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Political Polarization Deepens in Turkish Commemoration of Defeated Coup

  • Dorian Jones

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters during a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the attempted coup at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, July 16, 2017.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has inaugurated a monument to commemorate the 250 people who died opposing a military coup a year ago .

The monument opposite Erdogan’s huge presidential palace depicts Turkey’s national symbol, the moon and crescent.

With tens of thousands of people attending, the inauguration ceremony after dawn prayers Sunday was called from presidential palace’s mosque.

People wave Turkey's national flags as they attend a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the attempted coup in front of the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, July 16, 2017.
People wave Turkey's national flags as they attend a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the attempted coup in front of the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, July 16, 2017.

“Be sure, that none of the traitors who point a gun at our country, nation, freedom and future will ever see the light of day again,” Erdogan promised the cheering crowd. "[Those who carried out the coup] will die over and over again every day while they rot behind prison walls,” Erdogan added.

The main event of the two day commemoration was held late Saturday at Istanbul’s July 15th Martyrs bridge. The bridge was the scene of some of worst violence, during the failed coup with soldiers opening fire on crowds opposing the takeover, killing 36.

“We will rip off the heads of those who carried out the coup,” Erdogan declared to hundreds of thousands of people who gathered at the bridge. He called on parliament to reintroduce the death penalty, saying he would immediately sign the legislation, claiming the feelings and sensibilities of those killed during the failed military take over had to be respected.

On the night of July 15th, 2016, rogue military elements sought to seize power. Along with 250 people killed, more than 2,000 were injured resisting the take over.

FILE - A guard secures Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) with his machine gun during a funeral service for a victim of the thwarted coup in Istanbul at Fatih mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, July 17, 2016.
FILE - A guard secures Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) with his machine gun during a funeral service for a victim of the thwarted coup in Istanbul at Fatih mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, July 17, 2016.

During that night tanks mowed down people resisting and soldiers shot at crowds answering Erdogan’s call to resist. In the capital, Ankara, jets bombed the parliament and helicopter gunships strafed police and security headquarters.

Commemorations Saturday extended into early hours Sunday. People making mobile telephone calls around midnight heard an Erdogan speech instead of ring tones.

People listen to the speech of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a ceremony marking the first anniversary of a coup attempt at the Bosporus Bridge in Istanbul, July 15, 2017.
People listen to the speech of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a ceremony marking the first anniversary of a coup attempt at the Bosporus Bridge in Istanbul, July 15, 2017.

Political division spotlighted

Erdogan addressed a rally outside the parliament at 2:23 Sunday morning, the exact time one year before planes bombed the parliament.

“The coup soldiers disgraced themselves when bombing the parliament as our lawmakers stood higher,” Erdogan said to the large crowd waving Turkish flags. The ceremony was boycotted by the main opposition Republican People’s Party, who complained at being excluded from speaking at the ceremony.

The boycott underlined the divisive acrimonious atmosphere the commemorations were held in. Earlier Saturday, CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, slammed the president for the ongoing post coup crackdown, claiming it was more about silencing legitimate critics, Kilicdaroglu raised questions whether Erdogan had foreknowledge of the coup calling it a “controlled coup.”

FILE - In this July 9, 2017 photo, supporters of Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party, hold Turkish flags in Istanbul, as they gather for a rally following their 425-kilometer (265-mile) "March for justice."
FILE - In this July 9, 2017 photo, supporters of Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party, hold Turkish flags in Istanbul, as they gather for a rally following their 425-kilometer (265-mile) "March for justice."

The Turkish president hit back during his speech Saturday, “Some insistently say "controlled coup." They try to defame the glorious resistance of our nation. This is impudence, this is immorality,” said Erdogan. He devoted much of his key Saturday speech attacking the opposition leader calling him a “coward” and suggesting he was even helping “coup plotters agenda."

The opposition leader last Sunday called a rally of more than one million people in Istanbul calling for an end to emergency rule.

Erdogan in successive of speeches Saturday and Sunday, promised no let up in the crackdown, suggesting it could be further intensified. The crackdown has resulted in more than 150,000 people losing their jobs, with a further 7,000 being purged Friday, while according to official figures more than 50,000 people have been jailed.

EU cites respect for human rights

The European Union has again voiced concern, “Whoever wants to join the European Union is joining a union of values,” Jean Claude Juncker head of the EU commission wrote in an op-ed published Sunday for German newspaper Bild. Brussels has repeatedly warned the reintroduction of the death penalty would end Turkey's decades long membership bid.

"I don't look at what Hans and George say,” Erdogan said to cheering crowds Sunday, Han’s and George is the president’s often used disparaging reference to European opinion.

With Turkey’s membership effort currently frozen and few expectations it has a chance of success, Brussels appears to have little leverage.

But observers point out human rights considerations, in particular the death penalty, could complicate on going efforts to expand a custom’s union between Ankara and the European Union. Erdogan has in the past called for the return of capital punishment and then quietly shelved it.

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