Hundreds of thousands rally in Istanbul against Erdogan

World Today

Supporters of Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party, rise their hands as they gather for a rally following their 425-kilometer (265-mile) ‘March for Justice’ in Istanbul, Sunday, July 9, 2017. Kilicdaroglu along with thousands of supporters walked from the capital Ankara to an Istanbul prison, began to denounce the imprisonment of a party lawmaker but has grown into a wider protest of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies and the large-scale government crackdown on opponents in the wake of July 2016’s failed coup attempt. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Hundreds of thousands gathered in Istanbul to cry for justice. It was the grand finale of a three-week march for justice that was launched by Turkey’s main opposition party leader.

It follows the government’s crackdown on opponents after last year’s coup attempt.

CGTN’s Michal Bardavid has the details.

“Rights, law, justice” were chanted by thousands of people in Istanbul’s Maltepe district. It was the culmination point of a three-week march for justice launched by the main opposition party in Turkey.

Most of the protesters wore white t-shirts on them with the word “adalet” on it, meaning “justice.” That’s what they said they were seeking.

The movement was initiated by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, on June 15 when a member of parliament, Enis Berberoglu, was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He’s accused of allegedly leaking documents to journalists purportedly showing that the government was arming Syrian rebels.

The opposition as well as European countries have been criticizing the Turkish government for abusing its’ power for some time now. Following the failed coup attempt in July 2016, the government launched a massive crackdown – thousands were sacked, suspended or arrested. A state of emergency was declared and has since been in place.

On April 16, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan won a referendum that expanded presidential powers, possibly keeping him in office until 2029, created even more discontent.

Many in Turkey criticized the results of the referendum because the Turkish election board accepted unstamped ballots. On the 20th day of the “Justice March” by the Republican People’s Party, the head of opposition, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, signed an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against this decision.

During the rally on Sunday, Kilicdaroglu read a manifesto calling on the government to end the state of emergency, change its’ foreign policies, release journalists from prison and ensure the independence of courts but did not give specific details on how to achieve the goals. “Here in Maltepe we ended the march that we started on June 15, 2017 in Ankara’s Guvenpark. But no one should think that this is an end. This march is our first step,” said the CHP party leader.

Turkish President Erdogan earlier stated that those who participated in the march were supporting terrorism. Turkey’s Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, also expressed criticism. “The place for justice is the parliament, not the roads,” said the prime minister.

Though Kilicdaroglu vowed to continue the movement, it is not clear what comes next for the thousands of Turkish citizens clearly not happy with the way the country is governed.