Turkey Marks Anniversary of Failed Coup
By VOA News July 15, 2017
The Turkish government marked the one-year anniversary Saturday of a failed military coup by firing nearly 7,400 additional civil servants, convening a special parliamentary session and hosting a series of "national unity marches."
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had previously dismissed at least 100,000 civil servants he characterized as supporters of the aborted coup and arrested another 50,000 people. The scale of the purge has widened political divisions in Turkey, with government opponents denouncing it as an attempt to silence Erdogan's detractors.
Erdogan unveiled the "Martyrs Memorial" on the iconic Bosporus Bridge in Istanbul to commemorate opponents of the coup attempt. The bridge, renamed Saturday as Martyrs' Bridge, was the scene of clashes between civilians and military tanks.
Erdogan returned to Ankara to attend the parliamentary session, at which Prime Minister Binali Yildirim descried the aborted coup as "Turkey's darkest and longest night," which was "transformed into a bright day."
Thousands of people are participating in weekend marches in Istanbul and Ankara. Giant posters designed by the Erdogan administration have been placed on billboards in Istanbul displaying images portraying significant events such as the surrender of opposition troops.
'US lauds preservation of democracy'
The U.S. State Department issued a statement Friday applauding Turkish people "of all backgrounds and political views" who "took to the streets to preserve the rights and freedoms of their democratic society."
"Their actions continue to remind us that the preservation of democracy requires perseverance, tolerance, dissent, and safeguards for fundamental freedoms," the statement added.
The celebrations are occurring less than one week after Republican People's Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu organized the largest opposition rally in Turkey in years.
Kilicdaroglu called for a full explanation of what happened on the night of the July 15, 2016, coup attempt, including when government authorities first learned the uprising was afoot.
The Turkish opposition says that Erdogan's government is moving toward authoritarianism, while the Turkish leader says that the crackdown on rights is necessary to thwart security threats to the ruling government.
Erdogan claims the coup was led by a cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in self-imposed exile in the United States for nearly two decades. Gulen denies any involvement.
In a statement released Saturday, Gulen said the Turkish government's "treatment of innocent citizens during the past year is dragging Turkey into the category of the countries with the worst record of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms in the world." Gulen's statement also said the Turkish people "are being rallied en masse around hate messages."
Some 250 people were killed and more than 2,000 others injured last year when a disgruntled army faction commandeered tanks and warplanes in a bid to overthrow Erdogan after one-and-a-half decades in power. Thirty-five coup organizers were also killed.
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