Kılıçdaroğlu speaks about coup night
One of the first leaders I spoke to after the July 15, 2016, coup attempt was main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Personally, I believe Kılıçdaroğlu and the CHP as a political party were against the coup without any conditions and with a very clear firm stance.
As a leader of a party that is remembered with having associations to coups in the past, it was important that Kılıçdaroğlu stood against the coup. It was valuable that CHP deputies rushed to the parliament on the night of the coup and stood beside democracy.
While Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman was opening the historic session, he saw CHP deputies entering the hall. He stepped down the podium, approached them and embraced them with words saying, “Let me give you a democracy hug.”
Keeping the above in mind, let us go back to the night of the coup.
During the hours when the putschist soldiers were at the Bosphorus Bridge, Kılıçdaroğlu was flying to Istanbul with the 9:50 p.m. flight. He was seated on 1-a, and next to him on 1-b, Deputy Chair of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Hayati Yazıcı was seated.
The plane touched down the runway of Atatürk Airport at around 11 p.m. While the plane taxied to the boarding field, he turned on his cell phone. His press counselor Okan Konuralp informed him that soldiers were at the Bosphorus Bridge.
I asked Kılıçdaroğlu what he thought when he heard about this. “When my colleagues told me that the two bridges were closed and that planes were not flying, first I thought they were joking,” he said. But I could not sense an atmosphere of jokes. Kılıçdaroğlu realized in a very short time that we were face to face with a coup attempt.
At that point, he turned to the adjacent seat and told Yazıcı, “We are against the coup Mr. Hayati.” They rushed to the airport’s VIP lounge. Kılıçdaroğlu told me, “I wanted to go back to Ankara, but we were told planes were not taking off. I wanted to leave the airport; we were told tanks were blocking the roads to and from the airport.”
Meanwhile, he made contact with CHP deputies. His first instruction was, “This is a coup d’état. Regardless of whether or not it is successful, it does not matter. We will definitely oppose it.”
While the airport was under blockade with tanks, Kılıçdaroğlu’s vehicle was able to pass through in the confusion. This time, the question of where to take the CHP leader came. Kılıçdaroğlu told me, “Since a hotel would not be safe, we went to a friend’s house.” Thinking that it would be much safer, Kılıçdaroğlu was taken to the house of Istanbul’s Bakırköy district mayor Bülent Kerimoğlu.
“When we switched on the TV at home, we figured out the severity of the situation. We issued a short statement, announcing that we were against the coup. Then I was on several TV channels on live broadcasts telling that we were against the coup,” he said.
Further into the night, Kılıçdaroğlu was able to contact Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım to say, “You should have no doubt Mr. Prime Minister that we are against the coup. Defending democracy is an attitude that everybody who believes in democracy should adopt. It is not possible to accept a coup in the 21st century Turkey.”
Kahraman called him and invited CHP to the special session of the parliament. He was thankful after Kılıçdaroğlu’s call. “We will come no matter what. We will be in parliament; we will participate.” His response to Kahraman’s gratitude was, “This is our duty.”
Kılıçdaroğlu called President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on July 16, 2016. The president thanked his stance against the coup.
Kılıçdaroğlu said, “Any time Mr. President, there is no need to thank me. This is our duty. As long as political parties are an indispensable part of democracy, it is our duty to protect democracy. We have fulfilled our duty.”
I had spoken to Kılıçdaroğlu on the morning of July 17, 2016. I spoke to him again on April 10, updated him on the dialogues. Kılıçdaroğlu has adopted the correct stance on July 15 against the coup. But he made a mistake by saying, “July 15 was a ‘controlled’ coup.” He put a shadow on his own stance before anything else.
This has caused Erdoğan to ask, “Where were you on the night of the coup?” Erdoğan has taken his place in history as the leader who resisted the coup by standing together with the nation on July 15, 2016, by opposing the tanks. Well, why did Kılıçdaroğlu not climb up the tanks; why did he not take to the streets with the people? If he had climbed up a tank or if he had taken to the streets together with people he would have been a hero. But there is only one Erdoğan.