Marking a year since the abortive coup attempt of July 15, 2016, Turkish President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan struck a fiercely nationalistic tone in speeches where he saluted his followers, issued menacing threats at opponents deemed “traitors,” and disparaged NATO partners in Europe whose relationship with Ankara has grown increasingly complicated.
Addressing hundreds of thousands of supporters who flooded the streets of Istanbul Saturday, Erdogan cautioned against those who continue to plot to undermine Turkey's national unity, even going so far as spurring his base to violently confront perceived enemies he called “terrorists.”
"This experience has unified us, made us stronger," Erdogan declaimed. "This wasn't the first attack against our nation and it's not going to be the last attack either."
Rogue Turkish soldiers in tanks, helicopters and jets attempted to overthrow Erdogan's government in the failed putsch, but the attempt was put down by civilians and security forces. Turkey said the coup attempt was organized by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is based in the U.S. state of Virgina, but Gulen denies the allegation.
"We know who is behind these terrorists,” he added. “However, there's also the fact that if you do not combat and fight against these pieces we cannot fight and overcome those who are manipulating them. Therefore, we are going to behead these traitors."
Erdogan also promised to force those tried over the coup to wear the infamous orange jumpsuits used at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and sign into law the restoration of the death penalty. If the Parliament passes the bill it would likely undermine Turkey's long-stalled bid to join the European Union, whose member countries have abolished capital punishment.
Erdogan however, showed little concern for the EU, blaming the bloc for failing to fulfill its promise on a visa deal and aid for Syrian migrants.
"The stance of the European Union is clear to see ... 54 years have passed and they are still messing us about," he said. "We will sort things out for ourselves. There's no other option."
"I don't look at what Hans and George say. I look at what Ahmet, Mehmet, Hasan, Huseyin, Ayse, Fatma and Hatice say."