Sun, Jul 16, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Turkey celebrates putsch defeat

IN RUINS:The Turkish government is attempting to cement its suppression of last year’s coup attempt as a key date in the creation of the modern state, founded in 1923

AFP, ISTANBUL, Turkey

Turkey yesterday held an intense series of events to celebrate the first anniversary of the defeat of last year’s attempted coup, showcasing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s grip on power on the heels of a new purge of state employees.

The authorities have declared July 15 an annual national holiday of “democracy and unity,” billing the foiling of the putsch as a historic victory of Turkish democracy.

Two hundred and forty nine people, not including the plotters, were killed when a disgruntled faction in the army sent tanks into the streets and war planes into the sky in a violent bid to overthrow Erdogan after one-and-a-half decades in power.

In the latest dismissals ordered just hours before the commemorations were due to begin, another 7,563 police, soldiers and other state employees were fired under the state of emergency that has been in place since July 20 last year.

A decree said those targeted were “linked to terror organizations or groups determined to have been acting against the state’s national security.”

Earlier this month, Turkey also detained the country director of Amnesty International and over half a dozen rights defenders on charges of belonging to a terror group.

The scale of Saturday’s nationwide commemorations is aimed at etching July 15, 2016, into the minds of Turks as a key date in the history of the modern state founded in 1923 out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.

“From now on, nothing will be as it was before July 15,” Erdogan said in a speech on Thursday, describing the date as a “turning point” in Turkish history.

He compared the defeat of the coup with the World War 1 1915 Battle of Gallipoli where Ottoman troops famously withstood an onslaught by invading Allied soldiers in what became one of the founding narratives 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.

Turkey’s opposition put political disputes aside on the night of the attempted coup.

However, this has frayed since the April 16 referendum, with critics accusing Erdogan of pursuing one man rule and cracking down on anyone who expresses dissent.

The commemorations are likely, for Erdogan, to be a helpful riposte to a giant opposition rally — the largest in years — held on Sunday last week by the head of the Republican People’s Party Kemal Kilicdaroglu at the end of a nearly one month foot march pushing for “justice” in Turkey.

Illuminated anti-coup slogans have been hung between the minarets of some of Istanbul’s greatest Ottoman mosques.

At midnight local time people across Turkey were expected to take part in “democracy watches,” rallies commemorating how people poured out into the streets.

Erdogan is to give a speech in parliament to mark the time it was bombed last year.

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