US & World

LA reacts to attempted coup in Turkey

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JULY 16: Turkish Armys APC's move in the main streets in the early morning hours of July 16, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul's bridges across the Bosphorus, the strait separating the European and Asian sides of the city, have been closed to traffic. Reports have suggested that a group within Turkey's military have attempted to overthrow the government. Security forces have been called in as Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim denounced an 'illegal action' by a military 'group', with bridges closed in Istanbul and aircraft flying low over the capital of Ankara (Photo by Defne Karadeniz/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JULY 16: Turkish Armys APC's move in the main streets in the early morning hours of July 16, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul's bridges across the Bosphorus, the strait separating the European and Asian sides of the city, have been closed to traffic. Reports have suggested that a group within Turkey's military have attempted to overthrow the government. Security forces have been called in as Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim denounced an 'illegal action' by a military 'group', with bridges closed in Istanbul and aircraft flying low over the capital of Ankara (Photo by Defne Karadeniz/Getty Images)
Defne Karadeniz/Getty Images

After an attempted coup on Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems to be firmly in control on Saturday. He is demanding that the United States arrest or extradite an exiled Islamic cleric he blames for the coup attempt, which has left at least 161 people dead. 

Latest details on attempted coup in Turkey

Southern Californians with ties to Turkey share their thoughts on the country's tumultuous weekend.

Mehmet Berker is the 30-year-old son of a Turkish immigrant. He's been following events in Turkey via Twitter and images on Facebook Live. A friend asked him to post his thoughts on Facebook about the coup attempt to help those who are unfamiliar with the uprising could understand it better.

He says the coup could give the president cover to amass more power and erode traditional democratic institutions.

"The worry is that this coup would kind of give him more excuses for purges, and we’ve already seen him purge a lot of people in the judiciary," Berker says.

He wants the coup to lead Turks to, "vote in the next election for an opposition candidate and party and then for Erdogan and the AK party to respect those results and for there to be a peaceful transfer of power."

He says the country has a long history of coup attempts by the military to change the government. He said the military sees its institution as protector of the Turkish state power against governments that are more Islamist or ideological-driven.

Metin Mangir with the Los Angeles Turkish-American Association says Turkey has a history of bloody coups and he's glad his family in Istanbul is safe.

"Well, everyone was, of course, very anxious at the beginning," he tells KPCC. "We are all sad, but all of us are relieved that this is over."

Mangir says last night's events were a reminder for the Turkish-American community to display their solidarity.

Billy Hayes, author of  "Midnight Express" and two other books about his experiences surviving and escaping a Turkish prison, last visited Turkey in 2007.

He characterized himself as sympathetic to the coup because it appeared to have been led by those who want the country to return to a more secular form of government. Hayes invoked the history of  Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey.

"If he were around today, I think he would have been one of the coup plotters," Hayes says. "He formed a secular government after World War I and favored separation of church and state. He knew how valuable that was."

"I send love and light out to all of my Turkish friends," adds Hayes, who is careful to separate his personal support for Turkey and its people from the Oliver Stone movie, in which his character curses the Turkish authorities.

Hayes, 69, lives in the Los Angeles area and has been touring with his one-man show about his time in Turkey.