Tur­key marks year since coup at­tempt

In lat­est purge, 7,563 po­lice, sol­diers and other govt em­ploy­ees were fired just hours ahead of cel­e­bra­tions

Muscat Daily - - REGION -

Is­tan­bul, Tur­key - Tur­key on Satur­day 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 po­larised 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 ally turned neme­sis, the US-based preacher Fethul­lah Gulen.

The au­thor­i­ties em­barked on the big­gest purge in Tur­key’s his­tory, ar­rest­ing 50,000 peo­ple and sack­ing over 100,000 more. Er­do­gan also shored up his po­si­tion by win­ning a ref­er­en­dum on en­hanc­ing his pow­ers ear­lier this year.

In the lat­est dis­missals or­dered just hours be­fore the com­mem­o­ra­tions were due to be­gin, an­other 7,563 po­lice, sol­diers and other state em­ploy­ees were fired un­der the state of emer­gency that has been in place since July 20 last year.

‘Out­side the law’

The scale of the purge has in­ten­si­fied po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions, with the op­po­si­tion ac­cus­ing the au­thori- ties of seek­ing to si­lence any­one who dares crit­i­cise Er­do­gan.

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 the coun­try.

Tur­key’s op­po­si­tion put po­lit­i­cal dis­putes aside on the night of the at­tempted coup. But this has frayed since the April 16 ref­er­en­dum that Er­do­gan nar­rowly won.

“Over the last year, the ju­di­cial pro­ceed­ings... moved out­side the frame­work of the law,” Kil­ic­daroglu told the 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 ‘hin- de­r­ing’ ef­forts to find out the truth.

Er­do­gan, who was present at the ses­sion but was not sched­uled to speak, 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 in the coup bid and in a new state­ment on 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 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 crit­i­cised the posters for be­lit­tling the Turk­ish army.

Pub­lic trans­port is free in Is­tan­bul over the week­end while mo­bile op­er­a­tor Turk­cell has sent text mes­sages to clients promis­ing them a free extra gi­ga­byte of data from July 15.

(AFP)

This file photo shows a Turk­ish po­lice of­fi­cer (right) em­brac­ing a man on a tank af­ter the military po­si­tion was taken over at the Ana­to­lian side at Usku­dar in Is­tan­bul on July 16, 2016

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