Turkish community in Dayton worried by coup attempt

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 on Saturday to about 50 members of the Ahiska Turkish community in Dayton 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.

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.

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. 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.

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.

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