ISTANBUL: Millions of people have begun marking the first year anniversary of the July 15, 2016, failed coup attempt in all 81 provinces, with people in Istanbul gathering on July 15 Martyrs Bridge.
July 15 Martyrs Bridge, previously called Bosphorus Bridge, was blocked by coup plotters during last year’s thwarted coup and 34 people were killed by coup soldiers.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan marched towards the bridge from his residence in Kısıklı. Families of victims accompanied him.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım marched towards the bridge from Çengelköy with citizens. Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş was among high-level government officials accompanying him.
“We won’t forget or make anyone forget July 15,” Yıldırım told journalists, adding that the march is being carried out for the people.
“People are still angry. The struggle will continue until there is no FETÖ member is left,” he also said, referring to the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), widely believed to have been behind the thwarted coup.
Thousands of people got on ferries from Yenikapı in Istanbul’s European side to reach Beylerbeyi on Asian side to attend the “July 15 Democracy and National Unity Day” event on the bridge.
President Erdoğan examined the area from above in a helicopter, before heading to his residence in Kısıklı. F-16 jets accompanied Erdoğan’s flight from Ankara to Istanbul earlier.
Some 250 lights were set around the rally area to commemorate 250 people killed during the attempted coup.
Majority of the people are carrying Turkish flags, while pictures of those killed during the attempted putsch and banners with slogans against Gülenists were also seen.
Some people were seen holding nooses while chanting “We want death penalty.”
Strict security measures were taken around the bridge and thousands started marching from Beylerbeyi, Çengelköy, Altunizade and Kısıklı.
Even though the official start of the marches towards the bridge was set to begin on 6:30 p.m. and the rally was set to start on 8 p.m., thousands of people filled the rally area hours earlier.
Pictures of those killed on July 15, 2016, coup bid are being shown on a screen built on the rally area.
An Ottoman-style military band known as “Mehter” performed on stage.
Illuminated anti-coup slogans have been hung between the minarets of some of Istanbul’s greatest Ottoman mosques.
Some 25,000 police officers are on duty in Istanbul.
In the capital Ankara, meanwhile, people started to gather in Ulus Square to mark the day after going through security checkpoints.
A police helicopter is patrolling the area.__Hurriyet