Turkey to mark first an­niver­sary of failed coup

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - SUZAN FRASER In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Ayse Wieting of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey is com­mem­o­rat­ing the first an­niver­sary of the quashed mil­i­tary coup that sought to over­throw Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan with a se­ries of events hon­or­ing some 250 peo­ple who were killed on July 15, 2016, while try­ing to stop the in­sur­rec­tion.

The coup at­tempt was the great­est chal­lenge to the rule of Er­do­gan, who has been in power since 2003, first as prime min­is­ter and later as pres­i­dent. Af­ter crush­ing the at­tempted takeover, Er­do­gan went on to win a ref­er­en­dum in April that will con­sid­er­ably ex­tend the pow­ers of his of­fice — a move that has raised fear among op­po­nents who say he has be­come in­creas­ingly au­thor­i­tar­ian.

The re­bel­lion un­folded on a Fri­day evening when a group of mil­i­tary of­fi­cers com­man­deered war­planes, he­li­copters and tanks to at­tack key gov­ern­ment build­ings in the cap­i­tal, in­clud­ing par­lia­ment and the pres­i­den­tial palace com­plex. They held Is­tan­bul’s main bridge and square, at­tacked some gov­ern­ment build­ings and tried to over­take tele­vi­sion sta­tions. They also tried to cap­ture or kill the pres­i­dent, who was va­ca­tion­ing at a Mediter­ranean re­sort at the time.

Heed­ing a call by Er­do­gan broad­cast on CNN-Turk through a video app, thou­sands of peo­ple took to the streets to stop the tanks and sol­diers. Po­lice and of­fi­cers loyal to the gov­ern­ment put down the coup, which did not have sup­port in the mil­i­tary’s top ech­e­lons, within hours.

More than 2,000 peo­ple were in­jured in the streets, in ad­di­tion to the 250 peo­ple who died and now are hailed as “mar­tyrs” of the coup. The dead in­clude 53 spe­cial op­er­a­tions po­lice who were killed in an at­tack on their head­quar­ters in Ankara. Some 30 coup plot­ters are also be­lieved to have died dur­ing their failed at­tempt.

Tarkan Ece­balin and his 27-year-old son, Tolga, were among the hun­dreds of peo­ple who took Er­do­gan’s call to heart and rushed to pro­tect the Is­tan­bul mayor’s of­fice. A gun­shot struck the younger man just be­low the eye and he died from the in­jury.

Ece­balin has turned their home in an im­pov­er­ished neigh­bor­hood into a mu­seum hon­or­ing his son, say­ing those who were killed try­ing to fend off the coup plot­ters should not be for­got­ten.

“Dad,” Tarkan re­called his son telling him be­fore he died. “This is some­thing else. If our el­ders told us to take to the streets, maybe God will des­tine us mar­tyr­dom.”

Er­do­gan is set to un­veil a large mon­u­ment for the “mar­tyrs” op­po­site his palace in Ankara and an­other near Is­tan­bul’s for­mer Bosporus Bridge, which has been re­named as the “July 15 Mar­tyrs Bridge” to honor the peo­ple who died re­sist­ing the coup.

He also is sched­uled to de­liver a speech in par­lia­ment at 2:32 a.m. on Sun­day, the ex­act mo­ment the assem­bly was at­tacked a year ago.

The gov­ern­ment has blamed the coup on the in­flu­en­tial move­ment led by U.S.based Mus­lim cleric Fethul­lah Gulen, a for­mer Er­do­gan ally who ran a net­work of schools, dor­mi­to­ries, me­dia out­lets and uni­ver­si­ties. Gulen’s fol­low­ers are ac­cused of in­fil­trat­ing state in­sti­tu­tions over decades to carry out the in­sur­gency.

Er­do­gan once de­scribed the coup as a “gift from God” that had al­lowed the gov­ern­ment to purge the mil­i­tary and pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions of the Gulen fol­low­ers who once were al­lied with his Is­lamic-rooted Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Party.

A pro­longed state of emer­gency that has re­mained in place since the coup at­tempt al­lows the gov­ern­ment to rule through de­crees and with­out the ini­tial ap­proval from law­mak­ers. Over the past year, more than 50,000 peo­ple have been ar­rested for their al­leged in­volve­ment in the in­sur­gency, and more than 100,000 oth­ers have been fired from civil ser­vice jobs.

While the crack­down ini­tially tar­geted Gulen fol­low­ers, it has en­snared other gov­ern­ment crit­ics, in­clud­ing Kur­dish and other op­po­si­tion law­mak­ers, jour­nal­ists and ac­tivists.

“No state can work with those who don’t show it loy­alty,” Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim said this week, jus­ti­fy­ing the wide­spread purge. “Our strug­gle [against Gulen’s move­ment] will con­tinue with de­ter­mi­na­tion. “

Gulen, who has been in self-im­posed ex­ile in Penn­syl­va­nia since 1999, has con­demned the coup at­tempt and de­nied he was in­volved, although he acknowledged that some sup­port­ers might have par­tic­i­pated in the up­ris­ing.

Turkey has re­peat­edly pressed the United States to ex­tra­dite the cleric, so far with­out suc­cess.

AP/LEFTERIS PITARAKIS

Savas Al­tay weeps Fri­day in Is­tan­bul at an ex­hibit of pho­to­graphs from the mil­i­tary coup at­tempt last year. Al­tay said he was beaten by a sol­dier dur­ing the tur­moil.

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