Thou­sands march, mark date of coup

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Zeynep Bil­gin­soy and Suzan Fraser

ISTANBUL» Turkey’s pres­i­dent ad­dressed tens of thou­sands of peo­ple Satur­day at a cer­e­mony mark­ing the first an­niver­sary of the coun­try’s crushed military coup, vow­ing to “rip the heads off” of ter­ror groups and of the coup plot­ters who tried to end his more than a decade-long rule.

Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan joined the large, flag­wav­ing crowd that took part in a na­tional unity march in Istanbul, con­verg­ing at the iconic July 15 Mar­tyrs’ Bridge to re­mem­ber 250 peo­ple who died July 15, 2016, try­ing to re­sist the coup. Ac­com­pa­nied by his fam­ily and the fam­i­lies of the de­ceased, he in­au­gu­rated a hol­low, globe-shaped mon­u­ment fea­tur­ing the names of the vic­tims near the foot of the bridge.

“Ex­actly a year ago to­day, around this hour, a treach­er­ous at­tempt took place,” Er­do­gan said.

“The July 15 coup at­tempt is not the first at­tack against our coun­try, and it won’t be the last,” he said, re­fer­ring to a se­ries of ter­ror at­tacks that also hit the coun­try. “For that rea­son, we’ll first cut the heads off of these traitors.”

The bridge was the scene of clashes be­tween civil­ians and sol­diers in tanks. At least 30 peo­ple died there and more than 2,000 were in­jured across Turkey in the strug­gle. Thirty-five coup plot­ters were also killed.

Pho­to­graphs of the 250 “mar­tyrs” were dis­played on mon­i­tors and their names an­nounced. Er­do­gan praised their brav­ery, say­ing they were armed only with Turk­ish flags and “their faith” while re­sist­ing coup-plot­ters in their tanks.

Er­do­gan was later due to re­turn to Ankara to ad­dress par­lia­ment at the ex­act mo­ment it was bombed a year ago. He is also sched­uled to in­au­gu­rate another mon­u­ment hon­or­ing the dead.

Turk­ish sol­diers at­tempted to over­throw the gov­ern­ment and the pres­i­dent us­ing tanks, war­planes and he­li­copters on July 15, 2016. The coup plot­ters de­clared their seizure of power on the state broad­caster, bombed the coun­try’s par­lia­ment and other key lo­ca­tions, and raided an Aegean re­sort where Er­do­gan had been on va­ca­tion. But Er­do­gan had al­ready left and the coup at­tempt was put down by civil­ians and se­cu­rity forces.

Turkey blames U.s.based cleric Fethul­lah Gulen for or­ches­trat­ing the coup and in­fil­trat­ing state in­sti­tu­tions. Gulen de­nies the al­le­ga­tions.

In the af­ter­math of the coup at­tempt, Turkey de­clared a state of emer­gency that has been in place ever since, which has al­lowed the gov­ern­ment to rule by de­cree and to dis­miss tens of thou­sands of peo­ple from their jobs. More than 50,000 peo­ple have also been ar­rested for al­leged links to Gulen and other groups. In the lat­est gov­ern­ment de­cree pub­lished Fri­day night, 7,395 more state em­ploy­ees were fired.

Lefteris Pitarakis, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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