Turkey stresses unity one year after failed coup

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attended on Sunday (July 16) the opening ceremony of a memorial statue which was built to commemorate the victims of the coup attempt of 2016.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reviewing the guard of honour on his arrival in Ankara yesterday for a special session of Parliament, to mark the first anniversary of the failed attempt to overthrow him. Just hours before the commemorations we
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reviewing the guard of honour on his arrival in Ankara yesterday for a special session of Parliament, to mark the first anniversary of the failed attempt to overthrow him. Just hours before the commemorations were due to begin, another 7,563 police officers, soldiers and other state employees were fired under the state of emergency. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Soldiers accused of being involved in the failed coup being escorted by Turkish soldiers to court in May.
Soldiers accused of being involved in the failed coup being escorted by Turkish soldiers to court in May. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ISTANBUL • Turkey yesterday 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 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.

A total of 249 people, not including the plotters, were killed when a disgruntled faction in the army sent tanks into the streets and warplanes into the sky in a bid to overthrow Mr Erdogan after 11/2 decades in power.

But they were thwarted within hours as the authorities regrouped and people poured into the streets in support of Mr Erdogan, who blamed followers of his ally-turned-nemesis, the United States-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.

The authorities embarked on the biggest purge in Turkey's history, arresting 50,000 people and sacking more than 100,000. Mr Erdogan 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 officers, soldiers and other state employees were fired under the state of emergency that has been in place since July 20 last year.

The scale of the purge has intensified political divisions in Turkey, with the opposition accusing the authorities of seeking to silence any- one who dares criticise Mr 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 Mr Erdogan narrowly won.

"Over the last year, the judicial proceedings... moved outside the framework of the law," Mr Kilicdaroglu told 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 "hindering" efforts to find out the truth.

Mr Erdogan, who was present at the session but was not scheduled to speak, gazed down stonily from the VIP balcony.

Mr 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 Mr Erdogan's critics.

The scale of yesterday's nationwide commemorations is aimed at etching July 15, 2016, in 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.

A monument to those killed will be unveiled today outside the presidential palace in the capital as the dawn call to prayer rings out.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 16, 2017, with the headline 'Turkey stresses unity one year after failed coup'. Print Edition | Subscribe