A whole year has passed since July 15, 2016, when our nation stood up to coup plotters and defended our country. On Saturday night, millions of people thought back to last summer’s events and remembered with respect and gratitude those who perished during the resistance. Together with the heroes of that fateful night we made it clear to everyone that we are prepared to make certain sacrifices that make this country our homeland.
One year on, everyone’s minds are full of memories of the night of July 15 and the morning after. Provided that our democracy, homeland and state came under attack, it is virtually impossible to be emotional on such an occasion. Together, we bore witness to an extraordinary night when the Turkish people stood up for their elected representatives and made history.
The legacy of July 15, which brought together people from various backgrounds for the sake of Turkey’s future, must be kept alive for the next generations
Together, we watched those who claimed that the Turkish people wouldn’t “take to the streets for democracy” proven wrong. As a matter of fact, it is my opinion that the brand of politics, which refuses to reference the July 15 resistance, is bound to be irrelevant. After all, this nation experienced the pride of thwarting a coup d’état for the first time in history, which means that the idea of national will has been reborn with a new spirit. And it’s our duty to safeguard it.
Over the past year, Turkish authorities have been relying on this newfound national spirit to bring coup plotters to justice and develop new policies to overcome pressing problems amid regional chaos. It was the democracy watch events and the Yenikapı consensus that made Operation Euphrates Shield possible. Unfortunately, ahead of the April 16 constitutional referendum, the main opposition party turned its back on Yenikapı and started pushing the narrative that July 15 was a controlled coup and claimed that a civilian coup had taken place five days later when the state of emergency was declared. Most recently, the main opposition leader has tried to craft the so-called “spirit of July 9” by organizing a rally on the back of supposed problems with the legal actions taken against coup plotters and FETÖ members.
Of course, there is no doubt that the CHP leadership has been saying all of this with an eye on the 2019 elections. In an attempt to exploit the dissatisfaction of opponents of constitutional reform, the party has unfortunately opted to target the July 15 resistance head-on.
Still, we must not forget that the Turkish people were able to not only thwart a coup attempt for the first time but also bring to justice those accountable. Moreover, it is important to note that this process is taking place in a competitive political environment. As such, the main challenge is that political parties and other players will be evaluated on the basis of both the success and shortcomings of the fight against FETÖ.
Political leaders must not undermine the legitimacy of the July 15 resistance, which brought together people from various backgrounds, for the sake of scoring points with the electorate. As we mark the first anniversary of last summer’s thwarted coup, let us hope that all political parties use this opportunity to take stock and reflect on their actions over the past months.
To prevent future attacks against Turkish democracy, everyone needs to learn from their experiences. Turkey’s public institutions must be strengthened by reaching out to various social groups. To consolidate our democracy, it is imperative to have a strong state and an inclusive national identity, which is why we must protect the one thing that united all of us at the Bosporus Bridge, Parliament and the Presidential Complex: our love of country.
We may have disagreements and differences of opinion. But our shared ideological goal must be to serve Turkey’s interests and to further them. We must ensure that our country is so powerful that no group can dare to target it. In addition to removing FETÖ operatives from public institutions, we must ensure that the bureaucracy undergoes a process of reconstruction.
One of the best ways to show that we care about the legacy of July 15 is to engage in academic and cultural activities that will preserve our memories for future generations. Both Turkish universities and non-governmental organizations have a responsibility to perform this task.
Over the past year, the SETA Foundation published nine books, five reports, 13 analyses and 13 briefs on FETÖ and the July 15 coup attempt. Finally, an international symposium was hosted by the SETA Foundation last week, where Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım delivered the keynote speech. Let us hope that similar steps will be taken by those following in SETA’s footsteps.
This article was first published in Daily Sabah on July 17, 2017.