After President Erdoğan appeared on TV, we learned that he would be coming to Istanbul. But the situation in Istanbul at that moment was nightmarish. Erdoğan was on the air for quite some time as he kept fielding journalists’ questions, but even as he spoke, sporadic gunfire could be heard coming from the bridges and helicopters were passing overhead in our neighborhood.
At that time, that is to say between 01:00 – 02:00 after midnight, facebook was still open, and I was messaging with other people and trying to keep an eye on our television screen while also listening to what was going on outside. The Turkish parliament, continuing its session in defiance of the junta, continued to be shown on all channels other than TRT. As we kept watching on TV, large numbers of Turkish citizens began to form crowds around the junta’s troops, and amazing images of citizens on tanks began to materialize. But in our neighborhood, helicopters continued to pass overhead, and ambulances and fire trucks began to stream toward the Bosphorus bridges.
Around 02:45 I noticed suddenly, after an interval, that the helicopters had disappeared, but as I wondered about that I heard a sound that I really feared: the scream of an F-16. Many people may have enjoyed watching F-16s at air shows, but the sound of a low-flying fighter jet has an entirely different meaning in this region of the world.
The jet passed around several times and I listened to its approaches and passes with, frankly, great apprehension. We had already been watching footage of the junta’s F-16s streaking over Ankara, and we knew that they, as well as their helicopters, were killing people with bombs, rockets or machine guns. We had also heard that friendly F-16s had taken off from Eskişehir, but we didn’t know which direction they were going. And there was no way to know whether the jet flying over our neighborhood was friendly or hostile.
Then the jet made yet another pass that was accompanied by a massive explosion, or what sounded like one. Only much later did we learn that it was probably a sonic boom that the pilot purposefully created to frighten the people below. All I knew was that it was massive and rattled not only our windows but our entire building. I thought they had started to bomb something near the bridges.
Shaken and trying to remain calm, I called my partner into the hall in our apartment, and we moved our eight month-old baby’s crib into the hallway, too, so he might be protected against any shattered windows. We sheltered there for another 30 minutes until we were sure that the jet wouldn’t return. This ordeal was terrifying.
Around 03:15 we decided to move the crib back into the bedroom since the jet hadn’t reappeared. My partner also tried to go back to sleep. About five minutes later, two more massive explosions hit our building, but from a great distance. They were unlike anything I’d heard before. The sound was low-pitched but very intense; as it approached it seemed to roll and growl, and then hit with great force, despite the distance, and again rattled the building as well as the windows. That happened twice, about a minute apart. Once more I assumed that it was some sort of explosion, but in the morning concluded that they had been sonic booms created by the F-16s. All of this was extremely disturbing.
This was at about 03:30. When I once more turned to television, the anchor on one of the channels said that their building had been subject to a massive explosion, and was quite distraught. I assumed that it must have been one of the explosions that we too had felt; later it, too, turned out to have been a sonic boom. When I went to look at facebook, I found it cut off, but twitter was still active.
In the minutes before that time, President Erdoğan’s plane had landed in Istanbul, and its safe arrival was announced on all channels. Sometime later, he appeared on television at the airport and made a short announcement, reiterating some of the information he had provided from the cell phone feed. It was clear from his body language and facial expression that he was also shaken by the events. He later spoke in front of the citizens massed at the airport.
For the next several hours, trying to swallow my fear, I sat and flipped through the TV channels while listening to sounds from outside. Gunfire continued to come from the bridges, and in the distance jets could still be heard, but not often. I continued to read twitter messages but was focused mostly on watching events unfold on television. The junta had even bombed the parliament building in Ankara, but thankfully it appeared that no one had been killed despite heavy damage. MPs had moved to shelter in the basement of the building, but continued to appear on live feeds.
Back on television, incredible things were happening. The citizens of Istanbul and Ankara had taken to the streets, surrounded the junta’s troops, and either convinced them to surrender or wrestled them into submission. From many locations there materialized pictures of citizens on top of tanks or armored personnel carriers, banging with their fists on the hatches. Reports about a growing dead toll began to flow in. CNN Türk was occupied by junta troops and taken off the air, but shortly later returned to broadcasting. All other channels defiantly continued to air anti-coup information.
Around 02:30 a message from the state security apparatus announced that the coup attempt had been thwarted, but clearly the situation on the streets was anything but calm, and the junta’s forces were still able to operate, using helicopters to send platoons of soldiers to various locations. Torn between hope and fear, I continued to watch events unfold.