Turkey marks second coup anniversary

People lit lights of their mobile phones as they read the names of people killed during the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, while standing near the "July 15 Martyrs Bridge" (Bosphorus Bridge) in Istanbul on July 15, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 16 July 2018

Turkey marks second coup anniversary

  • The anniversary comes after Erdogan won outright in June 24 presidential elections
  • More than 77,000 people have been arrested over suspected links to Gulen

ANKARA: Turkey on Sunday commemorated the second anniversary of a bloody coup attempt which was followed by a series of purges in the public sector and changes to boost President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.
Two hundred and forty eight people were killed and over 2,000 were wounded after a rogue military faction tried to overthrow Erdogan on July 15, 2016.
The attempted coup was blamed by Ankara on US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, a former ally turned foe of Erdogan. Gulen denies the claims.
In a series of events, Erdogan took part in a religious ceremony in an Ankara mosque before he hosted a lunch with martyrs’ families and those wounded at the presidential palace.
July 15 is now a national holiday and Erdogan promised during the lunch that “we will not let it be forgotten and we will not forget it.”
Erdogan will at 1800 GMT address citizens on the bridge across the Bosphorus in Istanbul — now renamed the July 15 Martyrs’ Bridge — which was the scene of bloody fighting between Erdogan’s supporters and renegade soldiers.
Ankara municipality organized a rally in the renamed July 15 Kizilay National Will Square, the same place where thousands gathered nightly for a month after the coup attempt.
Dozens of life sentences have been handed down against the putschists while hundreds more court cases continue across Turkey against alleged coup-plotters.
The government said earlier this year that over 77,000 people have been arrested over suspected links to Gulen.
Tens of thousands have also been dismissed or suspended from the public sector over alleged Gulen ties, including judges and soldiers, in a crackdown criticized by Turkey’s Western allies and human rights activists.
Turkey has been under a state of emergency since July 20, 2016 but Erdogan’s spokesman this week said it would be lifted on Wednesday.
Erdogan vowed that the fight against the “Fethullah Terrorist Organization” (FETO), Ankara’s name for the Gulen movement which it calls a “virus,” would continue.
“We will find and remove them from all the cells they have entered,” he said.
The anniversary comes after Erdogan won outright in June 24 presidential elections. After the polls, constitutional reforms to create an executive presidency came into force giving Erdogan sweeping powers.
Erdogan issued seven decrees early Sunday to reshape several public institutions. The Armed Forces General Staff is now under the authority of the defense minister while the Supreme Military Council (YAS) — which decides on senior military appointments and strategic priorities — has been restructured.

UN to deliver aid to Syrians trapped near Jordan border

Updated 19 October 2018

UN to deliver aid to Syrians trapped near Jordan border

  • An estimated 50,000 women, children and men are stranded at the Rukban camp in southeast Syria near the Iraqi and Jordanian border
  • Jordan has allowed several humanitarian aid deliveries to the area following UN requests, but the borders remain closed

DAMASCUS, Syria: The UN said it was organizing a joint aid convoy with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to tens of thousands of Syrians stranded in the desert near the Jordanian border.

The world body said the convoy would deliver “humanitarian assistance to an estimated 50,000 women, children and men who are stranded at the Rukban camp in southeast Syria near the Iraqi and Jordanian border.”

“The overall humanitarian situation inside the Rukban camp is at a critical stage,” said Ali Al-Za’tari, the UN’s top official in Damascus.

Linda Tom, a spokeswoman for the UN’s humanitarian coordination office, OCHA, said the world body was “deeply concerned over the deteriorating humanitarian situation” at the camp.

A suicide bombing claimed by Daesh in June 2016 killed seven Jordanian soldiers in no-man’s land near the nearby Rukban crossing.

Soon afterwards, the army declared Jordan’s desert regions that stretch northeast to Syria and east to Iraq “closed military zones.”

The kingdom, part of the US-led coalition fighting Daesh, has allowed several humanitarian aid deliveries to the area following UN requests, but the borders remain closed. 

The camp, home to displaced people from across Syria, also lies close to the Al-Tanf base used by the US-led coalition fighting IS.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the camp suffers from a severe lack of food and medicines, compounded by its remote desert location, the closure of the Jordanian border and regime forces cutting off all roads to it.

The last delivery of UN aid to Rukban took place in January 2018 through Jordan.

The UN children’s agency UNICEF last week urged warring parties in Syria to allow basic health service deliveries to the camp, saying two babies without access to hospitals had died there within 48 hours.

On Thursday, UN humanitarian aid expert Jan Egeland confirmed the regime had agreed to allow convoys of aid to the Rukban area.

He said Russian officials had told him Syria’s regime had withdrawn a controversial law that allowed for authorities to seize property left behind by civilians who fled fighting in the country’s civil war.

Egeland of the office of UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura also confirmed he will leave his post in November. 

He spoke a day after de Mistura told the UN Security Council that he is leaving for “personal” reasons.

The envoy said that he will make a final effort before stepping down next month to advance toward a new constitution for Syria — a key step in ending the country’s civil war.

De Mistura announced at the end of a Security Council briefing that he is leaving the job in late November for “purely, purely personal reasons” related to his family after four years and four months in one of the toughest UN jobs.

He told council members that objections by the Syrian government are still holding up the launch of the committee meant to draft a new constitution.

While there is agreement on the 50-member government and opposition delegations for the drafting committee, de Mistura said the government objects to a third 50-member delegation that the UN put together representing Syrian experts, civil society, independents, tribal leaders and women.

De Mistura said he has been invited to Damascus next week to discuss the committee’s formation.

He said he also intends to invite senior officials from Russia, Turkey and Iran — the guarantor states in the so-called “Astana process” aimed at ending the violence in Syria — to meet him in Geneva, and to talk to a group of key countries comprising Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Britain and the US.