Turks gather thousands to show opposition against Erdogan
Istanbul was the stage for the end of the “march for justice” rally against Erdogan and his government.
11 Jul 2017 – The Independent
The opposition Republican People’s Party leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, led the 280-mile walk from Ankara to Istanbul after his deputy leader was imprisoned in June.
Mr Erdogan has spearheaded a large-scale government crackdown against opponents in the wake of a failed coup against him last summer, and was granted sweeping new powers following a controversial referendum in April.
“If only there was no need for this march and there was democracy, media freedoms, if civic society groups could freely express their opinions,” Mr Kilicdaroglu said.
The opposition leader was once seen as weak but has emerged as the voice of many Turks, even prompting comparisons to Mahatma Gandhi, who led peaceful protests against British rule in India.
Mr Kilicdaroglu told Reuters his three-week march had helped Turks “cast off a shirt of fear” since emergency rule was imposed after the coup attempt.
The 68-year-old attracted relatively modest support in the early stages of his march, but numbers swelled in the final days, with hundreds of thousands carrying banners and the Turkish flag as they demanded “rights, law, justice”.
The government has accused Mr Kilicdaroglu of supporting terrorist groups with his protest and violating the law by attempting to influence the judiciary.
Mr Erdogan claims to be cracking down against those who support militant organisations, but the government definition of what constitutes backing terrorism is so broad it has led to the arrest of thousands of civil servants, journalists, campaigners and other workers.