Sunday 25 September 2016

One million Turks flood streets at huge unity rally

Elena Becatoros

Published 08/08/2016 | 02:30

President Tayyip Erdogan with his wife Emine. Photo: Reuters/Getty
President Tayyip Erdogan with his wife Emine. Photo: Reuters/Getty
Supporters wave national flags during the Democracy and Martyrs’ Rally organised by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who attended with his wife Emine. Photo: Reuters/Getty

More than one million Turks gathered in Istanbul yesterday for an anti-coup rally to mark the end of nightly demonstrations held since the July 15 abortive military insurrection that left more than 270 people dead.

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The Yenikapi meeting area by the Marmara Sea waterfront in Istanbul's European side was transformed into a sea of red and white, the colours of Turkey's flag. The 'Democracy and Martyrs' Rally' was billed as a cross-party event representing Turkish unity in the wake of the failed coup, in which a group of renegade military officers attempted to seize power with tanks, helicopters and fighter jets.

Turkish media said millions attended the event yesterday.

Religious leaders and two of Turkey's three opposition parties sat next to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who arrived on board a helicopter with his wife Emine. The pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party wasn't invited.

The event kicked off with a minute of silence for those killed while opposing the coup, followed by the Turkish national anthem and a recitation of prayers.

A 60-metre stage was set up for the event, framed by two platforms and draped with massive national flags and banners depicting Erdogan and Turkey's founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. A roll call of those who died opposing the coup was read out as the event began.

Construction cranes suspended giant Turkish flags beside the meeting area, while flag-draped boats and yachts zipped back and forth along the water.

Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government has been encouraging nightly anti-coup rallies in all of the country's 81 provinces as well as in certain foreign locations such as Cologne, Germany.

The event was being simultaneously broadcast on giant screens in all of Turkey's provinces, and crowds of thousands gathered to watch in the country's major cities.

Irish Independent

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