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Friday night in Istanbul


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At the Bookforum website, writer Marc Edward Hoffman gives an unsettling and surreal account of what Istanbul, where he lives, was like on the night of last Friday’s attempted coup in Turkey. While much of Turkish society opposed the military coup, Hoffman writes that the reprisals and consolidation of power that have followed make him worry for anyone who doesn’t adhere to the quasi-fundamentalist line of Erdoğan and his zealous supporters. Read an excerpt from Hoffman’s piece below or the full text here.

We spent the next several hours perched in front of the television, one eye on the news, one eye on social media, trying to figure out what was happening. I needn’t repeat the details of the drama as it unfolded; those have been covered elsewhere. Suffice it to say that it made for a harrowing night. By two in the morning, the streets were empty, and unlit military helicopters kept circling at low altitude. No one seemed to know whose side they were on. Around 3:30 am, fighter jets began screaming overhead at supersonic speeds, producing a series of thunderous claps that shook foundations, rent nerves, and shattered windows. My wife, who’d just gone to sleep in a state of despair, awoke in a paroxysm of fright. I don’t know anyone who lived through that night and didn’t find it terrifying. Things were even worse for our friends in Ankara. One couple who lives close to the main airbase there spent a good part of the night curled up on the floor, wrapped around their twin, two-month old daughters, hoping to protect and calm them as the sound of explosions echoed around. I finally managed to fall asleep about an hour after dawn.

When we awoke around midmorning, things were eerily calm. The streets were still empty. Cafes that would normally be abuzz with breakfasters were instead shuttered and dark. The government had announced that it had restored order, though reports on social media indicated that things weren’t yet entirely under control. In any case, it seemed clear that the coup had failed. President Erdoğan had called his supporters out onto the streets and they had responded in force, mobbing soldiers and clambering atop tanks in an impressive show of civilian resistance that the coup plotters proved insufficiently bloodthirsty to crush.

Image: Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan rallying in Istanbul on Saturday. Via the New Yorker.