Living the coup live at a TV station

Living the coup live at a TV station

I was getting coffee in the Doğan TV Center cafeteria when I saw the helicopter landing in our parking lot. That will be a scene I will never forget. 

A team of soldiers came walking in through our front gate. They only gunfire was a warning shot. I asked their captain, “So what is it?” “We came to empty the building. You have to leave,” he said in an angry voice. His soldiers, young, a bit confused private soldiers, walked in and started climbing the stairs to our channel, which is on the third floor. “Don’t do it!” I yelled to the captain. “You will be in trouble when all of this is finished.” He did not take me seriously. After all, I was a woman.

The negotiation and resistance continued when our chief editors got involved. 

First they all started yelling, then our CEO, Erdoğan Aktaş, started talking to the captain one-on-one. We were trying to convince them that this was a bad attempt, the orders they were given were illegal. I showed the pictures of the TRT raid that had gone sour that night. “Look,” I said to the captain, “Your soldiers will be beaten like this. What will you say to their parents?”

It took almost about an hour for police teams and ordinary folks to intervene and beat the soldiers brutally. And it showed the darker side of our society. Despite all the festivities about defending democracy, Turkish society could easily be engulfed in a civil war. But there is also a brighter side to this story. It was the tweets about jets flying in Ankara that warned people about a possible coup. It was the retweets about the Bosphorus Bridge closings that alerted the politicians. This was indeed democracy in the making and we as a society paid a price for it.

FaceTime broadcast with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

CNN Türk’s FaceTime broadcast with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was the turning point in the coup attempt. All night long, we had been trying to get some Justice and Development Party (AKP) official on the phone to talk to us. Their stubborn protest to ignore us could have cost dearly. Thanks to our Ankara bureau chief Hande Fırat’s cell phone, millions had a chance to see that the president was alive and well and in full control.

The scars of that night cannot be easily healed. The ultimate trauma of losing public confidence in the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) is so high that young men who were considering being non-commissioned officers are changing their minds. 

The scope of the lives lost inside the barracks is still unclear. The saddest part of this incident will come to the surface when we hear the stories of military students who were taken out of their beds and pushed onto the streets. 

Credibility of the TSK

The former chief of Turkey’s military, Retired Gen. Necdet Özel, sadly said this in an interview with NTV: “I am urging all my soldiers and my young commanders to quickly restore the system and credibility of the TSK. Our region is still very much open to international crises.”

Each major crisis comes with its opportunities. Yes, more than 200 lives were lost during the coup attempt, but despite all the political differences, Turkish society is more open to talking to each other and looking into each other’s eyes now. Our true democratic challenge begins right now.