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Turkey's Failed Coup And The Rise Of A "Lynching Culture"

Recounting and reflections of the failed Friday night coup, and the mob mentality left in its wake.

Anger on the streets of Istanbul
Anger on the streets of Istanbul
Melis Alphan


ISTANBUL — On the night of July 15, we were at a friend's house when we heard the first rumbles that silenced the normal sounds of seagulls: they were F-16 planes and explosions.

Soon afterward we got news that both bridges in Istanbul were closed to traffic, and that tanks were starting to fill the streets of Ankara. Those of us in our 40s had a shared sentiment at such a military initiative: "How many coups can you fit in a lifetime?" we asked.

I was baffled. I couldn't form sentences, mumbling instead: "It can't be… It's probably not that. It's something else."

We were scattered in different corners of the house: one watching F-16 planes from the balcony, another zapping through the television channels, a mother who couldn't go back to her 8-month-old baby was trying to find a safe way to return home. "I pity this country," she said. I kept calling my husband who was trying to go to CNN Turkey where he worked, but I failed to reach him. I was terrified when I saw soldiers raid the CNN studio. He would wind up unharmed, though the real risk came later when he stopped to fill up his car at a gas station in the Bagcilar neighborhood. A group of men arrived in minibuses and started pounding the cars with sticks and investigating the drivers. Meanwhile my husband quickly removed the gas pump and escaped. I was horrified, thinking what could have happened to him if he wasn't quick to react.

As the night went on, I saw photos of the badly beaten face of Selcuk Samiloglu, a photographer at Hurriyet. Later, we learned that vandals had attacked Selcuk on the Bosphorous bridge. The mob was trying to decide whether or not to throw him off the bridge. It was such a ritual of violence that even the police couldn't intervene to protect Selcuk.

That night and the day after felt like they would never end.

On the bridge, a tank blew up a civilian motorcyclist… "How could this be happening? We didn't see this much violence even during the infamous (1980) Turkish coup on September 12." And while we couldn't believe what we were witnessing, we get news that the Turkish parliament had been bombed!

An image of a bloodied soldier whose throat was cut by a violent mob dominated social media. As we watched videos of the mob, a vandal said, "We killed four of them, the last one remains. Let me shoot him to ease my mind."

The police shared videos of their interrogations. They labeled the soldiers: "Degenerates, nationless dogs," and called the people to the streets.

So we survived the coup attempt, but so quickly an atmosphere of lynching and its Islamic formations scare me. I'm afraid how mob psychology can take over the law and ethics of civic life, and how this is being tolerated.

While I celebrate the failure of the coup attempt for the sake of democracy, I'm shocked in the face of those who are not saddened by this flourishing lynching culture. We know how in a place where lynching is commonplace, labeling leads to murders. The fear of being lynched pushes people to take precautions in order to protect themselves. This means arming oneself autonomously, which means more blood, which means more deaths.

As Tanil Bora, author of the book, "Turkey's Lynching Regime," puts it: "Lynching and threat of lynching, are more than criminal offenses on the legal level; they represent the loss of civilization. Among those celebrating the victory of a "unified nation," where are the condemnations of the dissolution of society and humanity?"

I am still waiting to hear it from the people who remain in charge in Turkey.

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Migrant Lives

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

An orchid rehabilitation project is turning a small Mexican community into a tourist magnet — and attracting far-flung locals back to their hometown.

They Migrated From Chiapas When Opportunities Dried Up, Orchids Brought Them Home

Marcos Aguilar Pérez takes care of orchids rescued from the rainforest in his backyard in Santa Rita Las Flores, Mapastepec, Chiapas, Mexico.

Adriana Alcázar González/GPJ Mexico
Adriana Alcázar González

MAPASTEPEC — Sweat cascades down Candelaria Salas Gómez’s forehead as she separates the bulbs of one of the orchids she and the other members of the Santa Rita Las Flores Community Ecotourism group have rescued from the rainforest. The group houses and protects over 1,000 orchids recovered from El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, after powerful storms.

“When the storms and heavy rains end, we climb to the vicinity of the mountains and collect the orchids that have fallen from the trees. We bring them to Santa Rita, care for them, and build their strength to reintegrate them into the reserve later,” says Salas Gómez, 32, as she attaches an orchid to a clay base to help it recover.

Like magnets, the orchids of Santa Rita have exerted a pull on those who have migrated from the area due to lack of opportunity. After years away from home, Salas Gómez was one of those who returned, attracted by the community venture to rescue these flowers and exhibit them as a tourist attraction, which provides residents with an adequate income.

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