Turkey marks third anniversary of coup attempt that killed over 250

Turkey on map
Turkey on map

Turkey is marking the third anniversary of the attempted coup of July 15, 2016, with commemorations and prayers for the victims in Ankara and Istanbul on Monday.

President Tayyip Erdogan attended a prayer ceremony in a mosque at the presidential complex, laid flowers at the July 15 Martyrs’ Monument and attended a special parliamentary session in the capital.

“[Turkey] sends a powerful message of unity and solidarity to the world: We will die but never let traitors and putschists destroy our country, our freedom and our dignity,” Mr Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin tweeted.

Turkey blames the failed coup led by a faction of the military on Fethullah Gulen. The U.S.-based Islamic cleric has denied any involvement.

In Istanbul and Ankara that night there were pitched battles between security forces loyal to and against Mr Erdogan and his government.

Soldiers backing the coup used tanks, fighter jets and helicopters, even bombing parliament.

Thousands of civilians also took to the streets to stand up against the putschists, following a call from Mr Erdogan.

The uprising was eventually crushed, but it left more than 250 dead and 2,000 injured.

A brutal crackdown followed, spreading beyond those allegedly linked to Gulen, and cast a net over Kurdish activists and politicians and rights groups.

The deputy leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Saruhan Oluc, reminded parliament on Monday that numerous lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish party were arrested in the aftermath.

Among them was Selahattin Demirtas, the former HDP co-leader, who challenged Mr Erdogan for the presidency in 2018 from his jail cell.

He has been in pre-trial detention since November 2016 on terrorism-related charges.

Turkey imposed a state of emergency on July 20, 2016. It enabled Mr Erdogan to rule by decree and limited fundamental rights.

It ended after two years, on July 19, 2018, but the government replaced it with a stringent anti-terrorism bill.

The president has previously warned that emergency rule could be reintroduced at any time if the threat of terrorism resurfaces.

In the post-2016 backlash, tens of thousands of civil servants, academics and journalists were sacked and media houses shuttered.

In April, Mr Erdogan said that overall 20,226 people have been convicted on charges related to the failed coup.

More than 31,000 people have been fired from the police, 15,000 from the military and 4,000 from the judiciary, he added.

The shadow of 2016 is ever present in Turkey as weekly raids and arrests continue of those allegedly linked to the plotters, as do trials.

In June, an Ankara court sentenced 198 ex-soldiers to life in prison, including the former commander of the Turkish Air Force, Akin Ozturk.

Mr Erdogan is later scheduled to give a speech at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, which was temporarily occupied by the putschists that night.

The president’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had two options after the failed coup, said Sezgin Tanrikulu, a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

The AKP could turn the coup attempt “into a real opportunity to strengthen democracy in Turkey … or see it as an opportunity for its authoritarian leadership to move away from the principles of a constitutional state,” Tanrikulu said.

The AKP did not choose the first alternative, he added.

Two museums marking July 15 with photographs and videos are scheduled to open to the public: one in Istanbul on Monday and another in Ankara on Tuesday.

The Istanbul museum is located on the Asian side of the city just across the first bridge over the Bosphorus Strait, which is now called the July 15 Martyrs’ bridge.

On that night three years ago, 32 civilians and two policemen died on the bridge.

Turkey marks July 15 as Democracy and National Unity Day.



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