Hundreds of thousands of people yesterday in Istanbul applauded Turkish opposition leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, who concluded a peaceful march of 450 kilometers to demand justice and protest the deterioration of democracy under the state of emergency in Turkey for almost a year. The massive concentration in the Maltepe coastal park on the Asian side of Istanbul, where, according to the organizers, a million and a half citizens attended, has been the biggest demonstration against the policy of the president of the country, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, since the Failed coup a year ago.
While Kiliçdaroglu, head of the Social-Democrat and secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), walked the last meters of the walk, the Maltepe park was stained red and white, the colors of the Turkish flag, portraits of the founder of the Republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and the word “Adalet” (justice). Many of the protesters arrived tired as they had accompanied the 69-year-old political leader on his long trek under the hot summer temperatures, and entire families approached the park to support them.
Twenty-five days ago, Kiliçdaroglu called on the people to march from Ankara to Istanbul in demand of an independent judiciary, after the sentence to 25 years of jail dictated against one of its deputies, Enis Berberoglu, for having filtered to the Press recorded images For the police. The march quickly turned into a mass protest, despite criticism from supporters of Erdogan and the president himself, who even accused protesters of supporting terrorism.
According to most observers, the image of Kiliçdaroglu – a little charismatic and frequently criticized inside and outside the party for not adopting a militant line against the president and his AKP – has taken a turn with this action, consolidating itself as leader of the whole opposition. His criticism was blunt yesterday: he denounced that the country lives “a time of dictatorship” and compared the purge that the government makes in state institutions, with which Hitler did with the teachers. “Let no one think that we have ended the march here. This is the first step. July 9 is a new beginning”.