Turkey on Friday will commemorate the people who lost their lives during the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016.
In October 2016, 2 1/2 months after the attempted coup, July 15 was designated as the Democracy and National Unity Day, with events held nationwide every year since then to commemorate those who lost their lives beating back the putschists and to remember the bravery of the nation.
The Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) and its U.S.-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 p.m. the next day.
Standing against the threat, the Turkish people courageously showed the world that they would not tolerate any attempt to suppress their will as expressed through their democratically elected government.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has consistently warned countries that supporting or hosting fugitive FETÖ members of the danger of doing so, as "FETÖ is a bloody terrorist group that hides its dark face under the guise of deception."
Over the years, the international community has come to gradually understand that FETÖ is not a social movement but a dark and insidious terrorist group with political and economic aims.
After the coup attempt, FETÖ was declared a terrorist organization by various countries and international organizations. In October 2016, at its 43rd Council of Foreign Ministers' session, the Organization of Islamic Conference declared it a terrorist organization.
Additionally, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also declared FETÖ a terror organization, as did the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a December 2018 ruling.
As a result of Turkey’s efforts at last month's NATO leaders' summit in Madrid, Spain, FETÖ was mentioned a terrorist group in the records of the alliance for the first time, according to the Turkish president.
Turkey continues to make efforts to root out FETÖ's infiltration abroad.
In 2021, in the nation's capital Ankara, the July 15 Democracy Museum commemorating the failed coup was officially opened on its fifth anniversary.
Marking the anniversary, Turkish officials attended several commemorative ceremonies and events across the country as part of Democracy and National Unity Day,
Separately, a ceremony was held at Parliament, which was among the areas targeted by the coup plotters.
Turkey’s diplomatic missions abroad also observed the day, hosting various events.
The Turkish community in the U.S. also ran an advertisement in The Washington Post pushing for the extradition of FETÖ's ringleader, who lives in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. Turkey has been pressing for years for the U.S. to send him back so he can face justice.
Ceremonies were also organized by Turkey’s Communications Directorate and held at the July 15 monuments in Istanbul and Ankara paying tribute to the valor of the 251 souls killed in the defeated coup.
Ömer Halisdemir, who was shot dead by a senior coup plotter, became a symbol of the Turkish resistance to the defeated coup.
When pro-coup Brig. Gen. Semih Terzi attempted to seize control of the Special Forces Command in Ankara, Halisdemir shot him. But Halisdemir was later shot and killed with dozens of bullets from pro-coup FETÖ-affiliated soldiers. Halisdemir, 41, was married and had two children.
Sgt. Bülent Aydın was dubbed "the first martyr" of the night of July 15, in line with official records.
Aydın worked at the Special Operations Department and though he was eligible for retirement five years before the fateful day, he kept working because "he was still young," in his own words.
Resisting the coup plotters, he tried to hold onto the Turkish flag in front of the General Staff headquarters. Aydın, 47, was also married and had two children.
Burak Cantürk was among the many students killed during the night of July 15. Cantürk, 23, studied at Balıkesir University and supported himself by working as a waiter at a restaurant in Çengelköy, Istanbul during the summer.
A coup plotter shot him that night. Inside the restaurant, Cantürk's colleagues set up a commemorative photo corner to keep their memories with him alive.
Cennet Yiğit, 22, was one of the youngest victims of the coup plotters. She was a deputy inspector at the Special Operations Department in Gölbaşı, Ankara when coup plotters bombed the office building. Yiğit was unmarried when she was killed, but had scheduled an engagement ceremony within a month. When she was killed, it had been just 10 months since she began her childhood dream of becoming a police officer.