By Hatice Yildirim (coordination team of Take the Chance – Fırsatı Yakala, the Theodor-Heuss-Kolleg cooperation programme in Turkey)
In its fifth programme year in Turkey, the Take the Chance – Fırsatı Yakala coordination team had planned to have a special educational year for the participants and alumni. Our Kick-off Seminar was supposed to take place 14-20 July 2016 in Siirt, Southeast of Anatolia. When we facilitators arrived on 12 July for preparations, there was already a big fear because the Eastern part of Turkey was not so safe. In the beginning, everything was kind of normal, and although the last months in Turkey had passed with a lot of social problems, conflicts and terrorists attacks the participants were very motivated to attend the first seminar of the year.
During the night after their arrival we heard some explosions. People said that the PKK had attacked the Police Office. Although we facilitators were a bit afraid, the training had to continue. When, at the end of the second day, we all went out together to have some tea, we got news that the army had taken control of the country, that there was a military coup. After the first shock, we decided to stay together (we had separate buildings for accommodation) since we had no idea what would happen next. We provided us with snacks from the market, just in case that the next days we would not be allowed to go outside.
It was a very long night for all of us. In front of the television, we and the participants had long discussions about democracy and the political processes our country goes through. In the morning, the military coup attempt was under control, but we knew that things would not turn out to be normal very soon. At this point, all of the participants and also the facilitators were very sad, afraid and confused. As a group, we discussed our options: to drop the seminar and go back home or to continue.
In the end, three of the participants left because their families wanted them back home. With the rest of the group we continued on 17 July with non-violent communication training and the creation of project ideas. The last two days were dedicated to project development. At the end of the seminar, six project groups developed their ideas for implementing local micro projects in cities of South and Southeast Anatolia.
One of our participants shared a post on Facebook about the week:
“(…) Everyone who heard that I was going to Siirt kept saying ‘Those places are dangerous.’ But I didn’t care. Some nights we woke up to gun shots, sometimes we heard the sound of explosions of mines. We experienced the coup attempt in Siirt. However, (…) it did not stop us from doing ‘nonviolent communication’ training even though we were in an environment of violence. I’m glad for what I’ve experienced, and what I have lived through in Siirt. And I’m also glad for having those sleepless nights, for having a chance to get to know those people, for the pies that I ate, and for cold and absent water from time to time… Most of all I’m glad to be a part of such an amazing foundation. #türkiyeavrupavakfı #fırsatıyakala”