The name of Sgt. Ferhat Daş, a Turkish tank commander who chose to die by suicide rather than open fire on civilians during a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, was posthumously cleared by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Sunday.
Daş was reportedly ordered to deploy from General Nurettin Baransel Barracks to Sabiha Gökçen Airport during the night of the coup attempt. His commanders allegedly told him they were being deployed in response to a terrorist attack that took place at the airport in an attempt to keep him in the dark about the coup plot.
The tank, however, was stopped by civilians before it got to the airport. The civilians tried to inform the soldiers inside the tank about the coup plot in an attempt to get the soldiers to stand down.
After realizing what was going on and unwilling to harm any civilians, the sergeant decided to stand down and disobey any further orders. After emerging from the tank and having a brief talk with the crowd, Daş was ordered by his commander to fire on the civilians. Upon hearing the order, Daş decided to kill himself, shouting, “I am not a traitor,” before shooting himself in the head.
Ferhat Daş’s family, branded as traitors after the coup attempt according to his mother Fatma Daş, requested that Turkish officials grant martyr status to the deceased soldier following the ruling on Sunday. The family had to organize the soldier’s funeral themselves as he was denied a military funeral. Believing their son to be innocent, the family submitted a request to have their son’s name cleared.
Speaking to the pro-government Demirören news agency (DHA), his mother said she always believed her son to be innocent and that he was not a traitor. “The court decided that he was innocent,” she said. “I lost my son, my heart still aches as it did two years ago. As a mother, I want my son to be granted martyr status so he can rest in peace,” she said.
Ahmet Daş, the sargeant’s father, said that they were not after any money in their request for martyr status. “We just want our son to rest in peace,” he said.
Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.
Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.