Turkish-American community grapples with Turkey coup’s aftermath

Dr. Mustafa Gokcek, Coordinator of the Middle East and Islamic studies program at Niagara University, right, speaks during a panel discussion at Niagara University in 2011. (Charles Lewis/Buffalo News)
Dr. Mustafa Gokcek, Coordinator of the Middle East and Islamic studies program at Niagara University, right, speaks during a panel discussion at Niagara University in 2011. (Charles Lewis/Buffalo News)


Date posted: July 24, 2016

By Jillian Deutsch, News Staff Reporter

Dr. Mustafa Gokcek usually plans a summer trip to Turkey for his students at Niagara University. In October, following increasing tension in the country, Gokcek decided to cancel it this year.

That proved to be the right call.

On July 15 – the day after the terrorist attack in Nice, France – Turkish soldiers attempted to overthrow the government. Soldiers blocked access to strategic roadways, including the Bosphorus Bridge, and Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport. The coup failed in a matter of hours, but nearly 300 people were left dead, and another 1,500 were injured.

Gokcek, a history professor who studies Turkey, was in Istanbul the night of the coup. A Turkish citizen, Gokcek, his wife and his kids were visiting the country to see family members still living there.

He described his experience during an address Saturday afternoon in Buffalo’s Turkish Cultural Center. Most attending had roots in Turkey, whether they were born there or their ancestors emigrated in the 1920s.

The dramatic events stirred passion, fear and many questions among those in the audience.

Gokcek picked up his brother-in-law up from the Istanbul airport the night of the coup, and as they were heading home, they noticed a traffic irregularity on the Bosphorus Bridge. The two men first thought there was an accident and then began wondering if there had been another terrorist attack, such as the one last month at Ataturk Airport.

When they arrived home, they turned on the TV and saw their first images of the coup, with soldiers blocking access to the bridge.

Gokcek put these events in context with prior Turkish coups of 1960, 1971 and 1980. The previous coups unfolded in the early morning as the country slept.

“The saying is, ‘Have you seen the coup?’ ” Gokcek said. “I woke up, and the military took over.”

“This time, we were seeing our own coup.”

The coup began late Friday night, and within a few hours, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric self-exiled in Pennsylvania for the past two decades, was responsible.

Erdogan encouraged people to protest in support of democracy. Gokcek and his father went out and saw thousands of people on the streets, many waving Turkish flags.

By the next day, Erdogan’s government had regained control of the country.

But the coup’s aftermath has been the most alarming part of the ordeal for many Turkish-Americans – of whom there are about 1,000 in the Buffalo area. In the week after the coup attempt, the Turkish government fired and detained thousands of judges, teachers and government officials suspected of being coup allies and supporters of Gulen.

Gokcek compared the government’s post-coup actions to a “McCarthy-style witch hunt.”

Gokcek, his wife and his kids had planned to stay in Turkey into mid-August, but because of the events, they took a flight back Tuesday.

The night of the coup, Gokcek, Turkish citizens and Turkish-Americans were united in celebration that the democracy had survived. But afterward, questions lingered, including who was behind the coup.

Saturday, Gokcek and Turkish Cultural Center director Bulent Ozdemir fielded questions about the country’s current state of democracy and future.

Gokcek said he is not optimistic. He is fearful about the growing tensions in the country and coup sympathizers who might be stigmatized as traitors.

Tevfik Kosar, a computer science professor at the University at Buffalo, came to the United States 18 years ago and has lived in Buffalo for five years. Most of his family also remains in Turkey.

Kosar and others worry Turkish citizens are only receiving government media reports about the coup.

“We are lucky in one sense that we are able to get free information and interpret what’s going on,” Kosar said. “They only have government sources, so they don’t hear that news and can’t talk about it.”

And Turkish-Americans fear they might feel a chill in their own communities.

On a basic level, Gokcek said, he has been able to sit down and eat with other Turkish-Americans with whom he might not always agree.

“Some of those friends, I might not be able to now,” he said.

Source: The Buffalo News , July 24, 2016


Related News

Chorepiscopus Yusuf Sag: Fethullah Gulen’s service is admirable

Chorepiscopus Yusuf Sag, Vicar General and leader of the Syriac Catholic Church in Turkey: “I wish every country had its own Fethullah Gulen. I watched the students performing at the recent Turkish Olympiads in admiration. They all sang in Turkish like angels. I have to ask: Is it better that they sing Turkish songs or hold guns in their hands?”

Could assassination attempts be made against politicians?

Given the fact that Gülen is the foremost advocate of nonviolence and the only promoter of dialogue with different segments of society, including Jews and Christians, it was surprising for many political observers to see Gülen’s movement being labeled as hashashins.

Guest post: Turkey and the problem of political continuity

Erdogan has not only replaced thousands of suspected Gulenists in the police force and the judiciary. He has also sought, with mixed results, to make the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors directly accountable to the government.

‘Parallel state’ and ‘theft of national will’

There is not a single piece of concrete evidence indicating that prosecutors and police officers had acted in contravention of laws and regulations in the investigation into the corruption claims that implicated some former Cabinet members and their sons. However, these public officials who performed their lawful duties in full compliance with the principles of transparency, accountability and equality — which are fundamental characteristics of the regimes that uphold the rule of law — were recklessly accused by the prime minister and his cronies of being the “parallel state.

Gülen Movement has been used to undermine Ergenekon trial

‘Whenever new evidence surfaces related to Ergenekon, some people claim that that evidence was planted by Gülen sympathizers within the police force. This is quite unrealistic because important documents have been found in places where the police have never been able to access’ 5 February 2012 / YONCA POYRAZ DOĞAN, İSTANBUL A veteran journalist has […]

Cingöz: Kimse Yok Mu welcomes all auditors from state institutions

İsmail Cingöz, president of the Turkish charity Kimse Yok Mu (Is Anybody There), which is affiliated with the Hizmet movement inspired by prominent scholar Fethullah Gülen, explained to Today’s Zaman that the organization has contributed to social and international peace since the day of its foundation.

Latest News

Fethullah Gülen’s Condolence Message for South African Human Rights Defender Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Hizmet Movement Declares Core Values with Unified Voice

Ankara systematically tortures supporters of Gülen movement, Kurds, Turkey Tribunal rapporteurs say

Erdogan possessed by Pharaoh, Herod, Hitler spirits?

Devious Use of International Organizations to Persecute Dissidents Abroad: The Erdogan Case

A “Controlled Coup”: Erdogan’s Contribution to the Autocrats’ Playbook

Why is Turkey’s Erdogan persecuting the Gulen movement?

Purge-victim man sent back to prison over Gulen links despite stage 4 cancer diagnosis

University refuses admission to woman jailed over Gülen links

In Case You Missed It

9-year-old Turkish girl drowns while trying to cross Evros River

The intra-Turkish debate on the Mavi Marmara

Bosnian court denies Turkish extradition request for alleged Gülen follower

Int’l students delight Washington in language festival

Kimse Yok Mu continues to help needy despite gov’t restrictions

Eid-al Adha Holiday Tradition Benefits Local Soup Kitchen

The follower of Hizmet

Copyright 2022 Hizmet News