Here’s what you need to know about Turkey’s opposition march

Turkey’s 25-day March for Justice reached a crescendo as hundreds of thousands of demonstrators rallied against the government’s opposition crackdown.

Here’s what you need to know.

What was the march about?

A flickering sea of Turkey’s red and white flags came together as supporters listened to opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu conclude his 280-mile journey from the capital Ankara to Istanbul, calling for “democracy and media freedoms”.

Turkey Opposition Protest
Supporters of Kemal Kilicdaroglu at the “March for Justice” from the capital Ankara to Istanbul (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

Protesters demanded “rights, law, justice” along the march, as they rallied against action by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to clamp down on those associated with terror groups in the country.

Last year’s failed coup saw mass arrests of thousands of civilians and government workers in response to the July 15 attempt to oust President Erdogan.

The demonstration was intended to be balanced, and reportedly did not contain party flags or slogans as they were banned by organisers.

What prompted the widespread backlash?

A series of actions by President Erdogan, perceived to tighten government control, prompted thousands to come out in support of the Turkish opposition.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP), led by Kilicdaroglu, saw one of its MPs – Enis Berberoglu – jailed for 25 years in June for allegedly handing classified information to opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet.

Erdogan last year called for dissenting academics, MPs and journalists to be classed as supporters of terrorism, following a failed coup which led to the sacking of 100,000 civil servants.

Kilicdaroglu said the Government was attempting to strengthen its control following last year’s failed coup, by clamping down on the powers of Parliament.

The failed coup against Erdogan in 2016, which sees its one-year anniversary on Saturday, led to the mass arrest of some 50,000 civilians and MPs.

How did Erdogan’s government respond to the protest?

Germany G20
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the G20 summit (Michael Sohn/AP)

President Erdogan accused demonstrators of supporting terrorist organisations at the start of the month.

“The line represented by the CHP has now exceeded being the political opposition. It has come to a point where they are acting with terrorist organisations and the forces inciting them against our country,” Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reported.

Kilicdaroglu’s participation in the protest also led the Government to accuse him of supporting terrorist groups.

How much support does President Erdogan have?

Erdogan obtained a slim majority in the country’s referendum last month to grant him sweeping new powers.

Some 51.3% of voters expressed their support of Erdogan’s rule, whose role as president has become more authoritarian since he was elected in 2014.

This means that from Turkey’s next election in 2019, the President will gain complete control of the government.

Erdogan declared a nationwide state of emergency last year, allowing his government to conduct a stricter operation.

Al Jazeera news producer Jamal Elshayyal explained via Twitter that while the March for Justice garnered mass support, it does not paint the larger picture.


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