ISTANBUL • A sea of rapturous, flag-waving crowds gathered in Istanbul early yesterday to listen as a defiant Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised to punish his enemies, and praised the civilians who last year stood up to the rogue soldiers and their tanks.
"They showed no mercy when they pointed their guns at my people," Mr Erdogan said in a hardline speech in front of the presidential palace in Ankara, on the first anniversary of a coup attempt against his government.
"What did my people have? They had their flags, just as they do today, and something much more important: They had their faith."
He also inaugurated a monument in Ankara, honouring the 249 people who died in the resistance against last year's failed coup.
Last Saturday, hundreds of thousands congregated near the bridge spanning the Bosphorus - the spot where civilians last year confronted the tanks and troops that had halted traffic between the city's European and Asian sides. Roads near the bridge - since renamed "July 15 Martyrs' Bridge" - were so crowded that some people opted to come by ferry. Some in the crowd carried posters of those who died.
The show of popular defiance has likely ended decades of military interference in Turkish politics. But along with a groundswell of nationalism, the coup's greatest legacy has been a far-reaching crackdown that has deepened the divide between Western-facing, secular Turks and the pious millions who back Mr Erdogan's Islamist-rooted politics.
After Mr Erdogan's speech, in which he promised to restore the death penalty if Parliament votes to bring it back, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker urged Turkey to uphold democratic values if it hopes to join the EU.
249 Number of people who died on the night of the July 15 coup.
150k Number of people sacked or suspended from jobs in civil service and private sector since the coup.
>50k Number of people jailed for alleged links to the attempted coup.
"Whoever wants to join the European Union is joining a union of values," Mr Juncker wrote in an op-ed for German weekly Bild Sonntag. "Europe's hand remains outstretched," he said, but it expects that "Turkey, too, should clearly show its European colours and... take basic European values to heart". The death penalty is seen as a red line that would shut down Turkey's hopes of joining the EU.
Some 150,000 people have been sacked or suspended from jobs in the civil service and private sector, and more than 50,000 detained for alleged links to the putsch.
Last Friday, the government said it had dismissed 7,000 more police officers, civil servants and academics for suspected links to the Muslim cleric it blames for the attempted coup.
Critics, including rights groups and some Western governments, say Mr Erdogan is using the state of emergency introduced after the coup to target opposition figures, including rights activists, pro-Kurdish politicians and journalists.
The two co-leaders of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party are in jail - as are local members of rights group Amnesty International and nearly 160 journalists, says the Committee to Protect Journalists.
At a parliamentary ceremony in Ankara on Saturday, the head of the main opposition Republican People's Party decried what he said was the erosion of democracy following the coup. "This Parliament, which withstood bombs, has been rendered obsolete and its authority removed," said Mr Kemal Kilicdaroglu, in a reference to an April referendum that Mr Erdogan narrowly won, giving him sweeping executive powers. "In the past year, justice has been destroyed. Instead of rapid normalisation, a permanent state of emergency has been implemented," he added.