As a spectator looking from the outside in, Turkey can be seen as a country with a serene backdrop, but a turbulent political ambience. As a dual-citizen returning to Turkey for three weeks, I was curious to see with my own eyes what life in my motherland had become.
After a taxing 15+ hours of travelling, the first thing I felt stepping onto Turkish soil for the first time in four years was nostalgia. The smell, the sounds, the very vibe in the air was all the same. The repetitive theme of displaying Turkish flags absolutely anywhere and everywhere, the whizzing of cars with drivers who couldn’t have any less care in the world – this is the Turkey I remembered.
It was only when my bus home got pulled over by police, that I realised there have been some changes after all.
July 15th, 2016 is a date this nation will never forget. That night marks the worst coup attempt in Turkey’s political history which opened the floodgates to an apprehensive retort.
The failed coup was organised by a section within the Turkish Armed Forces, an operation launched in several major cities in an attempt to overthrow the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Uncertainty and fear blanketed Ankara and Istanbul as military tanks and armed soldiers took to the streets. Bombs were dropped and the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff (Hulusi Akar) was kidnapped by his own security team.
As chaos brewed, something extraordinary happened:
The people punched back.
Citizens armed with nothing more than household items, rocks and some not armed at all, took to the streets and stood their ground against the coup. Within hours, the nation declared victory and the coup was over – but the ramifications exist to this day.
As our bus pulled over to the side of the road, two police officers came on board and collected everyone’s Identity Cards (Nüfus Cüzdanı) for inspection. It was only then that I noticed the security cameras located on the bus – something that was definitely not a concern for Turks 2 years ago. At first the random inspection made me feel uneasy, like I had something to be afraid of. Then I remembered the events of last year, and why these actions are taken.
About 20 minutes later, we received our cards back and the officer did not look so intimidating anymore. “You should really update your picture, I assure you, you’re not that young anymore” he says with a laugh. He gets off and we’re on our way again, as if nothing ever happened.
The thought of increased security measures stayed with me for the duration of my trip and I was determined to find out how this has affected my family and neighbours. I very quickly came to the realisation that although the nation hasn’t forgotten, they don’t let it deter them in any way.
The one thing it did do however, was re-affirm the love and pride everyone has for their country, no matter what their political stance is.
Originally Published June 2017