Turkey flies planes, drives vans in New York to remind U.S. of coup attempt

The Turkish American National Steering Committee (TASC) used planes with banners and vans with digital screens to spread its message in the United States over the 2016 failed coup on the eve of its commemoration, state-run Anadolu news agency said on Tuesday.

Vans with screens displaying "July 15, Victory of Turkish Democracy" and "Victory of Turkish Nation" toured neighbourhoods in New York, Washington D.C., and in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania where the exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen resides.

Ankara blames Gülen for orchestrating the failed coup and has designated his movement as a terrorist group, which the authorities have labelled as the Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ). Gülen denies any involvement in the coup attempt.

Planes flew banners that read "Stop Terrorist FETÖ" above New York and New Jersey.

TASC’s co-chair, Halil Mutlu, told Anadolu that the initiative was to inform people in the United States about the coup attempt.

"We are reflecting a resolved stand and determination of the Turkish nation against the July 15 coup attempt," Mutlu said.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said on Tuesday that Turkey was disappointed with the West as it had failed to grasp the gravity of the failed coup attempt, Anadolu reported.

“We were disappointed, and it was hard for us to understand that some countries in Europe and other places instead of taking measures against the terrorists themselves were criticising the [Turkish] government for taking measures against FETÖ terrorists,” he said.

“To this day, four years after the coup, unfortunately some key allies in NATO and Europe including the U.S. continue to fail to understand the gravity of what happened and why we had to take measures,” Kalın said. 

Some human rights groups criticised mass arrests and a state of emergency imposed in Turkey in the aftermath of the coup attempt for being indiscriminate, disproportionate, and calculated to stifle all dissent.

July 15 Democracy and National Unity Day is a public holiday in Turkey, marked with events to commemorate the 251 people killed and nearly 2,200 injured resisting the failed coup.

Turkey also accuses the Gülen movement - which was once allied to the ruling Justice and Development Party - of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, such as the military, police and judiciary. Ankara is seeking the extradition of Gülen from the United States.