Uprooted by Turkey Coup, a Cadet Seeks to Rebuild His Life in Canada

Traumatized by the coup, purged by the military, the young cadet M.K. went through all sorts of odds and obstacles in his young life. Now, he seeks to rebuild a new future far from home, in Canada.

Abdullah Ayasun

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A picture of abandoned weapons after soldiers surrendered to police and pro-government protesters on July 16, 2016.

Three years on, Turkey’s most enigmatic and puzzling coup has left an indelible mark on a generation. The ill-fated coup tore apart families, divided friendships, sent tens of thousands of people, majority of whom innocent, to jail, ripped apart many communities, snuffed out space for civil society, academia and media, and sparked a sweeping purge of perceived critics from the ranks of public service.

For promising cadets of Turkey’s Air Force Academy, it proved a moment of disaster that has upended their lives and freedoms ever since. M. Kaya (who goes with a pseudonym for his security) was one of the cadets who were in a camp in western Turkey when then-Air Force Commander Gen. Abidin Unal paid a visit to the country’s future pilots to boost their morale and share his experiences during his presence there.

The summer camp was in the western province of Yalova. Everything, for M. Kaya and his fellows, was progressing smoothly and according to the schedule. But a sudden call from commanders to attend what was supposed to be an exercise in Istanbul changed their lives forever, and beyond recognition and repair.

They found themselves between coup plotters and pro-government supporters in several locations in Istanbul, including two bridges and several entrance points. What transpired thereafter was captured live on TV as angry people lynched several of the cadets on two bridges. Even three years later, the chaotic and bloody episodes of the mob lynching of cadets perpetually hover in the collective consciousness and memory. The tragedy still remains a stain on the public conscience.

This past July 15 marked the third anniversary of Turkey’s coup attempt. Some commemorated it as a triumph of people’s resistance against…

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Abdullah Ayasun

Boston-based journalist and writer. Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. 2023 WHCA Scholar. On art, culture, politics and everything in between. X: @abyasun