Tur­key marks year since ‘epic’ coup de­feat

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Tur­key yes­ter­day marked one year since the de­feat of the coup aimed at oust­ing Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, seek­ing to show­case na­tional unity and his grip on power in an in­creas­ingly po­lar­ized so­ci­ety. The author­i­ties have de­clared July 15 an an­nual na­tional hol­i­day of “democ­racy and unity”, billing the foil­ing of the putsch as a his­toric vic­tory of Turk­ish democ­racy. “It’s one year since the dark­est night was turned into an epic,” Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim told a spe­cial ses­sion of par­lia­ment that kicked off a day of cel­e­bra­tions set to last un­til dawn.

He said the night of July 15 was a “sec­ond War of In­de­pen­dence” af­ter the war that led to the cre­ation of the mod­ern Turk­ish state in the ru­ins of the Ot­toman Em­pire in 1923. Two hun­dred and forty nine peo­ple, not in­clud­ing the plot­ters, were killed when a dis­grun­tled fac­tion in the army sent tanks into the streets and war planes into the sky in a bid to over­throw Er­do­gan af­ter one-and-a-half decades in power.

But they were thwarted within hours as the author­i­ties re­grouped and peo­ple poured into the streets in sup­port of Er­do­gan, who blamed fol­low­ers of his al­ly­turned-neme­sis, the US-based preacher Fethul­lah Gulen. Er­do­gan, at the cen­ter of the com­mem­o­ra­tions, took part in a “peo­ple’s march” on the Is­tan­bul bridge across

the Bospho­rus that saw some of the fiercest fight­ing, af­ter ar­riv­ing from Ankara on his of­fi­cial plane ac­com­pa­nied by an F-16 fighter jet.

Tens of thou­sands car­ry­ing the Turk­ish flag and chant­ing “we are sol­diers of Tayyip (Er­do­gan)” gath­ered on the bridge, which has since been re­named Bridge of the Mar­tyrs of July 15. “We are here for the vic­tims, for democ­racy, for our coun­try for our peo­ple and our flag,” said Hakan, a res­i­dent of Is­tan­bul.

In the wake of the failed coup bid, author­i­ties em­barked on the big­gest purge in Tur­key’s his­tory, ar­rest­ing 50,000 peo­ple and sack­ing al­most three times as many. Er­do­gan also shored up his po­si­tion by win­ning a ref­er­en­dum on en­hanc­ing his pow­ers ear­lier this year. In the lat­est dis­missals, an­other 7,563 po­lice, sol­diers and other state em­ploy­ees were fired late Fri­day un­der the state of emer­gency that has been in place since July 20 last year.

Tur­key’s op­po­si­tion put po­lit­i­cal dis­putes aside on the night of the putsch but the scale of the purge has in­ten­si­fied po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions. The cel­e­bra­tions come less than a week af­ter the head of the Repub­li­can Peo­ple’s Party (CHP) Ke­mal Kil­ic­daroglu held the largest op­po­si­tion rally in Tur­key in years, push­ing for “jus­tice”. “Over the last year, the ju­di­cial pro­ceed­ings... moved out­side the frame­work of the law,” Kil­ic­daroglu, whose party will boy­cott com­mem­o­ra­tion cer­e­monies later in the day, told par­lia­ment.

He also called for full clar­ity over what hap­pened on the night of July 15, with ques­tions still re­main­ing over when the author­i­ties first found out an up­ris­ing was afoot. “The de­tails need to be made clear in the name of the mar­tyrs and the he­roes,” he said, ac­cus­ing the author­i­ties of “hin­der­ing” ef­forts to find out the truth. Er­do­gan, who was present at the ses­sion, gazed down stonily from the VIP bal­cony. The coup bid also frayed ties be­tween the United States and Euro­pean Union with NATO mem­ber Tur­key, which ac­cused its al­lies of fail­ing to show sol­i­dar­ity. Gulen has al­ways de­nied in­volve­ment and in a new state­ment Fri­day said the ac­cu­sa­tions were “base­less, po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated slan­ders” and slammed a “witch hunt” of Er­do­gan’s crit­ics.

The scale of yes­ter­day’s na­tion­wide com­mem­o­ra­tions is aimed at etch­ing July 15, 2016 into the minds of Turks as a key date in the his­tory of the mod­ern state. Gi­ant posters de­signed by the pres­i­dency have sprung up across bill­boards in Is­tan­bul show­ing gaudy paint­ings that por­tray the key events of the coup night, in­clud­ing the sur­ren­der of the putschist sol­diers. “The epic of July 15,” says the slo­gan. How­ever some have crit­i­cized the posters for be­lit­tling the Turk­ish army.

Pub­lic trans­port is free in Is­tan­bul and Ankara over the week­end while mo­bile op­er­a­tor Turk­cell has sent text mes­sages to clients promis­ing them a free ex­tra gi­ga­byte of data from July 15. Il­lu­mi­nated anti-coup slo­gans have been hung be­tween the minarets of some of Is­tan­bul’s great­est Ot­toman mosques.

At mid­night lo­cal time (2100 GMT) peo­ple across Tur­key were to take part in “democ­racy watches”, ral­lies com­mem­o­rat­ing how peo­ple poured out into the streets. Er­do­gan was to later re­turn to Ankara and at 2300 GMT give a speech in par­lia­ment to mark the time it was bombed. A gi­ant mon­u­ment to those killed - show­ing peo­ple hold­ing up the Turk­ish star and cres­cent in­signia will then be un­veiled out­side his palace in the cap­i­tal as the dawn call to prayer rings out. — AFP


IS­TAN­BUL: Tur­key’s Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan and his wife Emine Er­do­gan walk to a cer­e­mony site on the July 15 Mar­tyrs Bridge (Bospho­rus Bridge) yes­ter­day.

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