook:

The last social media post by the Batuhan. It was posted 20 minutes before he was shot.

What kind of a person was he?

"He was calm, well-mannered, he loved his country and its people."

What do you think about the attempted coup? What are your thoughts?  

"I’m sad. I'm hurt..I don’t know what to think.

I miss my son.

We’re all in a terrible state.

The only thing that consoles us is that he went there with his own will."

What was the last conversation you had with your son before this tragic incident?

"He and his friend were watching TV. I rang him and said, ‘My son everywhere is chaos, quickly come home!’ He told me he was watching the news on TV with his friend.

I told him whatever you do, don’t go outside.

He said 'OK dad, don’t you worry’...

Later on, when the situation got worse, the civilians started advancing towards the tanks that were on the bridge, my son asked Murat [his friend] ‘what’s going on?’ while they were watching the incident unfold on the news.’

Then Murat said I think this is a coup. Batuhan then said that 'if a coup was going to take place, why are we just sitting here? We should go out and fight against the coup with the people. My mother and father will become distressed if a coup happens...so why are we just sitting here?'

He said 'even if we are martyred we should still do it! If we have to we will be martyrs!'

So then they both went to the scene...And he did become a martyr in the end.'"

Photo of Batuhan Ergin in his military service uniform.

Did anyone come to visit you?

"They are all still coming to offer their condolences.

The government is with us, may Allah be pleased with them.

The day after his death, the District Governor came, the Besiktas mufti came, the city police commissioner came, the Besiktas city mayor came.

They all came to stand with us.

May Allah be pleased with them all."

Authors: Haq Nawaz Khan, Sultan Erkekli, Zeyneb Sahin