Municipality of Tirana Builds Memorial for Victims of Failed Coup in Turkey

The Municipality of Tirana has build a memorial commemorating the victims of the failed coup against the government of President Erdogan on July 15, 2016.

This is possibly the first memorial in the world outside Turkey built to commemorate the July 15 victims. At the same time, no similar one was ever built in Albania for any similar tragic event.

The memorial was inaugurated on the third anniversary of the coup, in the presence of Deputy Mayor Arbian Mazniku and Turkish Ambassador Murat Ahmet Yoruk. It is located in a small park inside the Tirana Lake Park, and it contains the names of the 251 Turkish citizens killed by coup organizers.

The municipality also planted 251 trees brought from Turkey, and named the road “Martyrs of July 15”.

The event was not announced in any of the social media sites presenting the daily work of the Municipality of Tirana and its leaders. It is not clear when, based on what motives and procedures the Municipality has decided to build the monument.

Before the inauguration ceremony, the Turkish Embassy in Tirana organized the “Triumph of Democracy March”, starting from one of the capital’s main squares toward the newly built memorial.

The government of President Erdogan accuses the Gulen Movement for the coup. Its leader Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in self-exile in US since 1999, denies all allegations.

President Erdogan led a crackdown on all activities and members of the movement, after declaring it a terrorist organization. The movement has practically ceased to exist in Turkey.

However, it still manages some successful schools and universities around the world, including Albania.

Turkey has repeatedly demanded the Albanian government to close Gulen movement schools in Albania, or transfer them to the Maarif Foundation established by president Erdogan for this purpose.

The memorial and park were inaugurated three days before Prime Minister Edi Rama visited President Erdogan in one of his summer residences in Turkey.

Following the visit, last week Rama announced that Air Albania will launch flights to Italy in September, 2019.

When he inaugurated Air Albania last year, Rama thanked President Erdogan for enabling its creation, saying “we wouldn’t have been here without him.” Air Albania is owned in half (49%) by Turkish Airlines (THY), and operates a THY plane branded with Albanian flags.

A suspicious private company, formed a few days before the carrier was launched, owns 41% of its shares, and Albcontrol owns 10%.  Prime Minister Edi Rama has been played the “national carrier” card for domestic political purposes for several years.

One week later, Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu visited Albania. Following meetings with Prime Minister Rama and Minister of Interior Sander Lleshaj, Soylu stated that the Albanian officials had “expressed their commitment” in the fight against the movement, and “serious decisions” were taken.

The Albanian government has neither confirmed nor denied Soylu’s statement, although Prime Minister Rama admitted to have discussed with Soylu about the Gulen movement.

The Turkish government crackdown on the movement has been widely criticized by human rights organizations.