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Turks flock to national unity march on coup anniversary

Tens of thousands of people have attended a march in the Turkish city of Istanbul to remember a coup attempt last year.

According to Press TV, revelers from various neighborhoods of Istanbul converged at the iconic July 15 Martyrs’ Bridge in what has been labeled by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the “national unity march.”

The location, called Bosporus Bridge before the coup attempt, was where Turks heeded a call by Erdogan to stop 136 soldiers on three tanks who sought to overthrow the government. At least 30 people were killed in the clashes on the bridge on the night of the coup on July 15, 2016. Some 220 others died at the end of that night which saw soldiers surrender.

Erdogan, who has supervised a large-scale crackdown since the coup, flew to Istanbul earlier in the day to join the rally and unveil a Martyrs’ Memorial in honor of those killed by putschists.

The Turkish president has repeatedly hailed those opposing the coup as real patriots, saying they helped Turkey emerge from its dark days. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim repeated the same statements at a parliamentary session in Ankara earlier on Saturday.

“It has been exactly one year since Turkey’s darkest and longest night was transformed into a bright day, since an enemy occupation turned into the people’s legend,” said Yildirim during the session, which was also attended by Erdogan.

“We are able to come together again here today because of our 250 heroic martyrs, 2,193 heroic veterans and the great Turkish people. Your country is grateful to you,” added the prime minister, also elaborating on the number of people injured in the coup action.

The popular resistance against coup plotters in Istanbul came hours after renegade soldiers declared their seizure of power through the state broadcaster. That came after army jets bombed the parliament and other key locations. They had also raided a resort where Erdogan was vacationing although he had already left.

Reports said similar rallies were held on Saturday in other Turkish cities, including in the capital Ankara.

Erdogan says Fethullah Gulen, a former ally who currently resides in the United States, orchestrated the coup. More than 50,000 people have been arrested on suspicion of having links to Gulen and his network. Over 110,000 people have also been relieved of their duties at work on similar suspicions. Gulen has denied any involvement in the coup.

Human rights campaigners have criticized the Turkish government for the widening crackdown, saying it has also targeted dissidents and activists.

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