Tens of thousands in Turkey's capital rally against ‘terror’
CİHAN photoTens of thousands of people from across Turkey flocked into downtown Ankara on Sept. 17 to condemn terrorism and display solidarity, with the organizers of the mass rally particularly putting emphasis on the unity of the nation.
More than 250 business associations, unions and professional chambers joined the rally, which was called three days previously.
The rally was open to all citizens, with organizers saying it would not represent any political party or view. The mass gathering was called to give voice to people’s resentment over the loss of a rising number of security forces in a renewed conflict between Turkey’s security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Participants in the rally displayed “a national stance,” Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges (TOBB) President Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu said, addressing the crowd after they marched from Sıhhiye Square to Ulus. The march ended in the late afternoon on Sept. 17 in front of the old parliament building, which is considered to be “the founding assembly” of the Republic of Turkey.
“We have different views but we have common points as we are all in love with this homeland. We could not have remained silent while our homeland, our serenity, our today and our tomorrow have been targeted. We could not have remained silent in the face of those who want to set us against each other. We could not have remained silent while polarization among society has grown each day,” Hisarcıklıoğlu said.
“We have come here with our red flags with the crescent and star. We have come here to disrupt the dirty plot being played on us. We have come here to strengthen societal peace and ameliorate our broken hopes. We have cursed terror and claimed our fraternity. We said ‘No to terror, yes to fraternity,’” he said, underlining that they had especially chosen the old parliament as their final destination because it is the best example of the country’s “will to live together.”
Hürriyet Chairwoman Vuslat Doğan Sabancı and Doğan TV Holding Chairwoman Arzuhan Doğan Yalçındağ
attended the rally.
“We should avoid all kind of actions that would harm our citizens in the name of condemning terror,” he said.
The country has been shaken by the rising conflict between security forces and the PKK since a two-year-old de facto cease-fire collapsed in July. More than 100 police officers and soldiers and hundreds of militants have died in the worst violence Turkey has seen in two decades.
The idea for the rally found wide support from many in society, including the mainstream media. Yet, there was also criticism particularly by those who were worried that such a mass rally with a nationalist tone could add to the already existing polarization among the society. According to some commentators, the rally might serve as a means for provocation and might be misused by those who want to spark an ethnic tension between Kurds and the rest of the society. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is focused on the Kurdish issue, objected to the rally after witnessing many of its offices and headquarters subjected to attacks by ultranationalists.
HDP co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ indicated that the idea behind the rally was discriminatory and not-inclusive. Many Kurds and Turks have shed their blood on the national flag, Yüksekdağ said Sept. 16 at a press conference in Ankara. “There is as much blood of Kurds as there is of Turks on that flag. There is blood of all the nations that make up today’s unity of Turkey; [blood from] the Circassians, Arabs, Laz, Pomaks and Georgians.”
“All dynamics, civil society organizations of Turkey are altogether and hand in hand against terror,” Pevrul Kavlak, secretary-general of Türk-İş, said in a live interview with CNNTürk during the rally.
“The people of this country fought [shoulder to shoulder] during the War of Independence. They gave the best example of solidarity in the first parliament. We will again stand shoulder to shoulder and we will get rid of the trouble of trouble,” Kavlak said.
“That flag is our joint roof as the Kurd, the Turk, the Laz and the Circassian. People are able to march here today thanks to that flag,” Kavlak said in response to a question about their move to urge every attendee to hold a flag.
Kavlak also noted that they had strictly warned members of their associations and unions to not yield to any sort of provocation that would harm people.
A grand Turkish flag was carried by the crowd on their shoulders, while tens of thousands of flags were distributed by the Ankara Trade Chamber (ATO) to people at the rally. The 1,500-meter-long and seven-meter-wide flag was carried by a truck to the rally scene.
In addition to the motto of the rally, “No to terror, yes to fraternity,” people also shouted the slogans, “Martyrs don’t die, the homeland is indivisible,” and “Damn the PKK,” while most also blew whistles.
Some 6,000 officers from the riot squad, anti-terror and special operation departments from the Ankara Police Department were on duty to provide security.
The organizations which called for the rally were TOBB, the Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederation (TÜRKONFED), the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD), the Independent Industry and Business Association (MÜSİAD), the Confederation of Righteous Trade Unions (Hak-İş), the Turkish Public Workers’ Labor Union (Kamu-Sen), the Confederation of Public Servants’ Trade Unions (Memur-Sen), the Turkish Union of Agricultural Chambers (TZOB), the Turkish Confederation of Employers’ Unions (TİSK), the Turkey Tradesmen and Artisans’ Confederation (TESK), the Confederation of Turkish Labor Unions (Türk-İş), the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB), the Union of Chambers of Certified Accountants of Turkey (TÜRMOB) and the Turkish Retired Noncommissioned Officers Association (TEMAD). Hürriyet Chairwoman Vuslat Doğan Sabancı and Doğan TV Holding Chairwoman Arzuhan Doğan Yalçındağ also attended the rally.