We all walk alone
Turkey is talking about justice thanks to the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) 480-km march from the capital Ankara to Istanbul. But it is not the only high-profile political case that prompted the march.
People started feeling the wall of injustice in the early days of the Soma coal mine disaster, where more than 300 workers died trapped hundreds of meters underground. It was with shame and horror that the media uncovered the incredible wealth created by private coal mines and the skyscraper built by the Soma Holding Company in Maslak, a posh business district in Istanbul. But it took several years for middle and lower income families to understand the vast injustices that are almost encrypted within the neoliberal system.
Now, almost a year after the coup attempt, thousands are marching with CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, demanding justice for the wrongs of the system. They are not just teachers, academics and civil servants that were laid off during the purge, but families who have lost their sons in the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), people who had been kicked out of government simply for being a member of a workers’ union, and women’s rights advocates who are exasperated by the numbness of judges against violence are all on the road.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, with a few exceptions of weekly criticisms, is carefully watching and taking the pulse of the march. The route of the march has passed through ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) strongholds like Sakarya, Bolu, Düzce. Conservative and nationalistic, these towns reflect the general sentiments of the AK Party. Indeed there were some boos and protests, and someone dropped fertilizer on the camping ground, but by and large these pious Anatolian mothers and fathers watched the march with silent prayers that something good should come out of this. Erdoğan may be feeling the same way.
Justice cannot be sought and found only in courtrooms. The former military prosecutor and lawyer of the Sledgehammer defendants, Salim Şen, expressed the feeling of the marchers on CNN Türk. “It is our basic right to demand it as citizens and our constitution allows any peaceful assembly to express our demands. This government did nothing to fight against [the Fetullahist Terrorist Organization] FETÖ for 10 years, and now it is the ordinary people paying the price,” he said.
On the other side of the aisle though, AK Party supporters feel this march has been manipulated and “ordered” by foreign forces. One lawyer watching the coup trials in Ankara and Istanbul, Mehmet Sarı, says the perpetrators of the coup attempt are using quotes by Kılıçdaroğlu in their defenses. “Everything he says about justice and unfair trials is serving the FETÖ criminals. They are acting as if he is protecting them,” Sarı said last week on CNN Türk.
As the crowd gets bigger and closer to Istanbul, threats are increasing. Social media is becoming a dangerous center of fake news. The CHP has put all its eggs into the big rally this Sunday to send a loud message, but Kılıçdaroğlu should disperse the big crowd that has gathered to accompany him before entering Istanbul. It may be an even stronger signal if he walks completely alone as he takes on the final stretch. His sore feet and tired but smiling face may say even more than the millions walking all together.