ISTANBUL — Tarkan Ecebalin lives and breathes the memory of his son Tolga. The 27-year-old was among some 250 people killed in Turkey last year while trying to prevent a botched attempt to overthrow the government.
A year on, the family has moved elsewhere to allow Ecebalin to turn their modest, three-bedroom home in Istanbul’s Balat neighborhood into a museum to honor his son. Members of the public can visit, but must make an appointment.
The bed Tolga once slept in is draped with a Turkish flag. His clothes are displayed on mannequins, and dozens of photographs of Tolga from birth to death adorn the walls.
“It smells like Tolga here. Every corner of this house smells like Tolga to me,” said Tarkan Ecebalin, who is 48. “Tolga is present in every corner of this house.”
The rebellion unfolded on a Friday evening when a group of military officers commandeered war planes, helicopters and tanks to attack key government buildings in the capital, including parliament and the presidential palace complex. They held Istanbul’s main bridge and square, attacked some government buildings and tried to overtake television stations.
Hours later, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared on television and urged citizens to take to the streets to stop the tanks and soldiers.
Tarkan and Tolga were among the hundreds of people who heeded the leader’s call.
The two were side by side when Tolga, also a father of two, said: “Dad, this is something else. If our elders told us to take to the streets, maybe God will destine us martyrdom.”
A gunshot hit the younger man just below the eye. He was taken to the hospital, where he was eventually pronounced dead.
The government has blamed the coup on the influential movement led by U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally who ran a network of schools, dormitories, media outlets and universities. Gulen’s followers are accused of infiltrating state institutions over decades to carry out the insurgency.
More than 2,000 people were injured in the streets during the failed military coup.
Those who died, including Tolga, are hailed as martyrs.
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