July 9 (UPI) — A 280-mile, 25-day march against the policies of Turkey’s government ended with a massive rally in Istanbul on Sunday.
The “March for Justice” started as just a one-man protest on June 15 by opposition Republican People’s Party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who vowed to walk from the capital, Ankara, to Istanbul after the imprisonment of one of his party’s MPs, Enis Berberoglu, for giving an opposition journalist video allegedly showing Turkey sending weapons into Syria.
He has walked roughly 12 and half miles per day.
Citizens joined him along the way to protest the actions of their president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“Turkey has stopped being a democratic country. It has become beholden to one man,” Kilicdaroglu told CNN. “This we cannot accept.”
The country has been in a state of emergency for almost a year after a failed military coup. A referendum in April transferred powers to Erdogan from the parliament — powers including jailing anyone he sees as oppositional.
The marchers included 62-year-old Refika Ozturk, a retired municipality worker who has been walking for 10 days.
“I’m marching for my rights, the law and justice. You can do something as hard as walking like this for so long when you believe in it, when it’s for a cause,” she said to CNN on Saturday in Istanbul.
Marchers are dealing with oppressive heat and torrential rain. Two people have suffered cardiac arrests, one of whom has died.
The president’s supporters are watching the protests, chanting “Erdogan, Erdogan” in response to the marchers’ chants of “Rights, law, justice.”
Erdogan said members of the Republican People’s Party were “acting with terrorist organizations and the forces inciting them against our country.”