Turkey’s opposition leader claims government wants to stop justice march

Turkey’s opposition leader claims government wants to stop justice march

On July 5, the 20th day of his “justice march,” social democratic main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said he had heard of a plot to stop the march before it enters and terminates in Istanbul on July 9.

Speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News before the march started out for the day from the northwestern city of İzmit, on the Ankara-Istanbul state road, Kılıçdaroğlu referred to the “provocations” that he warned about the previous day. “According to our information, as the march gets nearer to Istanbul we might be attacked by a group within the [Turkish ultranationalist] Ülkücü movement. The police would naturally stop it.

But such an attack would be a pretext for the government to claim that the march is a source of polarization in society and therefore a threat to the public order and should thus be stopped, in line with the state of emergency,” he said.

Kılıçdaroğlu pointed out that government spokesman Numan Kurtulmuş on July 3 also said “the CHP should be careful about possible provocations before entering Istanbul.

The tone of the criticism from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) against the march has been escalating. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım claimed on July 4 that the march was not about searching for justice, but rather about serving the purposes of coup plotters, separatists and foreign powers. He also suggested that it was not a coincidence that the march was being carried out before the first anniversary of the July 15, 2016 military coup attempt, for which President Erdoğan and the government have been preparing huge commemoration ceremonies. “It is not possible to find justice on the streets, they should stop” Yıldırım said.

In response, Kılıçdaroğlu reiterated the CHP’s stance against all coups. “If it is fine to call for democracy on the streets [in anti-coup rallies], then it is also fine to peacefully call for justice on the streets, as we are doing,” he said. 

“We all stood against the July 15 coup attempt. But what the government did on July 20 [declaring a state of emergency] has turned into another coup against the justice system. I am not calling on people to take to the streets, I simply announced that I would start walking. I’m not carrying CHP flags. I’m not allowing my CHP title to be used in the announcements of this march, just my regular name. But as you see, people from many political views and from different walks of life, who all believe that they are not treated fairly, are joining the march,” he added.

Instead of engaging in such polemics, the government should listen to and understand the cry of society for “justice,” which his march has tried to voice, Kılıçdaroğlu said.

The CHP leader started his walk on June 15 from the capital Ankara to Istanbul, where a day before CHP deputy Enis Berberoğlu was sentenced to 25 years in jail at Maltepe Prison. Berberoğlu was sentenced on charges of terrorism and espionage for giving information to daily newspaper Cumhuriyet.