Turkish authorities have sacked nearly 7,400 civil servants for alleged links to terror groups on the eve of the country’s first anniversary of last year’s failed coup attempt.
Thousands are expected to turn out for “national unity marches” in Istanbul and Ankara over the weekend, and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will unveil the Martyrs’ Memorial on an iconic Istanbul bridge to remember those who died opposing the coup.
“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 Yıldırım said on Saturday in a special parliamentary session attended by Erdogan.
Turkish soldiers attempted to overthrow Erdoğan’s government using tanks, warplanes and helicopters on 15 July 2016. The coup plotters declared their seizure of power on the state broadcaster, bombed the country’s parliament and other key locations, and raided a resort on the Aegean where Erdoğan had been holidaying. But the Turkish president had already left and the coup attempt was eventually put down by civilians and security forces.
Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, used the first anniversary of Turkey’s failed coup to warn that any attempt to undermine democracy in one of the bloc’s was “unacceptable”.
Stoltenberg paid homage to about 250 people who lost their lives resisting the failed attempt, praising the Turkish people who took to the streets and “stood up against this heinous act in defence of its elected government and democratic institutions”.
He said added: “(I) still remember the shock I felt seeing the damage inflicted at the parliament building by the bombardments of the coup plotters.”
The Bosphorus Bridge, now called the 15 July Martyrs’ Bridge, was the scene of clashes between civilians and soldiers in tanks. Some 250 people were killed and more than 2,000 were injured across Turkey. 35 coup plotters were also killed.
Yıldırım thanked the thousands of people who heeded a call by the president to flood the streets and resist the coup.
“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,” Yıldırım said.
In the aftermath of the coup attempt, Turkey declared a state of emergency that has been in place for a year, which has allowed the government to rule by decrees and dismiss tens of thousands of people. More than 50,000 people have also been arrested for alleged links to US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, who is blamed for orchestrating the failed coup, and operating other terror groups. Gülen has denied the allegations.
The latest decree published on Friday evening sacked 7,395 state employees including teachers, academics, military and police officers, bringing the number of the dismissed to more than 110,000. The government calls the crackdown necessary to purge state institutions of those linked to Gülen, but critics say the dismissals are arbitrary and paths to recourse severely curtailed.
15 July has been declared a national holiday.
Public transportation in Istanbul and Ankara is free over the weekend, and bus destination signs were displaying messages of congratulations.
As on the night of the coup attempt, mosques across Turkey will simultaneously recite a verse, usually read before Friday prayers, to alert and invite Muslims to the streets.