The leader of Turkey’s main opposition party completed a 25-day “March for Justice” from the capital Ankara to Istanbul, June 9, and joined hundreds of thousands of supporters at a rally against a large-scale government crackdown on opponents.
Republican People’s Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu launched the 450-kilometre march after a parliamentarian from his party was imprisoned in June.
The march grew into a protest of the massive clampdown on people with alleged links to terror groups that began after a coup attempt last summer.
“Why did we march?” Kilicdaroglu said while addressing 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.”
Once seen as feeble in his role as opposition leader, Kilicdaroglu has emerged as the voice of many Turks and been likened to India’s Mahatma Gandhi, who led a nonviolent march against British colonial practices.
Tens of thousands of people joined Kilicdaroglu throughout his march in scorching heat, chanting “rights, law, justice.”
Hundreds of thousands greeted him at the Istanbul rally, while waving Turkish flags and flags emblazoned with the word “justice.”
“No one should think the end of this march is the end. This march was our first step,” Kilicdaroglu said.
“July 9 is a new step. July 9 is a new climate. July 9 is a new history.”
The opposition leader called on judges and prosecutors to act independently and according to their “conscience” instead of in line with the wishes of “the palace” — a reference to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He also called for an end to a state of emergency that was declared following the failed coup and which has allowed the government to rule by decrees, with minimal input from parliament.