Millions stand for democracy in Turkey
AA photoMillions of people gathered Aug. 7 at a meeting venue in Istanbul’s Yenikapı area for a massive joint democracy rally to protest the July 15 coup attempt, putting an end to three weeks of demonstrations following the failed takeover.
The rally was a rare event in which the leaders of three political parties took the stage upon a call made by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, leaving aside their political differences.
The event begin with Mehmet Görmez, the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), reciting the Quran.
“That night, I realized that I am a part of a very big nation,” said Orçun Şekercioğlu, who came to the stage on a wheelchair. He was wounded by coup soldiers on the Bosphorus Bridge as he was standing against tanks.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said “Istanbul is great,” while addressing the crowd.
“July 15 has opened a door of consensus for Turkey,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kılıçdaroğlu said, while addressing the crowd.
“There is a new Turkey now,” Kılıçdaorğlu said.
All political party leaders should learn lessons from the coup attempt, he said. “That includes me.”
He also read out a 12-article list similar to the one he read out at a democracy rally in Istanbul on July 24, including an emphasis on the republic and democracy, equality before the law, the importance of the parliamentary system, the independence of law and an independent media.
“If there wasn’t a republic, Erdoğan wouldn’t be the president. Yıldırım wouldn’t be the prime minister. Kahraman wouldn’t be parliamentary speaker. I wouldn’t be the leader of CHP,” he said.
Kılıçdaroğlu also mentioned secularism in his speech, saying the failed takeover showed the importance of it.
“We need to contribute to the strengthening of democracy,” he said, adding that an educational system based on questioning should be brought into being.
“I am happy because I can see the rise of Turkey,” Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli said in his address to millions from all walks of life.
“July 15 is a milestone for Turkey,” he said, praising the citizenry’s strong stance against the coup soldiers at the cost of their lives.
Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar received a big round of applause when he took the stage. Along with Akar, other members of the top brass who were taken hostage by the coup plotters were present at the meeting.
Akar once again said U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen was responsible for the coup.
Erdoğan arrived in Yenikapı in a helicopter alongside first lady Emine Erdoğan.
President Erdoğan has started his speech by thanking the people who stood against the tanks and planes used by the coup plotters during the failed takeover.
He wished his condolences to the 240 people killed by putschists, of whom 172 were civilians, 63 were police officers and five were soldiers. He also wished speedy recovery to the 2,195 wounded.
During Erdoğan’s speech the crowd repeatedly shouted that they wanted death penalty to be reintroduced.
“If the parliament accepts the reintroduction of death penalty, I will accept it,” he told the crowd, adding that the death penalty exists in the U.S., Japan and “many other countries.”
“If the people want death penalty, I think the political parties will also accept it,” he also said, as he noted that the death penalty existed until 1984 in Turkey.
Saying that the people showed that they won’t accept slavery on the night of the failed coup bid, Erdoğan added that Gülen movement calculated many mischiefs, but couldn’t take the people into account.
Erdoğan also touched upon the suspensions that were handed out since the failed takeover, saying that the gaps will be filled.
During his speech, Erdoğan criticized Germany for not allowing him to participate in a video conference.
“We’re here to show that theses flags won’t come down, the call to prayer won’t be silenced, and our country won’t be divided,” said Hacı Mehmet Haliloğlu, a civil servant who traveled from the Black Sea province of Ordu for the rally.
“This is something way beyond politics, this is either our freedom or death,” he said, a large Turkish flag over his shoulder and a matching baseball cap on his head.
Repeated announcements were made in the area regarding a ban on carrying party flags or party slogans. Millions of Turkish flags were seen in the area, as well as the flags of Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Albania and the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
Posters of Erdoğan and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, were also seen hung around the venue.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the country’s third biggest party, was not invited to the rally. The HDP co-leaders harshly criticized the fact that the party was not invited to the event but some HDP voters independently attended the event.
Emine Aksu, a Turkish citizen attending the rally in Yenikapı, said the HDP should have also been invited to take part in the demonstration.
“We all took to the streets against the coup attempt on that day. I voted for the HDP two years ago but the HDP was not invited to the rally. The HDP should have been invited to the rally for peace and unity,” said Aksu.
Fatma Aksu from Batman said that as a Kurdish mother, she was at the rally for the future of her children.
“If this coup attempt had been successful, then there would have been nothing left for Kurdish-Turkish brotherhood,” she said, adding that one could not have spoken about democracy.
Turkey’s state broadcaster TRT screened the rally in seven different languages live on social media. The event was streamed on YouTube in Turkish, English, French, Spanish, German, Russian and Arabic.
The “Democracy and Martyrs Rally” was held as the last in a series of meetings to protest the failed takeover, which is believed to have been masterminded by the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).
“I have an offer; let’s make a democracy meeting in Yenikapı on Aug. 7. Let’s be there with the Armed Forces’ command, artists and sportswomen and men who contributed to the process [after the coup plot]. Let the nation be there. Let’s invite all of the leaders of all the political parties,” Erdoğan told Turkish broadcaster ATV on July 30, adding that the “normalization process is significant for Turkey.”
“Let’s be there with the leaders and give our message to all of Turkey from there altogether. It’s very, very important for the normalization process to speed up for our country,” he said, asking the leaders of the parties to deliver individual speeches.
Erdoğan said the rally in Yenikapı would be broadcast live via giant screens nationwide with one also due to be installed in Pennsylvania.
“A mega board will be put up in one more place. Do you know where?” he asked a crowd.
“In Pennsylvania. The message will be delivered,” he said.