Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan commemorates the fifth anniversary of a bloody coup attempt in Turkey on Thursday (July 15). An event that allowed him to consolidate his power at the cost of endless repression and tensions with Western countries.
On the night of July 15-16, 2016, factional elements of the army deployed tanks in the streets as planes flew over Istanbul and Ankara, bombing several important sites such as the Parliament.
The intervention of loyalist elements and tens of thousands of supporters of Recep Tayyip Erdogan who took to the streets at the call of the president made it possible to thwart the uprising, the repression of which left 251 dead, excluding putschists.
Sign of the historical importance that Erdogan gives to the defeat of the putsch, he must deliver a speech in front of thousands of supporters in Ankara and inaugurate a ‘museum of democracy’ retracing the main events of that night which has, according to him, ‘changed the fate’ of Turkey.
For many analysts, the failed coup has above all hastened the authoritarian drift of the president, who considerably strengthened his powers in 2017 by replacing the parliamentary system with a strong presidential regime.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has led Turkey since 2003, saw the failed coup as ‘an opportunity to accelerate the concentration of power in his hands’, said a Western diplomat.
Accusing a former ally, the preacher Fethullah Gülen, of having plotted the putsch, Recep Tayyip Erdogan also launched a relentless crackdown on his alleged supporters, which has spread to the Prokurdist opposition and the critical media.
Increased repression against opponents
The failed coup allowed the head of state to ‘justify the crackdown on broad opposition’ by arguing that ‘hostile groups are constantly seeking to harm’ Turkey, says Soner Cagaptay, an expert at the Washington Institute of Near East Policy.
The figures speak for themselves: since 2016, more than 300,000 people have been arrested in the fight against Fethullah Gülen’s movement and nearly 3,000 sentenced to life imprisonment, according to the authorities.
In addition, more than 100,000 people have been dismissed from public institutions, including some 23,000 soldiers and 4,000 magistrates, in purges of unprecedented scale.
Determined to continue in its tracks, Recep Tayyip Erdogan reaffirmed that the fight against Fethullah Gülen’s movement would continue ‘until his last member is put out of harm’s way’.