Turkey marks coup de­feat with ral­lies

Er­do­gan warns Turkey could rein­tro­duce cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Turkey on Satur­day marked one year since the de­feat of the failed coup bid with mass na­tion­wide ral­lies seek­ing to show­case na­tional unity and a stern warn­ing by Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan to “chop off the heads” of traitors. The au­thor­i­ties de­clared July 15 an an­nual na­tional hol­i­day of “democ­racy and unity”, billing the foil­ing of the putsch as a his­toric vic­tory of Turk­ish democ­racy. In an in­tense pro­gram aim­ing to ham­mer home the an­niver­sary’s im­por­tance, Er­do­gan at­tended a spe­cial ses­sion of par­lia­ment in Ankara, spoke to a mass rally in Is­tan­bul and then flew back to the cap­i­tal for a rally out­side par­lia­ment and a spe­cial event at the pres­i­den­tial palace in the early hours of the morn­ing.

Speak­ing to hun­dreds of thou­sands by the bridge across the Bospho­rus in Is­tan­bul that was a fight­ing flash­point, Er­do­gan warned Turkey could rein­tro­duce cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment. “First of all we will chop off the heads of those traitors,” Er­do­gan said, reaf­firm­ing he would sign any passed by par­lia­ment bill on re­sum­ing ex­e­cu­tions. Any move to re­store cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment-which Turkey abol­ished in 2004 — would ef­fec­tively end Ankara’s Euro­pean Union mem­ber­ship am­bi­tions.

Er­do­gan also said the sus­pects be­ing tried over the failed coup should wear uni­form cloth­ing like the no­to­ri­ous or­ange jump­suits used at US mil­i­tary prison at Guan­tanamo Bay. “When they ap­pear in court, let’s make them ap­pear in uni­form suits like in Guan­tanamo,” Er­do­gan said to cheers. Sup­port­ers chanted “we are sol­diers of Tayyip (Er­do­gan)”, with some even bran­dish­ing nooses in a sym­bol of their sup­port for the death penalty.

In the later speech to thou­sands out­side par­lia­ment in Ankara which was bombed by war­planes that night, Er­do­gan de­claimed “our na­tion showed the whole world what a na­tion we are on July 15.” The crowds later made their way to the palace where dozens had camped out­side for the fi­nal of­fi­cial event dur­ing which Er­do­gan in­au­gu­rated a mon­u­ment to the vic­tims which has peo­ple hold up the cres­cent and star sym­bols of the Turk­ish flag.

I would stay out again

Two hun­dred and forty nine peo­ple, not in­clud­ing the plot­ters, were killed when a dis­grun­tled fac­tion of 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 ally-turned­neme­sis, the US-based preacher Fethul­lah Gulen.

“Did my cit­i­zens have weapons? They had their flags like to­day but they had a more ef­fi­cient weapon: their faith,” Er­do­gan said in Is­tan­bul. Mu­rat, an Er­do­gan sup­porter at the Ankara rally, said: “If that hap­pened once more, I would stay out again. That night, it was like a war. We take own­erv­ship of this coun­try and this peo­ple.” 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. Er­do­gan said a de­ci­sion would be made on Mon­day over whether to rec­om­mend ex­tend­ing the emer­gency by an­other three months.

Im­moral­ity

Turkey’s op­po­si­tion had 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” in a move that irked Er­do­gan. “Over the last year, the ju­di­cial pro­ceed­ings... moved out­side the frame­work of the law,” Kil­ic­daroglu told the spe­cial ses­sion of 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. But Er­do­gan an­grily slammed as an “im­moral­ity” op­po­si­tion claims of a “con­trolled coup” which the au­thor­i­ties had known about in ad­vance and then taken ad­van­tage of. 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.

Epic of July 15

The scale of Satur­day’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 and Ankara show­ing gaudy paint­ings that por­tray the key events of the coup night with the slo­gan “the epic of July 15”. Il­lu­mi­nated anti-coup slo­gans were hung be­tween the minarets of some of Is­tan­bul’s great­est Ot­toman mosques. Mean­while mo­bile phone users in Turkey were sur­prised to hear a voice mes­sage by Er­do­gan him­self when plac­ing a call, con­grat­u­lat­ing them on the de­feat of the coup.—AFP

IS­TAN­BUL: Peo­ple stand un­der a col­lec­tion of Turk­ish na­tional flags as they gather on the ‘July 15 Mar­tyrs Bridge’ (Bospho­rus Bridge) in Is­tan­bul. —AFP

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