By Kerem Tuncer
July 15th marked the first anniversary of last year’s coup attempt in Turkey. Thousands of people were headed to the Bosporus Bridge which has become a landmark of resistance, commemorating the formation of a united front against the plotters.
According to the official agenda, President Erdogan will unveil a memorial there for the 260 ‘martyrs’ who died while defending the country’s democratically elected administration. The government has also announced that the day of the coup attempt has been turned into a public holiday. The official celebration took place during the 15th and 16th of July.
The attempted coup
On July 15th, 2016, a section of the Turkish military, allegedly supported by Gulenists, launched a coordinated operation in several major cities in an attempt to topple the government and unseat President Erdogan. Planes and helicopters flew over Istanbul and Ankara as tanks blocked the routes through the airports and the bridges that connect the two continents.
During all this mayhem, President Erdogan used the FaceTime application on his phone, which was aired on TV, to call his supporters out to the streets. Although the TRT, the Turkish state channel, announced that the plotters successfully took over, it was only a matter of hours before everything returned to usual; the previous administration was not toppled.
Varying political reactions
“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,” stated Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, who dubbed the resilience against the coup a “Second War of Independence.” Similarly, President Erdogan, who wrote an op-ed for the Guardian regarding the attempt, stated that the “coup marked a turning point in the history of democracy; it will be a source of hope and inspiration for all peoples who live under dictators.”
However, Erdogan also slammed western leaders for not fully appreciating the significance of what happened in Turkey during the previous year. He called on them to choose “between standing in solidarity with terrorists and regaining the favour of the Turkish people.”
Erdogan’s firm stance against the West is caused by the denial of extradition requests of alleged plotters, who escaped to Greece, Belgium, Germany, and Italy. Currently, none of the host countries accepted the extradition requests, claiming that the soldiers were “unlikely to face a fair trial if returned to their countries of origin.” Moreover, the UN Security Council did not denounce the coup after disagreements over the phrasing of an initial statement, further angering the Turkish administration.
On the other hand, the leader of the opposition, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, was not happy with the government’s actions concerning the coup. He explained that “this parliament, which withstood bombs, has been rendered obsolete and its authority removed. In the past year, justice has been destroyed. Instead of rapid normalisation, a permanent state of emergency has been implemented.“
Did Kilicdaroglu have a point?
Many critics—including members of the opposition parties—pinpoint the administration’s dismissal of more than 150,000 state employees and arrest of 50,000 individuals as unlawful actions. Additionally, around 160 journalists from major newspapers like Cumhuriyet and Oda were put in jail without the appropriate judicial proceedings occurring, preventing them from defending themselves. Per the reports of the law enforcement, those arrested and dismissed are being charged for being traitors against their homeland and favouring the terrorists who planned the coup d’état.
As a result of the failed coup attempt, Erdogan and the government were able to declare a “state of emergency”, where the administration is given a wider amount of powers without approval from the Assembly or the courts. Usually, the government can call upon the emergency period when there is a violent conflict, whether a civil war or an international assault, to clear dangers in a quicker manner without the usually required legal procedures.
Although the “state of emergency” was necessary given the heated conflict, critics believe that it was unnecessary to extend it after the original due date. The opposition believes that the emergency status—which came into effect after the coup and got extended once—was used as means of clearing Erdogan’s path of any critics. They attest that the government catalysed the process of dismissal and arrest through the powers of the emergency period.
Furthermore, Prime Minister Yildirim announced last Friday that he would be offering the National Security Council the option of prolonging the duration of the “state of emergency” another three months.
Another Reichstag fire?
Several people have resultingly described the coup attempt as a “self-coup,” which is a form of coup d’état in which a nation’s leader dissolves or renders powerless the national legislature and unlawfully assumes extraordinary powers not granted under normal circumstances.
A familiar example of this political strategy would be Hitler’s famous Reichstag Fire, where an arson attack took place against the German Assembly building. The fire was used as evidence by the Nazi Party that stricter measures had to be taken. To this day, it is agreed upon that the Nazis themselves caused the assault in an effort to gain more power.
In the case of Turkey, it is undeniable that Erdogan gained much more authority and recognition after the coup attempt—even securing him a win in the April referendum for changing the constitution.
The future of celebrations
Even though the current government put a significant amount of emphasis on the importance of this commemorative day, it is uncertain whether the future administrations will be willing to continue the tradition. At the moment, Turkey already ranks very high among the countries with the most public holidays; adding another full day off will not be favourable in the eyes of many.
Millions of dollars were also spent on the preparations for the July 15 celebrations in more than ten countries around the world. As long as the opposition does not fully recognise the coup, the holiday’s future (and perhaps Turkey’s) will remain at risk.
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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