Local Turkish community worried by coup attempt

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Islom Shakhbandarov, president of the Ahiska Turkish American Community Center in Dayton, talks about concerns of an attempted coup in Turkey. Produced by Barrie Barber.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

They stand united to preserve Turkey’s ‘democracy.’

Islom Shakhbandarov got phone calls all night Friday from people worried about an attempted military coup in Turkey he called a “true and real attack on a democracy.”

Flanked by both American and Turkish flags, Shakhbandarov spoke to about 50 members of the Ahiska Turkish community Saturday in Dayton to update them after the coup appeared to have failed to unseat the democratically elected government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“People were shocked,” said Shakhbandarov, 31, who migrated to Dayton in 2007 from Russia. “You can’t believe (it). It was fear. We all have family members there. We all have relatives there. We all have friends. We have ties to this country.”

Nargiza Kuchiyeva, 31, who arrived in Dayton from Russia, has family in Turkey, a nation she said would not be divided by the attempt to take over the government.

“We want to stay united and we want to be happy,” she said after the meeting at the Ahiska Turkish American Community Center. Coup leaders, she added, “are not going to divide Turkey. Turkey will stay always as an independent country.”

Shakhbandarov expressed concern over people who were targeted and killed by military forces tied to the attempted coup that claimed the lives of 265 and wounded more than 1,400, media reports said.

“They’re killing those people,” he said. “They’re killing everyone.”

Shakhbandarov blamed Fetullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania, for the attempted coup. Shakhbandarov and the Turkish government Saturday called for Gulen’s extradition to Turkey to face allegations about ties to the coup attempt.

Umut Acar, consul general of the Turkish government in Chicago, told the newspaper Saturday his country has dealt with the trauma of a second major terrorist attack since suicide bombers killed dozens at an Istanbul airport last month.

The nation rejected the coup this time, he said.

“They prevented this attempt and our democracy prevailed in Turkey and now we are trying to heal our wounds,” he said in an interview. “We will get out of this a much stronger democracy. We had a test of democracy and Turkish people in my country passed that test.”

Turkey detained thousands accused of involvement in the attempted coup. “Of course, the perpetrators will be swiftly brought to justice,” Acar said.

Gulen was an ally of Turkey’s president until the two sides had a falling out three years ago, The New York Times reported Saturday.

In a statement posted Friday on the website of the Alliance for Shared Values, Gulen condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the coup attempt and denied involvement.

“Government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force,” he said in the statement. “I pray to God for Turkey, for Turkish citizens, and for all those currently in Turkey that this situation be resolved peacefully and quickly.

“As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such attempt,” his statement added. “I categorically deny such accusations.”

Gulen has promoted a philosophy that blends a mystical form of Islam with staunch advocacy of democracy, education, science and interfaith dialogue, according to The Associated Press.

As the Dayton Daily News has reported, the Horizon Science Academy of Dayton was one of 19 schools in Ohio affiliated with Gulen, and began operating under Concept Schools management in 1999.

Chicago-based Concept Schools, which operates Horizon academies in Ohio, has denied formal ties to the Gulen movement, the Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, critics have cited Erdogan’s recent crackdown on dissidents, restrictions on news media and renewed fighting with Kurdish rebels, AP reported.

Turkey is a key U.S. ally and a NATO member. U.S. warplanes based at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey conduct raids against Islamic State forces.