Here in Istanbul’s Cengelkoy neighborhood, people remember the blood in the streets the morning after Turkish military officers attempted to overthrow the government on the night of July 15, 2016.
After soldiers attempted to commander the local police station, residents fought back, rolling cars into the street to stop military vehicles from reaching the nearby Bosphorus Bridge, recently renamed the July 15 Martyrs Bridge. In total, 22 civilians died in the area. Restaurant manager Ismet Morgul, 59, said he was taken prisoner by the mutinous soldiers and forced to lie on the ground for hours. When he and his neighbors were finally freed, the crowd attacked the officers before they were stopped by police. “We were beating them to death,” he recalled on Friday.
The night of the coup was a remarkable moment of unity in Turkey. As soldiers fired on crowds of demonstrators and fighter jets bombed the parliament building, all four major political parties and the vast majority of the public stood against the coup, which left more than 200 people dead. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government is marking the anniversary of the coup attempt this week with great solemnity. But Turkey is once again bitterly divided, returning to the polarization that defined the country’s politics prior to the failed military takeover last July.
Since the coup, Erdogan’s government has prosecuted a sweeping crackdown on perceived opponents. The clampdown began with people suspected of involvement in the coup or with the followers of Fethullah Gulen, the enigmatic U.S.-based religious leader who the government blames for organizing the putsch. But numerous journalists, academics, opposition politicians and activists have also been among the more than 50,000 people arrested in the past year. The official events commemorating the coup focus on the heroism of the ordinary people who resisted the coup attempt, but the tension created by the crackdown casts a pall over the proceedings.
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