More than a million Turks join president and opposition leaders in Istanbul rally, denouncing last month’s failed coup.
Aside from Istanbul, similar rallies were simultaneously held across the country on Sunday
A pro-democracy rally in response to Turkey’s failed coup attempt is being held in Istanbul, uniting the president, the prime minister and two opposition leaders on the same platform for the first time in years.
More than a million people, many waving the Turkish flag, attended the Sunday afternoon rally in Yenikapi square.
“The world is looking at you now,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the demonstrators as he opened his speech. “You should be proud of yourselves. Each and everyone of you fought for freedom and democracy. All of you are heroes.”
Erdogan said that on July 15, the Turkish people have proven that “we are mighty enough to foil any coup”, condemning those behind the coup plot as a “terrorist organisation”.
READ MORE: Turkish political parties unite against coup attempt
The president also said that had the coup attempt succeeded, “We would have lost our homeland, and offered it to our enemy in a silver platter.”
Al Jazeera’s Ayse Karabat, reporting from Istanbul, described the event as “the biggest, most crowded political meeting, in Turkish political history.”
As part of its anti-coup campaign, Ankara has been encouraging nightly rallies throughout the country, culminating in Sunday’s grand finale.
The “Democracy and Martyrs’ Rally” is meant to represent the unity of the country, and Erdogan had urged attendees to bring only the Turkish flag, instead of party banners.
Around 13,000 people, in addition to police officers, were on duty to run the event.
Helicopters, ambulances and over 700 medical personnel were also on duty.
Similar rallies will also be held simultaneously across the country, according to officials from ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
HDP not invited
High-level officials attended the rally.
Erdogan, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, who is also the leader of the AKP, as well as the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli were present at the rally.
Kilicdaroglu and Bahceli addressed the rally before handing the stage to the prime minister and the president.
In his speech, Erdogan also said that he will support the restoration of the death penalty should the parliament pass it, saying that countries like the US and China also have capital punishment.
Meanwhile, Yildirim praised those “who fought bravely and stood in defiance” of the coup attempt.
For his part, opposition leader Kilicdaroglu said the failed coup has opened a “new door of compromise” in politics, adding that politics must now be kept out of the mosques, courthouses and barracks.
“There is a new Turkey after July 15,” Kilicdaroglu said.
READ MORE: How could Turkey’s failed coup affect the Kurdish peace process?
The pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party’s (HDP) co-leaders, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag were not invited
The HDP opposed the coup, but has been excluded because it allegedly supports the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Galip Dalay, columnist and Turkey analyst, told Al Jazeera that including HDP would have “completed the picture”. But he called the event as significant, as it showed “unity across political spectrum” in the country.
Turkey, the US and the European Union designate the PKK, an armed group that has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy since 1984, as a “terrorist organisation”.
|US based cleric and businessman Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally, has been blamed for foiled coup in Turkey
Erdogan has previously called for HDP members to be prosecuted, accusing them of being the PKK’s political wing.
The HDP is the third-biggest party in parliament. It denies having direct links with the PKK and promotes a negotiated end to the Kurdish conflict, which claimed hundreds of lives since a peace process, once led by Erdogan and his governing party, collapsed in 2015.
‘One nation, one heart’
Before and during the rally, hashtags #birliktegucluyuz (Together we are strong) and #TekmilletTekyurek (One nation, one heart) were trending on Twitter, with thousands of people revelling in the solidarity between political parties.
The failed coup attempt by a small faction of the Turkish military on July 15 killed more than 270 people and posed the gravest threat yet to Erdogan’s 13 years in power.
Loyalist factions in the security forces, with the help of thousands of Turkish citizens who took to the streets, quickly put down the coup attempt.
US based cleric and businessman Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally, has been blamed for the coup attempt.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, political analyst and columnist Mustafa Akyol said the US should extradite Gulen.
“I think the US should extradite Fetullah Gulen to Turkey, because he is the prime suspect of a major crime against the nation. Whether Turkey can fully prove that he had the smoking gun evidence is a different discussion,” he said.
Since July 15, more than 70,000 people in the military, judiciary, civil service and education have been detained or suspended for alleged links to Gulen’s movement.
(Source / 07.08.2016)