Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, opposition unite in massive rally

ISTANBUL, Turkey, Aug. 7 (UPI) — Several hundred thousand people gathered in Turkey’s biggest city, Istanbul, for a rally that united the president, prime minister and two opposition leaders against last month’s attempted coup.

“The world is looking at you now,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the crowd. “You should be proud of yourselves. Each and everyone of you fought for freedom and democracy. All of you are heroes.”

Erdogan condemned those behind the July 15 coup plot as a “terrorist organization.” But the country shows “we are mighty enough to foil any coup,” he said.

Al Jazeera‘s Ayse Karabat, reporting from Istanbul, described the event as “the biggest, most crowded political meeting in Turkish political history.”

The “Democracy and Martyrs’ Rally” represented the unity of the country, with Erdogan urging attendees to bring only the Turkish flag, instead of party banners.

Also attending the rally were Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, who is also the leader of the AKP, as well as the main opposition Republican People’s Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu and Nationalist Movement Party leader Devlet Bahceli.

The pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party’s co-leaders, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag were not invited. The HDP, which has the third-most members in parliament, opposed the coup, but it allegedly supports the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

The PKK, which has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy since 1984, has been called a “terrorist organization” by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.

On Sunday, almost all national Turkish newspapers, with varied political inclinations, urged their readers to attend the joint rally in Yenikapi square.

The failed coup attempt by a group of the Turkish military killed more than 270 people.

More than 70,000 people in the military, judiciary, civil service and education have been detained or suspended for alleged links to Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally.

Yildirim told the rally that Gulen would be brought to Turkey from Saylorsburg, Pa.

“Let all of you know, the leader of this terrorist group will come to Turkey and pay for what he did,” Yildirim said.

The rally climaxed three weeks of nightly demonstrations by Erdogan’s supporters around the country.

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