ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish authorities sacked nearly 7,400 civil servants for alleged links to terror groups as the country marked the first anniversary of quashing last summer's coup attempt on Saturday.
Thousands are expected to turn out for "national unity marches" in Istanbul and Ankara over the weekend, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will unveil the "Martyrs' Memorial" on an iconic Istanbul bridge to remember those who died opposing the coup.
"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," Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Saturday in a special parliamentary session attended by Erdogan.
Turkish soldiers attempted to overthrow the government and Erdogan using tanks, warplanes and helicopters on July 15 last year. The coup plotters declared their seizure of power on the state broadcaster, bombed the country's parliament and other key locations, and raided an Aegean resort where Erdogan had been holidaying. But Erdogan had already left and the coup attempt was put down by civilians and security forces.
The Bosporus Bridge, now called the July 15 Martyrs' Bridge, was the scene of clashes between civilians and soldiers in tanks. Some 250 people were killed and more than 2,000 were injured across Turkey. Thirty-five coup plotters were also killed.
Yildirim thanked the thousands of people who heeded a call by the president to flood the streets to resist the coup.
"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," Yildirim said.
In the aftermath of the coup attempt, Turkey declared a state of emergency that has been in place for a year, which has allowed the government to rule by decrees and dismiss tens of thousands of people. More than 50,000 people have also been arrested for alleged links to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who it blames for orchestrating the failed coup, and other terror groups. Gulen has denied the allegations.
The latest decree published Friday evening sacked 7,395 state employees including teachers, academics, military and police officers, bringing the number of dismissed to more than 110,000. The government calls the crackdown necessary to purge state institutions of those linked to Gulen, but critics say the dismissals are arbitrary and paths to recourse severely curtailed.
July 15 has been declared a national holiday.
Public transportation in Istanbul and Ankara are free over the weekend, and bus destination signs were displaying messages of congratulations.
As in the night of the coup attempt, mosques across Turkey will simultaneously recite a verse, usually read before Friday prayers, to alert and invite Muslims to the streets.