Turkey witnessed the bloodiest coup attempt in its political history on 15 July 2016, when a section of the Turkish military launched a coordinated operation in several major cities to topple the government and unseat President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
After several months, the details of the coup attempt still remain uncertain. Dozens of soldiers and civilians were killed, while hundreds were injured during the night.
Mehtap Tekin, the sister of a soldier who died on that night, has claimed that her brother Murat Tekin had his throat slit; a claim supported by an autopsy report.
“With traumatic lesions and stab wounds detected on his body, the person in question was found to be killed due to pressure on his throat and mechanical asphyxia,” Mehtap Tekin, quoting the report, said. “There were cuts on his throat and wounds on his body,” she added.
A graphic video showing a soldier lying on Istanbul’s Bosphorus Bridge in a pool of blood was widely circulated on social media as the coup attempt was ongoing. While many said the soldier’s throat was slit because of his involvement in the coup other mainstream media outlets and social media users either refused to accept the allegation or claimed that the video and accompanying images were from another ‘terrorist attack’.
Murat Tekin, 21, a student at the airforce academy in the western city of Bursa, was taken to the Bosphorus Bridge with about 500 students on the order of his commanders.
According to Mehtap Tekin and several witnesses, commanders at the school told students: “We are taking you to the most realistic military exercise that you have ever seen.”
Murat Tekin and his classmate, Ragip Enes Katran, who also was killed on the same night, were not aware of the coup attempt, their friends say.
Some students were told that eight suicide bombers were loose on Istanbul’s streets, and some were told that the president had been arrested, according to other military students.
Murat Tekin’s last moments are seen in a video in which he is pulled out of a military bus after it is set alight by members of the public, some of whom are alleged to be pro-government paramilitaries. Tekin is unarmed and dragged amongst the public with several other soldiers while the majority of others soldiers are detained by police.
“The children were given guns and filled into busses. When they realise what is happening they leave their weapons and go amongst the people. My brother didn’t know what was happening, he was unarmed, but he was lynched and killed. Another of his friends [Katran] was also killed. Others were left for dead,” Tekin’s sister says.
Ragip Enes Katran’s family also tell of a similar experience after they found their son’s corpse in a morgue, lynched and shattered. He was tortured before he was killed according to the autopsy report. Both families have applied to judicial authorities but have not made any headway in regards to an investigation.
Thousands of people came out onto the streets following a call by President Erdogan and other Turkish officials who told citizens to arm and ‘defend their democratic rights’ against the putschists.
Civilians and also individuals thought to be paramilitary forces went out onto streets across Istanbul and particularly the Bosphorus Bridge, which was blocked by soldiers, in answer to the call. Mehtap Tekin also went out onto streets to join the demonstrations without knowing about her brother’s situation. She believed that her brother was safe at the military school.
Graphic images of beaten, tortured and murdered soldiers went viral on social media the same night. It is still unknown whether the tortured and killed soldiers were aware and participated in the coup attempt or not.
Days later, on July 22, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency, which is still in effect. The government blames the failed coup attempt on Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric based in the US.
Some 43,000 people in Turkey have been arrested over their suspected links to the Gulenist movement, and over 100,000 have been dismissed or suspended, many of them teachers, police officers, members of the judiciary and journalists.