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Standing up for democracy in Istanbul
Millions 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 began with Mehmet Görmez, the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate reciting from the Quran.
Remember that picture from Tiananmen Square? This is Turkey!
“That night, I realized that I am a part of a very great 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.
“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,” he said. “All political party leaders should learn lessons from the coup attempt. That includes me.”
“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.
This is a huge one, for those who know Turkey!
Chief of Staff General 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.
President Erdoğan arrived in Yenikapı in a helicopter alongside first lady Emine Erdoğan. Mr Erdoğan 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 the death penalty to be reintroduced. “If 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.”
The Aegean region is a stronghold of opposition to the government, but . . .
“We’re here to show that these 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 hung around the venue.
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).
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It has been estimated that 3.5 million people turned up for the meeting in Istanbul – and large crowds attended similar gatherings in all of Turkey’s 81 provinces.
“There is a new Turkey now!”
In spite of that, I could find no mention in the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, the Sydney Morning Herald or the New Zealand Herald.
BBC News chose to report: Turkey’s president backs death penalty!
Apart from the Beeb, the other sites I visited focused on the possible abdication of the Emperor of Japan; continuing violence in Libya, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan; and the possibility that Oscar Pistorius may have tried to top himself.
Is there disappointment out there that the attempted coup in Turkey didn’t succeed? It sure looks like it from where I’m sitting.