One year after Turkish officials claimed a coup attempt had been instigated to topple the government, politicians and people of all stripes on Saturday stopped to mark the anniversary of its failure.
Lawmakers and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gathered in the parliament to remember the night of July 15 when thousands of unarmed civilians took to the streets to defend Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey since 2003, first as prime minister and since 2014 as president.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called the coup attempt a dark moment for Turkey, with clashes between the people and rogue military forces leaving 240 dead.
“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,” he said.
“Our people did not leave sovereignty to their enemies and took hold of democracy to the death,” he went on, as Erdogan and members of opposition parties looked on. “These monsters will surely receive the heaviest punishment they can within the law.”
Later in the day, tens of thousands of people, many waving red Turkish flags, took part in a march converging on the July 15 Martyrs’ Bridge.
Erdogan joined the crowds and unveiled a memorial to honor those who died opposing the coup.
But the cordial ceremonial unity belies tensions barely beneath the surface. Beyond the groundswell of nationalism, the coup’s greatest legacy has been the far-reaching purge on multiple sectors of Turkish society.
About 150,000 people have been sacked or suspended from jobs in the civil service and private sector. More than 50,000 have been detained for alleged links to the putsch.
A fresh wave of firings came on Friday, when the government announced it had dismissed another 7,000 police, civil servants and academics for suspected links to the Muslim cleric it blames for the putsch.
Turkey’s jailed journalists
Erdogan and his government have repeatedly blamed US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen for the coup plot, though they have offered little evidence to substantiate their claims.
Government critics, including human rights groups and some Western governments, have accused Erdogan of using the state of emergency introduced shortly after the coup to target opposition figures including activists, pro-Kurdish politicians and journalists.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was represented by its deputy chairman at Saturday’s events because the party’s two co-leaders are in jail – as are local members of the human rights group Amnesty International.
The Committee to Protect Journalists says nearly 160 journalists have been arrested over the past year, making Turkey the largest jailer of journalists in the world.
During the ceremony in parliament, the head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) slammed what he called the erosion of democracy following the coup.
“This parliament, which withstood bombs, has been rendered obsolete and its authority removed,” said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, refering to an April referendum that Erdogan narrowly won, giving him sweeping executive powers.
“In the past year, justice has been destroyed. Instead of rapid normalization, a permanent state of emergency has been implemented,” he added.
Earlier this month Kilicdaroglu finished a 25-day, 425 km (265 mile) “justice march” from the capital Ankara to Istanbul, to protest the detention of a CHP lawmaker. The march was largely ignored by the pro-government media, but culminated in a huge rally in Istanbul against the government crackdown.
bik/tj (Reuters, dpa)