The following article is based on the speech delivered by R. Demet Şekercioğlu, Ambassador of the Republic of Türkiye to Sri Lanka & Maldives on Democracy & National Unity Day Commemoration Ceremony 2023 in Colombo
Today, we stand together to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the failed coup attempt that took place on 15th July 2016. Surely, it is a date forever etched in our hearts as the Democracy and National Unity Day. I believe that 15th July should not just be remembered as a day of a thwarted coup attempt, but rather a victory day where citizens emerged victorious from a war between traitors and patriots.
On that night, brave citizens of Türkiye gave a very powerful message to the world that the power to shape a nation’s destiny lies not in the barrel of a gun, but in the hand that casts the ballot. This powerful message of democratic will and the unwavering commitment of our citizens stands as a beacon of hope, not just for us, but for all nations striving to uphold the values of democracy and unity.
Seven years have passed since Türkiye faced this most violent and treacherous attacks which claimed the lives of 251 innocent souls and left thousands wounded. The tragic events that unfolded on July 15th were not merely acts of terror; they were a blatant affront to the founding principles that define the Republic of Türkiye and its people – the principles of democracy, freedom, and the rule of law.
In fact, these attacks targeted the very symbols of our sovereignty and Republic. The Grand National Assembly, the Presidential complex, the building of the National Intelligence Organization, the edifices of the Turkish National Police, and the Headquarters of the Police Special Operations Department situated in Ankara, were all targets of the ruthless attacks.
The malicious acts we witnessed on 15th July were not results of an overnight attempt. They were the climax of many years of meticulous planning and covert operations by the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) led by Fetullah Gülen, with the primary aim to destroy the democratic foundation of the Republic.
The history of goes back to 1970s. As a seemingly charitable organization, FETO initially started its operations through establishing schools in Türkiye and later all around the world. They disguised themselves as a benign educational movement, but in reality, they were brainwashing young minds and creating a legion of radical followers who executed their instructions without hesitation and violated all legal and moral norms.
This treacherous organization, hiding behind the mask of a charitable organization, slowly infiltrated our state system’s critical positions over the years. FETO also strengthened its economic and political influence by abusing the State’s resources and authority for the vile interests of the organization. Followers of FETO conspired against those who became an obstacle to their ultimate objective, that is to gain control over Türkiye and establish a new state under the absolute rule of Fetullah Gülen, whom they consider as the “Imam of the Universe”.
However, on the fateful night of July 15th, Türkiye stood united. Citizens who valued democracy dearer than life itself stood against those who sought to tear down the very values upon which our beloved country was founded. The brave men and women of this great nation faced this horrific threat with unwavering courage and determination, demonstrating to the world that we, the people of Türkiye, do not recognize any power over our will. The footages that you see of citizens standing on the way of raging armored tanks are true testaments showing the extent to which, they were ready to sacrifice their own lives to protect their motherland.
Since that dreadful day, Türkiye’s fight against FETO has been unwavering, just as it has been against other terrorist organizations. Combating these elements of terror has been one of our main priorities both within and outside of Türkiye. After seven years since the thwarted attempt, the international community is increasingly understanding that FETO is not a benign movement that engages in education and charity, but rather a dark, insidious and criminal organization with evil political and economic ambitions.
While persisting in its diplomatic efforts to extradite Fetullah Gulen and other FETO members who sought refuge abroad, Türkiye continues to engage with the rest of the world creating awareness to prevent reoccurrence of similar catastrophes.
Indeed, terrorism, as we understand it, continues to evolve globally, adopting new methodologies and exploiting different avenues to inflict damage and destabilize countries.
We are pleased to note that Türkiye and Sri Lanka, which have been at the forefront of the fight against terrorism, have also succeeded in eliminating FETÖ elements from Sri Lanka thanks to their joint efforts. Türkiye continues to engage with the Sri Lankan authorities with enhanced intelligence sharing in order to build a strong, vigilant and comprehensive response to this global menace.
As I bring my remarks to a close, let us not forget the essence of today’s commemoration, Democracy and National Unity. Let us also find inspiration in the Turkish experience and reaffirm our commitment to uphold democracy, to protect national unity, and to forge a prosperous future for all. Let us remember that it is in unity, democracy, and the resolute human spirit that we will find our strength.