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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Saturday, September 23, 2017


A year after the failed coup, an ever powerful Erdogan marks first anniversary with series of events

Soldiers attempted to overthrow the government

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ISTANBUL, Turkey - Marking a year of the failed coup that rattled Turkey and led to the death of 260 people and left 2,196 injured, the country held a series of events to mark the first anniversary.

The country’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unveiled a memorial on an Istanbul bridge that became a landmark of resistance and addressed the parliament.

In July last year, an army faction tried to seize power but the attempt collapsed.

On July 15, 2016 - Turkish soldiers attempted to overthrow the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan used tanks, warplanes and helicopters. 

The coup plotters bombed the country’s parliament and other locations but their attempt failed.

F-16 fighter jets piloted by plotters bombed Turkey’s parliament 11 times, forcing members of parliament who convened for an emergency session to seek shelter in the basement.

Then, heeding a call by the president and ignoring a curfew announced by the coup plotters - thousands of people went out on the streets to resist the coup. 

Since then, a state of emergency that was declared in the coup’s aftermath is still in place, allowing the government to rule by decrees.

With hundreds killed and thousands injured, 35 coup plotters were also killed.

In response, the government has so far dismissed more than 150,000 state employees including almost 7,400 civil servants, for alleged links to terror groups in a government decree.

The crackdown by the Erdogan government, that has been widely and globally criticized, has also led to a wave of 50,000 arrests, are part of an attempt to purge dissent.

The government also stripped nearly 350 soldiers of their ranks and former national soccer team players Hakan Sukur and Arif Erdem of their medals.

Teachers, academics, military and police officers have been sacked and recently, the former Istanbul governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu who was jailed last August for alleged links to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen was sacked.

Turkey blames Gulen for masterminding the coup attempt even though he has denied the allegations.

The country has also constantly pressured the U.S. to extradite the cleric. 

The series of events that was set to extend into dawn on Sunday, was kicked off by the Prime Minister Binali Yildirim who told a special session of parliament that July 15, 2016 was a "second War of Independence,” following the conflict that led to the creation of the modern state in the 1920s.

Yildirim said, “It has been exactly one year since Turkey's darkest and longest night was transformed into a bright day, since an enemy occupation turned into the people's legend.”

Thousands participated in the “national unity marches” in the two cities, with leaders delivering speeches in the parliament and at the iconic Istanbul bridge, or the Martyrs’ Bridge.

The bridge, then called the Bosporus Bridge, was closed off on the night of the coup, with three tanks wielded by 136 soldiers attempting to overthrow the government and its President.

Ismail Kahraman, speaker of the Turkish parliament recounted the events of July last year and said the Turkish people defeated the coup.

Erdogan and his wife joined the crowds and inaugurated a memorial for the 250 people killed resisting the attempted overthrow of the government.

Erdogan marched with children wearing shirts with Turkish flags and relatives of the deceased.

He also attended a special session in the parliament to mark the anniversary.

Addressing cheering crowds, Erdogan warned that the coup attempt “was not the first and would not be the last” and warned terror groups would work to undermine the country. 

He said, “Therefore we will first rip their heads off,” adding he would approve a bill reinstating the death penalty if parliament proposed it.

He likened the defeat of last year’s coup attempt, a “treacherous attempt” to Turkey’s independence war nearly a hundred years ago.

He also said he wants hundreds of people who are on trial for plotting the failed coup to appear in court wearing the same type of outfit — similar to those that were worn by detainees at Guantanamo.

Erdogan added, “These are still their good days. I have spoken with our prime minister and said ‘when they appear in court, they should wear one type of outfit, like in Guantanamo.’”

Meanwhile, two opposition parties slammed the Turkish government for missing a historic opportunity to unite the country after the failed coup attempt and accused it of undermining democracy.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, said the coup attempt had not been fully investigated. 

He criticized the government for making the state of emergency imposed in its aftermath “permanent.”

Further, Ahmet Yildirim, deputy chairman of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party whose parliamentarians including its co-leaders are in prison, said the post-coup crackdown targeted “people and institutions who were against the coup and who did not belong to the ruling party.” 

NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, who paid homage to the people who lost their lives resisting the failed attempt said that any attempt to undermine democracy in any one of the allied countries is “unacceptable.”

He praised the Turkish people who took to the streets and “stood up against this heinous act in defense of its elected government and democratic institutions.”

“Democracy and rule of law are shared values of NATO allies. On the first anniversary of the coup attempt in Turkey I reiterate my strong message that any attempt to undermine democracy in any of our allied countries is unacceptable. Immediately after the coup attempt I strongly condemned it and expressed NATO’s solidarity with our valued ally Turkey. I also visited Ankara in the aftermath of the coup attempt and still remember the shock I felt seeing the damage inflicted at the Parliament building by the bombardments of the coup plotters. On this important occasion I once again pay homage to the memories of those who lost their lives during the critical hours of the coup attempt and pay tribute to the Turkish people who stood up against this heinous act in defense of its elected government and democratic institutions.”



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