Turkey will not be ruled by an illegitimate constitution, the nation’s main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said in a speech marking the end of his 450-kilometer march to Istanbul from Ankara.
“We will bring down the wall of fear,” Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party, said at a rally after what he and his supporters called a ‘Justice March’ on Sunday. The march is just the start of a new opposition movement, he said.
Kilicdaroglu started the march to resist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s far-reaching crackdown on dissent. The opposition leader deemed the constitutional change in April as ‘illegitimate,’ which President Erdogan narrowly won to expand his powers over government, parliament and the judiciary. Allegations of fraud tarnished the vote in April, leaving the 48.6 percent of Turks who cast ballots against the constitutional overhaul doubting the result.
What proved to be a tipping point was the arrest of CHP member of parliament Enis Berberoglu, who was sentenced last month to 25 years in jail for allegedly leaking images to the press showing Turkey’s intelligence agency was shipping weapons to Syria. He’s being held at the Maltepe prison in Istanbul — in the district where Kilicdaroglu held the rally to mark the end of the march. There were about 1.6 million people at the meeting arena, Hurriyet newspaper cited CHP parliamentary whip Ozgur Ozel as saying.
State of Emergency
Berberoglu is one of 50,000 people, including leading journalists, academics and the heads of the pro-Kurdish party known as HDP, who have been jailed since Erdogan imposed a state of emergency after facing down a coup attempt on July 15 last year. Authorities have suspended or fired about 150,000 people, including thousands of police officers, for links to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of orchestrating the coup attempt.
The march has given them a platform to forge a united front against Erdogan’s power grab. “We have walked for non-existent justice in Turkey,” Kilicdaroglu said, as he cited reasons for the march, including the purged ones, freedom of expression and not-independent legal system.
“I’m calling out to the judges of Supreme Court of Justice; do not be afraid,” he said. “With this march we have thrown our fear into the garbage, now we are more hopeful and the hope is contagious.”