Omer Halisdemir killed one of the key FETO members and reversed the gains of coup plotters. The fateful day is remembered as Democracy and National Unity Day and here's how Halisdemir laid down his life, defending Türkiye.
The name Omer Halisdemir is etched in the national memory of Türkiye since the midnight of July 15, 2016, when the brave-hearted soldier shot dead putschist Brigadier General Semih Terzi who had gone rogue and was leading a group of heavily armed soldiers to capture the Special Forces Command in the capital city, Ankara.
Minutes before striking Terzi down, Halisdemir received a phone call from his commander Major General Zekai Aksakalli, who told him that the country was facing a violent coup and that eliminating Terzi was essential to deal a major blow to the coup plotters.
“Aye aye sir, give your blessing,” Halisdemir replied.
Halisdemir took a position in the front yard of the command center. Terzi entered the compound, escorted by heavily armed officers, at 02.16 AM. In lightning speed, Halisdemir came out of his hiding spot and shot dead Terzi, the key military asset for Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO).
Halisdemir succeeded in getting rid of Terzi but he couldn't save himself from the hail of bullets fired by Terzi’s escorts. Major Fatih Sahin, another FETO member, hit him 12 times in the back.
Seeing Halisdemir still alive, another henchman of Terzi, Mihrali Atmaca, fired the last shot that ended the gallant soldier's life. The incident, which was captured on security cameras, was the turning point of the coup.
Halisdemir's valiant act threw FETO-led soldiers into disarray. They darted here and there aimlessly, unable to follow the coup plot, while Terzi, their leader, laid dead like a log.
As the dark night ended with bright sunshine, tens of thousands of Turkish people were already onto the streets, celebrating the defeat of coup plotters.
When CCTV footage of Halisdemir's valour was made public, it moved ordinary Turks to tears. While they were inspired by his courage, his ability to fight against a heavily armed unit of putschists and taking out their main leader, they also mourned his death. For Turks, it was too hard to bear the loss of a fearless soldier, who happily took the orders from his commander, even though the chances of his survival were extremely less.
In 2021, TRT World visited Halisdemir's hometown Cukurkuyu in Nigde province. Cukurkuyu is full of vast expanses of agricultural land ringed by low-lying hills of Central Anatolia.
Prior to the July 15 failed coup, Cukurkuyu was a nondescript town. Now, it has a public park and a university built in the memory of Halisdemir. A Muslim cemetery has been named after him too, where his final resting place is adorned by small Turkish flags.
Ibrahim Ayhan, an elected neighbourhood representative of Cukurkuyu Town, was a childhood friend of Halisdemir.
“He always desired to be a soldier. While he was brave and fearless on the battlefield, he wouldn't hurt a fly on normal days. When it came to defending his nation, nothing would intimidate him and his martyrdom proved it,” Ayhan told TRT World.
“The children of Cukurkuyu are born fearless. They are brave and patriotic. Omer proved it. He became Türkiye's national hero."
In his childhood and early youth, Halisdemir was a shepherd, according to Sukur Koc, 67, one of the well-known figures of Cukurkuyu.
“All my grandchildren feel inspired by his story like the rest of Türkiye does. Not everyone can do what Omer did. He was very brave. As long as our youth follow the path of Omer Halisdemir, no one can harm this country,” Koc said.
Koc said the entire town is witness to Halisdemir's humble and honest character.
"No matter who you talk to, they will say good things and you will never hear anything bad about him."
Halisdemir joined the Turkish Armed Forces in 1999 as an infantry soldier. His bravery and sound military mind made him a successful serviceman and he was awarded various military awards. He also served in difficult and challenging places such as southeastern Türkiye, northern Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Omer will be remembered for his great service that saved the Republic of Türkiye. He single-handedly turned the plans of FETO traitors upside down. What he did for the country can never be underestimated,” Koc added.
Another resident of the town who is also a relative of Halisdemir said that while Omer was courageous, he had a deep faith in God.
“We know he had been in dozens of clashes, but he wouldn't give any details. When we asked, he never spoke a word about what was going on in his military life. He was a disciplined soldier,” the relative told TRT World.
"Dozens of enemies in different parts of the world could not kill him. He was martyred by the traitors who tried to take over our country by wearing the uniform of our own soldiers. This upsets me the most".
Halisdemir was married to Hatice. The couple had a daughter, Elifnur, and a son, Dogan Ertugrul.
Two days before the failed coup attempt, Halisdemir had asked his wife to read him Surah Yaseen, the 36th chapter of the Holy Quran, which is known for removing fears from the hearts of the faithful.
"On one hand, I'm feeling so proud, but, on the other hand, I've been suffering. His retirement was approaching. There were only two years left. Omer started building a garden in his hometown to enjoy his post-retirement life in peace. Unfortunately, he was not able to do that. But he has a better place. He is in the garden of Eden," said Halisdemir's relative.
On July 16, 2016, Yakup Soyhan, 58, went to the Institution of Forensic Medicine in Ankara to receive his friend Halidemir's body.
Soyhan was grieving for his friend, and he wasn't fully aware of how crucial Halisdemir's intervention was in saving the future of Türkiye.
While waiting for his brave friend's body, a group of high-ranking military soldiers came up to him and told him how Halisdemir saved the country from falling into the wrong hands.
“One of the colonels among them told me that Omer was among the main patriots who destroyed the plans of coup plotters,” Soyhan added.
On his fifth death anniversary, a large crowd of people, including young university students, gathered at his grave while carrying Turkish flags.
Tulay Nur Helvaci, 21, was also at his grave. She drew a charcoal portrait of Halisdemir.
“He was a martyr who did not hesitate in giving his life for the motherland. Thanks to him, we are still living so comfortably. We are grateful to him,” Helvaci says.
Nur Seda Sevinc, 21, a student at Nigde Omer Halisdemir University and national boxer, was among the young people at the cemetery.
“We are here to carry on his spirit, to show our respect and express our gratitude,” Sevinc told TRT World.