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People take over a tank near the Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge during clashes with military forces in Istanbul on July 16, 2016.Ozan Koseozan/AFP / Getty Images

A few weeks ago, Ozan Vural, 32, sat down at a half-full bar on Istiklal Street, Istanbul's main pedestrian drag, to smoke a cigarette and nurse a beer – even though it was Ramadan.

Turkish Muslims who are fasting usually avoid eating and drinking in public out of courtesy for the pious during the holy month.

"Now, I find myself not only not giving a damn about it," he said. "It's as if drinking in public is an act of resistance, a form of self-expression."

Mr. Vural recently moved back to Turkey from Sweden for family reasons. He's not happy with the relocation. Like many young, educated Turks, he wants to live in an enlightened country where drinking a beer isn't a political statement. He'd like to leave home again as soon as possible.

As the Friday coup attempt illustrates, Turkey has transformed from a haven of a stability in the region to a country fraught with division and turmoil. The attempted coup was only the latest – and most violent – expression of the discord. In the past several years, authoritarianism has been a common facet of daily life.

"I'm afraid this country is heading towards a civil war," Mr. Vural said.

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But, more critically, many locals said an increasingly conservative social climate, toxic politics and a government crackdown on civil liberties and the internet has made life unbearable for hundreds of academics, artists, journalists and ordinary citizens as well.

"I want to leave Turkey. Some people I know are already trying or have managed to leave," said Ali Olsoy, a recent university graduate in Istanbul. "This is also not only about the terror attacks – people were already trying to migrate to Europe or America before the situation worsened due to the authoritarian regime. Fear [of terror attacks] is just another and, of course, important factor."

There are no official figures on emigration compiled by the Turkish government that break down the motives behind people's departure. But in Istanbul, the cosmopolitan centre of the country, most people say they either know someone who wants to leave – or has done so – or are thinking about it themselves.

Umut Ozkirimli, a professor of political science at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden, says he gets 15 to 20 e-mails a month from Turks asking for advice on how to move abroad, about four times as many as he used to a few years ago.

Analysts say one reason for an escalation in emigration currently is that the optimism is gone.

"Terrorism is one reason, of course, but the point is people have lost hope," Prof. Ozkirimli said.

"Erdogan gets re-elected whatever he does," he added, referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "There's no opposition and there's no room for change. It's not just about being oppressed right now, it's the feeling that you'll continue being oppressed in the future."

As an example, Mehmet Seners, 24, a recent graduate from Istanbul, points to the President's press conference after the attempted coup.

"Erdogan just gave a press conference – he looked extremely calm and he was so sure of what to do," Mr. Seners said "He says everything will be done to punish them [the coup plotters] and when we think about the thousands on streets just because Erdogan said to come, then yeah, I think he will be even stronger."

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Erdogan leads the centre-right, Islamic-influenced AKP party and served as prime minister before his current post for more than a decade.

Until a few years ago, there was still hope, say some locals. In May of 2013, a small protest over Gezi Park by environmental activists turned into a movement against the ruling party's growing authoritarian nature that spread to more than 67 cities. After 18 days, the protest was harshly suppressed with tear gas, plastic bullets and water cannons that killed six and wounded more than 8,000.

Today, though, Prof. Ozkirimli says many – especially journalists and academics – end up in jail because of an article, Facebook post or a tweet that the authorities didn't like. Almost 2,000 people are being investigated for insulting the President, according to the Justice Ministry.

"The elections in 2015 were a huge success for HDP," he added, referring to a left-wing and pro-Kurdish party. "But when the war started with the Kurds [last summer], voters went back to AKP during the elections – that was the final blow."

Yagmur Duran, 22, a recent university graduate, is torn about leaving. He says he sees the increasing polarization in the country, and is worried about civil war breaking out, but isn't sure what to do. He knows there is no room for people like himself in Turkey any more. He is considering leaving the country but is worried what will become of his parents.

"For the past three years, everyone fighting against the government cannot breathe," Mr. Duran said. "Young people in my age want to leave as there's no future here."

Part of the problem is the crackdown on protests but the other problem is that the protests are also a target: Several bomb attacks have hit anti-government youth protests.

"In Suruc [in southeastern Turkey] and in Ankara, young and educated people were the target," Mr. Duran said, referring to protests last July and October, respectively. "A few days ago when Erdogan vowed to ruin Gezi Park in order to build on it, people started talking about new Gezi protests. However, this time, there's a chance a bomb might explode in the middle of the people and that's why people will never go to protests [now]. And if they go, they will die, which means civil war."

Anger plays a role, too, some say, in their decision to emigrate.

"We are angry because every time after a bombing there is broadcast ban," Mr. Seners said. "We are angry because every time opposition parties wanted an investigation on bombings, it was rejected by the AKP. We are angry because we can't stop thinking about how the party which has received majority of votes since 2002 does not want an investigation into the terrorism."

"Even though it is hard to admit it, I think I do want to leave Turkey," he added. "For years, there has been this authoritarian regime. Even without bombings, I would have said yes [to leaving] because of the political situation."

Mr. Vural echoes the concern – repeated frequently here, that Turkish society is headed toward a widening and dangerous split. On Istiklal, he pointed out the visible signs of Turkey's transformation.

"You see how few people walk here now?" he said, pointing to a spot where a bomb exploded in March killing five. "Despite that it's a Saturday night, you can easily walk through the crowd."

Usually, the street would be jam-packed.

"Turkey is not a safe country any more," he added, looking down. "For anyone."

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