Erdogan critics glad coup failed, fearful of backlash

2016-07-21 06:48
Pro-Erdogan supporters hold an effigy of US-based preacher Fethullah Gülen hanged by a noose during a rally at Taksim square in Istanbul following the military failed coup attempt. (AFP)

Pro-Erdogan supporters hold an effigy of US-based preacher Fethullah Gülen hanged by a noose during a rally at Taksim square in Istanbul following the military failed coup attempt. (AFP)

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Istanbul - Three years ago, critics of Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan rallied against him in mass protests. Last Friday they were appalled by a coup attempt against him. Now they fear what may come next.

A gloomy mood pervades Istanbul's chic, secular neighbourhood of Besiktas, a left-wing stronghold and centre of opposition against Erdogan.

While most here have no taste for military rule and are grateful the putsch failed, they are also anxious about what they call the subsequent "counter-coup" that has seen thousands detained.

"It appears a witch-hunt is under way," said 25-year-old university student and bartender Emre, as he crushed ice in a hipster cafe in the district that overlooks the Bosphorus.

Since the failed coup, when F-16s bombed parliament in Ankara and rebel troops nearly captured Erdogan, the government has launched a sweeping purge of suspected conspirators.

It has detained or sacked around 50 000 soldiers, police, teachers and officials and told universities to freeze academic study missions abroad and bring home scholars from overseas.

'Coup never acceptable' 

Emre, who like many here declined to give his full name, said he took part in the 2013 protests against Erdogan and his Islamo-conservative government that were sparked by plans to redevelop Gezi Park in central Istanbul.

Besiktas and its local Carsi football fan club were at the forefront of the mass protests, which pitted mostly youthful urban protesters against riot police.

Reflecting on his conflicting feelings now, shared by many here, Emre said: "I am not backing the government, but a coup is never acceptable."

In recent days, Erdogan has himself filled squares with elated supporters, who have waved red-and-white Turkish flags and celebrated his victory over the mutineers.

"There is no change in my dissident views about the government," said Emre.

"Everyone is now scared of a so-called counter-coup. We hear about the news that steps are being taken in this direction."

'Eyes brimming with tears' 

At first glance, life is back to normal in Besiktas, where trendy cafes were packed with a lunch crowd early this week. But, on most tables, there was only one topic of conversation.

"F-16 jets were flying, prayers for the dead were said through the loudspeakers of minarets that night," recounted Sumbul Celik, a 32-year-old sales representative, of last Friday night.

"That made me think about the Iranian regime," she said fearfully.

"At first I believed it was Erdogan's theatre show, but it appears there are [subversive] soldiers among the soldiers."

"The idea that it really was staged by others is comforting me more."

She stressed that she opposes the idea of anyone overthrowing an elected government by force.

"Even though I do not approve of Erdogan's policies, I believe no-one can do this to his own country," she said.

Celik recounted the passion for change she felt three years ago at the height of the Gezi protests, and added how crushed she feels now.

"At that time, I was very hopeful, protesting amongst the crowds proudly, my eyes brimming with tears," she said. "Now I am looking for a way to leave this country.

"We are a tiny minority at the moment. The government will restore an order that will only strengthen its domination."

'Freedoms that remain' 

Some people still voiced doubts the coup was real and argued that, either way, Erdogan would take full advantage of it.

"I believe the government will benefit from it, even if it is not entirely fake," one youngster said.

"The killing of so many people will serve a purpose. I don't think there are any people left who dare to speak up against bad governance," he said.

At a nearby bookshop cafe, 18-year-old Nesrin worried about Erdogan's calls for citizens to take to the streets to rally against the coup attempt.

"We were banned from taking to the streets during the Gezi protests and tear-gassed," she said. "Now people are told to take the squares. What an irony!

"I am scared that the freedoms that remain will be restricted.

Read more on:    turkey

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