The 2016 defeated coup attempt was a landmark, glorious resistance in Turkey's history, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Friday as the country marked the sixth anniversary of July 15, the night the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) executed its plan to overthrow the government.
Underlining that in the years since Turkey has done what is necessary to ward off similar threats, Erdoğan said in a video message: "We responded to the powers that unleashed not only FETÖ, but also other terrorist groups against Turkey, not by retreating, but by leaping forward."
The president stressed that the most significant aspect of July 15 for Turkey is that it symbolizes the landmark glorious resistance of the Turkish people following decades of recurrent coups.
"We ensured July 15 was emblazoned in history by declaring it Democracy and National Unity Day," he added, using the formal name for the holiday to mark the anniversary.
Since 2016, Turkish history has been effectively divided into two eras, "before and after July 15," he explained, proving the maturity of country's democracy while making sure that "the power of the national will is understood."
Adding that Turkey addressed the weaknesses that paved the way for coups and tutelage by adopting a presidential system of governance, Erdoğan said that after it thwarted efforts to derail the country by coup bids and terrorist groups, Turkey also pushed back attempts to undermine it through the economy.
"We will keep the spirit of July 15 alive, and we will continue to work tirelessly for Turkey forever," Erdoğan said in a message for July 15 Democracy and National Unity Day published in newspapers nationwide.
"On July 15, 2016, hearts pounding for Turkey forever made history with an epic struggle against an invasion effort by the FETÖ terrorist organization," Erdoğan noted.
"As a state and a nation, we did not yield to the invaders with the glorious resistance we displayed, without giving up or faltering, and won yet another blessed victory."
"I salute every member of the nation who protected their homeland, flag, and independence with the utmost caution and valor that night," he added.
Since its designation in October 2016, every year, the country marks July 15 as Democracy and National Unity Day, with events held to commemorate those who lost their lives beating back the putschists and to remember the bravery of the nation.
FETÖ and its United States-based leader Fetullah Gülen orchestrated the defeated coup, which left 251 people dead and 2,734 injured.
Ankara also accuses FETÖ of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.
The attempt by FETÖ to overthrow the government began around 10 p.m. local time (7 p.m. GMT) on July 15, 2016, and was thwarted by 8 a.m. the next day.
Standing against the threat, the Turkish people courageously showed the world that they would not tolerate any attempt to thwart their will as expressed through their democratically elected government.
Thousands of programs, panels and ceremonies were held on Friday to mark the day both in Turkey and in several countries with the coordination of the Communications Directorate and Turkish missions abroad.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s first lady Emine Erdoğan on the same day vowed to "never forget" the valiant efforts of the Turkish people to thwart the defeated July 15, 2016 coup attempt.
"The pathway of millions, girding their hearts as shields, crossed that night with tanks," she wrote on Twitter, referring to elements of the military infiltrated by coup plotters. "Each of our citizens, young and old alike, men and women, became symbols of a fully united resurrection."
Also marking the day, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said the terrorist group's main objective was to establish a "radical, fundamentalist regime loyal only to their ringleader, Fetullah Gülen."
"The plotters killed 251 innocent civilians and left thousands injured. On that night, the Turkish people defended democracy with their lives," Çavuşoğlu wrote in an op-ed for Ta Nea, a daily in neighboring Greece.
Çavuşoğlu said the Turkish people's resilience in defending democracy that night "was something the conspirators failed to foresee."
"FETÖ-affiliated army units left their barracks to occupy key locations such as the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, and fighter jets and attack helicopters bombed strategic targets including the parliament, presidential compound, army and police headquarters," he said, stressing that six years ago on that night, thousands of Turkish people took to the streets "to stop this unprecedented, heinous coup attempt."
Urging the international community to stand in solidarity with Turkey in the fight against terrorism, Çavuşoğlu stressed that "terrorism has no nationality, ethnicity, or religion."
"This menace threatens humanity as a whole. Therefore, the response to this threat must be united and determined," he said.
With FETÖ terrorists responsible for "the loss of hundreds of lives as well as other grave crimes against the Turkish people ... no state has the luxury to differentiate between terrorists, and no terrorist group can be classified as ‘useful,'" he stressed.
In his op-ed, Çavuşoğlu also drew attention to the true colors of the FETÖ terror group, pointing out that it was founded in the late 1960s under the guise of being a so-called "religious movement," and "managed to cover its malign intentions" under the cloak of "promoting education and inter-religious dialogue."
However, he stressed that "a growing number of governments understand the danger this terrorist organization also poses to them and are taking the necessary steps."
Not just in Turkey but also in many other countries, FETÖ members are being cleared from the public and private sectors, and many schools abroad affiliated with the terror group have been transferred to Turkey’s Maarif Foundation, he added.
"The nature and scope of Turkey’s fight against FETÖ is no different than that exercised by other countries against organizations which terrorized officials and civilians alike and endangered democratic values and fundamental rights and freedoms," he said.
Noting that all procedures used in the fight against the FETÖ terrorist group are "in compliance with the law," he underlined Ankara’s determination in the fight against FETÖ.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif also voiced solidarity with Turkey, writing on Twitter: “Turkish Democracy & National Unity Day will always be remembered as an expression of Turkish people's unwavering trust in the leadership of President @RTErdogan. It also reflects Turkish nation's resolve to protect & uphold democracy. May the souls of the martyrs rest in peace!”
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry also issued a statement, saying that “The people and Government of Pakistan join the fraternal people and Government of Turkey in paying tribute to all those martyrs who laid down their lives in defence of Turkey’s democracy and stability.
“The exceptional relations between our two peoples – embedded in a common religious, cultural, linguistic, and spiritual heritage – go back centuries and have withstood the test of times,” it said.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev sent a letter to Erdoğan on the occasion of July 15 remembering those who lost their lives trying to prevent the coup attempt.
Aliyev noted that six years ago, the Turkish people, by defending the independence and sovereignty of the homeland and embracing the state and democracy gave a real example of bravery and heroism, and once again proved their power and greatness to the world.
Highlighting that the Azerbaijani people and state stood by brotherly Turkey from the first minutes and strongly condemned the treacherous coup attempt, Aliyev included the following statements in his message:
"Our peoples, who support each other in both happy and sad days in line with the principle of one nation, two states, prove their brotherhood by supporting each other in difficult times. From now on too, we will stand by Turkey in all matters.
The British Embassy in Turkey highlighted the nation's importance on the sixth anniversary of the 2016 defeated coup.
Citing the visit to the Turkish capital Ankara paid by Alan Duncan, then-U.K. minister of state for Europe, on July 20, 2016 – just days after the July 15 defeated coup – Marianne Young, now charge d'affaires at the embassy, said on Twitter: "The U.K. was proud to be one of the first countries that stood in solidarity with the democratically elected Turkish government after the 2016 violent coup attempt."
Stressing that Turkey is a member of both NATO, the G-20 and a founding member of the Council of Europe, she added: "Turkey’s democracy has always been and continues to be valuable to us."