By Canberk Yuksel
CHICAGO (AA) – Nedaa Skeik, a heart surgeon of Palestinian origin from Minnesota, U.S., was stuck inside an Istanbul hotel on July 15 with his wife and three horrified children as they watched the news that a faction of the Turkish army was staging a coup attempt.
“We were very scared upon learning that the soldiers were on the Bosporus Bridge, because a coup d’etat never brings any goodness,” Nedaa told Anadolu Agency as he recalled his first-hand experience of the defeated putsch.
Nedaa was just one of the visitors touring a photo exhibition chronicling the coup events set up at the MAS-ICNA convention, one of the largest Muslim gatherings in North America, with nearly 20,000 attendees.
Looking at the photos depicting the Turkish parliament under attack, citizens climbing over a tank and democracy vigils, Nedaa — who describes his 10 years of study and work in Turkey in the 90s as the “best decade of my life” — said:
“Our hotel was in Taksim. My family were distraught. My kids were jumping from one bed to the other, screaming, ‘We’re going to die’, ‘We’re going to die’.
“I told them: ‘Guys, calm down. May Allah take our lives but not allow Turkey to collapse’.
“Because we love Turkey very much. If Turkey goes down, the entire Muslim world goes down.”
The July 15 coup attempt witnessed heroic scenes as citizens took to the streets and defied tanks and fighter jets, in a first in modern Turkey’s coup-ridden history.
The violence took at least 248 innocent lives and injured almost 2,200 people.
-‘Defiance and determination’
The “Rise of the National Will” photo exhibition was inaugurated Monday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s daughter Sumeyye Erdogan Bayraktar, an invited guest speaker at the convention, alongside Ankara’s ambassador to the U.S. Serdar Kilic and other dignitaries.
Touring the exhibit, Nihad Awad, president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) — one of the largest U.S. Muslim advocacy groups — told Anadolu Agency he found the photos inspiring.
“I believe it is very important to tell the story of what happened on that day of July 15th to the world and to Muslims in America, because we all lived those difficult moments but also there were moments of inspiration, moments of liberation and moments of defiance and determination,” Awad said.
“At a time when we see only bad news in the Middle East, only bloodshed, only oppression, we saw the will of the Turkish people rising against an attempt to seize the freedom and democracy that Muslims around the world have been looking for.”
Awad thanked Anadolu Agency and Turkish delegation for sharing the story of the coup attempt with the American Muslim community. “We continue to be inspired and reminded,” he said.
“God be praised, the coup has failed but the dangers continue against Turkey inside and outside. So, it’s very important to show the bravery of individuals, ordinary Turkish people, who made history and opened a new chapter of defiance against oppression,” he added.
Abdulmajeed Alghazali, a Yemeni-American social worker, said the defeated coup meant a lot for the region.
“I really couldn’t sleep that night; we were watching, because we think that Turkey is the only hope in the Middle East. It is the only beacon of democracy that is available right now,” he said.
“As you can see, all the Arabic revolutions unfortunately have problems, and in fact all of them have already been defeated, except Tunisia,” Alghazali said.
“The picture of the guy laying down while the tank is going over him… That was incredible. I think the Turkish revolution is the new revolution of the whole world,” he said.
“As a Muslim, as a human being, we look forward for Turkey’s success.”
In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Ambassador Serdar Kilic welcomed the large-scale participation of Turkish organizations at the convention. “A new and increasingly stronger bridge is forming between American Muslims and Turkey,” he said.
The ambassador said it was crucial to explain the “why” of the coup attempt to raise international awareness.
“If we had turned a blind eye to the Palestinian cause, to Syria, Somalia, Iraq and Myanmar, the Republic of Turkey and our president would not be under so much pressure from the West,” he said.
With regard to Ankara’s fight against the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), which it accuses of attempting to mount the coup, Kilic said American Muslims’ support was needed.
“American Muslims should put a clear distance between themselves and the circles responsible for the July 15th coup attempt and put up a serious struggle against their activities,” he said.