More than a million Turks gathered in Istanbul yesterday for a rally called by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to denounce a failed coup — a show of strength staged in the face of Western criticism of widespread purges and detentions.
The ‘Democracy and Martyrs’ Rally’ at Yenikapi parade ground, built into the sea on the southern edge of Istanbul’s peninsula, marks the climax of three weeks of nightly demonstrations by Erdogan’s supporters, many of them wrapped in the Turkish flag, in squares around the country.
Banners read “You are a gift from God, Erdogan” or “Order us to die and we will do it”.
But it was also the first time in decades that major opposition parties had joined a rally in support of the government in the nation of almost 80m.
“We’re here to show that these flags won’t come down, the call to prayer won’t be silenced, and our country won’t be divided,” said Haci Mehmet Haliloglu, 46, a civil servant who had travelled from the Black Sea town of Ordu for the rally.
“This is something way beyond politics; this is either our freedom or death.”
The parade ground, built to hold at least a million people, was overflowing, with access roads clogged by crowds.
The events were broadcast live on screens at demonstrations across Turkey’s 81 provinces.
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