After two major coups in 1960 and 1980 that significantly hindered the democratic process in Turkey, it was not surprising that the public would fiercely oppose a new putsch attempt. Still, Turkey managed to amaze the Gülenist junta behind the latest coup plot on July 15 with unarmed crowds taking on heavily armed troops, tanks, fighter jets and gunships indiscriminately firing on anyone confronting them.
Weeks after the coup attempt, another unprecedented development is in store for the people of Turkey. Representatives of the country's opposition parties, known for their sharp criticism of the government and for even avoiding eye contact with government members and the president at formal occasions, will join President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım at a Sunday rally for democracy.
Along with President Erdoğan, Prime Minister Yıldırım and the public, the rally called, "Democracy and Martyrs," in honor of the civilians and security personnel killed by pro-coup troops, will be attended by Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairman Devlet Bahçeli. Bahçeli confirmed Wednesday that he will attend the rally, which he said will "finalize the people's democracy duties."
"I will be there in [the Istanbul district of] Yenikapı, with all the rally participants, to keep the spirit of unity and solidarity alive, to eliminate all doubts, to dispel despair, and to open a new door to fortune and history," he said.
The Republican People's Party (CHP) will send a delegation to the rally while its leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu announced he would not be in attendance. In a speech yesterday, President Erdoğan thanked Bahçeli for his decision to join the rally and said he wanted to see Kılıçdaroğlu there as well. "I believe they will review their decision and [Kılıçdaroğlu] will be in Yenikapı," he said, referring to the large square in Istanbul where the rally will be held. Prime Minister Yıldırım also telephoned Kılıçdaroğlu yesterday and repeated Erdoğan's invitation to the CHP leader.
President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Yıldırım had previously held talks with Bahçeli and Kılıçdaroğlu to discuss the coup attempt and its aftermath. Both opposition leaders have voiced support for the fight against the coup plotters. Despite his strict opposition to visiting the new presidential compound, which was inaugurated last year and his pledge not to go there, Kılıçdaroğlu honored the president's invitation after the coup in an otherwise unimaginable move.
Yasin Aktay, the vice chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), said Wednesday that the rally would not appeal to just AK Party supporters.
"On the contrary, we are expecting the participation of all the other parties," he said after the party's central executive committee meeting.
A huge stage will be erected in Yenikapı, as well as big TV screens and sound systems. Around 13,000 people, along with police officers, will be on duty to organize the event, clean up, and do technical work. Helicopters, ambulances, and over 700 medical personnel will be there to provide health care services.
Aktay said that similar rallies will also be held simultaneously all across the country.
Meanwhile, the Turkish public continues to fill city squares and streets across the country for "democracy watches," called for by Erdoğan and Yıldırım after the foiled putsch attempt. On Wednesday night, major squares in every city from Edirne on the northwestern border near Bulgaria to Diyarbakır on the southeastern border hosted rallies where people were seen carrying Turkish flags to denounce the coup attempt, chanting slogans in support of democracy.
In Istanbul, the biggest rallies were at Taksim Square and on a small street near the residence of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the district of Üsküdar. A nongovernmental organization (NGO) set up a giant screen at Taksim Square and broadcast a live rendition of "Türkiyem," (My Turkey), a patriotic song that became a staple of pro-democracy rallies, in Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic and Laz by choirs in Istanbul, Diyarbakır, Mardin, Rize and Batman.