The 15th of July 2016, will be remembered as one of the Turkish Republic’s most crucial junctures. Junta officers in İstanbul and Ankara — just like they had done before — wanted to take control of the state and withhold democracy and liberties. However, this time something happened which they had not foreseen: Turkish citizens took to the streets and stood up to the coup. For the first time in the Republic’s history, a coup attempt was repelled thanks to the people flocking to streets. The people that threw their bodies in front of the tanks, that stood behind their votes and their democracy gave a democracy lesson for the history books. Over 200 hundred people were killed because they stood against the coup attempt.
Among those places that witnessed significant resistance against the coup that night was the Çengelköy district in İstanbul.
While most people were still mulling over whether this was a coup, a military drill, or an operation against terrorism, people in Çengelköy started to resist against the coup and went to defend Çengelköy Sabancı Police Station. The idea was to stand in front of the station and not to let the soldiers in. They thought that soldiers wouldn’t shoot their own people.
Adem Kulhan and Recep Gün explained to Kebap and Cemal what happened that night:
“We didn’t go there to fight back, we planned to be human shields to make sure they were turned back. The idea was to put vehicles on two sides [of the station’s doors] and stand between them and not let them enter the building. As the people of Çengelköy we gathered and started chanting. Then we heard multiple gunshots. At first we thought they fired warning shots in the air. It still didn’t cross our minds that they would open fire on us. At that moment one of our brothers — a shop owner from the neighborhood — got shot. Our Mukhtar in Çengelköy got shot next. The soldiers had heavy weaponry. They were picking people off with sniper rifles.”
“The soldiers were very calm. They were shooting in cold blood. We didn’t even have stones in our hands. We used cars, walls as cover. They started to take some people as prisoners. They were beating them up and insulting them. They were shouting that they saved the country from thieves. Meanwhile a ranking naval officer came by car. We stopped his car and got him out of it. Because no one had any ill will, we let him go after he said he was not one of them. We had no intention of beating anyone up just because they had a uniform on. We took to the streets because we were against the coup. The thing that we lived through was a slaughter not just against the government but also against the people who voted for them and wanted to stand up for democracy. This was not a coup attempt but almost like a civil war. They tried to spark a civil war. They didn’t expect such a reaction from the people. People could have returned to their homes after the first gunshots but they didn’t. As Çengelköy folk, we struggled shoulder-to-shoulder without assuming any political stance.”
“It was about half an hour or an hour after our President’s speech. I was here when things broke out. A number of people got shot and then I got wounded. It was because of shrapnel. I didn’t want to go to hospital but they took me there at 1 o’clock. I don’t know what happened after that. That night soldiers weren’t shooting to scare us off, they were shooting to kill. Every one of them was cold-blooded.”
Çengelköy is located between the Bosphorus Bridge and Kuleli Military High School. The resistance in Çengelköy hindered the supplying of ammunition and reinforcement of soldiers on the bridges. Thus it prevented even more people from dying.