But for Nihal Olçok, whose 16-year-old son and ex-husband were killed by soldiers on the Bosphorus Bridge, the day is one of mourning tinged with anger over what she sees as a failure. to root out all those associated with the detained group. responsible for the failure of the putsch.
“Of course, the memories faded,” she told Al Jazeera. “Now we are only remembered when this week arrives and we feel like we have been exploited. “
His son Abdullah Tayyip Olçok and his father Erol Olçok were among 34 people killed crossing the Bosphorus, renamed from the July 15 Martyrs’ Bridge, as thousands of Turks rushed into the streets to confront troops and tanks mobilized by the putschists.
A total of 251 died and more than 2,200 were injured resisting rogue military units, while 36 servicemen involved in the attempt to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were killed.
The Olçok family were close to Erdogan, with the publicist Erol having been his advisor since the mid-1990s. Erdogan was moved to tears at the funeral of the father and son two days after the attempted coup.
“A day of mourning”
Now marked as a public holiday for Democracy and National Unity Day, July 15 of this year falls before the protracted Eid al-Adha festivities.
“For me, July 15 is not a day to celebrate, it is [a day of] mourning, not celebration, ”said Olçok, 43.
Erdogan and officials marked the anniversary with ceremonies at the monument to victims in Ankara and the parliament, which was the subject of an airstrike overnight.
Nearly 300,000 people have been arrested for alleged links to Fethullah Gülen’s movement, labeled Fethullah Terror Organization, or FETÖ, by the government. Some 150,000 public officials have been suspended or dismissed from their posts. Ankara accuses Gülen of having organized the coup attempt.
Gülen, a US-based Muslim leader since 1999, denied the claims.
Five years later, mass arrests are still rife – on Monday, prosecutors in the western city of Izmir issued arrest warrants for 229 soldiers and cadets.
Turgut Aslan, former head of the national police’s anti-terrorism department, stressed the need to be on guard. He was taken prisoner in Ankara by pro-coup soldiers and shot in the head, only recovering after five months in a coma and intensive surgery.
“FETÖ is still not over,” Aslan, now Erdogan’s senior adviser, told the state-run Anadolu news agency. ” [If] it ends, someone else takes over, we must not stop fighting. Today it’s FETÖ, tomorrow it’s another organization. You must be careful. “
Many senior military officers, businessmen, judges, bureaucrats and judges have been jailed because of their ties to Gülen, who was allied with Erdogan’s government during his first 10 years in power.
However, opponents of the government claim that the “political wing” of the movement has largely evaded sanctions in the continued crackdown.
In the years since the failed coup, Olçok grew increasingly disappointed with the government’s actions. “Those who have subscribed to a [Gülenist] newspaper goes to jail but the founders of the newspaper can walk in the streets, ”she said.
Referring to a bank closed a week after the coup attempt due to its Gulenist links, she added: “People are in jail for depositing money at Bank Asya, but the leaders of the bank are still employed by the government.
Critics said the purges targeted many people with limited ties to the Gülen movement, as well as political opponents unrelated to Erdogan.
“Those who were found innocent were not reinstated in their work. I can give you hundreds of examples like this, ”Olçok said.
Government officials have repeatedly defended dismissals and arrests as necessary against an organization that has deeply penetrated the state.
“After the coup attempt, the process of expelling FETÖ members from the public began with the authority given by parliament,” Erdogan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun said on Thursday in a statement. interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
“In this context, the people who infiltrated public institutions on behalf of the organization were fired. “
He added that a commission was examining unfair dismissal complaints and reinstating those who had been abused.
Speaking at a meeting of parliamentarians from his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in parliament on Wednesday, Erdogan stressed that investigations related to the coup would continue.
“Just as we lead our fight against other terrorist organizations decisively and without compromise, we will follow FETÖ until its last member is neutralized,” he said.
“It is not easy to clean up this insidious structure in the country. We will not give faith to those who exploit this nation under the guise of religion. “
Olçok was one of the founding members of the Gelecek (Future) party created by Erdogan’s former prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu at the end of 2019.
She said democracy in Turkey had been weakened by laws introduced since the attempted coup that reproduced the state of emergency that lasted for two years in the aftermath of its aftermath. More recently, “counterterrorism” measures relating to civil servants’ dismissals and pre-trial detention periods were extended by three years by lawmakers on Tuesday.
“To this day, they extend the laws they want,” Olçok said. “The punishment should go all the way, but injustice never. “
She added, “You see what’s going on. I even got sued for the tweet I sent. What democracy are you talking about?
Other relatives of “ex-combatants” who resisted the coup have defended measures to counter the Gülen movement.
Şenol Gençer’s older brother Özgür was killed when an F-16 bombed the presidential compound in Ankara. “Turkey has suffered a lot from the coups,” he said, referring to previous military interventions.
“I want people to think from that perspective. After all, we are a nation that protects its national will and its state. “
Others stressed the need for Turkey to guard against possible future attacks. “There is no resentment or hatred in us,” said Ayşe Varank Arslantürk, whose brother İlhan Varank was shot dead in Istanbul.
“But everyone is vigilant. No one should think ‘They have lost a family member, they are scared now.’ This is certainly not the case.