On July 15, 2016, Turkish men, women and children from all walks of life bravely stood against a coup attempt that aimed to crush a resurgent nation. Defying tanks, guns and bombs led by a treacherous group within the army, the courageous people of Türkiye fought to protect their nation’s democratic and people-centric future. Woodrow Wilson once said: “I believe in democracy because it releases the energies of every human being.” That energy, courage and heroism are what led everyday Turks to cherish their freedom, rise against oppression and fight to protect their country.
The coup attempt was a stark reminder of the significant threats Türkiye continues to confront while realising its vision entitled the “Century of Türkiye”. Those threats – both domestic and international – opposed the democratic process and sought to disrupt the nation’s stability. In this regard, this year’s special commemoration of those traumatic events is dedicated to the “Heroes of the Century of Türkiye” – those who sacrificed their lives so that others may live in a free, democratic and pluralistic country. They are not just our heroes but heroes for the world, as they stood for freedom, equality and the rule of law and gave the ultimate sacrifice to uphold the sovereignty of the people and the goals of the “Century of Türkiye”.
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It is undeniable that this was a life-or-death battle between the forces of democracy, led by the elected president of the Republic, on one side and treacherous elements within state institutions, such as the police, military and judiciary, guided by a foreign-sponsored terrorist organisation on the other. In their vicious attempt to disrupt democracy, 251 innocent citizens were murdered, 2,196 men, women and children were seriously injured, and hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure was destroyed. For the first time in the country’s history, the Parliament – a symbol of the will of the nation – was bombed. Behind all this, was the criminal, terrorist and intelligence organisation dubbed FETÖ.
To provide some background, FETÖ was established in the late 1960s as a “religious movement” with significant foreign funders. Under the guise of promoting education and inter-religious dialogue, FETÖ members infiltrated the army, law enforcement, the judiciary and numerous government institutions with the aim of illicitly taking control of the Turkish state. It is a clandestine terrorist organisation, that has had global outreach and is led by a megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur, Fetullah Gülen, who has lived in an enormous estate in the United States for more than 20 years.
Today, seven years after those dark days, the fight against the terrorist FETÖ network inside and outside of Türkiye remains one of the country’s main priorities. Türkiye is determined to not only eradicate FETÖ but all extremist organisations and their collaborators. Türkiye will hunt them down, wherever they may be, and bring all those involved to justice. FETÖ is involved in illegal activities in more than 160 countries around the world, through schools, NGOs, lobbyists, media outlets and companies. Since 2016, many of its schools and educational centres, which operated in 45 countries, have been either shut down or seized by the respective host countries. As of now, 20 schools have been transferred to the Turkish Maarif Foundation. This has broken the back of the criminal elements who wished to weaponise the goodwill of the Turkish nation for nefarious purposes. Türkiye remains resolute in firmly standing for a rules-based international order.
Since the failed coup, Türkiye has survived many challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic and, recently, a disastrous earthquake that hit the south of the country claiming the lives of around 60,000 people. More than 100,000 buildings collapsed, and many more were severely damaged. Three weeks after the catastrophic earthquake, the government started a rapid reconstruction plan that included building 650,000 new homes, 507,000 residences, and 143,000 village houses. It was a monumental undertaking that the Turkish people deeply appreciated. For that reason, only a few months after the catastrophic earthquake, Türkiye held fair, transparent and peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections. Considering the synergy between a mature, engaged democracy and the level of citizens’ political commitment, high turnout in the elections proves that the Turkish people are unwavering in exercising their political will as masters of their country. Because of this deep relationship of trust between the leadership and the people, Türkiye continues to rise from strength to strength.
Lastly, on this seventh anniversary of the treacherous coup attempt, we applaud the noble sacrifice of all those who sacrificed their lives for their country. For this reason, we’ll always remember those who sacrificed not only as the “Heroes of the Century of Türkiye”, but also the “Heroes of stability, unity, peace and democracy”. Similarly, Türkiye will always be deeply grateful to our brother country Qatar, and His Highness the Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani for standing in solidarity with the Turkish people during that difficult ordeal and being the first among the world’s leaders to condemn the attempted coup.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.