Giant Turkish anti-coup rally packs Istanbul waterfront area

The Yenikapi meeting area by the Marmara Sea waterfront in Istanbul's European side was transformed into a sea of red and white, the colors of Turkey's flag.

AFP| Last Updated: Aug 07, 2016, 23:37 PM IST
Giant Turkish anti-coup rally packs Istanbul waterfront area

Istanbul: A giant flag-waving crowd, the size of which some Turkish media said had never been seen before, gathered in Istanbul on Sunday for a rally to mark the end of nightly demonstrations since Turkey's July 15 abortive coup that left more than 270 people dead.

No official estimate was provided, but Turkish media said millions were at the rally. The event was so full that many were turned away at the gates.

The Yenikapi meeting area by the Marmara Sea waterfront in Istanbul's European side was transformed into a sea of red and white, the colors of Turkey's flag.

The "Democracy and Martyrs' Rally" was billed as a cross-party event representing Turkish unity in the wake of the failed coup, in which a group of renegade military officers attempted to seize power with tanks, helicopters and fighter jets.

Religious leaders and two of Turkey's three opposition parties were attending, sitting next to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who arrived on board a helicopter with his wife Emine. The pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party, or HDP, wasn't invited.

"July 15 has opened the door for our reconciliation," said main opposition Republican People's Party Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu said.

"There is now a new Turkey after July 15. If we can further this power, this culture of rapprochement, we will all be able to leave our children a great Turkey."

The event kicked off with a minute of silence for those killed while opposing the coup, followed by the Turkish national anthem and a recitation of prayers ahead of speeches by the political party leaders. Erdogan was also to address the rally.

A 60-meter (200-foot) stage was set up for the event, framed by two platforms and draped with massive national flags and banners depicting Erdogan and Turkey's founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

A roll call of those who died opposing the coup was read out as the crowd gathered.

"I have never been in democracy rallies but I really wanted to come this one. Because I don't want to lose my country," said Sevda Bozkurt, a 44-year-old housewife who didn't manage to get in to the rally area.

"This is one of the biggest rallies. Turkey's three political parties gathered together, they become friends, they become brothers. Maybe there is hope for Turkey."