When he didn’t come back, of course you were……

When you found his body in the makeshift morgue, of course you were…..

But now what are you?  Now that the call your husband answered with his life

May have been as crooked as the coup he died resisting.


‘In this house there are three more lives to give for this country.’ Sema Sertcelik remains resolute. Her taxi-driver husband Akin (41) died for a noble cause: in defence of Turkey’s elected head of state, President Erdogan; in defiance of the attempted military coup which might have toppled the government on the night of 15th July 2016 but for the thousands of Turks who came out onto the streets of Istanbul and Ankara to stand in front of the tanks and block their progress.

Some of these demonstrators stopped soldiers’ bullets with their bare hands. There is silent footage of them dancing with rifle shots on the Bosphorus Bridge – swept off their feet, hopping on their haunches like Cossacks and ending with the signature move known as ‘biting the dust’. Akin Sertcelik was among those who bit the dust.

If further sacrifice is called for, the Widow Sertcelik will not hesitate. Same goes for her children, she tells a BBC reporter. But Irmak (17) and Hamza (10) say nothing.

Maybe they don’t agree. With thousands of arrests and hundreds of news outlets suppressed in the weeks following the failed coup, perhaps they consider their mother unduly loyal to an opportunist president who has seized the moment afforded by the failure of the coup and used it to incapacitate a whole range of political opponents; in flagrant breach of the democratic principles which he exhorted others to defend at all costs.

Or is it that Sema’s seeming conviction is only the flipside of suspicions she herself has come to share, but doesn’t dare admit to?

At first there was no room for doubt, do you see? Only purity of purpose. Akin leaving their home that night for what turned out to be the last time, dressed in nothing but his pyjamas. A couple of hours later, his phone call to say blood is being shed on the Bridge but it is worth it. The morning after, Sema searching the city because she had fallen asleep and when she woke up she rang and rang and he still didn’t answer. Then the place she heard about where unidentified bodies were sent; he went out wearing only his pyjamas, remember. And even when she looked down upon his lifeless face, the light that was still there…..

All of it achingly pure, and painfully, beautifully simple.

But now in place of the peace of the grave, a crescendo of complications…..