Category 8

The 27-Night Democracy Watch After the July 15, 2016 Coup Attempt and the Social Partnership Against the Coup Attempt.

The Woman Of July 15


Key words: July 15, women, coup initiative, solidarity

This article is an attempt to cover the roles and reactions of women in the face of the July 15 coup attempt. An important majority of people took a stance against and put an end to the coup attempt as soon as it was recognized. Due to the previous coup experiences of Turkey1, this coup attempt triggered harsh reactions from the public from the very first moment it was heard about. Rather than re-experiencing the things they dealt with in the past regarding coup periods, people preferred to stand against the tanks and risk death. People had already went out to stop the military before President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appeared on TV over a video call in which invited people to the streets, calling what was happening a coup against the will of the people. This invitation strengthened the people’s stance in the streets and defined the night. After the president spoke, people, including women, children and men, stood against the coup attempters all together. This article specifically focuses on how women reacted to the coup attempt and what kind of roles they played in forming solidarity, elaborating on several cases from several fields.

Initially, it was a woman, a correspondent, Hande Fırat, who was able to connect with the president on her TV program, giving him the platform for his critical speech and invitation when it was learned that the chaos on the streets was a coup attempt. It was nearly simultaneous with the capture of state-run TRT by coup plotters. Taking this into consideration, Fırat’s attitude was critical in this sense, displaying her stance against the coup attempt and risking death. The message transmitted to the public was also critical in terms of defining the general positioning and fate of the coup.

In addition to the women working as correspondents on TV having critical roles such as informing the public, there were also women who had their places on the streets, encountering soldiers commissioned for the coup. Among them there became martyrs in these encounters. Six of these women were police officers in the Special Operations Forces2. These women acted not only on behalf of their official duty, but also in accordance with solidarity with the land. Their attitude on the coup attempt and their patriotism can be seen in the statements they made on their social media accounts regarding the night before being murdered. Among these women was Demet Sezen. A relative transmitted what she had said: “Take a tough stance, do not cry. We should not make enemies laugh. Martyrdom is the supreme echelon.”

Policewomen were not the only women who were victims on that night. There were also civilians on the streets, especially after the president’s call. A 52-year-old woman died a martyr. A 44-year-old woman had her place in the front lines of the struggle on the Bosporus Bridge, which has become a symbolic place of that struggle between the people and coup plotters on that night. She also died a martyr. The clashes and struggles continued until the morning on the bridge. Again, a 51-year-old woman also died a martyr on the bridge. Women were on the front lines of the struggle on the Bosporus Bridge both encountering soldiers and giving psychological support.

The experiences on the Bosporus Bridge, which has since been renamed as the July 15 Martyrs Bridge, during the coup attempt gives an idea about these women’s attitudes. While soldiers were positioned with tanks on the bridge and opening fire, one of the women went to them to talk in spite of warnings, trying to explain to the soldiers that what they were doing was wrong. Without taking her counsel into consideration, the soldiers continued their fire and she was shot and taken to the hospital.3 Vahide Şevkatlioğlu, 39, was among the crowd that went to Atatürk International Airport, another critical site that night. She also walked over to the tanks to stop them. Her leg was crushed and severed. Another woman walked from Üsküdar to the bridge and was shot in the leg.

The Istanbul Municipality building was one of the sites occupied by soldiers and rescued by the people. Soldiers opened fire from the municipality building and one of the women who was at the site was shot. This woman said the only thing she felt at the moment of being shot was the joy of possibly becoming a martyr. This represents the general state of mind of women as observed from the above-mentioned cases. Another woman whose husband was shot and died a martyr displayed her patriotism by maintaining her composure and remaining brave.

After getting soldiers out of the way, people still tried to negotiate with them and counsel them. Women approached the soldiers with maternal instincts. Despite the tolerant attitudes of people for them, the soldiers insisted on their brutal manner. In front of Akıncı Mosque, they fired a woman who had already been shot and injured.

One of the major symbolic figures of the people’s struggle against the coup attempt was an image of an old woman taking people to the streets in a truck. The photograph has become iconic for July 15. Together with this image, an image of an old woman confronting soldiers with a baton in her hands became an image symbolizing the people’s reaction against the coup.

This article has attempted to display several tactics, struggles and reactions of women from different fields and different positions in terms of resisting the coup attempt. The common denominator of all theses cases and women is their display of patriotism and sensibility for guarding national values in an unearthly manner. Sources already appoint the active role of Turkish women in times of such crises that necessitates courage and self-sacrifice. It is known that women waged war as well as men in ancient times.4 Regarding this, women pursued their ancestors in line with traditions that took their place in a critical struggle for the nation on the night of July 15.

1. Turkey’s governments have exposed to several military interventions starting with 1960, 1971 and 1980 military coups and lastly experienced on 1997 as postmodern coup. https://tr.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%C3%BCrkiye’de_asker%C3%AE_m%C3%BCdahaleler
2. Zeynep Sağır, Selda Güngör, Kübra Doğanay, Demet Sezen, Cennet Yiğit and Gülşah Güler were lost their lives. http://www.superhaber.tv/15-temmuzun-kahraman-kadin-sehitleri-12776-haber
3. This woman, Safiye Bayat, said that she had not been regretful or afraid of what she did. She persisted in her stance, saying: “I do not know what kind of a courage took me there as a woman, but when it comes to the issue of land, I feel a difference in my blood. If I had been a man, they would immediately have shot me.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRCPEUO-pBM
4. İslam Öncesi Türk Devletlerinin Sosyal Hayatında Kadının Rolü, Menekşe AVCI, Marmara Üniversitesi Türkiyar Enstitüsü Yüksek Lisans Tezi s.91

Category 8

The 27-Night Democracy Watch After the July 15, 2016 Coup Attempt and the Social Partnership Against the Coup Attempt.

1. Gülşen ÖZER

Civilians On The Night Of July 15

2. Büşra KILIÇ

The Woman Of July 15

3. İlknur SAVAŞKAN

Witnessing The Power Of People’s Partnership Putting Down A Coup Attempt: The Case Of Turkey, July 15, 2016