A reported 1.5 million people attended a rally in Istanbul Sunday in protest of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.
The rally marked the end of a 280-mile “march for justice” from the capital of Ankara. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the Republican People’s Party opposition leader, started the 25-day march after his deputy was detained in June after receiving a 25-year jail sentence for allegedly leaking state secrets.
“Why did we march?” Kilicdaroglu told the rally. “We walked for the non-existent justice. We walked for the rights of the oppressed, for the imprisoned lawmakers, the jailed journalists … We walked for the academics who were thrown out of universities.”
The rally was the largest protest against Erdogan’s actions since a failed military coup last July. The government has arrested 50,000 people and fired around 100,000 government employees in response to the coup. Erdogan further won a referendum in April to expand his presidential powers.
“If only there was no need for this march and there was democracy, media freedoms, if civic society groups could freely express their opinions,” Kilicdaroglu said.
The situation in Turkey has forced has led the European Union to suspend accession talks, which Kilicdaroglu fears will benefit Erdogan and the government.
“It will not have an impact,” Kilicdaroglu said. “On the contrary, [the involvement of the international community] will increase polarization and this will benefit of Erdogan’s party.”
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