Turkey will hold a series of events on Saturday to commemorate the first anniversary of last year’s failed coup attempt.
Ankara has declared July 15 as an annual national holiday of “democracy and unity,” billing it as a “historic victory for Turkish democracy.”
“States and nations have critical turning points in their histories that shape their future. July 15 is such a date for the Republic of Turkey,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech on Thursday, according to Al Jazeera.
Thousands are expected to turn out for “national unity marches” in Istanbul and Ankara over the weekend. Erdogan is set to unveil the “Martyrs’ Memorial” on the Bosporus Bridge, now called the July 15 Martyrs’ Bridge, to remember those who died opposing the coup.
Turkish soldiers attempted to overthrow Erdogan’s government using tanks, warplanes and helicopters on July 15 last year, but the coup attempt was put down by civilians and security forces. Turkey said the coup attempt was organized by United States-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who denies the allegation.
“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,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Saturday in a special parliamentary session attended by Erdogan.
“We are able to come together again here today because of our 250 heroic martyrs, 2,193 heroic veterans and the great Turkish people. Your country is grateful to you,” Yildirim added.
In the aftermath of the coup attempt, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and launched a massive crackdown on Gulen’s supporters.
The government said the crackdown was “necessary” to purge state institutions of those linked to Gulen, but critics contend that Erdogan is using the measure to quash dissent and drift toward authoritarianism.
Since then, about 50,000 people have been jailed pending trial and some 150,000 state workers, including teachers, judges and soldiers, have been suspended.
On the eve of the anniversary, the Turkish government sacked 7,395 state employees, including teachers, academics, military and police officers.