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Photographs by Recep Yılmaz
In the aftermath of the bloody coup attempt, which now stands as one of the greatest turning points in Turkey’s history so far, common questions come along with various tragedies.
The young soldiers who had learned about the coup attempt from their relatives; the families who outcry and say ‘Who did we hand in our kids to?’; and, the question of ‘Who will the new soldiers trust in?’
These are the significant details within the big picture. There are two demands that seem to come about while the relatives of 1600 young new recruits and noncoms continue waiting in front of Silivri prison. Families, who ‘haven’t been able to hear any news about their children for the past 10 days’, want their children to be released, and, ask in worry for them ‘not to be maltreated.’ They also express: ‘We sent them (the young soldiers) off to military service with celebrations.’
‘I wait for my son in the mornings and I go to the democracy meetings in the evenings’
One of the family members Hamit Yılmaz says, “I haven’t been able to hear from my son for 12 days”, and, talks about her arrested son Emre: “They had taken them (the young soldiers) over to the AKP building in Sütlüce (İstanbul) by saying there is an incident of a suicide bomb. I was able to talk to my son only once. He said not even once there was a shooting in front of the building. And, the statements of his lawyer and the videos recorded from the area at that time validate him. But they summoned him for a testimony for the second time and they took him into custody. I talked to his commander immediately after the coup attempt, and, he said to me: ‘I brought them back and they didn’t get even a single scratch; they’re asleep now.’ Then, I asked him why we were still here. All we want is to see our sons just once.”
Yılmaz also talked about the thing that hurts the families the most: “I saw my son’s picture on the internet. It was written under it: ‘The traitors are being sent over to the court’. If my son had been a traitor, he would not have joined the army. We don’t have a place to stay here in İstanbul, and, this is an expensive city. One meal a day is 30 TL. We don’t know what to do. We join the democracy meetings at nights and come over here to Silivri in the morning to get some news from our children.”
‘Punish the commissioned officers but protect the noncoms’
Another family waiting at Silivri is the Cengiz family. Father Murat Cengiz reacts by saying ‘Who have I handed over my son to?’ and continues, “I have another son aside from Rıdvan. In our tradition, the ones that are called ‘traitors’ are the ones who don’t send their sons off to military. But now, we are called a traitor for sending our son to the army. And, because of this, I don’t want to send off my other son. We come from Van and we have been here for day. We just want to hear some news. My son was supposed to be discharged; it’s been four days. We are waiting in worry. Yesterday, two mothers fainted here. My son was serving for the military in Hasdal. They had been told that they were being taken to a military drill. Everyone knows that even a sergeant can command the young soldiers to greet a tree for hours. Our children did not shoot the people. But it could not have been expected of them to say ‘no’ to their commanders about going to a drill.”
Pointing out that all of their ‘children are innocent’, Cengiz continues, “We demand protection of the young new recruits and noncoms but punishment of the higher ranked commanders that gave the order. Thank God that the betrayers could not reach their goal. But it’s all been put on our children. This pain has to be over immediately. These young boys are only 19; I assure you there are many of them inside who do not even know what a coup is. One of them says in his testimony that ‘it is called a coup if one hits another.’”
‘The children are unaware of everything’
Ayşe Abay is a mother who has also been waiting in front of Silivri prison for her on. Abay says in an outcry, “My son Mikail has been in military service for a month and a half. He has not even made sense of being a soldier yet. We handed over our children to them (military officers). How could we have known something like this was to happen?! We come from Ankara. We have been suffering for days. I was able to speak to my son only once after the coup attempt. He asked me, ‘Mom, there had been an explosion in Ankara. Are you ok?’ This is how unaware the kids are about everything that is going on. We want to receive news about them immediately. And, they (officers) should inform our children that we are waiting here.”
‘Don’t hurt the people; shoot yourself on the head if necessary’
Waiting in front of Silivri prison for his brother, Uğur Yıldız also expresses the same worries as other family members. Emphasizing that ‘they just want to hear some news from children and save them from being labeled as traitors’, Yıldız says that he was in Van with his family during the coup attempt and went out to the streets in reaction to the incidents. Yıldız tells, “Many families here sent messages to their soldier children saying ‘Don’t you ever shoot the people; if necessary, shoot yourself in the head.’ Soldiers put down their weapons and surrendered. We could not bear with the images of these young soldiers getting beaten down violently even after they had surrendered. These children should not have been victimized; they should have been embraced. It is now said that one of the most important points that led to the repelling of the attempt is the resistance of some commanders against the coup. Something is missing here; our young soldiers also tried to stop the attempts. If it were not for them, everything would have been much harder. Most of them shot in the air. There are even those who had come out of the tanks without knowing what was happening. There was no firing from any of the tanks. Actually, there were those who broke down the tanks.”
Yıldız also underlines a fact: “Most of the families waiting in front of the prison are poor. And, others who are a little better of want to send over money to these poor families’ children but they are not given permission for that, either.”
‘My son, this is something that FETÖ’s generals would do; don’t you dare point your gun at people’
Another father shows a message on his cellphone, written on the bloody night. The message reads: ‘My son, this is something that FETÖ’s generals would do; don’t you dare point your gun at people.’ Still waiting in front of the prison, this father tells that his son had let down his weapon and surrender in a very short time during the attempt.
Boytaç family, from Keşan, is also among those waiting. The father, Ümit Boytaş, says, “We sent off İsmail to military with celebrations. We said to him: ‘listen to your commanders.’ There is still time for my son’s service to be over. So, under these conditions, if my son is released from the prison and comes out to go back to his troop, who should he trust? Even more, how would those who are to go for their military service have faith in this after all this?”
‘We sleep over at mosques’
Along with the families of the young recruits, families of specialized sergeants also continue waiting. Father of sergeant Oğuz Aktürk shares a similar story: “We warned our kids. I called my son when I found out about the coup; I said to him it was not a drill. My son got out of the tank and surrendered at Üsküdar police station. Now, we’re still waiting to here from them; we sleep over at mosques.”
Aktürk’s sister Öznur adds, “They’ve got to separate the wheat from the chaff. My brother has just become a sergeant. How could he know of the attempt? Just like the new recruits, sergeants are also innocent.”
Lawyers have hopes about the new recruits
While pressing for the release of the new recruits in Silivri, reminding that ‘1200 of them have been let free in Ankara’, father Uğur Yılmaz says, ‘there cannot be double standards.’ On the other hand, lawyer Ayhan Örenel, who has been assigned to the position by İstanbul Bar calls out for common sense: “We feel positive about the new recruits being released eventually. I believe the families would be allowed to talk to their children by next week. There are 23 lawyers looking after the situation. This is an unusual case. That’s why we have difficulties. The thing that the families feel worst about is that their children, whom they think are innocent, are being put through the same process as the officers that had actually done this act.”
Bağımsız bir gazete olarak amacımız, insanlara hakikati ulaştırarak ülkede gerçek bir demokrasi ve özgürlük ortamının yeşermesine katkı sunmak. Bu nedenle abonelikten elde ettiğimiz geliri, daha iyi bir gazeteciliği hayata geçirmek, okurlarımızın daha nitelikli ve güvenilir bir zemin üzerinden bilgiyle buluşmasını sağlamak için kullanıyoruz. Çünkü banka hesabını şişirmek zorunda olduğumuz bir patronumuz yok; iyi ki de yok.
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