The title of the late Cemil Meriç’s acclaimed book, "This Country," means a lot to me. That term highlights a sort of political consciousness above various ideological, religious and ethnic affiliations. It underlines the importance of putting Turkey, our country, at the heart of all efforts and struggles. It explains that one cannot have anything else if one’s homeland is in danger.
“This country” is the embodiment of the sense of sovereignty that our flag inspires, the popular will, the sheltering state and religious affairs. As the sanctuary of oppressed peoples, Turkey is the name of our homeland, which embraces us all, and an ideal. It is the country, for which we want nothing but the best and the most beautiful. It is our homeland, for which we sweat and bleed – a place that is part of our idea of the future.
The last time that I experienced those emotions most intensely was the night of July 15, 2016. I witnessed that night, on the Bosporus Bridge, the heroism of people heading toward the tanks, disregarding the warning that the coup plotters were killing civilians there.
I remember thinking that “this country deserves better” as I stood there, amid hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens who stood by their free will, their homeland and its democracy. The happiest moment of my life, in turn, was the morning of July 16, when this nation’s sons and daughters detained the coup plotters and climbed on those tanks.
I witnessed the "resurrection of my nation’s soul," in the late Sezai Karakoç’s words, on that long night and the following morning. On that bright morning, I witnessed the epic struggle of peaceful resistance fighters, men and women alike, who stopped the Gülenist Terror Group's (FETÖ) invasion in its tracks and refuted the claim that military coups would always succeed in Turkey. Saluting the Bosporus, Istanbul and all of Turkey’s cities on July 16, the sun rose above our people’s love of country.
May God bless the souls of the 251 martyrs, who made Turkey our homeland anew.
On the July 15 resistance’s sixth anniversary, the Turkish people commemorated that night. It is our civic duty to keep alive the “political consciousness” that opposed the coup, the occupation, civil war and chaos that night. To tell that epic story to future generations is to repay one’s debt to this country and the nation.
It is disappointing to see some, who attempted to cast a shadow on the anniversary of the July 15 resistance – through which we defended our democracy, homeland and state – with certain allegations. A member of the opposition even claimed that Turkey had made “no effort to secure Fetullah Gülen’s extradition.”
On the night of July 15, it was President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that invited the people to public squares and thwarted the coup attempt with his strong leadership. He devoted plenty of time and energy at diplomatic meetings in each country that he visited to eliminate FETÖ’s international network. Likewise, FETÖ has been, without exception, an item on Erdoğan’s agenda during his meetings and conversations with United States presidents.
Indeed, much has been accomplished over the last six years. We took an unprecedented step by holding accountable the coup plotters and FETÖ as a whole. We democratized civil-military relations and cracked down on FETÖ – which had morphed into an apparatus of foreign intelligence agencies. That struggle will continue until that organization’s clandestine elements and international presence cease to exist.
We also adopted the presidential system of government and, building on fresh dynamism in national security and foreign policy, took initiative in Syria, Libya, the Eastern Mediterranean and Karabakh. In the wake of July 15, Turkey elevated its international standing by taking a series of fresh steps in many areas, including defense, energy and diplomacy.
For example, it is no coincidence that the "grain corridor" from Ukraine is being negotiated in Istanbul. If Russia and Ukraine eventually agree to a cease-fire or make peace, Turkey will certainly make major contributions to that solution.
Ahead of next year’s elections, Turkey will bear witness to intense competition, which will open to discussion virtually everything. We must, however, shelter the new sense of politics and nationhood – which emerged out of the July 15 resistance – from it all. That is the safeguard of our democracy and the well-being of our country.
Unfortunately, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) chairperson began to describe the coup attempt as a “controlled coup” and a “civilian coup” shortly after that assault was thwarted. Those allegations damaged the sense of unity that the July 15 resistance entailed. To create a political atmosphere, which would facilitate the return of the FETÖ militants, in turn, would amount to treason. The government and the opposition are free to compete in any way, provided that they abide by democratic rules, yet that competition must never play out in a way that might cast the shadow of domestic and foreign guardianship on our popular will.
For the sake of this country’s future, we must keep alive the consciousness of July 15, 2016.