Photographs by AP
Thousands of people gather Saturday in Istanbul to celebrate the failure of last year’s July 15 coup attempt.
Originally published July 16, 2017 at 04:20a.m., updated July 16, 2017 at 04:20a.m.
ISTANBUL -- President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday vowed to "rip the heads off" of coup plotters and members of terror groups, as Turkey marked the anniversary of a failed coup attempt that 250 people died resisting.
Accompanied by his family and the families of the victims of the coup, Erdogan joined a flag-waving crowd near the July 15 Martyrs' Bridge in Istanbul to remember those who died.
He inaugurated a globe-shaped monument featuring the names of the victims near the foot of the bridge, before flying to Ankara to attend a special session in parliament at the exact moment it was bombed a year ago.
"Exactly a year ago today, around this hour, a treacherous attempt took place," Erdogan told tens of thousands of people in Istanbul who converged at the bridge after a "national unity march."
"The July 15 coup attempt is not the first attack against our country, and it won't be the last," he said, referring to a series of terror attacks that also hit the country. "For that reason, we'll first rip the heads off of these traitors."
Turkish soldiers attempted to overthrow the government and the president using tanks, warplanes and helicopters on July 15, 2016. The coup plotters declared their seizure of power on the state broadcaster, bombed the country's parliament and other key locations, and raided an Aegean resort where Erdogan had been on vacation. But Erdogan had already left, and the coup attempt was put down by civilians and security forces.
The Bosporus Bridge, now called the July 15 Martyrs' Bridge, was the scene of clashes between civilians and soldiers in tanks. Some 250 people were killed and more than 2,000 injured across Turkey in the struggle. Thirty-five coup plotters were killed.
"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 at the special parliamentary session in Ankara, the capital.
Yildirim thanked the thousands who heeded a call by Erdogan to flood the streets to resist the coup.
In the aftermath of the coup attempt, Turkey declared a state of emergency, which has been in place ever since and has allowed the government to rule by decree and to dismiss tens of thousands of people from their jobs. More than 50,000 people have been arrested on accusations of having links to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for orchestrating the failed coup, and other terror groups.
Gulen has denied the allegations.
Addressing thousands of people outside the parliamentary building, Erdogan said the country's highest security advisory body would on Monday consider further extending the state of emergency. He said the failed coup had allowed Turkey to distinguish its friends from its foes, but he would not name the countries he was referring to, saying he wanted to avoid "a serious international crisis."
In the latest government decree, published Friday evening, 7,395 more state employees were fired, including teachers, academics, military and police officers, bringing the number of dismissed to more than 110,000. The government calls the crackdown necessary to purge state institutions of those linked to Gulen, but critics say the dismissals are arbitrary and the victims' paths to recourse severely curtailed.
The U.S. State Department on Saturday issued a statement praising the bravery of the Turkish people who took to the streets to "preserve the rights and freedoms of their democratic society."
"The preservation of democracy requires perseverance, tolerance, dissent and safeguards for fundamental freedoms," the agency said, warning that curbs on those key freedoms erode "the foundations of democratic society."
July 15 has been declared a national holiday in Turkey.
A Section on 07/16/2017
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