A year ago after visiting the refugee camps in the southeastern cities of Turkey, I wrote a piece about the generosity of Turks and the dedication of the members of Turkey’s Disaster Management Authority (AFAD). Both the people and the association are exerting incredible effort to host millions of refugees in their homes, neighborhoods and cities. A year later when I visit the city of Kilis, which was that day under the attack of DAESH with Katyusha rockets, I wrote that the people of Kilis and AFAD deserve a Nobel Peace Prize for their valor and hospitality.
After the failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, the Nobel Peace Prize for the Turkish people became a much more significant necessity. On that fateful night the Turkish people demonstrated all forms of courage and brevity against the oppressive forces as well as its dedication and commitment to democracy on the streets of Turkey. The shootings from the helicopters, the bombs from war planes, the bullets from the coup plotters on the ground and the tanks running over the demonstrators did not stop them. They were standing against the coup plotters by showing utmost perseverance and diligence. Throughout the night their resolution and endurance stunned not only the coup plotters but also surprised the people around the world. Standing in front of the tanks and weapons of the armed forces has, for many years, been the symbol of resistance, resilience, defiance and challenge to the authoritarianism. The iconic Tank Man picture, the challenge of a single man to a tank at the Tiananmen Square became one of the most notable photos of the 21st century. The international community saw the ordinary people challenging the tanks by their hands and bodies in each and every city around Turkey. It was also a surprise to the coup plotters who were expecting an obedient public opinion following their declaration of martial law. The video recordings that were circulated on the social media following the coup demonstrated a different form of heroism in front of the tanks. It was a showcase of ordinary people fighting for their rights and freedoms when they are under threat.
Another significant dimension of the public mobilization since July 15 was that it was a totally peaceful and nonviolent resistance against the coup plotters. The demonstrators generated an exemplary discipline in keeping the rallies and protests against the coup in a peaceful manner. Other than a few exceptional instances, compared to the use of arms and ammunitions against the protesters, they preferred to stick with their flag poles without any party or ideology symbol and succeeded to stop the tanks in the midst of the streets. It was a night full of lessons for the people studying nonviolent movement around the world. The provocations of the military personnel by live ammunition and physical and verbal assault did not change the attitude of the people on the streets.
After this heroic night and the incredible generosity and hospitality of the Turkish people for the last five years, Turkish people demonstrated that they deserve every peace prize in the world, including Nobel. The pictures and videos from the resistant to coup and the rallies for the last 10 days in the streets showed that Turkish people know how to protect, preserve their democracy peacefully under any form of threat. Their exemplary hospitality and understanding along with this heroism left no excuse for the committees of these prizes around the world to recognize and celebrate the Turkish people’s contribution to peace, stability and democracy in the region and the world.
This article was first published in Daily Sabah on July 28, 2016.