On July 15th, a part of the Turkish army took to the streets of primarily Istanbul and Ankara in order to perform, what turned out to be, an unsuccessful coup. Considering that there are almost ten locals in Turkey, of which seven Antennae and two Contact Antennae, and that there were both incoming and outgoing participants for Summer Universities into and out of Turkey on and near this date, things got exciting for a lot of members of AEGEE.
A Brief Run-Down
During the night of Friday, 15 July 2016, a fraction of the Turkish army attempted a coup to overthrow the government of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The militants blocked the Istanbul Ataturk Airport, as well as both bridges over the Bosporus in Istanbul. In Ankara, the Turkish Parliament building was struck by at least one bomb. The coup seemed to proceed relatively peaceful, until protesters, spurred on by Erdoğan’s address to the nation, resisted the attempted coup.
The militants clashed with police officers and civilians, until, on Saturday morning, it turned out that the number of protesters was too big to handle for the tanks, fighter jets and armed helicopters. The BBC and The Guardian reported that the total death toll was 265, 161 civilians and 104 attempters of the coup, and another 1440 wounded. AEGEE-Eskișehir recently reported that the number of fatal casualties has risen to 294.
According to The Guardian, directly during the aftermath, the Turkish government arrested 2,839 members of the army and detained another 2,745 judges and prosecutors. Later, CNN reported that this number had risen to a total of 15,846 people, 10,012 of which are military personnel, but that around 4,000 of these detainees have since then been released. AEGEE-Eskișehir confirmed these numbers in their statement on the 22nd of July, and added that another 50,000 people have lost their job during the aftermath of the coup.
AEGEEans and the Coup
Two Summer Universities were taking place in Turkey during the coup; one of which was in Istanbul, the other was in Eskişehir. The coup happened during the second night of the Summer University that AEGEE-Istanbul organised, while the organisers and twenty-two participants were in the city at a pre-party.
As Brigita Senkane of AEGEE-Riga recalls: “[Dermanşah Yalın, President of AEGEE-Istanbul] organised AEGEE-Istanbul’s SU under extreme conditions: during the coup in Istanbul. He managed to evacuate everyone safely and fast while we were partying in Istanbul without knowing that the tanks were already in Istanbul. The Summer University continued safely and extremely carefully planned, because the organisers were flexible and re-planned everything to make it as much fun as possible and safe for us.”
After the organisers safely got the participants back to the gym, which was used as their sleeping accommodation, they set up WiFi-hotspots to enable all participants to contact their families and friends. The next day, all participants were kept in the gym for safety, and the organisation improvised an alternative programme for them at the location itself.
The coup also coincided with the first day of the Summer University that was organised by AEGEE- Eskişehir. Although most of the violence of the coup occurred in Istanbul and Ankara, some tensions were notable in this city in north-western Anatolia. Evrim Emiroğlu of AEGEE-Eskişehir reports that, of the many difficulties, the frequent police checks stood out most.
Travelling to and from Turkish airports, including the Istanbul Ataturk Airport, normalised by the sixteenth of July, and as far as The AEGEEan could uncover, only a couple of members of AEGEE were hindered to travel directly to and from Turkey to visit or return from one of AEGEE’s events. These included two members of A-Beograd, A-Kragujevac and A-Podgorica’s Summer University: Shake it to the Balkan Remix, who were unable to leave Turkey. Additionally, we have received reports that at least one member of AEGEE was hindered in travelling to her Summer University in Azerbaijan, due to the cancellation of her indirect flight via Istanbul.
Written by Willem Laurentzen, AEGEE-Nijmegen