CHICAGO (AA) – Anadolu Agency opened a photo exhibition here Monday at a U.S. Muslim convention that portrays the democratic struggle of the Turkish people against a bloody coup attempt this past summer.
The “July 15: Rise of the National Will” exhibition was inaugurated at the annual MAS-ICNA convention by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s daughter, Sumeyye Erdogan Bayraktar and Ankara’s Ambassador to the U.S., Serdar Kilic, as well as other dignitaries.
The MAS-ICNA convention will be attended by thousands of Muslims across the globe and will continue through Wednesday at the McCormick Place, the largest convention center in North America.
An “extremely heinous coup attempt” took place July 15, Bayraktar said. “It is significant that Anadolu Agency does a beautiful job of displaying the intense, emotional moments of that night in such exhibitions,” Bayraktar told Anadolu Agency.
Bayraktar, who studied at Indiana University, praised the convention and stressed the importance of informing Americans about the overthrow attempt during an organization on the scale of the convention.
She said Turkey set an example for other Muslim countries in the way its people defied the putsch.
“I think the admiration toward people in Turkey has increased since the heroism at full display during the July 15 coup attempt. I think the whole international community, the Muslim world in particular, understand how the Turks claim and cherish their democracy,” she said.
Bayraktar criticized the West for “double standards” in its approach toward challenges to democracy across the world. “Unfortunately, those countries that are expected to take the lead in defending democracy are unwilling to do so vis-a-vis Muslim countries. This is a very bitter thing,” she said.
In remarks delivered during an ICNA panel organized by the Turkish American National Steering Committee, Bayraktar stressed that the recent overthrow attempt was a defining moment for Turkey.
“July 15 marked a turning point in Turkey’s contemporary history,” she said.
Past coup attempts were successful and disrupted democratic institutions, according to Bayraktar. “The most recent coup attempt, in contrast, established beyond doubt that the Turkish people would not tolerate another assault. It became clear that there was no room for tanks rolling down the streets and Turkish taxpayers to be threatened with weapons for which they paid in the first place.”
Representing the Syrian-American community at the panel, Safa Zarzur thanked Turkey for helping Syrians.
“We will never forget, we will never forget what Turkey has done for us. Thank you for that,” Zarzur said.
“Three million Syrians today reside in Turkey. They are not treated like refugees, though even in some Arab countries they are treated like refugees,” Zarzur said. “In Turkey, they call them the Muhajirun and they are the Ansar.”
The Muhajirun are a historical name for the companions of Prophet Muhammad who emigrated from Makkah to Madinah to flee persecution, and the Ansar are the Muslims of Madinah who helped them.
“On July 15, our hearts were about to stop because they succeeded in squashing the hopes of the Arab nations one after the other from Egypt to Libya to Yemen,” Zarzur said.
“I watched the brave, the faithful Turkish people putting their bodies in front of tanks and dying for the sake of Allah and for the sake of their country. You taught us a lesson, and you became more the hope for all Muslims, particularly for Syrians,” he added.
Zarzur said the Syrian-American community has learned to utilize channels of advocacy and aid to support Syrians.
“We have 14 relief agencies that work to help Syrian refugees and I can tell you that the aid we receive, the help and support that we receive from Turkey, we do not receive from any other country,” he said.
“But we ask you that you continue that under all the pressure that we know you have from everywhere to stop it,” he said.
Ankara is bearing the brunt of an ongoing war in its next-door neighbor. Turkey hosts 3 million Syrians and has spent billions of dollars in aid.
The government is working to offer citizenship to Syrian nationals and has made efforts commended by the international community to integrate them into the workforce.