Government must allow the justice march to be completed

Government must allow the justice march to be completed

Only a day after main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said he was worried about possible “provocative” attacks on his justice march, aiming to get it blocked before reaching Istanbul, police announced on July 5 that they had arrested six suspected members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). They were reportedly preparing an attack on the 21st day of the march, which is attended by thousands of people.

In the morning hours, the police blocked to traffic a lane of the D-100 state highway, which the march from Ankara to Istanbul has been continuing on. CHP sources told the Hürriyet Daily News that the move was coordinated with them by the police after intelligence was received that ISIL members may attempt to drive into the crowd, similar to the group’s attacks in a number of European cities. 

Kılıçdaroğlu recently voiced concerns about possible attacks by ultra-nationalist groups within the “Ülkücü” movement, which could be used by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) as a pretext to halt the March before it reaches Istanbul to end with a public rally on July 9. Yesterday, on July 5, Kılıçdaroğlu’s press adviser Okan Konuralp told HDN that “many Ülkücü spokespeople have been in contact to say that anyone thinking about committing such attacks does not represent them.” The executive committee of the CHP, which convened during a break in yesterday’s march, asked the government authorities to use more careful language about the march, in order to avoid inspiring ill-willed people.

President Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım have repeatedly claimed that the march actually “serves coup plotters” and “separatist terrorists,” especially because of its timing just before the first anniversary of the July 15, 2016 military coup attempt. The government has been preparing a series of huge nationwide ceremonies to mark the anniversary. 

Erdoğan and the government do not want any other activity to distract public attention from the anniversary. The justice march, meanwhile, has grown far beyond the proportions the government originally expected. CHP sources say that if the government tries to stop the march from entering Istanbul, they could start a “sitting strike,” which would essentially mean thousands of people waiting on a major state road connecting the capital Ankara to Istanbul before the eyes of growing international attention. 
As a result, stopping the march at this stage may only add to the government’s problems inside and outside Turkey, even casting a shadow on the July 15 commemorations. 

It would be better for the government to acknowledge that the almost half of Turkish society that did not for Erdoğan cannot simply be considered as “helpers of terrorists.” They can be against the military coup attempt in their own way, not only as the AK Parti suggests, and they have the right to peacefully voice their demands for the better delivery of justice by the courts. It is therefore in the government’s interests for the march to be completed safe and sound and to move on.

Another point worth making is the snubbing of the March by some Western observers, for whom nothing can count as a real opposition if it does not fit into the model of an official merger between the CHP and the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). 

Following Kılıçdaroğlu’s call that anyone is free to join the march if they leave their party identities aside, as the CHP has done, a number of HDP deputies joined the march without placing an emphasis on party politics. 

Certain Western observers who often appear to know it all seem not to have grasped the significance of the justice march yet.