Jubilant Erdogan supporters celebrate coup failure
ISTANBUL , Turkey – Answering a call to fill squares across Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ecstatic supporters surged through the streets Saturday, July 16, to celebrate what they saw as one of the strongman's greatest victories after he stared down a military coup.
In under 24 hours, the atmosphere in Istanbul changed dramatically. From one of fear and confusion, the city was abuzz with the celebratory sounds of car horns, laughing children and red and white Turkish flags fluttering in the cool evening breeze. (READ: Turkey regains control after deadly anti-Erdogan coup bid)
Erdogan had already managed to successfully mobilize supporters on Friday, calling on them to defy a curfew declared by the putschists and help crush the attempted coup by elements within the military.
But even after the danger passed, the triumphant leader urged people to come out again on Saturday and show their numbers. (READ: Over 250 dead in coup bid, almost 3,000 held)
In Kisikli square on the Asian side of Istanbul, thousands gathered to hear Erdogan speak just a few steps away from his family home.
In a typically fiery speech, he pinned the blame for the coup plot on a "parallel state" and "Pennsylvania" – a reference to Fethullah Gulen, a US-exiled Muslim cleric and arch-foe whom he has long accused of seeking to overthrow him.
'They cannot destroy us'
Among the jubilant crowds, there was a palpable sense that Friday's botched coup had only made Erdogan stronger.
Hayrullah Kul, 55, from Uskudar, said he was glad the putsch failed as he stressed his love for the Turkish leader who has been in power since 2003, first as premier and now as president.
"They tried to stage a coup and they failed. I am happy they couldn't succeed. For us here, we are celebrating a festival, Turkey is celebrating," he said.
"Yesterday was bad for them (Gulenists), not for us. They cannot destroy us. They brought the Turkish community together."
In the crowd, elderly men, women and children wore headbands emblazoned with the president's name.
While Turkey remains a polarized country – with Erdogan's detractors accusing him of authoritarian tendencies and of undermining Turkey's secular principles – Friday's tumult has brought supporters of different political parties together.
Fans of Erdogan insisted the coup would not divide the country further but would in fact unite a disparate population.
"Laz, Turkish, Kurdish, different communities, we are all Turkey and we are all Turkish. This coming together of the community is a message of solidarity to the world," Besir Demirozur, 29, told AFP at the rally.
After Erdogan finished his address, a sea of people poured into the streets and passing cars proudly beeped their horns at every opportunity, flags flying through their open windows.
'I love Turkey'
On the European side of Istanbul, near the city's iconic Taksim Square, children, teenagers and adults marched down the main Istiklal shopping street, waving Turkish flags and chanting: Allahu Akhbar, "God is greatest".
Seven-year-old Ahmet, who had come with his family, said he was happy to be there because "I love Turkey".
Fatima, 18, shared his patriotic fervor: "Today we celebrate freedom and democracy. Today we celebrate Turkey."
And in Izmir's Konuk square by the famous clock tower, photographs in Turkish media showed thousands in the coastal city also protesting against the failed putsch.
'Coups are the past'
The capital Ankara, where parts of the national assembly building were reduced to rubble by strikes from rebel jets, remained a city on edge, however. And on Saturday night, there was a blackout in the neighborhood where parliament is situated.
In the popular Kizilay square in central Ankara, 59-year-old Osman accused the coup plotters of being traitors.
"Nobody can author a coup in our country. We will not abandon Turkey to traitors.
"We don't recognize them as members of army," he told AFP.
Inci, 27, said coups were a thing of the past in a country where the military has a history of intervening in politics, the last time in 1997.
"Turkey will not go back to the era of coups," she said. – Rappler.com